News: SP-MAGTF Africa 14 partners with Italian volunteers during local COMREL event
Story by Cpl. Shawn Valosin
SIGONELLA, Italy - More than 20 Marines and Sailors with the second iteration of SP-MAGTF Africa 14 held a community relations event in Cunziria, a district of Vizzini Italy, Aug. 7.
This was the fourth COMREL SP-MAGTF Africa has participated in.
“Cunziria” or tannery dates back to Roman times. The neighborhood hosted leather craftsmen in the 18th century but then gradually became abandoned over the years. Cunziria is the place where playwright Giovanni Verga set some of his most celebrated tales, among which were La Lupa (the Cunziria district appearing in some scenes of the film adaptation by Gabriele Lavia), the Cavalleria Rusticana or Rustic Chivalry (that Mascagni made into its most celebrated opera) and the novel Mastro Don Gesualdo.
“The district of Cunziria means a lot to locals because it is one of the most important sites Sicilian culture and literature,” said Dr. Alberto Lunetta, the community relations officer for Naval Air Station Sigonella.
Members with SP-MAGTF Africa worked alongside Italian volunteers to build a fence, transform piles of rock into walls, and remove trash around the area.
“I wasn’t too sure about what to expect with respect to building materials, tools or how well we would be able to communicate with the Italian workers while we were out there,” said Sgt. Ryan Shaak, a Myerstown, Pa., native and ground radio repairman with SP-MAGTF Africa. “Working with the Italian volunteers ended up being great. They were very helpful, and didn’t shy away from us when we needed help learning how they construct fences.”
After meeting the volunteers and working alongside them, any concerns of language barriers were soon gone. They were very accommodating and eager to work alongside the SP-MAGTF Africa Marines and Sailors, showing that although they might speak different languages, when it comes to construction they all understood the same skill set required to build a fence.
Following the labor at Cunziria, the Marines, Sailors and other volunteers went to Vizzini, where local actors gave them a glimpse of an upcoming play and fed them a traditional Vizzini meal outside of Giovanni Verga’s home. They were even treated to a private tour of the ‘Museo Immaginario Verghiano’ (the Imaginary Verga Museum), which is dedicated to Giovanni Verga. The museum hosts photographs, mainly portraying his family members and the farmers who worked for Verga’s family in the Te’bidi countryside, in Vizzini.
“It’s extremely important for us to have these COMREL events,” said Shaak. “They allow us to interact with the Italians more and let them see that we’re not just here to do our mission, we’re here to work with them and become better partners with them.”
Marco Aurelio, the mayor of Vizzini, plans to renovate the historic site and give it back to the community. He also expressed his thanks to the Marines and Sailors of SP-MAGTF Africa.
Local movie director Lorenzo Muscoso is scheduled to film a movie in Cunziria following the completion of the cleanup and said he wants to make the historic site, which once inspired Verga, a beautiful place for residents and foreign visitors to enjoy and learn about the history of Vizzini.
SP-MAGTF Africa continues to build relationships with the community while simultaneously strengthening U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command’s ability to assist partner nations in addressing security challenges in the region.