Swiss Youth Group: Escursionisti Rossi

Figure 1.--The photo was taken on May 25, 1922 high in the Swiss Alps on Mount Bar near Lugano. We at first thought it was a beach snapshot, but the boy was phorographed in the snow. He was a member of the Escursionisti Rossi youth group. The fez looks kind of funny in Switzerland and to be the only garment the boy is wearing. But the headwear had a kind of attraction for Italians, presumably related to their colonies. Four years later the Italian Fascist Balillas chose the fez as their uniform headwear.

The Escursionisti Rossi (ER--Red Hikers) were a youth group founded by a socialist workers' trade union in the Canton of Ticino, Switzerland. This was the small Italian-speaking area of Switzerland. Important elements of the Socialist movement at the time were convinced that society as it existed was opressive, this not only meant government, bysiness, and religion, but also the family and a wide range of social cnvention such as the family. This included advante guarde elements advocating free love and naturalism. Interestingly, the Communists states which emrged first in Russia after brief experimentation adopted very conservative family values as the social values promoted. The aim of the movement was to promote youth hiking, climbing and general experiences with the outdoors. The primry concern was to reaquint the urban working classes with nature. ER was just one of the various worker groups. In Bellinzona, the group was named Ticino Union Worker Hikers (UTOE) founded in 1919. The moveent in Switzerland was influenced by a wider European movement. Especially important was Naturfreunde (Friends of Nature), funded in in Vienna (1895) aimed at providing the working class opportunities to enjoy nature. It was thought that there were both health as well as psycological benefits. We might say spiritual benefit but Socialists would presumably object to the term. Doctors and hygienistsat at the turn-of-the 20th century were recognizing the benefical affects of fresh air and sunshine. It America we see the growing summer camp movement. Summer camps were slower to catch on in Europe. We also see sanitoria springing up all over Switzerland and other Alpine areas. It was being used to combat tuberculosis and endemic disease which ws propagatd by conditions in the polluted industrial cities of the day. Working class children had few opportuniies to get out into the countryside. We see ER children not only hiking and camping, but sun bathing in the Alpine areas where the activities ocurrd. This occurred even in the snow.


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Created: 8:39 PM 7/7/2014
Last updated: 8:39 PM 7/7/2014