March 2nd, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 9
The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Ezra Black Photo
Adriana Davies signing copies of her book The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello at the Crowsnest Museum on Feb. 25.
Pass Herald Reporter
It’s hard to believe that Italians were once visible minorities.

But that was the reality for Adriana Davies.

At a book signing on Feb. 23, the Italian-born author and historian recalled being subject to taunts growing up in rural Alberta.

“You quickly learned you couldn’t bring smelly cheese, even provolone, in your sandwich to school,” she recalled. “I remember, my sister, brother and I, we only wanted Velveeta cheese with white bread.”

The Italian-Canadian immigration experience inspired Davies to write her latest book The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello.

“I was interested in the history of the Italian people and the issues they faced in the immigration experience,” said Davies. “For me the story of Picariello was really a part of this immigration history and I wanted to know more. Ultimately I wanted to see whether he was guilty or not.”
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Davies was at the Crowsnest Museum signing copies of her new book and presiding over the opening of a new exhibit of the same name on loan from the Fernie Museum.

By interviewing his descendants, Davies said she’s come up with a more three-dimensional view of Picariello, a legendary bootlegger convicted of murder and hanged along with Florence Lassandro for the killing of Alberta Provincial Police Constable Steve Lawson. She said the the local media presented him as a “criminal kingpin,” “a nasty man,” and a “lecher.”

“It’s been documented that the various communities were discriminated against,” said Davies. “There was a pecking order and the favoured immigrants were from the British Isles and Northern Europe and anyone from Southern or Eastern Europe or Asia was viewed as less desirable.”

She also pointed out that many prominent Canadian families, not just Italain ones, made their fortunes during prohibition.
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“It is a part of the Canadian story,” she said. “Picariello was a legitimate businessman until the passage of prohibition made it financially advantageous to run liquor. There were all sorts of people involved in bootlegging but he was a casualty and has become notorious as a result.”

The notion of Italians as criminals compounded by their internments as enemy aliens during the Second World War encouraged the assimilation of new immigrants who readily changed and Anglicized their names, said Davies.

The community regained some of their sense of being Italian post-World War Two, said Davies but for many years the Italian Canadian immigrant experience could be summed up in one word: aranjare, which loosely translates to making do.
March 2nd ~ Vol. 85 No. 9
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