Domus, A Way To See The World

Family is the double-edge sword a lot of the time, especially in East Harlem it seems. Between pages 75-96, Orsi depicts a family-oriented tight-knit Italian community that seems commendable. The family is the most important thing and this isn’t disputed. Everyone does their part and anything that may threaten the family is a risk, even something like religion. On page 84, Orsi recounts an almost humorous story about a priest being fumbled from adultery because of domus, the Italian idea of family/home/morals/etc. rolled into one word that cannot possibly translated. I happened to be extremely surprised by this blatant dislike of the clergy since, especially after reading about the peoples reverence for the Madonna of 115th Street, I had always thought that most Italians were loyal to the Catholic Church. Regardless of my surprise, the point was made; anything that will put the order of domus into peril is a bad thing. After all, those twenty-one pages made domus look like an ideal, traditional way to live.

But as I continued on in my reading, I discovered that the section between 107-129 told a completely different story. Yes, domus was the traditional lifestyle, but not every tradition can carry over from the old world. I think that every immigrant group in eternity has discovered this, but I was extremely surprised by the extent to which domus was carried out. People, especially young people, were told that they couldn’t do something and because they recognized it as being a risk to domus, they stopped it. I was particularly disturbed by the story about the people who convinced themselves that it really was in their interest to not upset domus (125-127). I couldn’t help but feel as if all of their free will had been taken away from them because of what their family wanted. And then I realized something. Although the Italians of East Harlem, as depicted by Orsi, didn’t really respect the priests, they didn’t feel the need to. Unlike many groups, they didn’t need religion to give them a window through which to see the world, because domus was their window.

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