The ship rolled and the man awoke rubbing the sleep from his eyes. For a moment, he didn’t know where he was; then the ship rolled again, and he remembered. He and his family were going to America.
Cesare Gagliardini turned over on the mattress, which was nothing but a burlap bag filled with straw and grass. His wife, Maria, and four children, 11-year-old Giuseppe, 10-year-old Alessandro, 5-year-old Palmira, and 3-year-old Emilio slept above and below him on the three tiers of metal bunks. Like everybody else in the cargo hold, they slept in their clothes.
He tried to sit up, but his head still hurt from being kicked by the horse that shared their “steerage class” accommodations. He was on the S.S. Manuel Calvo with his wife and four children and they were on their way to a new land and a new life.
Finally Cesare was able to stand, holding on to the top bunk; he could hardly breathe. The nearby “toilet rooms” exhaled an unbearable stench, and the nearby animals added to the smell...