♦ Their Story is My Story ♦
“We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.”
♦ October is celebrated as Italian-American Heritage Month in the United States. ♦
“Every year the U.S. president signs an executive order designating the month of October as National Italian American Heritage Month. Coinciding with the festivities surrounding Columbus Day, the proclamation is recognition of the many achievements, contributions, and successes of Americans of Italian descent as well as Italians in America.
Over 5.4 million Italians immigrated to the United States between 1820 and 1992. Today there are over 26 million Americans of Italian descent in the United States, making them the fifth largest ethnic group.* The country was even named after an Italian, the explorer and geographer Amerigo Vespucci.
As Americans, we acknowledge the determination and achievements of Italians within the United States. It is our understanding that during the month of October, Italian Americans are given recognition because they play a vital role in altering the political, social,and economic aspect of our country.”
(Source: Marist College, NY)
(*In an effort to confirm these statistics, I found slightly varying numbers and percentages but you get the idea.)
♦ Reflecting with Humility, Gratitude and Pride ♦
As you may know from my previous writings, I am an Italian-American. My roots are 100% Italian. All of my grandparents immigrated to America with those other millions of Italians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
They came from remote hill towns in Toscana (Tuscany) and Sicilia (Sicily). They made arduous journeys across the ocean and started a new life…my paternal Sicilian grandparents in New York and my Tuscan maternal grandparents in California. They same with hope and a willingness to work hard.
I never knew them. Well, when I was little my maternal Nonno was alive but he died when I was young. I have very few photos and fewer stories to tell. I didn’t ask questions until a few years ago. And it was too late to get answers. Everyone was gone including my parents.
Sharing my “roots” story and path to dual citizenship several years ago, I recounted how my journey unfolded. It has been two years since I received my Passaporto Unione Europea, Repubblica Italiana. And it was last year that my journey took me to the birthplaces of all of my grandparents…a profound and emotional experience…
♥ Courage, Sacrifice, Hope ♥
So many questions! Why? How? No answers. Only imaginings.
Visiting the remote hill towns in Tuscany (Castiglione di Garfignana and Pieve Fosciana) and Sicily (Castelvetrano and Nicosia), I tried to envision what they were like over 100 years ago…
What was their life was like? And the story of their desire and hope for a better life that inspired them to find a way to the faraway ports of Genoa and Naples? The strength and motivation to make a difficult and what must have been a harrowing voyage…
Not only visiting the towns of their birth but the “Memories and Migrations section of the Galata Museo del Mare in Genoa and the private Museo Paolo Cresci in Lucca really brought home the harsh reality of what the voyage was like for them and millions of others. From the photos and memorabilia, the stark truth of their plight is in black and white…and it is as striking as it is touching and unforgettable.
♦ ♥ ♦
And Here I Am…
♥ Somehow, fate brought my handsome young father to California where he met my lovely mother and…here I am. Humble and grateful for the courage, sacrifice and passion that gave me this life.
♥ How I wish I could embrace all of them and express my gratitude, pride and admiration. And, yes, my heartfelt love. So, I send my wish to the heavens and honor their memory and the memory of all those whose story is my story…
Learn More About Italian-American Organizations:
Office of the Consulate General of Los Angeles, United States
Istituto Italiano di Cultura Los Angeles
National Italian American Foundation (NIAF)
National Organization of Italian American Women (NOIAW)
Order of Sons of Italy in America (OSIA)