Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Being Italian In America

Are you Italian? American-Italian?? Italian-American???

So many Italians from all ranges of the cultural spectrum have their defined opinions on this issue. In fact, my my writing has sometimes even been criticized for not being true to Italian culture. An Italian from Italy felt my cultural experiences in my life were stereotypical. Probably because it was from my perspective as an Italian in America, not an Italian in Italy. But then I often find other "Italian Americans" offensive with their stereotypical portrayals of Italians as "guidos" and "gumbas" that speak broken English with a Jersey accent, greasy hair, and tattoos everywhere.

So where is the happy medium? What is the defining image of our culture? I think that first we must admit that an Italian-American culture is different from Italian culture, and different from American culture. It is one in its own. I wrote an article on this precise issue for ItaliansRus.com, which can be read here. I would love your thoughts on the issue. Here's my esteemed colleague's opinion:

"Italian Americans are passionate people. Passionate about their work, their lifestyle, their food (obviously), and most of all their family. When our ancestors came to this country, they had no money and no knowledge of the English language. But they did have pride, skills, determination and passion. These traits are still passed on throughout Italian American families today, which is why many Italian Americans can still enjoy old world culture and passion even in these modern, too-busy-for-anyone-else times."

~Dominic Condo of Cucina Domenico

I agree. We Italian-Americans are not Italian because we were technically not born in Italy (most of us, anyway) but we are not completely American because our culture goes so much deeper than burgers, fries, an the red white and blue. SO where do you fall? What's your opinion? Even if you're not Italian, you can relate because every culture struggles to find its identity in the new world - but let us not forget how lucky we are to have this freedom.


Matteo said...

There is no "happy medium", only the actual 2 people. Italians in Italy and Americans in the USA (or rather, US citizens: America is the whole continent).

Being the USA a nation made of immigrants (the only natives were the "indians"), none of them can be less american than the other for coming to the place later than the WASP. Whose xenophoby invented hateful stereotypes for each and every other nationality immigrating to the USA after them.

If you want to help americans and italians understand each other better, try explaining the latter why the former believe them to be a mixed race of brown guidos. That's the mainstream understanding of the word "italian" in the USA, so why not showing off your pride?

For my Son said...

Unfortunately, generalisation is rampant in our society. The promotion of critical thinking is not a strong point of the media. Every race and ethnic background is subject to portrayals of the extreme fringes.

I've been around the world, and most normal people tend be open, friendly, and curious about other cultures... culture being only superficial, we're all pretty much the same. You'd never know that by watching TV.

Anthony's Sauce said...

I would have to totally agree that Italian-Americans are totally different than Italian and Americans. They do and should fall into their own category. One example of this is having my "American" friends over for a typical Sunday diner at my house when I was a teenager. Well, um.. uh.. It was a 5 hour dinner with several courses and lots of Sambuca (Italian Suga we used to call it) after the dinner and coffee, more sambuca and other liquors. Anisette.. Oh that was good stuff! deserts, etc.. You know, a typical Sunday dinner. Anyway, after a typical Sunday dinner at our house, my "American" friend would be hurting for two days afterwards, hangover, ate too much and he would say I have no idea how you can survive meals like that.. LOL!!! OK, so Italian-Americans are a little different than Americans. ;-) Anthony

una mamma italiana said...

Speaking logically, it makes sense that everyone in America is American and just has Irish or Italian or Spanish or whatever ancestors....HOWEVER - a lot of us (especially the ones who made the trip over from the Mother Country) have such strong ties to Italia that they cannot bare to resist identifying themselves as Italian-American. ANd I think that, when speaking from a cultural standpoint, that is completely acceptable. We have to identify with something. And the truth is - an American with an Italian background is a different kind of American than one from an Irish background (or any race/ethnicity). That culture is what shapes EVERYTHING THAT WE ARE. Our beliefs, morals, religion, cooking style, etc - it all stems from our cultural heritage. America is wonderful because it gives us the freedom to exercise those beliefs (at least for now!!!!!!! JK)

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