Saturday, September 29, 2012

History of Italians in South Africa: Part II

The 'History of Italians in South Africa', which was posted here in 2008, was written by Janice Winters for 'Icon' magazine of South Africa in 2003. It has been one of the most read entries on this blog. It did reflect the history of a very self-determinist people. Many were of Piedmontese origin. For some reason, I decided to take a peek at it, I think in part because one item there stuck in my mind. It was the story of a Piedmontese woman named Teresa Viglione.

From the article link above:
Italians have been part of our military history from as far back as the Battle of Bloukrans during the Great Trek. When the Zulus attacked the Voortrekkers, an Italian woman, Teresa Viglione, rode down to the Bushman’s River, courageously risking her life to warn the Boer laagers and tend to the wounded. A carved marble tablet in the Voortrekker Monument honours her valour. During the next major conflict, the Anglo-Boer War of 1899, over 200 Italians formed the most renowned foreign legion to support the Boer cause, under the leadership of Italian cavalry officer Camillo Ricchiardi. This distinguished officer earned the status of hero as well as gentleman, writing condolence letters to the families of slain enemies and including any personal belongings found on the deceased.

I think it's safe to say that those "Italians" were Cisalpines who, as Afrikaners, were enthusiastically behind the Boer cause. I recall looking up her name and finding some more substantial information about her on a couple of Piemontesi nel Mondo blogs written in Italian, but I wasn't able to find them on a search and I have misplaced any links that I found then. Teresa's heroic ride on horseback--assuming that anyone who risked their life in the face of danger was heroic, regardless of which geo-political side they may or may not have been on--sort've reminds me of Caesar Rodney's heroic ride on horseback, while riddled with cancer, in order to arrive in time to vote for American independence.

I did find a 2008 newsletter, written in Italian, by Piemontesi nel Mondo. One item on there was about the Piedmontese history of South Africa, and a movie or documentary about the subject. I tried, but was unable to translate it properly. Teresa Viglione is mentioned, and the reality of her situation is presented in a much more blunt fashion, as the Zulus were exterminating the Boers. I only mention that because I would like the situation, from her individual perspective, to be known. The Zulus were killing off Boer villages, and this brave woman rode--presumably a long distance through dangerous Zulu territory--to warn people, presumably in the larger settlement.

Could she have looked like Kristin Cavallari, galloping along on a white horse, with flowing blonde hair? Maybe... probably not, but for whatever it's worth here in 2012 (the incident took place sometime in the late 1800s I think), I salute her courage. She's a Cisalpine to remember.

I think it is a documentary, and it was directed by Antonio Varaldi, who is a Piedmontese-Afrikaner from Johannesburg. Apparently, the story begins in 1688 to 1700 when a couple of hundred Piedmontese-Waldensians were forced to emigrate due to religious persecution. If anyone out there can look at the link perhaps, and give us some information about this 2007 movie or documentary, please leave a comment. Thanks.

[Note: It appears that her name is, historically-speaking, referred to as "Theresa Viglione." Although, some seem to think that "Teresa" was her actual name. This is what led me off track, and there is, in fact, much about her; which, of course, changes everything. But, it's a pleasant error; but one which makes this entry a bit out-of-place now. There will be more to post, but after her chief entry (the next one), I think I'll give it a rest for awhile.]


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