THE BIG MEN FROM CHIPILO

by Diambra Mariani and Francesco Mion

Chipilo is a small Mexican village with 4000 inhabitants that was founded in 1882 by immigrants from the northern italian region of Veneto. It is located in the state of Puebla, Mexico, 20 Km from the capital city.
Most of the people who live there came from the town of Segusino, Treviso, but also from the province of Belluno. On one hand, Venetians arrived in Mexico to leave behind their poverty; on the other, Mexico needed immigrants to repopulate the country after the Indipendence.
They needed people with agricultural skills, healthy and Catholic, and Venetians perfectly fitted the profile; during the years, they developed their skills in the production of cheese and founded a thriving fornitures industry. The most important, Segusino Muebles Rusticos, was really successful, even internationally, before the crisis.
After 130 years, they are still speaking a Venetian dialect and keep alive some of the Venetian traditions, such as playing ‘bocce’ (bowls) or, on 6 of January, burning a witch made of straw in the main square of the village. Most people from this town have nicknames which travel on through generations, as it happens in Veneto, and most of them are still tall and blonde, as the title ‘The big men from Chipilo’, the first Veneto-Spanish bilingual  book by Agostino Zago, suggests.
Although thousands of Mexicans are working in local firms, the relationship between the two cultures haven’t always been peaceful. During Mexican Revolution, for example, when Chipilo was invaded by Zapatista rebels, people from Chipilo successfully defended themselves from the assault, tooking refuge on the hill of the town, that they called ‘Monte Grappa’. And as some people remember, at the beginning of XX century, when Mexicans tried to visit Chipilo in order to court local girls, they were rudely sent away by men.
But there would be much more to tell, thinks Arturo, a young man from Chipilo, who’s a history enthusiast that is spending his spare time reorganizing the historical archive.
He thinks Chipilo could become a touristic centre, because it’s increasingly drawing medias attention. An indie Mexican director is now shooting a movie set in Chipilo, whilst the mayor of the village is shooting a documentary.
Things have changed during the last 130 years, cultures have mixed, and even if the inhabitants of Chipilo are still very proud of their origins, they acquired, over the years, many Mexican traditions too.
The result we can appreciate nowadays is a strange mixture between two different worlds, as shown by Chipilo’s motto: “Great workers for inheritance, traditionally breeders,  Mexicans by birth, originary Italians, convinced Catholics, proudly Cipilegni”