Manuel Formosa

Title

Manuel Formosa

Description

In this Interview, Manuel Formosa discusses coming to the United States and compares religious life in Malta and the United States.

Publisher

Detroit Historical Society

Date

9/9/2012

Rights

Detroit Historical Society

Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Manuel Formosa

Brief Biography

Manuel Formosa was born in Gozo, Malta in 1943. He came to the United States at age eighteen in 1961 with $14.00 in his pocket.

Interviewer's Name

Marc Sanko

Interview Place

Detroit, Michigan

Date

9/9/2012

Transcription

When did you come to the states?
“I came to the States, I was 18 years old, November 1961. With $14 in my pocket.”
Why did you come here?
“I came here because…basically I left school in 1959, when I was the oldest of seven and my mother woke me up one day and said you got to quit school and go to work. So I said ok, and I went to work in a construction company and I was making like a dollar a day for eight or nine hours work. But to me that was the first job, it was exciting, I was making some money, I used to give half of it to my mother. And I did fine for about two three years, but then you start getting older and you realize that there is nothing, I’m not going to keep doing this working for two or three dollars a day. I had relatives in Australia, and I remember my uncle he send me my papers to go and when I was like about two months to leave my father comes to me and he said, my father been before (to the USA) and he said I go to New York and send for you. So that’s how it turned out, he went to New York and six months later he sent me my papers and I came to New York and I stayed there for about four years on Nov. 21 1961. So I stayed there for about four years then I got drafted for a couple of years, and I came out of the service and went back to New York to the same dead end job I had before. And that started playing tricks with my head, I didn’t want it. I had my uncle here (Detroit) and I called him up and he said come to Detroit, August of 67 one week after the riots. SO I came up and I applied at Fords, and Krogers and some other outfits. And I got called back in three days, there were a lot of jobs back then. SO I started with Fords there in 67 making about $2.50 an hour in the foundry. Then I found out they had an apprenticeship program. I didn’t know about it at first but the minute I found about it I signed up and umm, eventually they called me and then I went to take class and I did manage to get my GED and then after that I went on to get some more education and practice. Then I worked for another 33 years at Fords and then retired with about 40 years. I made a good living, very grateful that I came from a foreign country without education and just made a living with my hands, and I managed to make a good living, raised kids and sent them to college.”
Church helping move migrants?
“No, at least I never heard about it. I know that the government was helping people financially to go to Australia but not to come over here (to the states).”
Compare the church here and there?
“Well most people are Catholic of course, and I used to be more…lets say I practiced. I go to confession every week and mass every Sunday. But the last few years I have become uhh lets say cynical about the whole religion thing and I don’t care wither its catholic, wither its protestant, and I really don’t believe in an individual religion. Because I find it to be very, a lot of times, not always, exclusive. We are the only ones going to even, you know if you aren’t Catholic you are going to hell. To me, that is very childish. It is very bureaucratic and the scandals with the children did no help. I figured something should have been done about that a lot sooner, because you know it is not just a United States problem, they had the same problem in Australia and the kids that went to Australia as 15 year olds and supposed to live with monks in convents were abused. I know two of them personally and they both were physically and sexually abused, and that did not help the church. So I don’t feel like I need an organized religion, if there is a heaven I don’t need that religion to go there.”
Important that we have the church for the cultural aspect?
“Oh it is important, it is important. Just because I don’t put that much into it, by the same token I respect people who do…okay? And to tell you the truth I wish to god I did have more faith then what I have, because people like that are at more peace with themselves and life in general, but I question a lot. And sometimes that’s a problem. Because there is no…what is the real truth? What is the right thing? Yea I know Im not going to murder, I’m not going to steal, I don’t do things like that. Is that because of the church or is it because it is morally wrong? You look at certain things you don’t do them cause you know they are wrong. Look at the Indians in this country, for thousands and thousands of years there was no Catholic Church but yet they knew to steal is wrong, to murder is wrong. No one told them that, they were just born understanding that. So where does the church come in? I don’t know. I respect people for doing it, but I swore to God, I have a friend who is into different religions. One of them is Buddhism and it is more feeling of satisfied in what they are doing than the Catholic Church. Now I hate to say that but I’m being truthful. Because basically at the same time, all religions preach the same thing anyway you know? Peace. You don’t steal. You don’t murder.
Maltese culture linked to church?
“Oh definitely, I think the Catholic Church was so totally engrained in us when we were growing up. It’s basically, it used to be, probably the major portion of our overall country. Our lives were how can I say this umm…our lives involved the Catholic Church and the religion and the sacraments of marriage and the holy communion. But now, from what I hear even in Malta and Gozo, people are beginning to slack off you know? Even like a country like Ireland which at one time was 100% Catholic. People go to church less and less and less. So I really believe that maybe all religion is becoming more marginalized. Just believe what you want to believe and let me believe what I want to believe you know? I don’t believe what you believe but I don’t want to hurt you. You know you got six billion people on this earth and every one of them has their own story, you have no idea what they believe.”
Do you believe it is important in Detroit to keep a cultural heritage with the church?
“I would, I would. Like you said it’s our culture and heritage. That alone probably makes it worthwhile. To stray, just because like I said I’m cynical about the whole thing, at the same time I respect people who practice their religion and I respect them and maybe that’s as far as I go?”

Search Terms

Detroit, Malta, Catholic, Church, immigration,

Citation

“Manuel Formosa,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed December 2, 2020, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/747.

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