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At the turn of the century America was viewed as a land of freedom from the hardships of everyday life During this time millions of immigrants from all over the world poured into America seeking that exact kind of freedom Some were escaping oppression while others immigrated seeking religious freedom The Italians were one of the many ethnic groups that strove to overcome oppression and poverty in the New World of America However upon arriving in America the Italians discovered many obstacles which they had to overcome in order to adjust to life in their new home Life for the Italians in Italy was a life that many would not expect By the late 1890s and early 1900s Italy had become one of the most overcrowded and one of the poorest countries in Europe Jones 193 Life was hard in Italy Economic depression brought on by past rulers left certain parts of Italy nearly jobless The few jobs that were available usually didnt pay enough to provide food for everyone There was little industry and barely any farmland for the poor peasants to attempt to grow food Conditions were particularly bad in the Mezzogiorno-the southern half of the peninsula and Sicily Jones 193 During the eighth century the Greeks successfully developed the Mezzogiorno making it the heart of a great European civilization and a center for world commerce This period of greatness continued throughout the Middle Ages However a few centuries later it ended and the Mezzogiorno began to crumble Foreign rulers such as the Spanish and the Bourbon brought oppression to the people and neglect to the region Throughout their reign these two powers drained from the local economy in excess They took bribes from the rich and weighed high taxes on peasants who could not afford it Even after the unification of Italy in 1861 which unified the Mezzogiorno with present day northern Italy and the destruction of harsh rulers the new centralized
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