Abraham Paroya Culture Culture and Identity Envoy Daily Life Street food Temple Rome

Bengalis in Rome

This week we were invited to attend a walking tour of the migrant communities within Rome. The tour began at the center of Piazza Vittorio in the Esquiline neighborhood of Rome. Getting to this location was quite easy as it was just a few metro stops from where I am staying in Prati. Our tour guide Nadia began the presentation talking about herself and gave some background as to how she ended up in Rome. She was born in Ethiopia but due to the current state of the country at the time her parents believed it was in Nadia’s’ best interest to be sent from the country to be raised elsewhere. She was brought to Italy by her current guardians where she has studied and lived ever since. Nadia told us she was very grateful to her parents for sending her off to Italy in search of more opportunities.

Source: Zero Roma

After sharing about her own background, Nadia told us about the Piazza Vittorio and the significance of the neighborhood we were in. She told us that what makes the Piazza Vittorio special is that the surrounding streets are home to many diverse shops and restaurants owned by individuals of all types of backgrounds notably Bangladeshi and Chinese populations. This concept of immigration is something that I have continued to encounter often while studying abroad and is what I want to focus this reflection on. I wanted to use this reflection to explore why individuals choose to immigrate to Italy, specifically people from South Asian communities. 

On my way to and from school I see stands where people are roasting and selling chestnuts. I learned these stands are run by Bangladeshi people when my mother came to visit me for the week here in Rome. She took the time to talk to one stand in particular that sits about 100 meters away from the Ottaviani station on Via del Giulio Cesare. He told my mother about the struggles of trying to make it in Rome, stating that the chestnut business barely makes enough money to survive in the city. He also shared that he lives in a one bedroom apartment with 4 other individuals who are in similar situations and just trying to get by. I asked my mother why anyone would want to endure this lifestyle.

Source: An American in Rome

Oftentimes people are leaving their home countries where they have the support of family and friends so why would they leave to come to Italy where the cost of living is higher. The Bangladeshi man told my mother that there are not many opportunities to work in Bangladesh and that in order to support one’s family they move to another country to make money and then send money back home. The value of the money in Italy is higher so they are able to send money back home and share that wealth in their home countries. Many come here as a selfless act to support their families back at home, enduring harsh living conditions as a result .

Source: Google Reviews

I got the chance to talk to the man who runs the corner store just down the street from my apartment in Prati, Sayed. He had a similar story to that of the man at the roasted chestnut stand. When I entered the store he was on the phone with his daughter, Kamal, who lives in Bangladesh with his wife. Sayed told me that getting by in Prati is hard and that running the convenience store takes up a lot of his time. I asked him if he enjoyed living in Italy to which he replied that he does, but feels he does not get to experience most of it due to his lack of time and money. He also told me that he would feel guilty for spending time doing leisure activities in Rome when he is here working to send money back home to his family. 

Source: Google Reviews

I also ran into a couple Bangladeshi people when I was shopping for a leather jacket for my sister at Via Corso del Rinascimento at Bishil Leather Shop. There were two brothers that owned the store and treated my family with great hospitality. This was the case with all of the Bangladeshi people I have met thus far in Rome so far. None of them have let their hardships interfere with their day to day lives. 

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