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  • Fatim Hemraj

Maria’s Mercy: His Last Words Set His Killer Free


In 1892, 24-year-old Maria Barbella immigrated with her family to New York’s Little Italy for a chance at a better life. She quickly found work as a seamstress at a nearby sweatshop earning a measly eight dollars per week. Nearly a year later, Maria came across a shoeshine stand at Canal Street right outside the factory. From that moment onwards, her life ceased to be anything but tragic.


The stand was owned by a handsome and wealthy fellow named Domenico Cataldo. Maria’s stomach filled with butterflies when she looked into Domenico’s eyes and when she finally gathered the courage to say hello, she learned he too was an immigrant from the Italian region of Basilicata. It was as if fate had tapped Maria on the shoulder and brought the two together.

The pair shared their hopes and dreams with one another; Domenico’s was to open his own barbershop and marry, Maria’s was to be his wife.

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