NOSTRO CARO GENO!
by: f. g. lopriato y lopez
As great as all those post-mortem accolades in the mainstream media are; No one can fully appreciate Gene Franchini unless one knows where Gene Franchini came from and why it was so important that he fulfill the American Dream and become a role model and an inspiration to the community.
In the old days, when a death would occur in the Colonia Italiana di Albuquerque, families would gather to console each other and in doing so they would relive the person’s life, but then they were the first generation and “life” for them started when they arrived in the United States. Anything before that was said to belong to another era, in a different compartment, between which there was a door that closed. “Una porta che si chiude, e si apre mai Piu,” and is opened no more.
The first Italian immigrants to New Mexico were few, so back then everybody knew everybody else’s story, Gene was “second generation” more numerous. There was no door between them and their values. Everything they were, needed, or wanted was here. Still they lived in two worlds, the old world values of their family and the Italian Community, (La Colonia) and that in which they were building for themselves in their own country, completely aware that they were the role models and inspiration that would make all the difference. As Gene himself once put it; “All of us, meaning all second generation Italians in New Mexico, had some very big shoes to fill. Our parents had been the first generation anywhere to rise from poor immigrants to be the leading ethnic class in all sectors of New Mexican Society.”
The Franchini Saga of Hard Work and Courage begins with Ettore Franchini’s arrival in New York, from Pistoia, Italy, in l899, at the age of nineteen. The year was l899. He could not speak a word of English but somehow he made the officials in New York understand that he had an Aunt living in Albuquerque. They gave him a basket of food and put him on the train. His food ran out before he got to Kansas City and he found a grocery store close to the station and with more sign language got himself something more but that did not last either. He was famished when he arrived in town on May 4, l899.
The first thing he saw as he got off the train was a policeman of whom he inquired; “Bachechi?” To La Colonia, these words are equivalent to “The Eagle has landed a few short steps for Ettore, a giant step for the Franchini Clan.”
The cop pointed across the street to Oreste Bachechi’s office, where the aunt Oreste sought was employed. The rest is history, The Real History of Albuquerque and it only tells a bit about one Italian family. We have tried to honor Gene Franchini by honoring what he honored most, his family and his community. We are certain that the entire Franchini Saga, from rags to riches will be covered by the mainstream media and we have to put this on-line before Gene’s death is recognized and sent to that place where eternal heroes dwell.
We also want to thank readers such as Emily Sei, for making it clear to us that the future of the Wopajo War Cry depends on the history of the Italian People here in New Mexico, therefore we have decided to specialize only on that subject. ////fglyl