Saturday, March 1, 2008
Florence Italy Immigration Problems
During slow season (now) in Florence, Italy, the city is especially lovely. And my favorite time to walk the city center is at night. This image depicts the famous Ponte Vecchio (old bridge). The shops full of gold jewelry and such are closed up and I love their wooden doors with decorative iron hinges. This man on the left is often playing guitar and singing – and in Italian for once – and working for tips. The music is beautiful and while few people are about, those that are here are listening attentively. The Duomo can be seen in the distant center.
There is also an interesting interplay between the police and the illegal immigrants, mostly from Africa. While I do not know much about this issue, I get the impression that everything is a bit of a dance.
Everyone here knows that the men who sell fake Gucci bags and such on the street are illegally doing so. (I heard someone say that even tourists who do not know this will be charged a hefty fine for buying from these merchants.) The immigrants usually display their wares on top of a sheet that they spread out on the street so that as the police cruise by, they may quickly pick up all four corners and scoop their bag of goods up in Santa Claus fashion.
In these last two images, I photographed a police car making its run as two illegals pick up their goods and wait. Sometimes they walk a little bit away, sometimes they simply wait with their bundles. I think sometimes that everyone knows the police will not arrest these men, but nonetheless, the police wish to remind them that at any moment, they have the perfect right and ability to do so. It is an interesting game of tolerance.
Last year, one of my Italian friends who creates caricatures beside the Duomo told me to be careful with my camera. I started to take my camera out of my coat pocket once when I saw the Carabinieri chasing one man, as his cheap wooden toys left a Hansel-and-Gretel trail behind him. My friend asked me to stop. This makes trouble. The authorities do not know who is a tourist and who is a journalist. The last thing this situation needs is one very slanted image of a situation published. But then, he also admitted that the Italian merchants are often frustrated because they pay for selling permits and then must compete with those who sell illegally.
I wonder if these problems are the same everywhere.