Epidemie a bordo: le migrazioni di massa e il valore testimoniale della letteratura di viaggio italiana in America Latina alla fine del xix secolo
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From the last decades of the 19th century until the outbreak of the First World War, Italian intellectuals (politicians, tourists, religious, doctors, explorers, officers, journalists, writers) published the report of one of their trips to Latin America. It was a set of works that responded to the post-unification interest in the practice of odeporics in which the needs for information, scientific acculturation and acquisition of experience typical of the mentality of the time converged. But the number of travels increased also thanks to the presence of the Italian migratory flood towards Latin American countries, a phenomenon with which the travelling intellectual was confronted from the moment of embarkation. Thus, within the debate that opened up in Italy between those against and those in favour of the migratory flow, an important role was played by the travelling intellectuals, whose reports were the result of concrete experience, an aspect that gave them the prestige of validity so much so as to influence not only the political debate, but also public opinion. Public opinion was appealed to on the grounds of civilisation and ethnocultural superiority, and the observation of the American reality – a very “exotic” and therefore attractive subject - was used as a stimulus for reading. Here we analyse the transoceanic journey described by the ship’s doctor Luigi Buscalioni in La disastrosa traversata del Carlo R. and by the emigrant Cesare Malavasi in L’Odissea del piroscafo Remo ovvero il disastroso viaggio di 1500 emigranti respinti dal Brasile (both published in 1893), with the aim of giving these texts the value of testimonial literature, in particular as regards the denunciation of the terrible conditions to which the migrants were forced on ships bound for Latin American ports, conditions that could also give rise to the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera, measles and diphtheria, as happened in the two voyages in question.