Simone Cremaschi, a Post-Doc Research fellow at Bocconi, has spent time in a shantytown inhabited by West African farmworkers in Apulia, Southern Italy, during the harvest season. In the fifth episode of the THINK DIVERSE podcast series, he sheds light on this largely invisible and often misunderstood reality.
“Shantytowns are real towns, built of cardboard and plastic, where thousands of underpaid people live with no access to basic facilities,” he says to host Catherine De Vries, Dean for Inclusion and Diversity at Bocconi. “There are restaurants, bars, shops, you could even buy a car.”
Contrary to a common perception, only a minority of people living in such shantytowns have no documents: 23% according to Cremaschi’s estimate.
At the end of the harvest, shantytowns are not completely dismantled. Most people go back to regular towns in Italy or Europe, where they endure only marginally better conditions, afflicted by poverty and marginalization. Some of them, though, live here all year long, in a parallel society built out of necessity. “They withdrew from the challenging search for a job and a house, because in their shacks they feel proud to live on their own means, in what they consider their home,” Cremaschi says.