Shorto_NoBabies

Shorto_NoBabies - New York Times No Babies By RUSSELL SHORTO IT WAS A SPECTACULAR LATE-MAY AFTERNOON IN SOUTHERN ITALY,but the streets of Laviano a

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
New York Times June 29, 2008 No Babies? By RUSSELL SHORTO IT WAS A SPECTACULAR LATE-MAY AFTERNOON IN SOUTHERN ITALY ,but the streets of Laviano — a gloriously situated hamlet ranged across a few folds in the mountains of the Campania region — were deserted. There were no day- trippers from Naples, no tourists to take in the views up the steep slopes, the olive trees on terraces, the ruins of the 11th-century fortress with wild poppies spotting its grassy flanks like flecks of blood. And there were no locals in sight either. The town has housing enough to support a population of 3,000, but fewer than 1,600 live here, and every year the number drops. Rocco Falivena, Laviano’s 56-year-old mayor, strolled down the middle of the street, outlining for me the town’s demographics and explaining why, although the place is more than a thousand years old, its buildings all look so new. In 1980 an earthquake struck, taking out nearly every structure and killing 300 people, including Falivena’s own parents. Then from tragedy arose the scent of possibility, of a future. Money came from the national government in Rome, and from former residents who had emigrated to the U.S. and elsewhere. The locals found jobs rebuilding their town. But when the construction ended, so did the work, and the exodus of residents continued as before. When Falivena took office in 2002 for his second stint as mayor, two numbers caught his attention. Four: that was how many babies were born in the town the year before. And five: the number of children enrolled in first grade at the school, never mind that the school served two additional communities as well. “I knew what was my first job, to try to save the school,” Falivena told me. “Because a village that does not have a school is a dead village.” He racked his brain and came up with a desperate idea: pay women to have babies. And not just a token amount, either; in 2003 Falivena let it be known he would pay 10,000 euros (about $15,000) for every woman — local or immigrant, married or single — who would give birth to and rear a child in the village. The “baby bonus,” as he calls it, is structured to root new citizens in the town: a mother gets 1,500 euros when her baby is born, then a 1,500-euro payment on each of the child’s first four birthdays and a final 2,500 euros the day the child enrolls in first grade. Falivena has a publicist’s instincts, and he said he hoped the plan would attract media attention. It did, generating news across Italy and as far away as Australia. Finally, as we loitered in front of a mustard-colored building up the street from the town’s empty main square, a car came by. Falivena — a small, muscular man in a polo shirt, with gray hair and a deeply creased, tanned face — flagged it down, for the young woman behind the wheel, Salvia Daniela, was one of the very people he was looking for. They exchanged a few words, and we followed Daniela back to her apartment to meet her
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 02/25/2012 for the course 360 290 taught by Professor Dankelemen during the Spring '11 term at Rutgers.

Page1 / 15

Shorto_NoBabies - New York Times No Babies By RUSSELL SHORTO IT WAS A SPECTACULAR LATE-MAY AFTERNOON IN SOUTHERN ITALY,but the streets of Laviano a

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online