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History & Politics

A Conversation with Mimmo Lucano

Former Mayor of Riace

November 26, 2019
6:30 pm

Presented in collaboration with BACAS – Borghi Antichi Cultura Arti e Scienze

Mimmo Lucano, former mayor of Riace, Calabria

in conversation with:

Pietro Costa, Founder and Executive Creative Director, BACAS
Tiziana Rinaldi Castro, Creative Director of Literary Programs, BACAS
Teresa Fiore, Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, Montclair University
Stefano Albertini, NYU

An evening dedicated to ACCOGLIENZA, which the dictionary defines as the friendly and generous reception of guests, visitors, or strangers. To be welcoming and inclusive to others, especially those in need of home and place.

As mayor of the Calabrian town of Riace between 2004 and 2018, Domenico “Mimmo” Lucano used accoglienza toward immigrants as a model, through the adaptive reuse of homes left abandoned by the decades-old exodus of its residents, who themselves migrated elsewhere, seeking work and better opportunities for themselves and their children. Migrants were given these homes, a practice that attracted to Riace people from twenty different countries. As a village, Riace is not a refugee center, but has become a lively community built around shops, schools, churches, and businesses. The trauma of migration in Calabria was thus transformed and healed.  

In 2016, Lucano was named by Forbes as one of the top 50 most influential people in the world, in the company of major industrial, cultural and political leaders. To this he responded – “I hope that this gratifying event will be positive for Riace itself and for all of Calabria, and help create the possibility of recognizing the needs of the world’s forgotten, whom we stubbornly insist on representing.” Today, the legacy of Riace’s accoglienza is under threat of being erased by conservative political forces. Even the billboards once proudly welcoming visitors to “Riace, Paese dell’Accoglienza” have been removed and replaced by images of patron saints.