It might sound like a title for a ChatGPT trial, but I swear it is not.
I have to begin with a confession: I am of noble descent. I never mention it to anyone, because in fact it doesn’t mean anything, especially when you come from a republic and live in another republic, which accidentally decided to collect nicely chopped heads of nobles at some point in its history. Beyond that, nobility is not a merit: it just happens when you win at the lucky draw of genetics. That’s why I have always considered quite bizarre and, pardon me, sad, the French habit of flaunting bulky ugly aristocratic family rings. But let’s not digress further.
My ancestors owned hills and acres of land in a corner of the kingdom of southern Italy (Il Regno delle Due Sicilie) at the beginning of the XIX century. Do not imagine anything fancy. It was mostly fields in an unreachable area, still tricky to find nowadays. Somewhere between Molise, Puglia and Campania, if you are familiar with Italian geography. Basically, the middle of nowhere.
My great-great-grandfather had done his studies in Naples, where, as a young countryside boy, got enchanted by the arts and especially theatre.
He became so passionate about it that he used to travel back and forth between his village and the city, in order to attend to plays and whatever theatrical show he liked (I am missing the details about his preferences, but bear with me). Considering how painful it is to drive in 2023 between these two locations, I can only applaud his commitment and, possibly, his desire to escape that countryside life.
At some point these trips became irreconcilable with his family life and duties, so he applied the “Muhammad and the mountain” quote, sort of, and decided to open a theatre is his tiny-middle-of-nowhere-village.
Which. Is. Crazy.
What is even crazier is that he managed to have theatre companies including his location within their tours.
Whenever I heard this story I always wondered who was buying tickets in that micro village of peasants, to justify the profitability of that detour for those companies, but it might be my managerial spirit that takes the better of me. So let’s leave it at that.
Apparently it was working. And it was working so well that companies from further and further away were adding this stop to their route.
It could have been a happy ending. Or the beginning of an incredible entrepreneurial adventure in the arts field in Italy. But no.
My great-great-grandfather, after a couple of years of that solution, which in perspective might have been only a compromise for him, fell in love with a Parisian dancer, who was performing at his theatre, and left with her and her touring group in the middle of the night.
We have no traces of him after that. We just know he died in Naples many years later. Did he ever reach Paris? Did he stay with the dancer (I doubt it)? Did he try a career in theatre? Me and my family have no idea of this part of the story.
What we know is what happened to those who were left behind in the tiny village and especially to my great-great-grandmother.
The pain and the shame of that public cheating and break up in a village in the south of Italy, in the XIX century, were no joke.
My great-great-grandmother never left her room anymore and died of self starvation. Her kids, including my great-grandfather, got raised by their aunts, who started selling plots of land in order to sustain the family. (The manager in me, again, always wonder at this point of the story, why the heck they felt the need to sell. It must be the fact that women could not be landlords and collect debts? No idea).
That’s why when I heard the new song of Shakira at the verse “Las mujeres ya no lloran, las mujeres facturan”(roughly translated “women do not cry, women make money”) I rejoiced. I read so many comments in the past couple of weeks about the fact that Shakira shouldn’t have reacted that way, that she wasn’t classy, that she shouldn’t have blamed the other girl and so on and so on.
In my opinion Shakira demonstrated that our life can go on even after heartbreak. And that it is possible to take care of ourselves, be cheeky, unleash the rage and make money while doing so.
I wish my great-great-grandmother knew that this was a possibility. That life of women doesn’t depend on their love relationships and that we have a power of agency on ourselves.
I like to imagine that in a parallel universe my great-great-grandmother decided to take over the theatre and made an incredible success out of it, making the tiny village prosper and grow thanks to the incredible arts festival she organized.
P.S. For those of you who are wondering what is left of all of that, beyond these incredible family stories, the answer is simple: nearly nothing. Just a few paraphernalia we use as props during family holidays to take pictures pretending to be characters of the Godfather or Gomorra. Indeed I got lucky at the genetics draw, but not because of some far forgotten family title.