Cultural identity


Following the First and Second World Wars, the Grecan villages became depopulated, houses were abandoned, and plans were made to build on the coasts. After the 1950s, the State began to build new settlements on the coasts, giving houses to the inhabitants of the villages that had been declared uninhabitable after the floods (Africo and Roghudi), and unfortunately building speculation was created to the detriment of people's dignity. The Greeks of Calabria, who considered the sea a threat, then began to live on the coasts, and so anonymous marinas sprang up and most of the municipalities perched in the mountains became duals (mountain and coastal).

The coasts soon turn out to be places where it is difficult to find a job. The great works that were promised do not get off the ground, and so people first leave the villages and then emigrate from the coastal settlements to regions and countries where factories and industries are located. Until, in the 1980s, they begin to realise that their children, born in another region or citizens of another state, will most likely never return to live in their homeland. It is then that the constructions stop and the rusty iron poles sticking out of the slabs, the unfinished facades, the openings bricked up or closed with planks remain. The anger of those who have not been able to realise their desires and who cannot see a future for their children turns into various forms of discontent and inertia, fertile ground that fuels lawlessness and the anti-state. These conditions include disaffection to a place (the Marines) that is not considered one's own, and the loss of awareness of the common good, of the place to be preserved for oneself and for others (concepts that were part of the rural life of the Greek peoples of Calabria, but which are removed because it is too painful to admit to oneself that one has made the the wrong choice). The few remaining inhabitants, disappointed, raise their children by inculcating in them the idea that they must leave, to work and/or study outside Calabria in order to live. And so the villages, rich in culture and good practices, solidarity, proximity and respect, inexorably depopulate. Along with the elderly, those who still heard their parents speak Greek but were unable to do so, only a few daring people remain for whom love for their land prevails over any other reasonable sentiment. An abandoned land has no voice, because it cannot be talked about or even defended. In those dark years for Greek Calabria, and for the Aspromonte that had become the mountain of evil, the Greeks of Calabria could not recount their territory because they no longer had the words to do so: their language and with it their cultural identity had been severely compromised.

Humiliated and used for other purposes, accustomed to having others make decisions for them, 'fish out of water' because they did not live in those mountainous territories where everyone had a well-defined social role, deprived of their language and despised for their cultural identity, associated with kidnappings and the 'ndrangheta, the Greek communities had developed a poor awareness of their rights and a weak strength to assert them.

Despite the fact that their cultural identity was descended from the Greeks, who had brought beauty and philosophy, and had been contaminated by the Byzantines, who had embellished the places and monuments with their administrative skills and refinement, the Greeks of Calabria were considered 'peasants' by the same Calabrians who lived in the small towns, because their economy was purely rural and they were involved in agriculture and sheep farming.
Cultural identity had been undermined, people had not only lost their language but had broken ties and forgotten the meaning of the gestures of daily life. Gestures had been separated from deeper meanings and actions, although they continued to be carried out, always had something unfinished and left them unsatisfied.


In the 1990s, a series of fortunate circumstances brought attention back to Greek Calabria. Attention that helped communities regain possession of their history and thus of their land, but above all of their self-confidence.
In 1994, the Aspromonte National Park was created and over the years the Mountain of the Greeks of Calabria has been given back its beauty (in 2017 it was awarded the CETS- European Charter for Sustainable Tourism, and is currently awaiting the final verdict on its candidature as a Unesco National Geopark). 

The park is no longer a place of kidnapping and death. The people's path of reconciliation with their mountain from which they had been estranged began again, but it was all uphill and bristly like its territory, which, however, overlooks the sea, valleys and torrents, and enchants those who begin to have the courage to travel it.
In 1997, the GAL Area grecanica was founded in Bova with the Leader Community Programme, a Local Action Group that realised that the first action to be taken was to help communities recover their cultural identity and history, and become proud of them once again. Thanks to the funding of the various Leader Approach programmes over the years, a local development path was begun that allowed people to become aware of their material and non-material wealth, but also to ensure that Greek Calabria was recognised as a regionally defined area, and each programming period added a precious piece to this path.

In 1999, the Italian State finally passed Law 482/99, providing an instrument to fully implement Article 6 of the Italian Constitution, on the basis of which Italy protects linguistic minorities, also understood as cultural ethnic minorities, whether spread in a minor way throughout the territory or established in specific territorial realities, and thus the linguistic dignity of the Greek communities of Calabria was expressly recognised.
In 2003, with Regional Law 15/2003, the Region of Calabria transposed Law 482/99, protecting the languages of the Albanian, Grecanic and Occitan populations of Calabria and promoting the valorisation and dissemination of their linguistic, cultural and material heritage.
In this turmoil of the 1990s in Bova, the cultural capital of the Greeks of Calabria, a group of young people decided to stay and not emigrate. They founded a cooperative, the San Leo, which was supposed to take care of building work and minor repairs to the houses that were re-occupied in August by those who had emigrated and were returning to the village, because the members were almost all surveyors and architects. But soon, by a fortuitous chance, he began working in the field of nature tourism, preparing lunches for the first tourists who ventured to discover Aspromonte with the Reggio CAI and a small trekking company called New frontiers. The terrain is fertile, and so the young people of Bova diversify their activities and, in addition to catering, offer trekking guides and accommodation in widespread hospitality.

Bova is gradually reborn. Wise public policies (facilitated by the fact that the municipality has never become dual), supported by the technical assistance of the LAG, the interest of the Aspromonte National Park for an area with a strong cultural vocation, and the opportunities offered by State and European funds, make it possible to recover the village in a conservative manner. All the public and ecclesiastical assets are being redeveloped with a clear destination on their use, the same for the underground utilities, street paving, lighting, street furniture, methane and fibre optics (both being being completed). From structural works we move on to services, the containers are filled with content and the Micronido, the Museum of the Calabrian Greek language, the didactic laboratory 'A day as a palaeontologist' inside the Museum of Palaeontology and Natural Sciences, and the Aspromonte National Park Visitor Centre are born. Bova began to transform and people encouraged by the public's investment decided to renovate their small houses, which had been abandoned for years. Being inside the Park, having gained knowledge of conservative restoration techniques thanks to the collaboration with the PAU Department of the Faculty of Architecture of the Mediterranean University of RC , ensure that private as well as public interventions comply with the standards of conservative redevelopment of a village. Small receptive/restorative activities (B&B, family-run restaurants) and tourist service enterprises are born on private initiative. In 2012 Bova became one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy for the ANCI, in 2013 a Jewel of Italy for the Ministry of Tourism and in 2017 an Orange Flag for the TCI. Depopulation stops and GDP increases. The communities of the other villages see Bova as a beacon and hope is reborn. In 2015, the Region of Calabria identified the Grecanica Area as the second test area for the National Strategy of Inner Areas.

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