The Madonna of 115th Street Faith and Community in Italian Harlem by Orsi Robert

In the book, Orsi Robert talks about the popular religion and the Italian Harlem. Further, he goes ahead to narrate about the religion among the street members including their religious celebrations known as the annual festa of the Madonna of Mount Carmel. The festival took place in the city of New York. In particular, the religion Orsi talks about relates to the creeds, rituals, statements of faith, practices, prayers, and symbols among others that the people in the region glorify. Orsi noticed the above features by looking at “how they operate and further went ahead to talk to them about their undertakings” (Orsi, Robert A). For this reason, the primary objective of the book is to reveal how the subjects in the study conducted their devotion and the festa to show their respects to the Madonna o the 115th street. On the other hand, the book shows how the characters conducted their religious activities including those who lived in the tenements, used the local streets, bought their consumables in the stores, and even spent time in the parks. 

The Activities in the Festa

Orsi gives a captivating description of the festa by outlining the place and the date it took place. In particular, he explains that the individuals who attended the festa were from different regions located in the North Eastern United States. The activities which took place include lighting large and enormous candles, preparing various sumptuous meals, covering replicas of bodies with wax, and lastly exhibitions of expensive clothing. The primary aim of taking a closer look at these activities was to ascertain the meaning and the essence of these events. The precise location of the Italian Harlem was on the upper sides of Manhattan where Italians from wide over congregated here in remembrance of the hardships they went through during the periods of immigration (Orsi, Robert A). Important to note is that during those days, the laborers in the region were single men who toiled in a move to return to their families with something. 

History of the Devotions in Mount Carmel

The devotions described by Orsi in Harlem date back to 1880s. Moreover, the status of the Madonna in a similar manner relates to that of the devotees as it borrows some of the cultures from the Italians who took part in the mutual aids. In particular, the culture practiced in the festa have a close attachment with the Italian-American Catholicism. However, there was some opposition from the Irish Catholics who saw the rituals inappropriate. The initial population having faith in the rituals were the laity, and during the time the Italian American Catholics did not have faith in the practices (Orsi, Robert A). The inclusion of the Italians was critical as they made a great contribution towards the growth of the Catholic Church and therefore would have the influence on the festa. Among the three festas held in Italian Harlem, one was under the church which runs by the Catholic clergy. The other took place in the open streets where Catholic teachings were underway, and the last one was in between the church and the streets.

In between 1903 and 1904, the Madonna of the 115th street received a shrine status from its previous status of a sanctuary and the authority came from Rome. History reveals that such an occurrence only took place in New Orleans and Mexico. The motives behind the case of the 115th Harlem street were because the Italians in America made a request to the Catholic leaders in Rome, the encouragement that came from the Italians in America necessitated the move, and lastly the Italians in America needed a popular devotion to commit themselves towards. After some years, Orsi explains in the last chapter of the book the decline of the festa in the 115th Harlem street. In particular, he explains the primary reason to be the fact that the festa started owning churches and churches started taking part in festas. On the other hand, due to various reasons, the Italians started out of 115th Street to other regions due to different commitments. They were moving to other areas such as Bronx, Westchester, and New Jersey.

Conflicts During the Time

Orsi explains the intergenerational rivalries in the book. The conflicts entail Italians having their roots in Italy and the Italians born in the United States. Whereas the native Italians have belief in their cultural practices, the American-born Italians have suffocated themselves in the new generation practices. On the other hand, conflicts were surrounding the Domus and mainly among women. Within the houses, women were given exclusive powers whereas in public the expectations were that they should submit to their husbands (Orsi, Robert A). Orsi comes out clear regarding this issue of public authority power granted to men, yet they never shared the same responsibilities with their wives while at home. The women performed their roles both night and day, and they needed empowerment starting from their homes and the impression they gave to the public. Important to note is that the single women were not subject to this conflict. 

Immigration Issues

In the book, the author sheds light on the problem of paradoxes surrounding the immigrants during the period. The primary reason for immigration was to get rid of poverty. However, upon reaching the land of opportunity (the United States), the Italians described in the book found the work was back-breaking, unfair treatment from the employers among other issues. The immigrants found the outcome of the decision they made not coinciding with what they expected as they had grandiose visions concerning New York before leaving Italy. However, the disappointment they faced made them aware in advance that they would not earn good money without the land of opportunity changing them (Orsi, Robert A). Further, the difficulties explained by Orsi in the book reveals that the immigrants from Italy saw the impoverished life they left behind in Italy was much better than the hard experiences facing them in New York.  

Conclusion

In conclusion, Orsi Robert talks about the popular religion and the Italian Harlem. Further, he goes ahead to narrate about the religion among the street members including their religious celebrations known as the annual festa of the Madonna of Mount Carmel. The precise location of the Italian Harlem was on the upper sides of Manhattan where Italians from wide over congregated here in remembrance of the hardships they went through during the periods of immigration. On the other hand, conflicts were surrounding the Domus and mainly among women. Within the houses, women were given exclusive powers whereas in public the expectations were that they should submit to their husbands.

Works Cited

Orsi, Robert A. The Madonna Of 115Th Street. 1st ed., New Haven [Conn.], Yale University Press, 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *