America Translated in a Migrant’s Memoirs

  • Penelope Papailias
Part of the Anthropology, History, and the Critical Imagination book series (ACHI)


Sometime in 1951 in an Arcadian village, Yiorgos Yiannis Ilias Mandas, then seventy-five years old, wrote the story of his life in a tiny notebook. Once he finished, he wrote the story down a second time in similar, though not exactly the same, words.1 In the back of one of the two notebooks, he also recopied a long poem entitled “The Misfortunes (Pathimata) of the Greeks,” which he claims to have originally written in 1907 while he was a migrant laborer in Los Angeles.2 These notebooks remained tucked in a drawer in Mandas’s house until 1996 when his grandson gave the original handwritten manuscript to the village local historian to transcribe into grammatical, vernacular, computer-processed Greek. Thirty years after Mandas’s death, approximately two dozen laser-printed copies of his edited memoirs were distributed among family members and covillagers, and thus his autobiography circulated outside his house for the very first time.


Migrant Labor Historical Narrative Cement Factory Folk Song Code Switching 
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© Penelope Papailias 2005

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  • Penelope Papailias

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