2 October 2019, Venezia
I’ve just walked around some of Venice for the first time in over a year and a half. If you’ve been here before (and if you’re reading this there is a good chance you have), but not in some years, I can tell you the transformation of the city is very evident. What I saw today is what I’ve been reading about – and posting here on this page – for years, but it is one thing to read about one issue or another, one at a time: the cumulative effect, on the other hand, is very striking.
If the complaint is that Venice is being turned into an amusement or theme park, then I would have to say that in some areas, such as Lista di Spagna, the transformation is now complete. In that area, and around Canareggio I saw infinite tourist trinket stores, bars, tourist restaurants, the infamous ‘blue box’ ATMs, and even the most recent development I haven’t had time to post about yet – unmanned baggage deposits (also with ATMs) where once were stores. Local stores have closed all over. Even in the Ghetto there is only one remaining Jewish art shop, and the art gallery that had my name (Rosenberg) is gone too.
If you read the stories I post here then I need not go on. But I must stress that what is happening is real, and insidious – the monoculture of tourism is spreading through the city, rapidly, like a cancer that displaces healthy tissue of all kinds to make room for its own singular malignancy.
Then I turned the corner on to Fondamenta della Miseracordia and I saw a man teaching his young children to row the boat they were in together. I saw that at least some local shops that I recognized were still there, and was happy to be able to stop in for a coffee at the lovely, and still relatively new (locally owned) bookshop/café, Sullaluna. A bit later I saw all the children playing in campo del Ghetto Nuovo, and with all this I remembered that there is still hope, there is always hope.
Which brings me to the upcoming referendum (see today’s earlier post). For those of us that do not live here the upcoming referendum may be something of an abstraction. There is a fairly pitched battle between proponents of Si and No developing, and many reasons and arguments on both sides. However, in my view there is one overarching and fundamental reason to support the separation of Venice and Mestre, and it touches at the very heart of democracy and the right to fair representation. Under the current system, the voters in Venice are outnumbered by those in Mestre by almost 3 to 1. There are few Venetians in local government, and the Mayor and his administration are all from the mainland. Thus the remaining citizens of Venice are denied fair representation by such a system. Only by reversing the joining of the two cities, brought together in the 1920s under the Fascists, can Venetians hope to elect their own people, from their own city, to their own government.
I don’t propose that separation and autonomy would mean the instant reversal in the current crises in Venice. Far from it. Too many interests, including those of the Regional government and the State are involved to make this more than a first step. Nevertheless, giving Venice a chance to govern itself is not only the fair and right thing to be done, but it would also give the citizens a chance to overcome their current status, brutally relegated to being bystanders to the exploitation and destruction of their own beloved city and livelihoods, and watching the cancer spread with no way to stop it.
[Ed. Note: this piece is not news, of course, but only my thoughts as I arrive in Venice three years since this blog was launched. The picture above was used in the first and only video I made, in September 2016 -]