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You Do Not Support Us…
ITALIAN AMERICAN LEADERS OUTRAGED AT PRESIDENT BIDEN’S PROCLAMATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY
A Meeting with the President is Demanded by Italian American Leaders
- The President Proclaimed Indigenous Peoples Day on Columbus Day
- “By effectively ‘canceling’ Columbus Day, you have shown that you, like so many other Americans, do not truly understand our story…”

By Truby Chiaviello

Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) has formally requested a meeting with President Joe Biden to discuss the ongoing dispute over the legacy of Christopher Columbus in America.

In a three page letter written on October 10, Judge Russo expressed the outrage shared by many over the proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day by President Biden on October 8, Columbus Day.

“In your remarks on Friday, you became the first President to issue a proclamation for Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as Columbus Day, and in doing so you have reaffirmed to the entire Italian American community that you do not support us, nor do you value the contributions and sacrifices of our community to this nation’s history,” wrote Judge Russo.

The outpouring of anger and disappointment was immediate after The White House made public President Biden’s remarks for Columbus Day.

Many in the Italian American community were enthusiastic about the history making election of Joe Biden, as his wife Dr. Jill Biden, maiden name Jill Tracy Jacobs, the grand daughter of an Italian immigrant, was to be the first First Lady of Italian ethnicity.

The dispute over Columbus encompasses in many towns and cities in the United States to renaming the federal holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, not to mention the tearing down of statues and monuments depicting the great explorer, of whom is credited the discovery of the New World. This was the first Columbus Day of Biden’s term; as such, the president issued a proclamation on the worthiness of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, leaving one to interpret his inclination to cancel or replace Columbus Day.

Judge Russo issued his letter to be delivered to the White House two days after Columbus Day. Copies were delivered to the leaders in the Italian American community, including OSDIA, Commission for Social Justice, Italian Welfare League, Sons of Italy Foundation, Association of Italian American Educators, Italian American Museum, Joint Civic Committee of Italian Educators, the Italian American Legal and Defense Fund, La Festa Italiana, Filitalia International, American Italian Federation of the Southeast and the American Italian Renaissance Foundation.

As of this article, no response has been made by The White House and no meeting has been scheduled with president.

The full text of Judge Russo’s letter follows:

October 10, 2021

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), we would like to convey the supreme disappointment of our organizations, as well as our own personal disappointment, at the hurtful, disparaging, and insensitive proclamation that you issued on October 8, 2021. In your remarks on Friday, you became the first President to issue a proclamation for Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as Columbus Day, and in doing so you have reaffirmed to the entire Italian American community that you do not support us, nor do you value the contributions and sacrifices of our community to this nation’s history. These sacrifices and contributions have long been recognized by former Presidents with the celebration of Columbus Day as a federal holiday, and your actions yesterday have marginalized those achievements and alienated our entire community.

By effectively “canceling” Columbus Day, you have shown that you, like so many other Americans, do not truly understand our story, which began with the lynching of eleven Italian immigrants in 1891 by a mob of over five thousand people in New Orleans. Many do not know that this was the largest mass lynching in American history, and that these atrocities toward Italians continued with over forty additional lynchings over the course of thirty years. At the time this took place, the New York Times, the most widely read newspaper of the day, applauded the lynchings, and later President Roosevelt stated that the killing of these immigrants was “a rather good thing”. This hostility toward Italian immigrants created an atmosphere of aggression and antagonism directed at our community that lasted for decades. It was because of these brutal atrocities that President Harrison proclaimed a national Columbus Day the following year to honor and thank Italians and Italian Americans for their contributions to the United States. You, sir, have undone over a century of good will and effectively stated that our contributions hold no meaning for you personally, or for our great country, despite the fact our First Lady is of Italian American heritage.

The Italian American community has long been a proponent of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day to mark the achievements of Native Americans to our nation. However, we believe these achievements should be acknowledged in addition to, not in lieu of, the achievements of Christopher Columbus, and that Indigenous Peoples’ Day should be rightfully honored as its own distinct and separate holiday. The advocates for the removal and diminishing of Columbus Day base their argument on three false narratives that have been incorrectly and unjustly spread by those seeking to besmirch and vilify the great explorer.

The false narrative begins, most strongly, with the issue of slavery. Columbus is wrongly portrayed as the man who introduced slavery to the New World. Nothing could be further from the truth. Columbus never owned a slave, and, in fact, the slave trade had already existed and thrived long before his arrival, with the Native Americans possessing thousands of Indigenous slaves, and continued long after Columbus’s death. It is not widely known that the slave trade from Africa did not begin until one hundred years after the death of Columbus, nor is it acknowledged that many Native American tribes owned African slaves. It is also seldom reported that Columbus is the man who pleaded with Queen Isabella to allow for the baptism of the native people to protect them from becoming slaves, because under the laws of the day a baptized person could not be enslaved.

Secondly, those seeking to cancel Columbus state that he was aggressive and brutal toward the native population. The truth is that Columbus was a great friend to the Taino Indians and had a good and mutually respectful relationship with their chief. Columbus and his men protected the Taino people from the ruthless and vicious attacks they had long endured by the neighboring cannibalistic Carib tribe who sought to massacre and enslave them. Columbus adopted a Taino Indian boy as his own son, and to this day, Columbus’ achievements and contributions are celebrated by the descendants of the Taino people throughout Puerto Rico.

The third narrative, one which has long since been debunked, is that Columbus was responsible for genocide in the new world. This negative portrayal insinuates that Columbus and his men intended to murder and slaughter all of the native population they encountered. When examined rationally, it is clear that this is a preposterous falsehood. The main motivation of Columbus’s journey was not to plunder, but to evangelize the world and bring the Christian faith to all that he encountered. Columbus also sought to develop strategic trade partnerships in these new lands, not to indiscriminately massacre the population. The truth is that it was the inadvertent spread of disease, not the sword, that unfortunately killed vast numbers of the native population. The global COVID pandemic we are facing today is a prime example of how easy it is for a virus to spread over a vast population, and how devastating its effects can be.

Speaking on behalf of over fifty of the largest and most influential Italian American membership organizations, that represent the vast majority of the nearly sixteen million Italian Americans in this country, six percent of the total U.S. population, COPOMIAO strongly condemns your proclamation and acknowledges that you obviously do not wish to establish a meaningful relationship with the Italian American community. Our organization has shown its support for you personally, as well as for the First Lady, who has twice been invited to speak at our National Italian American Summit Meetings and has declined on both occasions. Your abandonment of the Italian American community has been noted by the majority of our members, and your dismissal of Columbus and his achievements signals your blatant disregard for our contributions and our worth as an ethnic minority group.

Every ethnic group in this country has made meaningful contributions to our society and should be recognized for those accomplishments in a productive and mutually respectful way. Just as we have vocally supported the celebration of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we demand that the achievements and accomplishments of Italian

Americans continue to be honored and celebrated as they most justly deserve to be. The history of the Italian American community is deeply woven into the very fabric of our nation, and our contributions to the advancement of the national culture is of equal value to every other ethnic group that comprises the United States of America. Columbus Day is the only clearly recognized national acknowledgement of the history and sacrifices of Italian Americans, and by taking that away from us, and promoting another ethnic group in our place, you are alienating our entire community and sowing the seeds of further division rather than being the unifying force that you have declared yourself to be.

It is regretful and disheartening that you believe neither the Italian American community nor the Indigenous Peoples’ community deserve their own separate and distinct holidays. You can begin correcting this situation by issuing an apology for your recent hurtful and disrespectful remarks, as well as issuing a new proclamation designating Indigenous Peoples Day on any day other than Columbus Day. Just as we do not wish to diminish the sacrifices and achievements of Native Americans, we ask for the same respect and acknowledgement for our own sacrifices and achievements. There is no reason for you, or any American, to support the minimization and dismissal of our cultural achievements. In order to strengthen the bond amongst the many ethnic groups that comprise our country, something that is so desperately needed at this time, we should be acknowledging and celebrating all of our respective achievements. By favoring and celebrating one ethnic group at the expense of another, your proclamation is counterproductive, disappointing, and divisive.

Only you can correct and repair the damage you have inflicted upon the relationship between the Executive branch of our government and the Italian American community. We respectfully request a meeting with you to discuss our concerns and make a genuine effort to find a mutually agreeable pathway forward that honors our community and preserves our history.

Sincerely,

Basil M. Russo, President
Italian Sons and Daughters of America
Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations

Editor’s Note: The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations have a web site, www.copomiao.org

 

 

HISTORY OF ITALIAN AMERICAN DISCRIMINATION AT THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK (CUNY)
Third of a Three Part Article
1991-2021
- Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, Director of The John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute Takes CUNY to Court
- Many Cases Settled in Arbitration; Others Lost in Federal Court
- Current Status Show Signs of Little Progress

By Santi Buscemi

In calls for meetings by the City University of New York (CUNY) to decide moving the John D. Calandra Institute from Manhattan to Staten Island, one key participant was never notified: Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, director of the John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute.

A number of New York state legislators contacted Dr. Scelsa about his absence at university meetings. His reaction was of shock and dismay. He had never been informed by the university that any such meetings were scheduled. This led state senator Nicholas Spano to write to the CUNY trustees about his anger over the way the Calandra Institute and Dr. Sclesa were being treated. To him and others, it was clear that Chancellor Anne Reynolds’ office was intent on removing Dr. Scelsa and destroying the institute. Dr. Scelsa received support from the Italian American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund (IALDHEF). He recruited his friend, Philip Foglia, former assistant district attorney for the Bronx and Queens, who was then in private practice, to file an injunction against the university.

On September 9, 1992, in the federal courthouse on Foley Square, the opposing parties presented their cases before Hon. Constance Baker Motley. After three weeks of testimony, Judge Baker Motley found CUNY guilty of discrimination and issued an injunction against the university. “CUNY is seeking to curtail the independence of the Institute,” she wrote, “and put Dr. Scelsa on a short leash, one where he lacks room to bite his master, CUNY.” She also wrote that, “it is clear that the question of discrimination involved related not only to Dr. Scelsa but to Italian-Americans as a group.” As to the future of the Calandra Institute, Judge Baker Motley ruled that it must stay in Manhattan, which was “central to its function. CUNY has known since the latter half of the 1970’s,” she continued, “that Italian-Americans are underrepresented in both faculty and non-faculty. The only rational way to explain this disparity is discrimination.”

In 1993, with the assistance of Governor Mario Cuomo’s office, the U.S. Department of Labor’s complaint was resolved. Italian American faculty and staff who complained of discrimination at CUNY were allowed to go to arbitration; of the 40 who chose to do so, all were successful. In addition, it was decided that the Calandra Institute would stay in Manhattan, becoming a research institution with state funds budgeted for that purpose. Affirmative Action status was extended to Italian Americans and a distinguished professor of Italian studies was hired at CUNY. Finally, the university agreed to create a panel to regularly monitor and report the progress of Italian Americans at the university. When CUNY had not fulfilled its commitment as outlined above, the IALDHEF filed and won a second suit in the New York Supreme Court in 1999.

Dr. Scelsa took a leave of absence in 1998 as director of the Calandra Institute to begin work on establishing the Italian-American Museum. Three years later, the museum became a reality and a great success. Located on the grounds of the old Banca Stabile building at the intersection of Mulberry and Grand Streets in the heart of New York’s Little Italy, the museum is currently experiencing a major renovation and expansion and will re-open in 2022.

Unfortunately, despite several legal and political victories, it seems little progress has been made in granting Italian Americans the justice they deserve at CUNY. In reports compiled by the John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute, evidence is presented to show that Italian Americans at CUNY have lost ground. For example, at the senior colleges, the percentage of Italian American full-time classified staff dropped from 8.69 percent in 1978 to 8.07 percent in 1993 to 3.31 percent in 2020. This contrasts markedly with gains made by other Affirmative Action groups, which saw a rise from 31.02 percent in 1978 to 55.79 percent in 1993 to 72.35 percent in 2020. Similar statistics were reported for part-time classified staff. It is important to note that the information for these studies came directly from CUNY’s own Office of Compliance and Diversity.

When Affirmative Action for Italian Americans at CUNY was first established, the Italian American student population was 25 percent. It is now 8 percent.

In 2006, Dr. Vincenzo Milione, the administrator assigned to oversee the affirmative action program at the John D. Calandra Institute met with Italian American state legislators to show how an Italian American Affirmative Action program could be implemented in the same way as other Affirmative Action programs for other minorities. Dr. Milione had filed suit against the university to claim he was demoted over a report on Italian American discrimination. His case was dismissed as was his appeal in federal court. In 2007, Maria Fosco, former director of administration and community relations at the Calandra institute, filed suit in federal court to claim she was reassigned to a different position after she informed the public about under-representation of Italian Americans at CUNY. She too lost her case and appeal in federal court. In that same year, Jeanne Coyne filed suit in federal court to claim discrimination after she was passed over for a full-time faculty position at the College of Staten Island. She was an adjunct professor there for many years and assisted Dr. Milione in his efforts.

Although an expert panel to review the status of Italian Americans at CUNY was established in 1992, an analysis for its review was not completed until 2007 and the next five-year review was not conducted until 2014.

In an article titled, “The 80th Street Mafia,” Dr. Joseph V. Sclesa explained his drive to seek justice for Italian Americans at CUNY: “My strong conviction for justice is derived from my heritage and from those Italians who believed in justice for all. Was it not the Italian Cesare Beccaria who, with his short thesis ‘On Crimes and Punishment’ in 1764, humanized the courts of Europe in their administration of the law and who is credited with having ended torture and laid down the philosophy and framework for the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution, which guarantees ‘equal protection’ under law for all citizens?’”

Author’s Note:
In 1974, I was appointed Chairman of the Department of English at Middlesex College in Edison, New Jersey, a post I held for twenty-seven years. My responsibilities included hiring and supervising faculty as well as making recommendations for promotion and tenure. When I called my father to tell him the good news and to explain the nature of my job, he broke into tears. Then he said: Non ti scordare gl’italiani (Do not forget them). I have not and will not ever forget them, nor will I ever tire of honoring their parents and grandparents, who came to this country, as mine did, to make a better life for their children.

Santi Buscemi is Professor Emeritus at Middlesex College in Edison, NJ. He is a translator of Italian and Sicilian literature, primarily the works of Luigi Capuana.

 

 

Days of Halloween
CASTLE BALSORANO
The Abruzzi Castle is a Pilgrimage Site for Fans of Bad Italian Horror Films
- The setting was supposed to be an eerie Scottish manor. Yet, when the castle appeared, audiences shouted “Balsorano!”

By Reem Nourallah

You don’t have to travel to Italy to see ghosts at Castle Balsorano.

Instead, you can view the many poltergeists of the Italian fortress on television; or perhaps on YouTube or by way of video streaming.

Castle Balsorano was constructed in the 15th century as a gift from the king of France to the Piccolomini warrior clan who fought for him. Originally from Siena, the Piccolomini, all but dominated for centuries the L’Aquila province of Abruzzo. Their noble status ended in the 19th century while their castle lived on to be named after the nearby village.

Castle Balsorano was the reliable setting for many Italian horror and exploitation films of the 1960s and 1970s. If a film was supposed to be set inside a dark and foreboding Hungarian castle, then it was Castle Balsorano, in Italy, to host actors and film crews. If Frankenstein was to be reanimated, Castle Balsorano got the call. If a psychotic recluse sought to torture uninhibited youth, first stop was Balsorano.

By some counts, twenty-two films were shot in and around Castle Balsorano. Do we recommend you watch them? Remember, this is Italy. If you think films with titles such as “The Devil’s Wedding Night,” “Bloody Pit of Horror” and “Seven Golden Women Against Two” are of the same quality churned out by Hollywood, think again. Italian filmmakers loved Gothic, but on the cheap. It was more sex than fright that producers sought to give audiences.
Castle Balsorano was the setting for some of Italy’s worst films.

“Terror in the Crypt” comes to mind. The film was made in 1964 on a shoestring budget. What attracted producers was not only the Gothic environs; but that Castle Balsorano was large enough for cast and crew to sleep there and they could save money on hotel accommodations.

Balsorano was no secret to Italians. “The Seventh Grave” was shown in theaters in 1965. The setting was supposed to be an eerie Scottish manor. Yet, when the castle appeared, audiences shouted “Balsorano!” The film was one of the worst from Italy. The director, Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo, had no experience. He did not follow the 180 degree rule of filmmaking. Scenes were jumbled together after the script girl made several errors and the film was released without scene continuity.

Rumor had it that Balsorano hosted wild parties and orgies. Truth be known, time inside the castle was anything but glamorous or tantalizing. The fortification lacked central heating or air conditioning. If a film was made in winter, then cast and crew worked in frigid conditions. The opposite was in summertime when large bricks soaked up the Italian sun to turn the castle into an oven. Filming was done quickly. Scripts were unfinished. The writers had to conceive plots and characters while the cameras rolled. A week was all it took to get a film made in Balsorano.

Strange, that considering its long line of horror and exploitation films made there, no owner has taken advantage of Balsorano’s celluloid notoriety. The castle has been up for sale for some years but no one wants to buy her. Horror fans go out of their way to see the famous locale. Yet, they are greeted by a locked entrance to an obscure park. The castle is now closed to visitors.

The joy of Italian horror was its Gothic celebration. The cobwebs, the shadows, the somber stonework. No matter how bad was the film, Castle Balsorano never let down fans. She was then, and now, a haunting yet beautiful hidden treasure of Italy’s medieval past and filmmaking infamy.

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Italian horror films throughout the decades in PRIMO’s “Italian Horror Cinema: The Most Influential Horror Films from Italy” at http://www.onlineprimo.com/books.html

 

 

 

Covid Chronicles
GREEN PASS ITALY
- You Need a Pass to Work
- You Need a Pass to Worship
- One Beancounter to Another: Janet Yellen Nominates Mario Draghi for Time’s Most Influential
- Michelangelo’s Work Restored in Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

It’s now official. By ministerial decrees, the Draghi government has passed new measures to reintroduce, what they hope will remain, normality into the workplace.

As of October 15, 2021, those employed in public administration will no longer work remotely but must return to their offices with anti-Covid 19 precautions underway. In fact, as of the same date, all of Italy's workers, both private and public sectors, will be required to have the Green Pass vaccine passport to enter their places of employment. If they do not have such a pass, they no longer face suspension without pay from day one as the original decree stated. Instead, they may be fined as much as 1,500 euros if they fail to comply with the obligation. They cannot, however, be fired for not having the Green Pass. This is the first such mandatory regulation regarding workers to be passed by any European country. It will remain in force until the end of the year. For many, this has been an un-welcomed and controversial decision to lead to angry demonstrations, especially by “non-vaxers,” in several cities.

Further extensions to the obligatory use of the Green Pass are also likely; for example, for those who want to attend a Roman Catholic Mass. Apparently, the government and Vatican authorities are in talks about this. The requirement might be extended to all denominations. Beginning on October 1st, it will already be necessary to have a Green Pass if you want to visit the Vatican City.

Since September 20th, over a thousand people have already been given a third dose of vaccine. They all belong to categories which the Italian Ministry of Heath describes as immuno-suppressed such as transplantees, oncology patients and those with chronic kidney ailments. Although 41 million people have already been vaccinated in Italy, another million have not yet received even their first vaccine shot. The government hopes that the new regulations in place from mid-October will help remedy this situation.

Pediatricians have also expressed concern that there is an increasing number of cases of Covid among children from birth to one year of age. They say, although the situation is not yet serious, it deserves close monitoring.

U.S. Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, nominated Prime Minister Mario Draghi for TIME's 100 Most Influential People of 2021. Draghi is the only Italian on this year's list. Yellen served as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve while Draghi served as president of the European Central Bank. She said, "Mario is guiding his nation through the pandemic with a deft hand, championing a swift vaccination campaign and relief measures to help Italian businesses and workers. Backed by a large allotment of E.U. funds, he has set in motion many necessary - and politically difficult - policies and investments to green the Italian economy, reduce inequity and advance digitalization. And with Italy leading this year’s G-20, Mario is bringing together the world’s major economies to end the pandemic, promote an inclusive global recovery and tackle pressing global issues like climate change."

Here in Florence, the restoration of Michelangelo's Pietà dell’Opera del Duomo known as the Bandini Pietà was completed. The long and painstaking restoration which began in November 2019 was financed by the US-based non-profit organization the Friends of Florence association. The statue’s four figures, including the elderly Nicodemus who is believed to present the likeness of Michelangelo’s own face, were carved from a single marble block over two metres (6-1/2 feet) high and 2,700 kilograms (5,952 pounds). The restoration involved removing the build-up of dust on the statue to reveal its original color and fine details. A raised platform, in place for public viewing of the restoration, will remain in place until March 30, 2022, to show the restored Pietà up close. It will be a unique opportunity to see one of Michelangelo's most poignant works.

I am now home in Florence but the estate matters regarding my late husband in Nice are still up in the air whilst the French bureaucracy grinds through all the paperwork, taxation calculations and only the heavens know whatever else. They say patience is a virtue but, by now after five months of struggling with this, mine has worn very thin.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre writes articles for PRIMO’s print editions and is our official translator. Pictured: Michelangelo's Bandini Pietà.

 

CONTINUED CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT OF COLUMBUS DAY IS SOUGHT BY ITALIAN AMERICANS
The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations Submitted Letters to Each Member of Congress Calling for Their Continued Support of Columbus Day as a Federal Holiday
- Letters Mailed to All Democrats, Republicans and Members of the Italian American Congressional Caucus on September 27

By Truby Chiaviello

In an effort to preserve Columbus Day as a federal holiday, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) submitted three sets of letters to members of Congress. The body text was different for Democrats, Republicans and members of the Italian American Congressional Caucus. The letters were mailed on September 27th seeking continued support for Columbus Day as a federal holiday. What follows are text copies of each sets of letters sent to Democrats, Republicans and members of the Italian American Congressional Caucus.

(To Democrat Members of Congress)

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) is seeking your support to preserve Columbus Day’s deserved status as a federal holiday, as it has been since 1971. Columbus Day has enjoyed the support of the Democrat Party dating back to the holiday’s establishment, and even prior to it. Top Democrats, such as President Biden, former President Obama, and Speaker Pelosi are vocal in their support of Columbus Day and its deep seated meaning to Americans across the country. This is especially so with Italian Americans. Below are but a few examples of this staunch Democratic support:

“Taking down, toppling the Christopher Columbus statue or the George Washington statue, I think that is something that the government has an opportunity and a responsibility to protect from happening.” – President Biden

“Today, we also honor the ties between the United States and Italy: America is a land discovered by an Italian, named for an Italian, and built by millions of Italian Americans.” – Speaker Pelosi

“The spirit of exploration that Columbus embodied was sustained by all who would follow him westward, driving a desire to continue expanding our understanding of the world.” – President Obama

Like many other ethnic groups celebrated in America, Italian Americans take pride in their storied past in building our great country up ever higher. Upon arrival in America, a vast majority of Italian immigrants were deeply impoverished, could not speak English, and were persecuted regardless of geographical location. However, even as Italian Americans were being lynched in the streets of New Orleans in 1891, the Italian American community was hard at work helping to build our greatest cities and making invaluable contributions to American culture. Through generations of strife, blood, sweat, and tears, the Italian American Community advanced itself to be in the position that it is today.

At the heart of remembering the struggles and achievements of the Italian American Community is Columbus Day. It is a day which unites all Italian Americans, despite any differences in location, political ideology or generation. Columbus Day is inextricably linked to the pride and history of Italian Americans. COPOMIAO, along with numerous Democrat officials, wishes to protect the federal holiday that is Columbus Day, and thus honor the sacrifices and achievements of the Italian American Community, as well as the discovery of the “New World” where our country was founded.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. COPOMIAO absolutely believes Indigenous Peoples should have a day of celebration, but it should not be at the expense of the Italian American Community. America is an inclusive country, and we should not partake in cultural addition by cultural subtraction. There are hundreds of days Congress could declare as Indigenous Peoples’ Day that do not fall on Columbus Day. There simply is no need, nor any reason, for replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. There is plenty of room in America for both communities, and both certainly should be celebrated.

COPOMIAO and your fellow Democrats ask that you support Columbus Day, and that you do not seek to remove or replace it as a federal holiday. Thank you for your time and consideration on this important issue.

(To Republican Members of Congress)

On behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), we would like to thank you for your support in maintaining Columbus Day as a national holiday and the preservation of Columbus statues across the country. Although COPOMIAO was formed by major Italian American organizations, we believe the preservation of the Columbus legacy is not solely of importance to Italian Americans, but to all Americans. Defending the legacy of Columbus is analogous to defending our great country’s heritage and the true version of history that must be preserved for future generations. Regretfully, there are those today who seek to rewrite or cancel history, and besmirch the reputation of our country’s founders, for their own personal or political motives.

As President Trump stated in 2020,“Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’ legacy. These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus.”

In August 2020, the Republican National Committee passed the Resolution to Conserve History and Combat Prejudice - Christopher Columbus in Charlotte, North Carolina. We ask that you reaffirm your support for this resolution and stand with us in defending our heritage, our history, and our monuments.

In the early 20th century, Italians, and other oppressed immigrant groups, undertook the perilous journey to America to seek a better life for their families. The hardships they endured mirrored the difficulties Columbus and his crew faced on their arduous expedition. It was Columbus who served as their champion and gave them hope. For Americans of Italian descent, Columbus Day serves as an opportunity to celebrate our ancestors and the struggles they overcame to assimilate into American society. It is unjust to take away the symbol of their very identity and the contributions they made to our nation.

Since 1937, Columbus Day has been a federally recognized holiday that celebrates a world-changing vision. Although it is generally understood that Christopher Columbus was not the first person to step foot on American soil, it is indisputable that his voyage directly shaped the formation of our country. It was Columbus who delivered a new land of opportunity to the oppressed masses of Europe. His arrival marks the time in history when Europeans began to make world-changing global contributions, such as those in art, law, government, and economics that have become the basic foundations of this great nation. At a time when we, as a country, find ourselves so divided, it is the celebration of these great achievements that can unite us through one shared vision of a hopeful future.

Instead of relegating these incredible accomplishments to forgotten history, join us in celebrating and preserving them. We call on all members of Congress to publicly pledge to keep Columbus Day a national holiday. We wish that you would open this issue for bipartisan discussion as it pertains not only to Italian Americans, but also to Native Americans. We are in full support of recognizing Indigenous People’s Day, but not as a replacement for Columbus Day. With only 12 observed federal holidays, there are 353 other possible days to recognize the contributions and achievements of Native Americans.

We wish to state again that while we fully support the observance of Indigenous People’s Day, it is unjust to take away Italian Americans’ day of celebrating their heritage and significant contributions to America. We believe in diversity and tolerance by addition, not by subtraction. We hope that you will exhibit the same courage and resolve that Columbus did when he set out on his journey in 1492, and urge you to recognize the contributions of Native Americans on any day other than Columbus Day. Thank you for your continued support.

(To Members of the Italian American Congressional Caucus)

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) is seeking your continued support to preserve Columbus Day’s deserved status as a federal holiday, as it has been since 1971. As a member of the Italian American Congressional Caucus, you know the importance of Columbus Day to the Italian American Community. Columbus Day is a powerful recognition of the achievements and contributions Italian Americans have made since the founding of our great country, and indeed prior to its founding when Christopher Columbus connected the eastern hemisphere with the western.

In recent years, many groups have misguidedly sought to disparage the legacy of Columbus and Columbus Day by pushing false history. These groups have called Christopher Columbus such things as a “murderer”, a “slaver”, a “genocidal maniac”, and numerous other insidious titles. Not one of these claims are true. Not only do the primary sources blatantly dispute these malicious attacks on Columbus, but so do a myriad of renowned historical scholars. Below are but a few.

“When he encountered the natives, he wanted them to be saved as well, and he kept asking [Queen] Isabella to send more priests to teach and baptize the natives so they, too, would be saved.” - Carol Delaney, Ph.D., professor emerita at Stanford University

“These kinds of judgements, which I believe, again, are wild over-generalizations, are being made with great passion and almost total ignorance of the history of the early explorations.” - Robert Royal, Ph.D., former professor at Brown University

We must protect Columbus Day and all that it represents to not just the Italian American Community, but to the whole of America. Columbus’s connecting of east and west set the course for the founding of America. His explorations undoubtedly paved the way for innumerable societal advancements and progressions that made our entire world a better place. The “canceling” of Columbus Day, indeed, would be the cancelation of both American history as well as world history.

As a member of the Italian American Congressional Caucus, it is your obligation to support and defend the interests of the Italian American Community. Columbus Day, in large part, represents the Italian American Community’s monumental contribution to the building of our nation, and is near and dear to the heart of the Italian American Community. Regardless of geographical location, party affiliation, or generational differences, Italian Americans are united in preserving Columbus Day.

For a member of the Italian American Congressional Caucus to not defend Columbus Day would be nothing short of an outright betrayal of the Italian American Community.

Seeing as you are a member of the Italian American Congressional Caucus, we expect you to support our efforts in preserving Columbus Day, as well as the heritage and legacy of Italian Americans. We are requesting from you a written pledge of support in defending Columbus Day as a federal holiday. Furthermore, if we can be of any assistance in your important work to preserve Columbus Day as a federal holiday, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the defense of Columbus by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to their web site at https://copomiao.org/history/

 

 

WHY WE CELEBRATE COLUMBUS DAY
- Columbus Was, Indeed, A Hero
- We celebrate our heroes for their triumphs and victories over challenges which would defeat most others.

By James Brown

We do not celebrate Independence Day because the United States was conceived with slavery still intact. We do not celebrate Presidents’ Day because President Nixon commissioned criminal acts, or because President Jackson expelled Native Americans from their land in Georgia. We do not celebrate our heroes because of their many human flaws and failures. No, the reality is quite the opposite. We celebrate our heroes for their triumphs and victories over challenges which would defeat most others.

For some reason, many choose to believe that Columbus Day was set forth to be an admiration of genocide and slavery. Not only is this treatment of Columbus entirely unfair and backwards as compared to the treatment of Columbus’s fellow historical giants, but the flaws being attributed to him simply are not true.

Christopher Columbus, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, like General Grant and General MacArthur, was not perfect. Just as every other hero in the history of the world, Columbus had his flaws. However, his flaws are not those being pushed by historical revisionists and activists seeking to bend primary evidence and documentation to push a politically popular narrative. The truth is Columbus did not commit genocide, and he did not enslave Native Americans. Columbus Day itself was not originally meant to be a celebration of Christopher Columbus so much as it was to be a celebration of the shared immigrant experience in the United States.

Though it is not popular to say, Columbus was indeed a hero. He had a grand, ambitious idea that was shot down numerous times by nearly every European monarch, yet, he persisted until his dream became reality upon the acceptance of the Spanish government. Christopher Columbus united two previously unconnected hemispheres, and thus began the process of globalization. He helped the Taino people stop their rival tribe, the Caribs, from further enslaving and eating their fellow tribesmen. As opposed to oppressing the natives into forced labor and slavery, Columbus requested many priests be sent to the newly discovered land so the natives might be saved and baptized, therefore making it impossible for them to become slaves under Spanish law.

The importance of these historical facts cannot be overstated, especially considering how they are presently being distorted to justify the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It is not highly disputed that there ought to be an Indigenous Peoples’ Day. America is among the most inclusive countries in the world, if not the most inclusive. There is more than enough room for everyone’s culture to be celebrated, which is why it is so perplexing that there needs to be an argument for which holiday should be celebrated on the second Monday of October.

Columbus Day has become a large facet of the Italian American identity, and it is celebrated universally across the Italian American community. To replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day would be nothing short of placing one culture upon a pedestal while casting another aside. It is important to remember that cultural addition does not require cultural subtraction.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day can, and should, be a holiday, but there is no need to do away with Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples’ Day to become reality. There are hundreds of other days from which to designate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It is a false choice to say there can only be one or the other, and insinuating such only serves to widen societal fissures in an already divided country.

Editor’s Note: The author is the executive director of the National Columbus Education Foundation. To learn more, please log on to https://knowcolumbus.org

 

 

HISTORY OF ITALIAN AMERICAN DISCRIMINATION AT THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK (CUNY)
Second of a Three Part Article
1977-1991
- Italian American Employment at CUNY Dwindles in the Wake of Affirmative Action Status
- The Founding of The John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute
- The Founding of the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund
- Retaliation by CUNY Begins Against Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa and the Calandra Institute

By Santi Buscemi

For many talented and well-qualified Italian American professors, CUNY Chancellor Robert Kibbee’s decision to extend to them Affirmative Action status in 1976 came too late.

New York City’s budgetary problems prompted CUNY to retrench many of its faculty; a move to severely impact Italian Americans and to make their underrepresentation even worse. At the Borough of Manhattan Community College, for example, 36 percent of the Italian American faculty were retrenched. Italian American representation for the entire university system fell from 4.3 percent to 2.6 percent.

In December, 1977 and January, 1978, Senator John D. Calandra, head of the Italian American caucus in the New York State Senate, held a hearing at CUNY. He published a report titled, “A History of Italian-American Discrimination at CUNY.” He found no progress regarding the status of Italian Americans at CUNY. He recommended, among other measures, the establishment of an Italian American institute to guide the university on Italian American affairs, cultural and international services.

What came to be known as “The Calandra Report” had as one of its stated objectives, “to provide counselors sensitive to the needs of Italian students in each borough….” Funds for the institute’s creation were included in the New York State budget of 1979 and 1980, Eighteen new counselor positions were devised to provide services to the Italian American community. It was not until 1984 when the institute was incorporated into CUNY. A year after Senator Calandra passed away in 1986, the institute was renamed, in his honor, as the John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute.

Two studies issued by the institute in 1982 concluded that guidance services for Italian American students “were meager.” They also “found that CUNY special programs such as SEEK and College Discovery [aimed at helping students who are new to the college experience and need financial assistance] gave little attention to Italian American undergraduate students.” They found that the number of assistantships and scholarships for Italian American graduate students, “was disproportionately low…” The studies recommended a specialized counseling program for Italian Americans as originally supported, in a separate study, by Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa. They complained that “counselors were hired as Higher Education Officers rather than as counseling faculty with academic rank and the possibility of tenure.”

In 1986, on the tenth anniversary of the Kibbee directive, Chancellor Joseph S. Murphy reaffirmed CUNY’s Affirmative Action status for Italian Americans. A year later, Professor Richard Gambino, a Calandra Institute Faculty Fellow, completed a report titled, “Italian-American Studies and Italian-Americans at the City University of New York: Report and Recommendations.” He declared that, despite Affirmative Action status for Italian Americans at CUNY, their representation in the faculty and administration had not improved. In 1978, Italian Americans were five percent of the faculty; by 1985, that figure had not changed.

A committee of Italian American leaders met with Chancellor Murphy in 1988 to discuss the status of Italian Americans at CUNY. In attendance were William Fugazy, president of the Coalition of Italian-American Organizations, City Council Majority Leader Peter Vallone, State Senator Guy Vallella, Assemblyman Eric Vialicino and Dr. Scelsa, Director of the Calandra Institute. They discussed the creation of an Italian Studies program to include the appointment of a distinguished professor. They then brought up the findings by Professor Gambino to show no increase of Italian Americans were among CUNY faculty and administration after Affirmative Action status. In fact, the number of Italian Americans employed at the university had decreased. Their dismay extended to how CUNY could only count one Italian American president among its 23 colleges over its 140 year history. Because of a lack of progress and the unlikelihood of a political solution, the group formed the Italian American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund (IALDHEF) on July 22, 1988.

During later meetings between legislators and Chancellor Murphy’s representatives, CUNY agreed to find space for the institute, to appoint a distinguished professor of Italian American studies and to join with legislators to form the Advisory Committee on Urban Public Higher Education. They offered advice on the needs of Italian American students and faculty. At the committee’s first meeting, Judge Vincent Massaro, the group’s chairman, requested CUNY’s Affirmative Action plans for all of its 21 colleges as filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. By September 1991, only nine of the 21 reports were submitted, none of which addressed the concerns of Italian Americans. Chairman Massaro asked Dr. Scelsa to serve on the committee, and at its next meeting, the group created three sub-committees: 1) Affirmative Action, 2) Italian-American Studies, and 3) the Calandra Italian-American Institute. Dr. Vincenzo Milione was appointed assistant director of research at Calandra to serve as a resource for the Affirmative Action sub-committee. His group made the following recommendations:

• During the summer of 1991, the Chancellor’s office “conduct a utilization analysis to determine the level of participation of Italian-Americans in all CUNY faculty and staff positions, at every level and in all categories”;

• CUNY establish a “Ph.D. in Italian, which incorporates an Italian-American literature component”; and

• The status of the Calandra Institute be elevated so as to reflect its “academic as well as its administrative…scope and function,” as well as the fact that “it provides services to the entire university community.”

The committee’s report stated that the “purpose of the Institute is to promote higher education among Italian-Americans, a major ethnic group in the United States and the single largest European ancestral group in New York State, in New York City and at CUNY.” They recommended the director of the institute be appointed to the faculty of CUNY, “with the appropriate administrative title of Full University Dean.”

Referencing these recommendations, the IALDHEF presented its case to the vice-chancellor, but this individual never responded. The group then filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, charging CUNY with discrimination against Italian Americans. Since there was no response from the university, the Department of Labor issued 22 class action complaints, one for each of CUNY’s campuses.

What was to come next was a time of retaliation by CUNY. In 1992, the university targeted Dr. Scelsa for removal at the Calandra Institute to relocated the institute from Manhattan to Staten Island to diminish its importance.

Editor’s Note: The next article will focus on how Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa and his supporters took CUNY to court. The author currently serves as vice-president of the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund. Pictured is the late state Senator John D. Calandra who spearheaded greater representation of Italian Americans at CUNY. Several of the 21 colleges of CUNY are pictured, including John Jay, specializing in criminal justice in Manhattan, Brooklyn College off Flatbush Avenue and CUNY School of Medicine in Harlem.

 

 

 

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES REFUSES ADVERTISEMENT DEFENDING COLUMBUS
Ad Was Placed by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations to Run on September 27
- The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal Both Ran The Columbus Ad; but Not The New York Times
- The New York Times Ad Acceptability Team Refused The Ad Based on Columbus’ Alleged Mistreatment of Native Americans; The Times Even Denied a Connection Between Columbus Day and the Lynching of 11 Italian Americans in New Orleans in 1891
- History of Bias Against Italian Americans in The New York Times, Says Judge Basil M. Russo

By Truby Chiaviello

 

Judge Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations has denounced the decision by The New York Times to suppress his organization’s advertisement defending the legacy of Christopher Columbus.

The ad was scheduled to run in The New York Times on September 27, in tandem with the same ad in the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Both the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post accepted the ad for publication but not The New York Times.

According to Judge Russo, The New York Times Ad Acceptability Team opted to censor his organization over allegations Columbus had mistreated Native Americans. The newspaper also refuted the historical motivation behind the establishment of Columbus Day as a response to the lynching of 11 Italian Americans in New Orleans in 1891.

“Many Italian Americans believe that The New York Times has a lengthy history of insensitivity toward our community,” said Judge Russo. “This began with an editorial applauding the 1891 lynching of 11 Italian immigrants and continues to this day with the Times’ unwillingness to allow our community the opportunity to defend our history and heritage.”

The reference by Judge Russo is the March 15, 1891 edition of The New York Times with its front page headline: “Chief Hennessy Avenged; Eleven of His Italian Assassins Lynched by a Mob. An Uprising of Indignant Citizens in New Orleans - The Prison Doors Forced and The Italian Murderers Shot Down.”

The headline alludes to the murder of New Orleans’ police chief, David Hennessy, on October 15, 1890. A year later, nine suspects, all of whom were Italians, were brought to trial with six found not guilty and the other three dismissed for purposes of mistrial. Vigilante squads then formed in New Orleans to roam the city streets in a show of anti-Italian bigotry. They killed some of the Italians who were acquitted in the murder of Chief Hennessy, but, also, several other Italians who were neither accused nor suspected of wrongdoing.

The New York Times has yet to apologize for the headline in reference to the murdered Italian immigrants, unlike New Orleans Mayor, LaToya Cantrell, who in April, 2019, announced a proclamation of apology saying, “What happened to those 11 Italians, it was wrong, and the city owes them and their descendants a formal apology.”

As Judge Russo explains, the purpose of his group’s September 27th advertisement was to dispel claims against Columbus by those who seek to tear down statues of the explorer and eliminate his holiday.

Key accusations made against Columbus were refuted in the ad.

One sub-headline declared that statues of Columbus are not rooted in racism, but, rather, rooted against racism. “Few know that 11 Italians were lynched in New Orleans in 1891 while thousands cheered…To fight oppression, Italian Americans promoted Columbus Day. Claims that the holiday and statues symbolize racism are patently false.”

The ad offers facts about Columbus to oppose assertions he was a slave owner and a culprit of genocide. “Columbus never owned slaves,” declares the ad, “…he never ordered the mass killing of Indigenous Peoples.”

In large part, the ad is a call for unity to move forward in the country. “Let’s chart a new course together,” proclaims a sub-headline. “Celebrate All Americans! Let’s rebuild Columbus’s legacy…honor all those…from Indigenous Peoples to the newest arrivals…”

Judge Russo and members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations are on record to ask that all Americans of all races and ethnicities “examine the current discussions surrounding Christopher Columbus, especially misinformation that has been promoted in recent years due to such works as Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States.’”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the defense of Columbus by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to their web site at https://copomiao.org/history/

 

 

HISTORY OF ITALIAN AMERICAN DISCRIMINATION AT CUNY
First of a Three Part Article
1960-1976
Affirmative Action Granted to Italian Americans at CUNY After Years of Struggle for Equal Status

By Santi Buscemi, Vice-President, Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund

The history of Italian-American faculty and administration at the City University of New York (CUNY) spans more than a half century of struggle to obtain equitable treatment regarding hiring, tenure, and promotion. Despite several important legal decisions, including the granting of affirmative action status to Italian Americans at the university, as well as victories in landmark civil rights court cases, little progress has been made in increasing representation of this group in CUNY’s professional ranks. In short, the university continues to discriminate against Italian Americans.

By the 1960s, the children and grandchildren of Italians, who had immigrated to the New York area during the massive wave of immigration between the 1880s and the 1920s, had started entering the professions, including college teaching in considerable numbers. The overwhelming majority of these new professionals were the descendants of “contadini,” landless peasants of the south of Italy, who had worked on the estates of the “latifundi,” or propertied class, who maintained a stranglehold on the economy of the “Mezzogiorno.” Well after the Risorgimento and deep into the 20th century, little had changed despite the incorporation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into a united Italy under the House of Savoy, a process begun in 1860 with Garibaldi and his Thousand and completed with the annexation of Rome in 1870.

The New York metropolitan area was home to the largest Italian American community in the United States. As members of this group obtained greater and greater education, it was only natural that many of those interested in college teaching sought employment at CUNY, one of the fastest growing centers for higher learning in the nation. During the 1950s and 1960s, the vast majority of these scholars entered the profession as instructors and assistant professors. At first, there was no formal bond among these young professors, and they met together only socially, if at all. When it became clear, however, that the university was denying promotion and tenure to Italian Americans, they formed the Association of Italian-American Faculty at the City University of New York (later referenced as the “Italian-American Faculty Association”), to combat discrimination at the university. Led by Dr. Richard Bossone, its goal was to gain Affirmative Action status for Italian Americans at CUNY.

In 1971, they met with representatives of the school chancellor but, failing to receive any significant response, they filed a Writ of Mandamus designed to force CUNY to obtain statistical information on the recruitment, hiring and promotion of Italian Americans at the university. According to Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, “information provided over the next 12 months overwhelmingly confirmed earlier suspicions of discrimination.”

That same year, Dr. Joseph Valletutti, executive director of Americans of Italian Descent, Inc, writing in an article published in The Challenge, formally charged CUNY with de facto discrimination against Italians. Dr. Valletutti reported that, as of 1970, only two of the 21 members of the Board of Higher Education were Italian Americans, a serious underrepresentation, since one in five New Yorkers were of Italian descent. The article indicated there were no Italian Americans on the chancellor’s staff; none of CUNY’s many deans were Italian American; less than six percent of the university’s faculty were members of this group.

One of the most egregious cases of discrimination involved Dr. Joseph Lombardo of Queens College, whose appeal for redress spanned six years (1965-1971). After the New York State Human Rights Division ruled in his favor, the university agreed to grant him his well-earned full professorship, retroactively to 1965, with a cash settlement. Dr. Lombardo’s struggle is important, for the stalling tactics CUNY used against him characterize the actions it would use against other Italian Americans who attempted to assert their rights.

In the fall of 1972, Dr. Richard Bossone led the Italian-American Faculty Association in an effort to support the promotion of several Italian American professors and to add an Italian American to the Board of Trustees, recommending a candidate from Staten Island to fill a vacancy. Unfortunately, this request was ignored by Mayor Lindsay, who chose a non Italian American.

In the fall of 1973, the New York State Assembly held a hearing chaired by Assemblymen Antonio Olivieri and Anthony De Falco, that found CUNY deficient in allocating resources for Italian American students while student groups representing other ethnicities were funded as a matter of course. Indeed, Italian Americans were even excluded from the SEEK program, which provides financial and academic support for talented students.

In 1974 and 1976, the Italian-American Faculty Association compiled two key reports that, according to Dr. Frank Elmi, indicated significant “underrepresentation of Italian-American faculty and administration as well as neglect of Italian-American students.” The reports also showed that, “…despite the fact that Italian Americans constitute 25 percent of the population of New York City and despite the progressively increasing number of Italian Americans earning doctoral degrees, the representation of Italian Americans at the City University of New York was at a low 5 percent…”

The problem of equal treatment of Italian American students also surfaced in these reports. The first of these identified a clear and urgent need for improved counseling: “…Italian-American students constitute a large if not the largest proportion of failures in CUNY despite the fact that their parents are paying through their tax dollars for the support of [academic, extracurricular, and counseling] programs.” A 1975 CUNY study, by Profs. Fucillo and Krase, pointed to the same problem as it relates to Brooklyn College. It provided empirical information as “to the alienation and neglect of Italian-American students at Brooklyn College,” and it “proposed special outreach programs, as well as extra-curricular and curricular programs, to alleviate the alienation of Italian-American students…”

Italian American students at CUNY had already begun to complain about insufficient counseling and inequitable distribution of student fees, and they appealed to state officials for redress. As a result of both faculty and student pressure, Chancellor Robert J. Kibbee addressed these issues in a statement to all CUNY presidents. Kibbee indicated that the number of Italian Americans entering the university was increasing from all sections of the city, and he asked the presidents to consider ways in serve this population better: “…it behooves all of us—faculty, administrators, and staff—to recognize, understand, and respect the traditions, customs, and beliefs of this large and important component of our academic community.”

“Italian Americans: The Neglected Minority in the City University,” released in May 1976, called for affirmative action status to be extended to Italian Americans. In December of that year, Chancellor Kibbee wrote to the CUNY Council of Presidents, creating that status: “It is my belief that the present situation requires the University to take positive action to assure that qualified persons of Italian American ancestry are identified so that they can be considered fairly along with other candidates for positions that might become available at the University. I am equally concerned that the processes of the University are such that Italian-Americans receive fair consideration in the processes that lead to promotion and tenure within the University. To this end, I am designating Italian-Americans as an Affirmative Action category for this University…. I also have instructed the Affirmative Action office to include Italian-Americans in the data collected for Affirmative Action purposes.”

Editor’s Note: The next article will focus on the lack of enforcement for Affirmative Action programs for Italian Americans at CUNY. Next to the university logo is Robert Kibbee, chancellor of the university that bestowed affirmative status to Italians.

 

In Pittsburgh…
ITALIAN AMERICANS OFFER TO HELP NATIVE AMERICANS ERECT A STATUE OF THEIR OWN IN RETURN FOR KEEPING COLUMBUS IN SCHENLEY PARK
- In Response to a Mediation Request by Judge Jack McVay
“…such a resolution will show proper respect to the heritages of both the Italian American community and the Native American community…”

Two cities in Pennsylvania represent the front lines of the ongoing culture war in America with assaults by elected officials against the legacy of Columbus. In Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney has spent considerable time and effort trying to tear down the statue of Columbus at Marconi Plaza. He officially reproached the celebration of the Columbus Day federal holiday in an executive order he made earlier this year. Attorney George Bochetto and Jude Basil M. Russo have filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia on behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, Philadelphia Councilmember Mark F. Squilla and The 1492 Society to reverse Mayor Kenney’s executive order, which changed the Oct. 11 Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day.

At the other end of Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh, home to a proud legacy of Italian Americans whose ancestors went there to find the American Dream for work in the city’s factories and nearby coal mines. Here, Mayor Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh Art Commission voted to remove a towering Columbus monument in that city’s Schenley Park.

As has happened in Philadelphia, the resources of the Italian American community have come to forge a formidable defense of Columbus and our Italian American heritage in Pittsburgh.

Attorney George Bochetto and Judge Basil M. Russo, on behalf of Italian Sons and Daughters of America, are suing the city of Pittsburgh over the pending removal of the Columbus Monument there. As it stands now, each side has entered into a mediation process in an attempt to reach a settlement. The judge in the case, Judge Jack McVay, said, “It is my belief that through conciliation, Pittsburgh will lead the nation on this issue of statue removal vis a vis history and evolving community historical understanding.”

In the Italian Sons and Daughters of America v. City of Pittsburgh, et al. the Italian American plaintiff’s have made a proposed resolution.

According to Mr. Bochetto, “To date the defendant’s proposed course of action is to simply remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from Schenley Park to appease some historical revisionists. This is an unimaginative and confrontational resolution that has no educational component. It places the City of Pittsburgh at the end of a long line of other municipalities that have already succumbed to this approach as a way to avoid the threat of potential violence in their communities.”

Judge Russo and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America have chosen “to advocate a resolution that promotes mutual respect among the parties, as opposed to pitting one group’s interests against another group’s interests, as well as educating the public as to the true historical facts relating to the controversy surrounding Christopher Columbus.”

The Plaintiffs submitted the following proposal as a resolution to the pending lawsuit:

“The statue of Christopher Columbus shall remain in Schenley Park to continue to honor the sacrifices and contributions the Italian immigrant community, and all immigrants, have made to the City of Pittsburgh.”

“The Plaintiff, at its expense, will construct a viewing area adjacent to the statue where an educational documentary, Christopher Columbus: “Courage and Conviction,” will be available for public viewing. The Native American community will place a statue of a hero of its selection on the adjacent grounds of the park. The Plaintiff will assist the Native American community in its fundraising efforts to construct the statue.”

“The Native American community shall be invited to use the facility that the Plaintiff constructs to exhibit an educational documentary of the individual it so selects to honor.”

Mr. Bochetto and Judge Russo “believe such a resolution will show proper respect to the heritages of both the Italian American community and the Native American community, and further serve to educate the public as to the lives and contributions of each community’s respective hero.”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about George Bochetto and his legal work, please log on to www.bochettoandlentz.com. To learn more about Judge Russo and the ongoing activities by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to www.copomiao.org. Pictured is the Columbus Monument in Schenley Park, in Pittsburgh, Judge Basil M. Russo, current president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and George Bochetto, lead attorney representing a number of Italian American organizations to preserve Columbus’ legacy in Pittsburgh.
 

 

Another Columbus Victory in Philadelphia
COLUMBUS MONUMENT TO BE FULLY RESTORED TO PUBLIC VIEW AT PENN’S LANDING
- A Settlement Was Reached to Show the Monument in All Its Glory
“America 500 and DRWC sat down together and resolved this dispute in a civil manner. I commend DRWC’s professionalism and steadfast commitment to the people of Philadelphia.”

In June 2020, during the height of civil unrest over police brutality, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) workers at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia boarded up the bottom of the Christopher Columbus monument concealing the navigator’s name.

The DRWC, which maintains the monument, said at the time that the 106-foot historical obelisk did not align with their “mission to create and maintain a safe and welcome space for all.”

More than a year later, the “chalkboards” plastered across the base will be removed now that the DRWC and the America 500 Anniversary Corporation — the organization responsible for the construction of the monument — have reached a settlement over the matter.

The announcement came weeks after a judge slammed and overturned Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s unlawful order to cover and remove the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia.

George Bochetto, a prominent Philadelphia attorney who led both lawsuits against the DRWC and the city of Philadelphia, released this statement on Tuesday:

“America 500 and DRWC sat down together and resolved this dispute in a civil manner. I commend DRWC’s professionalism and steadfast commitment to the people of Philadelphia.”

Bochetto also represents the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organization and Italian Sons and Daughter of American, both of which are led by Basile M. Russo.

Bochetto and Russo filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia on behalf of the Conference of Presidents, Philadelphia Councilmember Mark F. Squilla and The 1492 Society earlier this year in order to reverse Mayor Kenney’s executive order, which changed the October 11 Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day.

If a judge sides with the federal Pro-Columbus lawsuit, it could usher in a powerful legal precedent that would shield the Columbus holiday and statues across the country.

Bochetto and Russo, on behalf of Italian Sons and Daughters of America, are also suing the city of Pittsburgh after Mayor Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh Art Commission voted to remove a towering Columbus monument in the city. As it stands, each side has entered into a mediation process in an attempt to reach a settlement.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the Columbus monument at Penn’s Landing, Basil M. Russo, current president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and George Bochetto, lead attorney representing a number of Italian American organizations to preserve Columbus’ legacy in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. To learn more about George Bochetto and his legal work, please log on to www.bochettoandlentz.com. To learn more about Judge Russo and the ongoing activities by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to www.copomiao.org.
 

 

Covid Chronicles
ITALY SEEKS TO RETURN TO NORMAL
- School Begins
- Illegal Migration at Crisis Levels
- Author Struggles with Estate Law in Nice, France

By Deirdre Pirro


 

Here, as we come to the end of Weeks 44 and 45, one of the major issues facing Italy, like in many other European countries, is the return to schools and universities of thousands of students. Most previous coronavirus protocols like masks for children over the age of six, staggered entry times, temperature checks and social distancing will remain in force as all efforts are being made to prevent students facing more long periods of distance learning this coming school year. So far students are not required to carry a Covid Certificate Green Health Pass to enter the classroom which, in any case, did not apply to children aged under 12. School and university staff will, however, be required to have a green pass to work on the premises.

Over the summer, there has, in fact, been rising tension over Italy's Green Pass which was first introduced in June this year. There have been a number of protests throughout the country staged by “no green passers” as well as otherS who go by the name of “no vaxers.” Although they are often the same people, it would be a mistake to necessarily lump them together.

Further new rules were added to those already in force relating to the green pass and travel. On September 1st, the pass was required to travel on long-distance, intercity and high-speed trains, as well as domestic flights, long-distance buses and interregional ferries, although it is not obligatory for local public transport networks or regional trains. Tighter measures are expected to be put in place by the end of September. This could mean that the green pass may have to be shown on city buses and metro trains and trams. Because the aim of all these measures is to protect us from this deadly virus continuing to spread, then all I can say is bring them on.

The Draghi government has announced that it is on track to have 80% of the Italian population vaccinated by September 24th. Not a bad record.
Recently, the leader of the center-right Lega political party, Matteo Salvini has launched a series of stinging attacks against the Interior Minister, Luciana Lamorgese, over the government's handling of illegal immigration, mainly by unvaccinated migrant-boat people arriving from North Africa. From January and July 2021, some 25,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea. The month of June saw the highest number of arrivals. During 2020, the number of migrants who landed in Italy peaked at 7.1 thousand people in July. Salvini has also warned that his support for the coalition Draghi government was at risk because of this latest wave of illegal migrants, often assisted by foreign NGO ships offloading their human cargo to be picked up at sea in Italian territory.

In mid-August, the Interior Minister, Luciana Lamorgese, had also been widely criticized for her inability to stop a huge, unauthorized, week-long rave party staged by hundreds of young people from across Europe taking place on a privately owned country site between Lazio and Tuscany near the town of Valentano. Apart from mountains of garbage, it left in its wake at least three people with alcohol-induced comas and one 25-year-old man drowned in a nearby lake. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. If I were the minister, I would not be feeling too secure in my institutional role at the moment.

As of September 6th, Italy's wins in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics has brought them into ninth place in the medals' table with 69 medals, including 14 golds, 29 silvers and 26 bronzes. It's
Italy's best performance ever at these games.

In Florence, on 17th and 18th September, G20's agriculture ministers from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US will meet in Florence at the historic Accademia dei Georgofili founded in 1753. People, planet and prosperity are the three interrelated pillars of action the ministers will debate which, hopefully, will find some viable and durable solutions.

As the photos will show you I was on the French Riviera in the beautiful seaside town on Nice. Much as I would like to say I am on vacation, that is not the case, although I do try my best to enjoy the sun and the sea along the Promenade des Anglais as much as I can. Some of you may know that my husband, Pietro, died at the end of April this year which means I am now embroiled in French bureaucracy, and there is heaps of it. This is because my son, Piero, and I have to comply with the legal requirements of paying death duties and settling the issues of inheritance on an apartment we own here. Foolishly, I thought Italian bureaucracy was complicated enough, but this is a nightmare, especially for foreign non-residents like us. More to come, if I every manage to get it sorted out.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre writes articles for PRIMO’s print editions and is our official translator. Pictured were taken by the author in Nice, France.

 

 

Primo Interview
MARIA GIURA, AUTHOR OF “CELIBATE: A MEMOIR”
At some point, though, I consciously, or maybe subconsciously, decided that I was either going to “go for broke” or not write the book at all.

“Celibate: A Memoir,” by Maria Giura delves into the mysteries and devotions of the author’s Roman Catholicism. She recounted the flaws of her sin and transgression. PRIMO had an interview with the author about what it was like to write such a personal account of her faith.

Let's start with the title: "Celibate: A Memoir." This is very unique among autobiographies. What made you choose this title?

In a way, the title chose me. It appeared in my mind at least a year before I found my publisher. I tried pushing it away and using another, but it was persistent. And the publisher loved it, which was further confirmation. It took me a while to accept that it was exactly the right title for my memoir.

Your book "Celibate: A Memoir," is a very personal account. Did you have any reluctance writing such a book? If so, how did you overcome any initial shyness?

Very much so, yes, especially in the first few years that I was writing the book (it took me more than 12 years to complete). I was stalling, afraid to show what I needed to show on the page, afraid of facing myself and of what my family and others would think. I was also still finding out what the truth was. At some point, though, I consciously, or maybe subconsciously, decided that I was either going to “go for broke” or not write the book at all. Before I wrote each day, I prayed for guidance, and I did twenty minutes of free writing—anything that came to mind—as a way to silence the censor. I kept pushing to make each sentence more true, more concrete, and in the end, that felt right to do—not easy, but right. With this said, three and half months before the memoir was due to be published, I got so afraid, I considered pulling the memoir from my publisher. It was a very brief thought but a very real one.
 
Roman Catholicism is central to "Celibate," as you share with readers, among other endeavors, a pursuit to become a nun. Where are you now in your faith? Are you still a Roman Catholic and how did writing this memoir affect your beliefs?

Yes, I’m still a practicing Roman Catholic and a happier, freer, and more grateful one than I was during most of the years in which the story takes place. My battle to trust God provided me with the story to write. Writing and finishing “Celibate” helped strengthen my beliefs and my faith in God’s goodness; I wouldn’t have been able to write this memoir alone.

What do you hope readers will gain in reading "Celibate: A Memoir"?

I’d like readers to gain what they most need from the book. With that said, I also hope it conveys three things:

There’s value in guarding our hearts; I don’t mean that there’s value in being guarded, but rather that it’s beneficial to let romantic relationships unfold slowly no matter how old or young you are: figuring out first if the other person is someone you can trust, that your heart feels at home with, whom you feel at peace with. If “Celibate” could help someone avoid heartache, or even recognize their heartache, that would have made it worthwhile.

I’m hoping it shows that it’s possible for us to get to the other side of our (spiritual) struggles. We’re never alone even though that’s exactly what it might feel like at times.

I hope that readers will appreciate the story’s italianitá. Being Italian (American) is such a big part of my identity and that of many of my characters. It’s almost as close to my skin as my being a woman. My memoir was hard to write, but one way in which it wasn’t was infusing the food, music, and language I grew up with into the scenes. I think it truly enriches the story.

You love the English language and, in fact, earned a Ph.D in it. What are your plans for the future in writing?

I’m currently teaching memoir writing workshops for Casa Belvedere, The Italian Cultural Foundation. I’m also working on a third book, which will be my second book of poetry. (My first is “What My Father Taught Me,” Bordighera Press, about growing up Italian American.) I’m about half way done, but I suspect the second half will take quite some time. I’m trying to take more risks than I did in my first collection.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the author and her book “Celibate,” please log on to her web site at www.mariagiura.com.

 

 

Op-Ed
FIGHT THE FEAR
Is Italy Becoming More Repressive Under Coronavirus than Under Mussolini?
“During Mussolini’s reign, Italians had no choice. They had to follow the rules, or else they were arrested or shot. With coronavirus, however, it is fear, not the government, commanding them.”

By Joanne Fisher

It all started with, “Just two weeks to flatten the curve.” Yet, here we are, 17 months later and counting.

After constant lockdowns in Italy, not to mention scores of protests, draconian measures and local bylaws, we have come to a point where the government and their media and academic allies can only vilify the “non-vaxxers” and “nonbelievers”.

What is Italy turning into? Is Fascism coming back? Are Italians just letting their government do whatever it wants?

If you think the United States is divided, then take a good look at Italy. I know many Italians who are filled with fear (many are my family members). But on the other side of the coin, I know many who are not and who live their lives the best that they can.

During Mussolini’s reign, Italians had no choice. They had to follow the rules or else they were either arrested or shot. With coronavirus, however, it is fear, not the government, commanding them. Some Italians are literally choosing not to go outside without a mask. They still live in fear of infection, even after getting the vaccine. Yes, COVID-19 has killed over 129,000 people in Italy, but this number is over a 17-month span with the last count taken at the end of August. Why is the recovery rate of 99.95% not pushed in the same way that the number of “cases” are pushed? The answer is simple. It’s to give the impression that if you contract COVID-19, it’s a death sentence. Hence, these fearful sheep are now joyously swallowing whatever pill the government is giving them, and, in the process, are giving up their liberty. I’m sure the Partigiani are rolling in their graves.

As our Lord and Savior said many times, “have no fear for I am with you.” Hope is not lost. On the contrary, it is growing—and in large numbers. People are beginning to see the light. There is a group of doctors and nurses, lawyers, judges and police officials who, together, are fighting to save the civil liberties of Italians. These heroes are literally at war with the draconian government and they are winning small battles. They’ve won cases against forcing masks on students in school. One head of the “Polizia di Stato” is battling the vaccine mandate for their agents. And the protests continue every weekend in hundreds of Italian cities.

What of the GreenPass?

Unfortunately, the Italian government has passed the mandatory GreenPass for a person to enter museums or other large venues (concerts, soccer games, etc.). However, there is fierce pushback by millions of small business owners, truck drivers and even police officials who are not willing to enforce these laws as they are considered to be anti-constitutional and discriminatory.

How is this affecting travel?

The rules are that Americans, Japanese and Canadians are required to complete a “Passenger Locator Form” and have a valid GreenPass from the home country. Or, you must have a negative result on a Rapid Molecular or Antigenic Test performed in the 48 hours prior to entering Italy. This is presented in digital format in the preferred languages of Italian, English, Spanish and French.

Bottom line: you can travel to Italy. Just be aware of certain restrictions for entering museums, stadiums and other public buildings. Oh, and don’t forget masks are still mandatory indoors for almost all places.

Ending on a positive note: The war against these draconian measures is far from over. So have patience and keep the faith.

Editor’s Note: Joanne Fisher is a Canadian-Italian-American author who is renowned for her steamy romances, historical fictions and murder-mysteries. She loves writing Christmas novellas, giving them an Italian flair. She has penned two nonfiction travel guides, titled Traveling Boomers, along with the corresponding website TheTravelingBoomers.com. She has participated in various Space Coast Writers’ Guild anthologies, and has even written one of her own, Baker’s Dozen Anthology, which is free on Kindle Unlimited. She is the president of the Space Coast Writers’ Guild and lives in Central Florida with her husband Dan and two Dachshunds, Wally and Madison. Her web site is https://joannesbooks.com/

 

 

Primo Interview
AUTHOR CHLOE JON PAUL DISCUSSES HER BOOK “ENTERING THE AGE OF ELEGANCE”
"As human beings, we must definitely be aware of how our physical health is connected to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health."

Chloe Jon Paul conceives a better and more accurate way of to growing older with the title of her fascinating new book, “Entering the Age of Elegance.” PRIMO spoke with the author about her new book and insight on human longevity.

Please tell us your family background in regards to Italy? You devote this book to your grandmothers. Please comment.

My mother's family came from Abruzzo and my father's family came from Sicily. My husband was from Rome. I met him while on vacation. I even lived in Rome! My grandmother Teresa was my inspiration for so much! She had a difficult life but managed to help so many people! She taught me how to care for unfortunate and how to live my Catholic faith.

What led you to write "Entering the Age of Elegance"?

What led me to write this book was that so many women are afraid of aging and go to great lengths and spend a lot of money trying to look young.  

As you know, Italy is famous for longevity; as in some places, such as Sardinia, people live productive lives in their 100s. What, in your opinion are Italians doing right in living longer more fuller lives?

I'm not certain as to what Italians are doing in living longer, more fuller lives except that they don't buy into what so many companies produce and advertise as ideal for a youthful appearance.

A consistent theme in your book is how our physical health is tied to one's mental, emotional and spiritual health. Why is that? Please comment.

As human beings, we must definitely be aware of how our physical health is connected to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. A wise Indian guru once said that man is a house with 4 rooms: the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. The problem is that he spends his time in only one of those rooms each day whereas he should be visiting all four. I visit all 4 EVERYDAY!

What do you see in the future in the United States. What do we need to do here to change the culture for us to live longer and more productively?  

The future of this nation is in great jeopardy! What we need to do can be explained in the Bible! I'm concerned that this book cannot be published again. I tried contacting the publisher but never received an answer.

Editor’s note: You can read more about Chloe Jon Paul and purchase her new book, “Entering the Age of Elegance” at https://www.chloejonpaul.net/

 

Letter to the Editor
PRIMO READER ONCE RECEIVED A LETTER FROM
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT ADMONISHING
HER FOR SPEAKING ITALIAN

Dear Editor:

I read your latest edition of PRIMO Magazine and I am looking forward to receiving another by mail. Thank you for printing my story and army photograph of my late husband George titled ----- "Storming Omaha Beach on D-Day."

Also, on PRIMO's YouTube channel, I was so happy to see and listen to the Italian Carabinieri band play at the Lincoln Memorial. My father was drafted in WWI in Italy at age 16 and was put into the Carabinieri Unit (Military Police). After the war, he was discharged as an Army Carabinieri Carabinieri but was given the job as a Civilian Carabinieri for the country of Italy and always carried a rifle strapped to his shoulder. When my daughter Gina was 14 years old, I took her to Italy and we spent the whole summer living with many relatives!!! We went to the Carabinieri office in Rome and they found in their files my father's history and his photo in uniform. His passport, which Gina still has, says that his occupation was Carabinieri.

And yes, I agree with your article that we Italians were mistreated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II. He hated the Italians and said hateful things about us. I was only 9 years old and someone in my neighborhood heard me speaking Italian to my Nonna in a butcher shop and reported me to Roosevelt. In those days, all the stores had a sign in their windows that said --- Speak Only English Language In This Shop, By Command Of President Roosevelt. I received a nasty letter from Roosevelt!!! He said that I should only speak English and no other language. I don't have that letter now because my father flushed it down the toilet!!!!

I am now 89 years old, healthy of mind and body, but I haven't forgotten those days of World War II !!!
I firmly believe that I deserve an apology from the Country in which I was born --- America. I agree with you that America should apologize to all Italian Americans for discrimination!!!!! And if Roosevelt was still alive today I would have some news for him-----I don't speak ONLY English but I now speak, read, and write several languages!!!!

I look forward to reading the hard copy of PRIMO Magazine.

And thanks again!!!

I am now 89 years old, healthy of mind and body, but I haven't forgotten those days of World War II !!!

I firmly believe that I deserve an apology from the Country in which I was born --- America. I agree with you that America should apologize to all Italian Americans for discrimination!!!!! And if Roosevelt was still alive today I would have some news for him-----I don't speak ONLY English but I now speak, read, and write several languages!!!!

I look forward to reading the next edition of PRIMO Magazine.

And thanks again!!!

Lola Gianelli
Ladera, California

 

THE ITALIC INSTITUTE OF AMERICA’S “ON-LINE ACADEMY”
Now Available is a Virtual Means to Learn about the Great Achievements of Italy

Did you know that on September 5th, 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiarparelli discovered what are known as the “Martian Canals” on the famous planet? Or that, on March 14th, 1998, India’s Congress Party, one of the largest in the nation, chose an Italian-born woman, Sonia (Maino) Gandhi, to lead them? Or, closer to home, that, in 1882, New York’s greatest mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, was born?

These amazing facts demonstrate the depth of Italic culture throughout the ages and throughout the world, and are available at your fingertips via the Italic Institute of America’s “On-Line Academy”: www.italic.org

Free and available to anyone with a computer, the “On-Line Academy” is the creation of the Italic Institute of America, an educational organization founded in Floral Park, New York in 1987. Culling nearly 30 years’ worth of information, the institute has compiled its resources into a “one-stop-shop” website that can be accessed for generations to come, young and old alike.

Says Bill Dal Cerro, a senior analyst with the Institute for over 20 years: “We use the term academy broadly. This isn’t an actual ‘degree’ program. We are not affiliated with any university or Italian American organization. We are an educational think tank. The purpose is to have people ‘self-educate’ themselves. Our information is available to all: students, educators, academia, media, and, particularly, members of the general public. The goal is to deepen awareness of the Italic heritage via decades of solid research.”

In addition to the Almanac—an on-line calendar which features a plethora of historical facts like the ones above--the Institute’s On-Line Academy features other educational menus. They range from informational videos on America’s “Italian” roots to links to the Ara Pacis Monument in Rome.

The Institute’s Academy also has an on-line Research Library featuring everything from copies of Atlantica Magazine from the 1930s to a 2015 research report on the portrayal of Italian Americans in Hollywood movies.

Says Dal Cerro: “With the availability of the Internet and social media, this is an amazing opportunity for people to educate themselves even from the comfort of their own homes. We urge people to visit our on-line academy. It’s fun, interactive, and free. It turns passive pride into active pride.”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Italic Institute of America, please log on www.italic.org.

 

A NEW BROCHURE AND POP-UP DISPLAY TO HELP DEFEND COLUMBUS
Now Available are Pamphlets and Signs for Italian Americans to Set the Record Straight on Columbus
- Produced by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations
- “The brochures are totally free to all organizations, lodges and clubs,” says Judge Russo

By Truby Chiaviello

 



Columbus Day is almost two months away and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations has produced two unique products to help Italian Americans defend the legacy of Christopher Columbus.

Basil Russo, former federal judge and Cleveland city council leader, now serves as president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. He sent out sample copies recently of a brochure and pop-up display for Italian American organizations and clubs to use this Columbus Day and beyond.

“Once again, we head into uncertain waters as the lead-up to Columbus Day will spark a new round of discussion and conjecture on the holiday and its significance to the Italian American culture,” says Judge Russo. “In response, we’ve produced and printed a Columbus brochure featuring cogent arguments and salient research that tells the story of our ancestors’ unbroken connection to the historic navigator.”

The well-crafted brochure comes dressed in bright purple and red with the headline, “Why Columbus Matters.” The inside panels contain bulleted points to establish Columbus a worthy hero of history. Maligned attacks against Columbus, as exclaimed in “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, are effectively countered. Zinn’s book was distributed to American elementary and high schools over the last 40 years in a concerted effort by him and others affiliated with communism and social Maxism. Their goal was to destroy Columbus and other figures of American history. The fruition of such false propaganda has led us to the present day where various governments at the state and local levels, not to mention school boards, universities and teachers’ unions, have all but condemned Columbus and seek to eliminate all vestiges of his legacy here in America.

The brochure tackles a host of controversial issues. One headline reads: “Columbus Condemned Slavery.” Bulleted claims follow to set the record straight such as “Columbus was against slavery,” “He never bought, sold or owned slaves,” etc…

More information is included in the brochure to help members of Italian American clubs and organizations defend Columbus.

“The brochures are totally free to all organizations, lodges and clubs,” says Judge Russo.

To order copies of the brochure titled “Why Columbus Matters,” please email your request to the main office of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations at it.am.presidents@gmail.com.

Please include the following information:
Your organization’s full name
Mailing address (street, city, zip code) 
Quantity (200 max)
 
Judge Russo also announced the availability of a seven foot pop-up display to feature a dramatic illustration of Columbus. The headline reads: “Christopher Columbus - Seek the Facts” and offers information to defend Columbus and counter the maligned myths and false accusations from his detractors.

“We’re offering a seven-foot Columbus pop-up display for those who are interested in prominently featuring the explorer during Italian American Heritage Month,” says Judge Russo.

The pop-ups are $200/piece. To order the large display, please include your organization’s name and mailing address and email to: it.am.presidents@gmail.com.

Judge Russo expressed optimism in the fight to preserve the legacy of Columbus. “The good news is our side (i.e., our history) is gaining momentum thanks in large part to (Italian Americans) inspiring activism and commitment to our legal efforts. We can work together and continue to correct the skewed narrative surrounding Columbus.”

Editor’s Note: To order your Columbus brochures and pop-up display, please email it.am.presidents@gmail.com. The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is COPOMIAO.org

 

THE FIGHT FOR COLUMBUS
- A Round-up of Recent Events to Preserve the Legacy of Columbus in America
- From Philadelphia to San Francisco, Italian Americans are Fighting Hard for Our Heritage

By Robert Petrone, Esq.

Be it changing the name of a holiday from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day or tearing down monuments and public sculpture of the great Genoese explorer, Italian Americans have been called to defend our heritage all over the United States. Here is a collection of recent court rulings, public meetings and debates on the fight to preserve the legacy of Columbus in America.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Judge Paula Patrick of the Court of Common Pleas has ordered the City of Philadelphia and its Italophobic mayor James Kenney to stand down and leave Philly's Christopher Columbus statue where it stands, finding the City guilty of an "abuse of discretion and clearly arbitrary action"; characterizing the City's arguments as "devoid of any legal foundation" and finding it "baffling...how the City of Philadelphia wants to remove the Statue without any legal basis." 

You can hear first-hand, from attorney George Bochetto, Esquire, champion of truth and justice, and bane of Marxist Columbus-detractors everywhere, the details of this resounding victory here, on the latest episode of "Christopher Columbus University" at https://video.ibm.com/channel/minitape

You can also support Philadelphia's President and Founder of the Drexel University Italian Pride organization, Mario De Lorenzo, in his fight to convince Drexel to restore Christopher Columbus Day to its school calendar by signing his petition at http://chng.it/nVmFvvjv68.

In Westborough, Massachusetts, the Italian American Alliance asks all allies to email that town's Select Board at selectboard@town.westborough.ma.us to politely but firmly demand they desist from renaming Christopher Columbus Day to the incorrectly named "Indigenous People's Day," but rather designate another date, such as August 9th, the date the United Nations has designated as "International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples," to honor the tribal peoples of the Americas.

In New York, New York, The Epoch Times has released a new film, America Rewritten, a documentary on "how history is being falsified." In it, Dr. Mary Grabar, Resident Fellow of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, reveals how the late Marxist propagandist Howard Zinn dishonestly presented America's history, and discusses her book “Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History that Turned a Generation Against America,” available wherever books are sold.

In Boston, Massachusetts, a collection of approximately a dozen Italian American organizations have collectively sent a letter to Massachusetts Italian American Legislative Caucus member Senator Salvatore DiDomenico demanding help from that caucus in combatting the anti-Italian-American terrorism in Boston. The letter, poetically reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, calls for the "reject[ion of] bigotry in all its forms because it is inherently wrong and because it divides us as a people, an American people." The letter is the perfect template for similar grass-roots letters to Italian American legislative caucuses in any state.

In Chicago, Illinois, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Park District seeking the return of the Arrigo Park Columbus statue to its rightful place and organized a rally to support the legal effort regarding that and Chicago's other two Columbus statues. JCCIA President Ron Onesti said, "We are not asking for damages, an explanation or even an apology. We simply want the statues back where they belong..."

In San Francisco, California, the city's Columbus statue, designed and sculpted in 1957 by Vittorio di Colbertaldo and set upon a pedastal gifted by the City of Genoa on a marble ring donated by the Marini Family has been unceremoniously shoved into storage after vandals defaced the statue with red paint. The city is keeping the storage location a secret as well as the fate of the statue. Years ago, San Francisco eliminated Columbus's name from that city's 150-year-old parade.

In Oberlin, Ohio, President Basil M. Russo of the Order of the Italian Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, backed by over 60 supporters, gave a rousing speech to Oberlin's City Council, successfully persuading that body to hold off on replacing Columbus Day with "Indigenous People's Day." President Russo explained to City Council that Italian immigrants began celebrating Columbus Day in the 1800s "in an effort to deal with the prejudices they were confronted with and in an effort to establish a sense of dignity and self-worth" and decried City Council's "inherent unfairness of promoting one group's rights and interests by trampling upon the rights and interests of another group."

Editor’s Note: For more information on these news stories, please listen to the most recent episodes of "Christopher Columbus University" by attorney Robert Petrone on Radio Voice Italia at the following archived link: https://video.ibm.com/channel/minitape

 

 

ITALIANS WIN BIG IN PHILADELPHIA
Trial Judge in Philadelphia Overrules Removal of Columbus Statue
- The statue will remain in Marconi Plaza
- “It is baffling to this Court as to how the City of Philadelphia wants to remove the Statue without any legal basis,” wrote Judge Paula Patrick.

By Truby Chiaviello

Score a major victory for Italian Americans in Philadelphia and, for that matter, Italian Americans all over the United States. The Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza, as sculpted by Emanuele Caroni, is to be kept where it is and where it has been in Philadelphia since 1876. Mayor Jim Kenney’s effort to take down the statue has failed. So ordered Judge Paula Patrick of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Civil Trial Division.

For awhile it looked grim for the Italian Americans of South Philadelphia as Mayor Kenny was hellbent to remove Italian Ravazzoni marble statue of the founder of the New World. Never mind that Christopher Columbus remains a beloved figure for many Americans, Kenney wanted the 22 foot sculpture gone.

Kenny left it up to his handpicked members of the Philadelphia Historical Commission to ensure Columbus’ legacy was all but discarded in the City of Brotherly Love. The mission of the historical commission is to uphold a measure of integrity and objectivity. However, this is the age of political correctness. The era of the cancel culture. The times of Howard Zinn. There was no way these so-called learned men and women were going to keep an extraordinary rendition of Columbus in public view. All Italian Americans knew that the fate of the great Genoese was sealed when Kenney referred the matter to the historic commission last year.

And so it was. The Philadelphia Historical Commission submitted their decision, as rendered on July 24, 2020, to the Philadelphia Board of License and Inspection Review for the removal of the edifice. Columbus was unceremoniously boarded up to await the crane.

Italians are a stubborn bunch. Like the centurions of more than a thousand years ago, they don’t panic in battle. They stay in the fight to find a way to overcome.

Italians of South Philly came together. George Bochetto and his legal team dug into the law to take Mayor Kenny and his commissions to court. They appealed the decision and filed and were granted an injunction to keep the statue where located until the case was finalized.

Appellants were Friends of Marconi Plaza, Msgrs. Richard Cedrone, Joseph Q. Mirarchi and their man in the arena, Mr. Bochetto.

To read the seven page decision as issued by Judge Patrick on August 17 is to see fairness and common sense in action. Mr. Bochetto made his case as might a champion boxer. He knocked out every preposterous claim by the opposition.

“It is baffling to this Court as to how the City of Philadelphia wants to remove the Statue without any legal basis,” wrote Judge Patrick. “The City’s entire argument and case is devoid of any legal foundation.”

If Mr. Bochetto can be compared to a boxer, then let the historic commissioners be compared to dart throwers. They threw at the judge every conceivable reason to remove Columbus but never could hit a bullseye.

One by one their arguments were dismissed by Judge Patrick.

The historic commission claimed the Italians had no standing. The removal of a statue depicting an explorer from Genoa who founded the New World, in a place named for another famous Italian, was in no way connected to Italians.

Not true, said Judge Patrick.

“Appellants have been active caretakers of Marconi Plaza for the past 10 years coordinating the park’s upkeep, beautification and modernization,” she wrote. “Appellants have a substantial, direct and immediate interest in the outcome of litigation…because removal of the Christopher Columbus Statue will impact the nature of the park.”

Many involved in preserving the statue complained about the lack of serious investigation and deliberation by the historic commission. Indeed, as Mr. Bochetto argued, the commission wrongly relied on their staff members to decide on the fragility of the statue and its possibility of getting damaged while removed. Judge Patrick ruled an error in law was committed when the historic commission considered only the opinion of staff members. “To the contrary,” wrote Judge Patrick, “those staff members were not independent experts with experience in analyzing historic marble sculpture and transportation.”

A lack of definitive reports coupled with a lack of proper time to allow for a public hearing were key reasons why Judge Patrick ruled against the historic commission. She also ruled against the claim by the city that civil unrest was ongoing enough to threaten the statue and that its removal was “necessary in the public interest.” The judge agreed with Mr. Bochetto and appellants that the protests and demonstrations against the Columbus statue were isolated events, made after the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. There was no evidence of consistent civil unrest to threaten the statue.

A victory in Philadelphia is to garner confidence and enthusiasm for many more battles still to come. Mr. Bochetto currently leads a legal team in a federal lawsuit to prevent the City of Philadelphia and its mayor, Jim Kenney, from abolishing Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day. Such an act would constitute discrimination against Italian Americans under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. 

“A win in the federal suit will have earthshaking effect around the country,” declares Judge Basil Russo, president of the Council of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. His organization is a party in the federal lawsuit.

Editor’s Note: Marconi Plaza is located in Philadelphia at 2800 South Broad Street. To learn more about George Bochetto and his legal work, please log on to www.bochettoandlentz.com. To learn more about ongoing activities by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, pleas log on to www.copomiao.org

 

 

Covid Chronicles
ITALIANS MUST CARRY A GREEN PASS
- Justice Reform Passes in Italy
- Arson Fires Ravage Different Regions
- A Visit to the Stibbert Museum

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, as we come to the end of Weeks 42 and 43, Italy is now in phase IV of the coronavirus epidemic. Contagion and hospital recoveries are increasing mainly due to the Delta and the new Delta Plus strains of the coronavirus, but the death rate is lower at this time of year than it was last year because more and more people are being vaccinated. As a further preventive measure, we are, as of August 6th, obliged to carry an EU Digital Covid Certificate or green health pass if we want to eat inside restaurants or bars or enter museums, theaters, gyms, swimming pools and events where people assemble. The pass does not, as of yet, have to be shown on public transport or airline flights within Italy, nor does it need to be shown if we eat outdoors or drink coffee standing at a bar. It attests that we have had at least one vaccination or a negative test within the last 48 hours, or that we have recovered from Covid-19 over the last six months. EU citizens, as well as international travelers from UK, USA, Canada, Israel and Japan, are required to show their equivalent national certifications. There have been protests by some restaurant owners saying they should not be responsible for policing people in this way, but, on the whole, their patrons seem willing to demonstrate they have their passes with them for their own and other people's safety.

On July 29th, the Draghi government scored a victory regarding its criminal justice reform bill. By brokering a compromise between the coalition parties and, in particular, with the 5-Star Movement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi managed to get the hundreds of amendments that had been proposed to the bill withdrawn thereby allowing it to be tabled in parliament. This was done after the minister of justice approved changes to the time limits under new statute of limitations with regard to cases involving the mafia, terrorism, sexual violence and drug trafficking.

Also, on July 29th and 30th, representatives of member countries of the G20 Culture group and those from major international bodies such as UNESCO, OECD, Council of Europe and organizations such as ICCROM, ICOM and ICOMOS met at the Colosseum in Rome. In the evening, a concert, in presence of the president of the Republic, was conducted by Maestro Riccardo Muti at the Quirinale. At the end of the meeting, the “Rome Declaration of the G20 Culture Ministers” was unanimously adopted. Its 32 clauses introduced the culture sector into the G20, recognizing its important economic contribution. The Member States also agreed to create an action force to protect the cultural heritage of high-risk areas.

On August 7th, some 93 percent of those eligible to cast their ballots within the 5 Star Movement voted on its new Skyvote platform approving former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's nomination as the Movements new leader.

Arson lit fires have recently ripped through a vast area near Oristano in Sardinia, in Sicily not far from Palermo and, more recently, in the Marche region, close to Pesaro. According to the mayor of Palermo, many of these systematically lit fires are the work of organized crime. Punishment for those who willfully create such destruction and devastation should be the harshest.

Italy's wins in the Tokyo Olympics are keeping us glued to our TV sets. It is so good to have such good news after the last 18 months of lockdowns and hardships. It's also amazing how these athletes managed to continue training and concentrating all their efforts on these Games during that period. Viva Italia.

There is also good news here in Florence. After the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee held online in Fuzhou, China, UNESCO published the names of more places that keep Italy at the top of the list of countries for the number of World Heritage sites. For Florence, this means that, apart from the previously listed historic center, now the Church of San Miniato al Monte, the Church of San Salvatore al Monte, the monumental ramps to Piazzale Michelangelo and the Piazzale itself as well as the Rose and Iris Gardens have all become UNESCO World Heritage sites. Just one more reason to visit Florence.

Here, at home, to escape the heat and humidity, I decided to visit the Stibbert Museum and its beautiful, cool, rambling garden for some relief. The museum is just a short distance from the center of Florence and is not all that well known to tourists. It is in a 57-room villa that was once the home of the very wealthy, English-Florentine Frederick Stibbert (1838–1906). It houses his numerous collections, including paintings, furniture, porcelains, Tuscan crucifixes, Etruscan artefacts and, above all, an amazing collection of antique arms and armoury, including one of the most important collections of Oriental, Islamic and Japanese arms in the world. Once you have visited, I can guarantee you will return.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s: Deirdre writes articles for PRIMO’s print editions and is our official translator. Pictured are some of the exhibits inside the Stibbert Museum.

 

 

 

Primo Interview
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE A FEDERAL INVESTIGATOR?
- Thomas Sarnicola Gives Readers an Insider’s View of National Security in His New Book, “No Kings, No Kooks: Confessions of a National Security Agent.”

Thomas Sarnicola's entertaining and informative book, “No Kings, No Kooks,” is an insider’s account of post-9/11 national security efforts. His is a memoir of a federal investigator who cared about his job and the people he interviewed for national security clearance. As PRIMO reported in the Second Edition, 2020, “This book could could be made into a television series in the vein of past crime dramas.” Mr. Sarnicola conveys the biographies, dreams and aspirations of federal applicants. We recently interviewed him about his book and his work as a national security investigator.

What can you tell us about your family's home village in Agropoli, Italy?

My grandfather Biagio was born in 1889 and died in 1989. He was one of ten children. Eight of his siblings stayed in Agropoli while he and his older brother immigrated to New York through Ellis Island in approximately 1914. He then served in the US Army at the age of 28. As a result of his military service was granted USA citizenship.

He left his parents and siblings in Agropoli which is a Southern Italian seaside town in the Campania region off the Tyrrhenian Sea. My grandfather told us that as a child in Agropoli his family was poor with very little to eat and thus felt America would provide better opportunities for him and his descendants. He is what I call the astronaut of the Sarnicola family...coming to a strange land. What guts and determination he had to have. He passed away when I was in my 30's so I was able to spend a lot of time with him and my grandmother, Anna, over the years and listened to their stories of Italy and New York.

Please tell us why you dedicated this book to all federal civil servants.

I dedicated the book to federal civil servants because of what I experienced during my 15 years as a federal employee. My co-workers reflected a cross section of our society. Most were dedicated and wanted to do a good job but at times the bureaucracy made it difficult to do so. The civil servants keep our government working despite its inefficiencies. I felt they deserved to be acknowledged in my book.

What led you to conceive the unique title, "No Kings, No Kooks"?

The title No Kings No Kooks, came from a phrase my father would use when describing someone who was not reliable, eccentric or just plain strange.  Being a Special Agent required one to be on time, reliable, hardworking and dedicated. If one was "kook", you would  not survive in the job. Likewise if you felt you were entitled to receive special treatment like a "king", from the public because you were issued a federal badge and credential , you soon realized that was not the case in many instances. I witnessed many new hires quit or were terminated because they did not fit into the government's work environment or felt that the job was not as glamorous as they had anticipated.

In investigating applicants, what was one or more tell-signs to deny a person a security clearance?

A security clearance investigation is very complex. As an agent we gathered so much information on a subject prior to our interviewing him/her that we had a sense what derogatory issues or potentially disqualifying events could prohibit someone from either obtaining an initial clearance or continuing to keep a clearance. The interviews were intense at times especially when you confronted the subject with information they tried to hide or minimize its seriousness. Despite a subject's outward appearance we had to stay objective when collecting and presenting the facts of a case. Looks were often deceiving!

After a career as a federal investigator, what is your assessment working for the federal government?

I came to the federal government after having spent over 14 years as  a Director for medical research fundraising and had no understanding of just how many layers of bureaucracy there were. At times I found myself frustrated knowing that I had little influence in  improving my job and having to implement new policy changes soon after other policy changes had been already made.  Change usually came from the agency director -- from the top down. There were no opportunities to express new ideas from the bottom up. In my experience I believe federal employees did the best they could within the limits of their job and the innumerable government regulations they have to deal with on a daily basis. Unfortunately too much change  created a discouraging work environment at times. 

What are your future plans in book writing? Do you plan a follow-up for "No Kings, No Kooks"?

I was not considering a follow up book yet many of those who have read it have encouraged me to write more of my family stories related to Italy and New York. I was planning to visit Italy this year and meet my relatives still living in Agropoli but my plans had to be postponed until 2022 due to the Covid restrictions. Writing takes a lot of time and effort. I don't consider myself as a professional writer but let's just say I am thinking it over!

Editor’s Note: You can purchase “No Kings, No Kooks,” at Amazon.com.

 

 

RICHARD TRUMKA PASSES
First Italian American to Serve as President of the AFL-CIO
- A Vital Voice for American Labor and, Especially, American Coal Miners

By Truby Chiaviello

We mourn the loss of Richard Trumka, who passed away, at 72, from an apparent heart attack on August 5th.

Mr. Trumka was a tireless advocate for workers throughout the United States. He was featured in PRIMO in 2009 after he made history to become the first Italian American president of the AFL-CIO, America’s largest union with some 12.5 million members.

In an in-depth interview with PRIMO, Mr. Trumka discussed his background to focus on his Italian maternal side, maiden name Bertugli. He had a close relationship with his grandfather, Attilio, an immigrant from Italy. Mr. Trumka credited his grandfather with inspiring him to pursue a law degree to defend the rights of workers. It was a porch side setting that sought ways to help the miners in Greene County. “Who are the people that can help the most?” his grandfather asked. “Politicians,” replied Mr. Trumka. “Think harder,” said Grandfather Attilio. An epiphany arose when the young Mr. Trumka answered, “Lawyers.”

The November/December 2009 edition of PRIMO featured a six page biography of Mr. Trumka to follow a tribute to Italian American coal miners. Readers submitted photographs, names and write-ups of their ancestors who worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. A creative layout captured the unique history of Italian Americans who delved into the sides of mountains to extract this vital resource.

Mr. Trumka had been a coal miner, alongside his father, Frank, near Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, where he was born and raised. In 1974, he graduated with a law degree from Villanova University to soon work on the legal staff for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Eight years later, he became president of the UMWA at a time of serious transition in American labor.

Mines are located in remote regions far away from the national spotlight where striking workers battled policemen and company security. Internal struggles within the union sometimes resulted in serious clashes.

The UMWA remained a formidable force for mine workers in the United States. At 33, Mr. Trumka was elected to the union presidency just before a serious drop in membership was to occur. The UMWA had almost 200,000 members in the 1940s; only for a reduction to 80,000 members today. Strip mining coupled with a host of technological innovations lessened the need for workers. Meanwhile, the environmental movement of climate change considered coal mining akin to an evil exercise where the closing of mines were advocated in many states.

For Mr. Trumka, the labor movement of miners was central to the broad struggle of collective bargaining and workers’ rights in the United States. Inside the headquarters of the AFL-CIO at 850 16th Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C., Mr. Trumka placed on his office desk a name plate with the logo of the National Recovery Act. The object was a reminder of the law as initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and passed by Congress in 1933 to give greater protection to labor unions. The impetus for legislation were the fights and fatalities of striking miners throughout Appalachia. Rural poverty was especially extreme in the mountain villages and migrant camps near large coal mines. An increase in union membership there meant an increase in salaries for workers nationwide and an increase in health and retirement benefits.

Strikes were not a thing of the past while Mr. Trumka was UMWA president. He led a nine-month walkout against the Pittston Coal Company in 1989 after that company reneged on contributions to the union’s 39-year-old health and retirement fund. Four years later, another strike occurred against Peabody Coal.

Mr. Trumka went from president of the United Mine Workers to become treasurer-secretary of the AFL-CIO in 1995. After president John Sweeney retired, Mr. Trumka was elected to that post in 2009.

As the U.S. economy expanded for larger numbers in the workforce, union membership remained static. The labor movement became a victim of its own success after more and more companies followed the unions’ hard won model to offer health and retirement benefits to non-union workers. Laws at the federal and state levels tended to constrain union recruitment in manufacturing while the U.S. economy expanded into different service sectors. Many employees making minimum wage were legally defined as professional or managerial and not allowed a right to seek collective bargaining. The political pendulum turned conservative for executive and legislative branches to be less sympathetic to the needs of labor. Add to that challenge a Democratic Party that became more attuned to corporate America for more contributions from company CEOs than unions.

Nevertheless, the AFL-CIO remained active under Mr. Trumka. The union was involved in various strikes and walkouts in different regions of the United States. A focus at the national level sought health care reform and new measures for worker safety. Like his predecessor, millions were spent to support Democrats at the Congressional level for a more progressive agenda. Mr. Trumka made history in 2008 when he endorsed Barak Obama’s candidacy for president at a speech he made at the annual convention of the AFL-CIO.

Mr. Trumka was instrumental in lobbying new measures to support workers in recent renegotiated trade treaties between Mexico and Canada under President Trump. He spoke out against closing the Keystone Pipeline and supported extending new protections to illegal immigrants.

Mr. Trumka was most fond of his Italian background and knew well the history of Italian Americans in the country’s labor movement. As the first Italian American president of the AFL-CIO, he forever represents a serious move forward for our ethnicity as a key historical figure to better the rights and benefits for all Americans.

Our condolences are extended to his family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Editor’s Note: The web site for the AFL-CIO is https://aflcio.org/

 

 

 

ITALIAN CHARITIES OF AMERICA CELEBRATES ITS 85TH ANNIVERSARY
- Scholarship Recipients are Announced

This year marks the 85th Anniversary of Italian Charities of America.

Since its founding on November 18, 1936, the organization has been serving the Italian American community with programs and events. The mission remains to promote Italian & Italian American culture and heritage.

Italian Charities of America announces its 2021 Annual Scholarship Recipients 
 
Italian Charities of America has been offering scholarships to entering Freshman college students since its founding mission in 1936. The tradition continues in this year to award five talented and bright freshmen college students each a $1,000.00 scholarship award. “We want to congratulate our 2021 Scholarship recipients and wish them much success for the future!”

Introducing Italian Charities of America's scholarship recipients
from the top row left to right:

Thomas Cassidy is attending University of Virginia and majoring in Engineering.
 
Jacqueline Cordes is attending Pomona College and majoring in Linguistics & Asian Studies with a minor in Music Composition and Technical Theater.
 
Bottom row from left to right;

Francesca Fratto is attending Queens College and majoring in Early Childhood Education. 

Julianne La Tempa is attending Quinnipiac University and majoring in Nursing.

Joseph Sferrazza is attending Providence College and majoring in Finance.

https://italiancharities.org/scholarship-program/

 

 


WE ARE WITH THE CUBAN PEOPLE
Italian Americans Need to Support The Cuban People in their Fight for Freedom Against Communist Tyranny
“We need to embrace parts of our history and heritage to form alliances with other groups, especially Cubans and Cuban Americans.”

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

Cubans and Cuban Americans are demanding freedom from the authoritarian regime of the Communists. By showing solidarity with them, Italians and Italian Americans will form an important alliance that could be helpful in our peaceful struggle for freedom. More importantly, no one knows what Cubans and Cuban Americans face more than Italians and Italian Americans.

If you have read any of my articles, you will know that I still believe that Italy is in the throes of a dictatorship. I am going to Italy soon (hopefully) to see if I am right about this. However, Italy’s dictatorship is benevolent compared to the authoritarian regime of Communist Cuba. Cuba is a brutal, oppressive system, regardless of its claimed ideals. Some people dislike Cuba because it is Communist, while others refuse to criticize a Socialist or Communist country. However, its claimed ideals are irrelevant. Only the brutal reality of the regime matters.

Cuban Americans have minority status. We do not. As you know from my prior writings, I do not believe this to be fair. However, petty differences must be set aside when lives are at stake. Cubans and Cuban Americans are our Latin and Mediterranean brothers and sisters with little difference between us. We have both a moral duty to them as fellow Latins and Mediterraneans and our vocal support for them will help us politically later.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s regime has the support of the same people who hate America. American democracy is more reviled by the elite media than is the oppressive Cuban regime. These are the same people who engage in Italian American stereotypes. These are the same people who support mob movies. These are the same people who deny us affirmative action. The ones who support the Cuban regime hate us. Why shouldn’t we support the Cuban people and Cuban Americans, when we all have common enemies?

There is no counter-argument. Remaining isolated is why Colombo is reviled by the mainstream media. Refusing to align with our fellow Latins is why we are underrepresented in the universities and government bureaucracies. By not embracing our Latin heritage and our bonds with fellow Mediterranean communities, including all Latino/Hispanic communities, is why we are the most hated ethnic group in America. We need to embrace parts of our history and heritage to form alliances with other groups, especially Cubans and Cuban Americans.

The political benefits of such an alliance are merely a bonus. Doing the right thing is the most important part of why we must support the Cuban people and Cuban Americans against Communist tyranny. Italy struggles with the same dictatorial disease, now, and in the past, and we would be hypocrites to not condemn the much worse Cuban regime while condemning what has befallen Italy recently.

In addition, Cuba pioneered religion-control measures that would make the second-class citizen status of Catholics in New Jersey and other American states look like equality. To condemn, rightly, how Catholics are persecuted in New Jersey and other states and not condemn the much, much worse similar policies in Cuba would be wrong.

While every reason points to the need for Italians to fervently and vocally support the Cuban people and Cuban Americans, we should not do so out of anti-leftist feelings. I am a leftist, a liberal and a believer in many of the ideals shared by the Cuban regime. Communism is a great idea, but an oppressive and terrible reality. As a leftist, I dislike the idea of opposing the Cuban regime simply because it is leftist. Are we going to allow right-wing dictatorships get a pass for the same acts?

We should use what I call the principle of political absolute value. This means that we condemn a regime by its behavior, not its ideology. We should not be hypocrites in allowing some behavior to slide based on our own preferred ideology. Many leftists give Cuba a break while rightists give Hungary and Poland breaks for similarly bad behavior. We need to hold illiberal democracies and dictatorships to the same standards regardless of their claimed or actual ideology.

In sum, we Italians and Italian Americans need to support Cuban Americans and the Cuban people against the Cuban regime. Both political and moral reasons lead us to the same conclusion. When everyone stands against both we and Cubans, only by aligning together can both of our ethnicities survive.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist and the president of the Italian American Movement, a 501c3 non-profit organization in New Jersey that advocates for the civil rights of Italian Americans and the recognition and reclassification of Italian Americans as minorities.

 

 

Primo Review
DANCE THE FRIGHT AWAY
“Suspiria,” The Classic Italian Horror Film from 1977 is Remade for Today’s Viewers
The New “Reinvented” Version Is Now Available on Amazon Prime

By Truby Chiaviello

Horror remains the pre-eminent genre for contemporary filmmakers to remake what was done 44 years ago. Never mind if a film attained “classic” or “masterpiece” status, today’s young and hungry directors, producers and writers are convinced they can do better. The past is sought to be redirected in the present (no pun intended). They are no longer to be called remakes, by the way, but, rather, reinventions or, better yet, re-imaginings. Many horror films have been remade in recent years: From “Halloween” to “Nightmare on Elm Street” to “The Omen” and soon to come, “The Exorcist.”

For awhile there, it seemed “Suspiria” might miss the resurrection bandwagon. Since 2007, various filmmakers and their backers announced the remake to come. However, cameras remain stilled without a set date for production and release. Many fans thought the Dario Argento classic from 1977 was too far ahead in the realm of cinematic artistry for an accurate recapture. Yet, the name recognition and classic status among horror aficionados gave “Suspiria” a bankable incentive for a remake.

Twelve years ago, Director Luca Guadagnino purchased the rights from the film’s original screenwriters Dario Argento and his ex-wife Daria Nicolodi, who passed away in 2020. With a new script written by David Kajganich, “Suspiria” was resuscitated. The remade version was finally completed in 2018 and is now available for viewing on Amazon Prime.

One can see the difference between the original by Argento and its current facsimile by Guadagnino in the first few minutes of both films. In 1977, “Suspiria” opened with a memorable high-tech score by the Italian progressive rock band, Goblins. We see a woman running from an fairytale-like inspired building through a rainy forest. She makes her way to town for sanctuary inside a friend’s apartment. The street, the forest and apartment are alit in technicolor hues of red, green and purple. While changing out of her wet clothes, she peers out a window, thinking she was followed. Suddenly, a beastly arm breaks through the glass to grab her by the neck and murder her in grisly fashion. In contrast, the 2018 version opens with a young woman who walks to the home office of a psychologist. She bypasses political demonstrators who are chased by police. Inside a grayly room, she is incoherent and mumbles about her fears, only to befuddle the elderly expert and leave in a panic.

Such are the differences between the two films: “Suspiria,” the original, was mesmerizing, exciting and scary. “Suspiria,” the remake, is ambiguous, tedious and fright-less.

When “Suspiria” was first released in 1977, Dario Argento was, by then, proclaimed as Italy’s answer to Alfred Hitchcock. His suspense orientation was most pronounced in the murder thrill genre known as Giallo. “Suspiria” was to be Argento’s first foray into supernatural horror. The film’s title comes from a set of essays and poems written by Thomas De Quincey in 1845, titled “Suspiria de Profundis.” Most famous for his memoir, “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” the British writer and poet experimented with narcotics for stream of consciousness. Argento was inspired by the work to develop an ambitious trilogy of horror films under the heading, “The Three Mothers,” beginning with films, “Suspiria,” in 1977, followed by “Inferno,” in 1980, and “Mother of Tears,” in 2007.

“Suspiria” was declared a masterstroke of filmmaking in 1977 when cinematographer Luciano Tovoli shot the film in technicolor. This was to be the last film made with a specific color process that once gave life to such classics as “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Searchers” and “Fantasia.” Deep contrasts of red and blue hues created a haunting and tense atmosphere in “Suspiria.” Argento’s cold and deliberate pacing heightened the surreal mystique of the film. He had written the screenplay with Daria Nicolodi, an actress to whom he was married from 1974 to 1985. In the first few minutes of the film, viewers knew they were in for a pioneering event in horror.

Fast forward to 2018 when Guadagnino sought to rebrand the 1977 classic. His intentions were to remake a film worthy of its predecessor. Guadagnino is a skilled director whose film, “I Am Love,” in 2009, won rave reviews by critics. In “Suspiria,” however, his dilemma was to choose whether to make a carbon copy of the original or seek an entirely new direction. Either way, the new film was to be compared to what was done 44 years ago. Since the original is considered a cinematic showpiece, any remake is at an inherent disadvantage. Indeed, Guadagnino made the decision at pre-production to escape the technicolor wonder that was “Suspiria.” Hence, the 2018 version conveys an uninspiring off-yellow color scheme to contain settings of rundown interiors for a pace that is slow and esoteric.

Both “Suspiria” films are set in the mid-1970s. Yet, the original took place in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, noted for its opulence and traditional German culture. In the 2018 version, we are transported, instead, to Berlin to see a ravaged former capital overwhelmed by domestic terrorists and communist agitators. The original was spooky and haunting. The remake is drab and dreary.

“Suspiria” tells the story of a young American woman who moves to Germany to attend classes at a dance academy. The school turns out to be a coven of witches. The new student is soon enmeshed in a conspiracy of sorcery and murder. Dakota Johnson plays the lead role in the new rendition with Tilda Swinton as the top dance instructor and witch. Speaking about Swinton, the British actress undertakes two other roles in the film; one of which is the old professor. The move does little for the production and to some extent detracts from the story since it was obvious to some eyes that Swinton was playing the male role, albeit camouflaged in extensive makeup. The 1977 version starred as the protagonist, Jessica Harper, who makes a brief appearance in the remake. Joan Bennett and Alida Valli appeared in the original film as the dance instructor witches. Valli was especially impressive for her transition from an exotic beauty, who once starred in Hitchcock’s, “The Paradine Case,” to the stiff and stern German taskmaster in “Suspiria.”

A key difference between both films is length. The newer version is much too long. The original “Suspiria” is just 1-1/2 hours while the remake is 2-1/2 hours. The identity of the coven is kept secret in the 1977 version until near the end. In the remake, we discover the place is owned and operated by conjurers at the outset. Members of the coven are not sinister but rather impish and haughty. In fact, there are no scares in the remake. The film seems more concerned with political activism. More scenes depict riots, demonstrations and pickets than real frights. Horror was always apolitical. Fears were derived in the most intimate of settings for a confrontation with dangerous demons. To try and connect the phantasmic to a political premise is to ruin the genre.

Some films should be remade. Others should not. “Suspiria” is one of the great masterpieces of horror. To try and reexamine or reimagine this extraordinary work is to offer filmgoers bronze in lieu of gold.

Editor’s Note: Compare and contrast still photographs of the remade version of “Suspiria” with its original precedent. Tilda Swinton stars in the latest rendering while Jessica Harper was the American protagonist in the original. Two victims in the films portray a serious difference in color schemes with the new stinted interpretation versus the dreamlike conception of the original. Publicity photographs of both directors show strikingly different poses for Luca Guadagnino and Dario Argento. The remade version of “Suspiria” is currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime

 

 

Covid Chronicles
SHOULD ITALY ISSUE A “GREEN PASS”
Debate Ensues about Freedom of Mobility in the Age of Coronavirus
- Justice Reform is On Deck in Italy
- Italians Rally to Support Soccer Team with Europe Victory
- Summer Fun in Viareggio

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, as we come to the end of Weeks 40 and 41, because contagion is increasing again due to the Delta strain of the coronavirus, a debate is on-going about whether we need to carry "a green health pass" to enter places where people assemble. We already know that, if we want to travel to places like France, we will need a European green pass attesting that we were vaccinated twice if we wish to travel on public transport or go to restaurants. Here, in Italy, no definitive decision has been made yet although it seems it will be very soon. Some places favor the idea of a regional green pass. We will have to wait and see.

The Draghi government, or at least part of it, is attempting to introduce a justice reform bill to speed up Italy's hopelessly slow system. The bill, proposed by Justice Minister Marta Cartabia, provides a two-year limit on the statute of limitations for first appeals, and a further one-year limit on appeals to the Supreme Court, except in the case of mafia and other very serious crimes, which would have a one-year extension. This has led to outcries in some quarters of the judiciary claiming that this would mean that some mafia crimes would "simply go up in smoke,” a claim denied by the minister. The 5-Star Movement, a member of the ruling government coalition, agrees with the judges and calls for major amendments to the bill. The new M5S leader and former prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has stated that the Movement would be vigilant regarding the justice reform debate to ensure it did not result in "impunity.” The Justice Minister countered that the new statute of limitations would mean a "reasonable trial duration, which is a constitutional principle," and, above all, that justice reform is essential if the Recovery Plan is to be implemented. Rumor has it that, if forced, Prime Minister Mario Draghi may call for a parliamentary vote of confidence on the new plan.

On July 11th, 53 years after its last win in the UEFA EURO Championship, dreams came true for football fans when Italy won the 2020 Cup at London's Wembley Stadium in a hard fought game against England. Italy’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma, saved the day during the final penalty shootouts. There were fireworks and crowds of supporters celebrating in the streets until early morning in Florence. The following day, the team were congratulated in Rome by the president of the Republic, who had attended the game, and later by the prime minister, before they briefly drove through the city streets on the roof of an open-air bus, cheered by thousands of jubilant fans.

July 5th, the showgirl icon and entertainer, known as the "lady of Italian TV," Raffaella Carrà, died after losing her battle with cancer at 78 years old. Born in Bologna, Carrà began appearing in movies as a child. A singer, actress, dancer and TV host, she starred with Frank Sinatra in the film, “Von Ryan's Express,” in 1965, and became a cult figure on TV in Spain and Latin America. During her long, successful career, she starred in Italian TV programs like “Canzonissima” and “Fantastico” and, at one point in the 1980s, her popularity was such that she drew up to 25 million viewers for each show. Her coffin lay in state at Rome's city hall before her funeral at the nearby Ara Coeli church.

Here, in Florence, over 4,000 workers, union leaders, local politicians and public figures demonstrated in a general strike in Piazza Santa Croce. They were protesting the sacking of 422 workers at GKN Driveline in Campi Bisenzio, a solvent and operating Florentine company making automobile parts for, amongst others, Fiat, Maserati and Ferrari. They were sacked on a Sunday and by email. The company had been acquired by Melrose Industries, a British investment fund, in 2018, which now wishes to transfer the business to Poland, where labor costs less. This is one of a spate of dismissals throughout the country, including the collective dismissal of 340 Westinghouse employees in Naples, as well as 152 workers from the Gianetti Ruote company in Ceriano Laghetto. The government is called on to take immediate action to safeguard the livelihoods of these workers and their families. Here, at home, friends invited me to spend the day at the beach in

Viareggio is located on the Versilia coast about an hour's ride from Florence. The town is famous for its "Passeggiata,” or promenade, along the beachfront, inaugurated in 1902. The three-kilometre-long esplanade offers a unique architectural display of decorative Art Nouveau as well as more symmetrical Art Deco villas, historic cafes, bathing establishments, hotels and shops. My friends have a holiday house there as a seasonal place for a "bagno" or baths where they have a cabin to store their gear, a beach umbrella and two sun lounges on the seafront. There is also a swimming pool, a restaurant and entertainment for the kids. In other words, it's a small piece of summer paradise and I'll be visiting again soon.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s: Deirdre writes articles for PRIMO’s print editions and is our official translator. Pictured are some of the landmark buildings and sculpture of the Passegiata promenade in Viareggio.

 

 

 

THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY…BY DANTE
Why All Roman Catholics Should Read “The Divine Comedy”
The Mother of God is both spiritually and tangibly present in Dante’s epic poem

By Cecilia DiLoreto Sarcone

Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet, writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher and political thinker is best known for his monumental epic poem “La Commedia,” later named, “La Divina Commedia,” or as we know it, today, “The Divine Comedy.” The author and protagonist of this poem was born in Florence; at the time, a republic, the exact date of his birth unknown, although he is generally believed to have been born in 1265 and to have died in 1321.

Dante is known as the father of Modern Italian. Yet, much of his work had been written in Latin, the language of writers and thinkers of his day. When the time came to write his greatest epic, he chose the Florentine dialect in an attempt to reach a wider audience. Dante set a precedent by using the local vernacular of Florence to ultimately become Italy’s national language.

“The Divine Comedy” made an indelible impression on both literature and theology. Dante’s epic poem is composed of three tiers of the Christian afterlife, or, as many know them, three Canticles: Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Heaven (Paradiso). The Christian vision of mankind’s eternal fate begins with the poet in Hell, then Purgatory and finishes inevitably in Heaven. The tale begins with an introductory canto followed by 33 other cantos in each Canticle.

Although the Blessed Virgin Mary needs no introduction to Roman Catholics, the question remains as to why is she such an important figure in Dante’s epic poem. His devotion to her is apparent from the start. She is everywhere in the poem. In fact, she is the reason for Dante’s journey. The poet makes his descent into Hell on March 25th, a most significant date in Roman Catholicism. This day is the Feast of the Annunciation, the beginning of “The Incarnation of Christ in Mary.” March 25th was also Good Friday in the year 1300 to bring together two central mysteries: The Incarnation and The Redemption. Dante enters “Hell” on the same date that Christ did for the salvation of the world.

Dante’s mentor, Virgil (Virgilio), claims that Mary was “The One” who originally took pity on Dante and willed his journey through the three realms. Her name is never mentioned in Hell, as that would be inappropriate. She is, however, referred to as “The Gentle Lady” who weeps for the distress of the author and poet. …... “There is a Gentle Lady up in Heaven, who grieves so……”

Dante’s faith leads him to walk in Purgatory in the way of the Mother of God. Mary appears in almost every chapter through the second realm of the afterlife as the exemplar of virtue (la virtù). Her name is directly stated by the souls who are undergoing “Purification.” They offer her her example of what it means to be “virtuous.” Dante knows the Catholic faith teaches that “atonement” is necessary for “salvation.” The mention of the Virgin Mary is quite appropriate for she is the one who can aid the absolution of sins for all souls in Purgatory.

“Mary, Human Perfection, the Divine Mother of Christ, the Bride of the Holy Spirit, and a mother to us all.” This is how Dante presents her in “The Divine Comedy.” He is a pilgrim led by Mary to God.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is representative for Dante of the seven virtues: humility, charity, meekness, zeal, poverty, temperance and chastity. These virtues, of course, counter the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony and lust. Dante relies on the New Testament to call attention to the appropriate virtue in the Blessed Virgin. His presentation of Mary comes according to the following biblical texts: Luke 1:38 (humility), John 2:1-11(mercy), Luke 2:41-46 (meekness), Luke 1:39 (zeal), Luke 2:7 (poverty), John 2:1-11 (temperance) and Luke 1:34 (chastity)

When you arrive in Paradise, the reader will feel the presence of Mary in the form of luminescence, colors and music. In fact, the Virgin Mary is ineffable to Dante. This place is much too beautiful for the poet to speak and there is so much Dante has to share with us. In Canto XXI, St. Bernard appears to say: “The Queen of Heaven, for whom I am all Aflame with love, will grant us every grace: I am her faithful Bernard.” He seeks Mary’s intercession on behalf of Dante.

In my opinion, the most beautiful part of Paradise is Canto XXXIII, the last and final of “The Divine Comedy.” A prayer by Saint Bernard reads: “Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son, more humble and sublime than any creature, fixed goal decreed from all eternity, you are the one who gave to human nature so much nobility that its Creator did not disdain His being made its creature.”

Unlike Roman Catholics, people of other Christian denominations may question Mary’s role in the plan of salvation. What need is there for a mediator, but Christ himself? Devotion to Mary is seen by some Christians as diversion for the soul in its journey to God. But in this great poem, Dante has softened this suspicion, enabling Mary as a key character to quell all disbelief.

Thanks to Mary’s intercession, Dante is given a glimpse of the Trinity, of the “love that moves the sun and the other stars” and returns to recount his journey.

“The Divine Comedy” includes themes that have been studied and paraphrased by theologians, historians, philosophers, numerologists, Greek and Latin experts. It has since been the inspiration for the world’s greatest works in literature, art and music.

Dante’s profound words convey a theme of powerful praise for the purity and humility of Our Blessed Virgin to allow all readers to enjoy this epic poem.

Editor’s Note: Cecilia DiLoreto Sarcone, holds a BA with Honors, Italian Language and an MA, Italian Language from Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and is an Adjunct Lecturer of Italian at CCSU, Marist College and Rockland County Community College (SUNY).

 

 

MARY A. VITALE
PRIMO Writer, Peter Vitale, Pays Tribute to His Mother
Mrs. Vitale Passed Away on June 6, 2021

By Peter Vitale

Mary A. “Beba” Vitale, 97, of Westwood formerly of Mission Hill, died peacefully on June 6, 2021 of natural causes.

She was the beloved wife of the late Peter P. Vitale of Westwood; the loving sister of her brother, Paul Giacoppo of Kingsdown, England and the late Leo C. “Buddy” Giacoppo of Boston. She was the loving mother of Peter Jr. of Wakefield, Joanne of Norwood, James “Vito” of Waltham and Mary Jane of Middleboro. Also survived by 4 grandchildren, Steven, Robert, Peter A. and Michael and 4 great grandchildren, Anthony, Gianna, Vivianne, and Ariella. There will be no visiting hours. Relatives and friends are invited to attend. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in Saint Margaret Mary Church, 845 High St., Westwood on Wednesday, June 16, at 10:00am. Interment private.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mary’s memory to the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mission Church, 1545 Tremont Street, Roxbury, MA 02120 at www.Bostonsbasilica.com

Editor’s Note: We, at PRIMO, offer our condolences to Peter and his family on the passing of Mrs. Vitale. May she rest in peace.

 

 

Primo Interview
FROM THE BRONX TO SUBURBIA
Author Jo-Ann Vega Recounts Her Early Life in the Bronx Among Her Italian Parents, Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts
- “Moments in Flight” considers the social upheaval of modern times in context with an Italian family’s search for the American Dream

Why did you write “Moments in Flight”?

I am among a diminishing number of people who actually knew my Italian immigrant forebears, brave, sturdy and impoverished, crossed the Atlantic Ocean as human cargo on ships. I wanted to share and preserve memories of their incredible resilience before their stories are lost forever. This is my way of thanking them for making my life possible. I’d like readers to enjoy the journey, the stories; get reacquainted with themselves and the history of the United States; and open the door to dialogue with others.

An excerpt from chapter one reads: “I didn’t love him until I have my fourth or fifth child. It was one of those times when the message arrives as a blow. I unconsciously tensed to lessen the impact of my beloved grandmother’s frank admission, and felt the air forcibly expelled from me. For a few moments, I could not breathe or hear. Even now, decades later, my hands tremble as I type the words…My grandmother, in essence, was a mail order bride…”

The restrictions imposed by the covid pandemic have exacerbated social isolation and speeded up societal changes. Authentic stories are nutrients for healing, understanding and connection; they give us hope, especially during times of disruption; they tell us this too will pass; and they help us cope and endure. I invite you to read a free flip-book excerpt at https://outskirtspress.com/momentsinflight

What is the storyline of “Moments in Flight”?

Part 1 is an extended eulogy to the Italian immigrants and an active childhood in the south Bronx playing on the streets without constant adult supervision. Part 2 details the impact of the famiglia’s relocation to suburbia, the quick addition of two siblings and coming of age during the relentless cultural upheavals of the 1970s. Part 3 is a bridge to today and life after work and parenting.
 
What makes you uniquely qualified to write “Moments in Flight”?

“Why me? An eyewitness, participant, and informed observer of the last half century of transformative change, I bring an independent voice and perspective. I’ve been at the business of writing and reflection for a long time... For more than three decades I’ve designed and delivered educational programs for business, academic, and community groups…”
 
What differentiates "Moments in Flight" from similar books that are available?

Crafted and with excerpts from 40 years’ worth of writing and journaling, “Moments in Flight” also features useful websites, historical timelines and a Book Club Discussion Guide.
 
How can I order "Moments in Flight"?

Available in 6x9 paperback at https://outskirtspress.com/bookstore/details/9781977233240

 

 

THE FIGHT TO PRESERVE COLUMBUS GOES INTERNATIONAL
- Italian Americans are Fighting Back with Key Victories to Boast
- However, Challenges Remain on Many Fronts

By Robert Petrone, Esq.

The fight to protect the legacy of Christopher Columbus has now become a worldwide war. Here are the latest developments:

1. In Italy, the Italian Parliament has passed a motion pledging to support Italian American activists in the United States seeking to preserve Christopher Columbus's holiday, statues, monuments and other namesakes. Parliamentarians Fuscia Nissoli and Federico Mollicone proposed the motion, which the Chamber of Deputies passed.  The United States mainstream media has failed to report on the resolution.

2. In Randolph NJ, the Italian American OneVoice Coalition (IAOVC) successfully convinced the Randolph School Board to vote 8 to 1 to reverse it's earlier decision to not only eliminate Christopher Columbus's name from the school calendar, but to eliminate all holiday names!  Thanks to the IAOVC's pressure, all holiday names, including "Christopher Columbus Day" are back on the school calendar. 

3. In Syracuse NY, the Columbus Monument Corporation has filed suit against the city and its mayor to protect the Columbus Statue in Syracuse's downtown Columbus Circle, arguing that the statue sits within a preservation district protected by "various state, local and federal preservation laws."  CMC Secretary Robert Gardino asks for support, which you can provide by emailing Mayor Ben Wash at http://www.syrgov.net/home.aspx to register your objection to Syracuse's plan to remove the statue. To learn more about the Columbus Monument Corporation of Syracuse, please log on to their web site at http://www.columbusmonumentsyracuse.com.

4. In Waterbury CT, vandal Brandon Ambrose, caught on video beheading the Christopher Columbus statue outside City Hall was arrested by authorities after attempting to sell the nose of the statue online. He plead guilty and was ordered by the court to pay the city $8,800.00 to restore the statue. The residents of Waterbury have voted to keep the now-restored statue in its rightful place outside City Hall.

5. In Chicago IL, African-Americans are vociferously objecting to renaming Christopher Columbus Day to "Indigenous People's Day" on the grounds that the tribal peoples of the Americas enslaved many Africans.  Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore said the tribal peoples must "acknowledge their role in the rich history of Black slaves."

6. In Chula Vista CA, residents voted to permanently remove the Christopher Columbus statue in order to replace it with a new monument "honoring diversity and indigenous peoples," equating "[t]he Columbus statue and monuments" with "White supremacy."  

7. In Newark NJ, the city has replaced their Christopher Columbus statue with a statue of Harriet Tubman. Mayor Ras Baraka claims the replacement is "poetic" because "Harriet Tubman actually stepped foot here in this property," and "Christopher Columbus did not."

8. In Wilmington DE, the city removed its Christopher Columbus statue in 2020 because city officials saw "social media threats against it." Wilmington is also removing the statue to Declaration of Independence signer Caesar Rodney, whose family members were also Italian immigrants. Rodney is known for riding through the night on July 1, 1776, from Delaware to Philadelphia to cast the deciding vote to declare the United State's independence from Great Britain.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is a portrait Caesar Rodney and his statue in Wilmington that was removed by the city. The writer of the article, Mr. Petrone, is an attorney based in Philadelphia and serves as the south Philadelphia chapter president for Filitalia International. He provides expanded reports in his Christopher Columbus University segments at Radio Voice Italia, https://video.ibm.com/channel/minitape

 

 

 

The Women of Ancient Italy
AN INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA C. HURT
The Author of “Priestess of Pompeii” Explains What Life Was Really Like in Antiquity
- The novel covers all aspects of the ancient world, from pagan worship to political intrigue

In “Priestess of Pompeii,” Sandra C. Hurt conceived a trilogy to take readers on an amazing journey through ancient Pompeii and Rome. Her main character is Rufilla, a girl adopted by the rich and powerful Isticidii family. We read a firsthand account of antiquity when men and women coped with Rome’s transition, from Republic to Empire. PRIMO met with the author to discuss her book and her thoughts on Italy’s ancient past.

What attracted you to write about ancient Pompeii?

In the early 1990s, I attended a lecture on women in art that would change my life. The woman who captured my heart was immortalized in a fresco housed in the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii, circa first century BCE. I still can't get this real-life woman out of my mind. Her name is Rufilla Istacidia, but this was perfect for a historical novel because little is known about her.

"Priestess of Pompeii - The Initiate's Journey" contains an extraordinary amount of information about Italian antiquity. Please give us some insight into what lengths you went to research this period to convey such incredible details.

My research took me first to Italy and then several years studying the Classics at Indiana University to learn and fall in love with the history of ancient Romans and Greeks. More trips back to Italy and then several to Greece, including Crete, have given me opportunities to experience first-hand the cities and excavation sites that gave a richness to telling her story. Meeting and learning from American archaeologists, art historians, the academics and people of Italy and Greece, both ancient and modern, enriched my experiences. I continue to attend lectures given by learned women and men who have continued to share their wisdom and insights into the ancient world.

What were some surprises you found in your research? What were those "wow" moment(s) when you came across a unique fact(s) about ancient Pompeii and Rome that you hadn't expected?

Pompeii has a recorded history with finds from excavations of artifacts and, in some cases, houses built over earlier ancient houses. The earliest finds, so far, are back to 600 BCE, but with the fact that there were established farming communities as far back as 2000 BCE, I can't help but wonder what will be unearthed next. The rich farmland around Pompeii, which developed due to the eruptions of Vesuvius, seems to have given generations of people a reason to repopulate and restore Pompeii even after each eruption.

"Priestess of Pompeii," revolves around key female characters. We tend to think of the past as a time of oppression for women; but as you detail in your book, women had considerable power, influence and independence in ancient Pompeii. Please comment.

Italian women in the first century BCE did not have the right to vote. But same as today, women have always had conversations within their women's groups, with their husbands, male friends and lovers. The histories were all written by men, thus "his-story." But recent scholarship has given us insights into how women, especially Roman women, were taken seriously. Livia, Augustus' wife, is a good example, although modern writers such as Robert Graves', I, Claudius have often given her a less than flattering look.

Remember, even Greek women, who were much more repressed, were given voice through the playwright Aristophanes when he wrote the play Lysistrata, a bawdy, anti-war comedy. In it, women of the warring cities are persuaded by a strong Athenian woman by the name of Lysistrata to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers to force the men to negotiate peace. The play was first staged in 411 BCE – 21 years into the Peloponnesian War. Ironically, all the roles were played by men.

As the title of your book signifies, the pagan beliefs of ancient Rome come into serious play. What was it like to live a life where gods and goddesses held sway?

This is strictly my opinion, but from my research, it seems that early on, the Roman religion was animistic and later developed its own gods and goddesses. Due to a large Greek population in areas around Pompeii, Romans adopted many of the Greek gods but kept their Roman names. They took their religion seriously, giving homage to all the gods and goddesses. But they also had their favorites. Rituals were essential and were performed for specific deities. For example, Venus was the patron goddess of Pompeii.

There were street altars and often an altar in the kitchens. In many homes, there was a sacred room, lararium, devoted to honoring specific deities as well as the spirits of their families' ancestors. Many began their day with a prayer and request for the day, not unlike many of us today.

"Priestess of Pompeii - The Initiate's Journey" is Book One. Can you give us a preview of Book Two?

Nothing is known about the real-life Rufilla Istacidia, except that she was a priestess. However, modern-day archaeologists think that she may have owned the Villa of the Mysteries, so Book Two will be about the fictional development of the Dionysian rituals and the making of the famous frescoes that fill the ritual room in the Villa of the Mysteries, located just outside the town of Pompeii. Rufilla's character will evolve and flourish as she matures, facing difficult circumstances but finally taking her place as Priestess of Pompeii.

A third book will complete the series and will bring the story into the modern era.

Editor’s Note: PRIMO reviewed “Priestess of Pompeii” to acclaim a story as brought to life through extraordinary research and insight by the author. You can read more about Sandra C. Hurt and purchase her novel at her web site: https://sandrahurtauthor.com/

 

 

 

 

Covid Chronicles
ALMOST ALL OF ITALY’S REGIONS ARE CATEGORIZED “WHITE” FOR A MINIMUM OF ANTI-COVID RESTRICTIONS
- Covid Deaths and Infections Decline Rapidly
- Political Upheaval within Italy’s 5-Star Movement
- Draghi on the International Scene
- Celebrating the Patron Saint of Florence - Saint John the Baptist

By Deirdre Pirro

As we come to the end of Weeks 38 and 39, all of Italy except for the Valle d'Aosta is now classified as being in the “White” category with a minimum of anti-Covid restrictions. Vaccinations are increasing and the infections and deaths from the virus continue to diminish. It is predicted that the Valle d'Aosta will soon follow. However, with the Delta strain of the virus slowly beginning to appear in several hotspots, Italians have been told that it is not advisable to go on vacation until they have had their second vaccine shots.

As of 28th June, the current requirement to wear face masks at all times outside will be lifted in “White” zones. That means I'll have to start putting lipstick on again; but this could be tricky because masks still have to be worn in some closed places like shop, malls and on public transport.

On 6th June, the 5 Star Movement and David Casalegno finally came to a settlement. The son of one of the founders of the political party, Casalegno expressed bitterness over the split calling it a “betrayal” of the group’s original values. He is predicted to form a splinter political group with another pioneering 5 Star politician, Alessandro Battista. He abandoned the Movement in February 2021 in disagreement over the Draghi government coalition.

These are not the only worries facing the 5 Star Movement. Former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the designated new leader of the party as appointed by the comedian Beppe Grillo, one of its founding fathers, have now had a serious falling out. Conte may walk away to form his own political group. Yet another one for the myriad that the poor electorate has to contend with in Italy.

The center-right parties, Forza Italia, Lega and Fratelli d'Italia, have been discussing a project promoted by Silvio Berlusconi for creating a united front in the elections of 2023. Based on the model of the European People's Party, each party will maintain its own identity whilst working towards the common objective to win the vote.

On 9th June, in a formal ceremony in Herat, Afghanistan, Italy withdrew its military mission from the country after its 20-year presence there.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi had a busy two weeks on the international scene to bask in the prestige of his position. His first appointment on 11 to 13th June was at the G7 meeting in Cornwall (England) where President Joe Biden was also in attendance. This was followed on 14th June when he attended the 2021 NATO Summit in Brussels, again with Biden. The prime minister expressed Italy's continuing support for the organization and stressed the crucial importance of strengthening NATO-EU cooperation. Finally, between 24 and 25th June, Draghi represented Italy at the European Council meeting in Brussels where important decisions were made, amongst other things, about Covid-19 and the economic recovery. Migration was another vital topic debated because over 10,000 undocumented immigrants have already landed on Italian shores since the beginning of 2021. Money has now been allocated to intermediary countries like Turkey to help in putting a stop to these immigration flows. Other matters for discussion included Libya, Russia and cybersecurity.

Football fans throughout Italy were in ecstasy after Italy won its first three soccer matches against Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in the UEFA EURO 2020 matches making it top of its Group A. Then, after a hard-won victory, it defeated Austria on 26th June. Forza Italia!

Here, on 26th June, Florence became one of seven major cities throughout the nation where trade unions demonstrated. They marched in the piazza demanding employee dismissals remain blocked until October 2021. Given the strong turnout of protestors, the government may do well to listen to their motivations.

Here, at home, on Wednesday 24th June, a holiday celebrating Florence's patron saint, St. John the Baptist, was a toned-down affair because of the coronavirus. We had none of the traditional and magnificent evening fireworks. Instead, a 16th-century tradition was revived to honor the saint. A crown, made by Bottega Orafa Penko, was placed on the head of Donatello's Marzocco (the lion of Florence) in piazza Signoria. The Bandierai degli Uffizi (flag throwers) and a costume parade participated in the ceremony. They were also there when the crown was removed on 27th June.

Several days ago, I enjoyed a refreshing lunch at the Società Canottieri Firenze, the city's rowing club, nestled on the banks of the Arno river. Here is the best view of the Ponte Vecchio in town. Lunch was served outside, under a leafy and cool canopy, in what was otherwise a very warm day. The food was excellent.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Pictured in Florence is the Zefferelli Museum, the National Library and outdoor seating at the city’s rowing club with a beautiful view of the Ponte Vecchio.

 

 

 

 

HOW I MET JOSEPH STEFANO, SCREENWRITER OF “PSYCHO”
- A Supplemental Recollection to an Article in PRIMO’s Current Edition Titled, “Alfred Hitchcock’s 'Italians'”
- “I had known of some of his scripts and there was one that had been made into a film that was a particular favorite of mine.”

By John Primerano

 

In 1993, I worked in the film, “Two Bits,” playing a husband and father who attends a wedding with his wife and daughter. Joseph Stefano had written the screenplay based on his early life in South Philly. As the PRIMO article mentions, Mr. Stefano wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Psycho,” based on Robert Bloch's novel of the same title.

“Two Bits” starred Al Pacino and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. It told the story of how Mr. Stefano grew up in Philadelphia, went into the service during World War II and, when discharged, was in New York, where he was married. He was listening to a jukebox one night and thought he could write lyrics as good as a song that had been played multiple times. He went on to become a lyricist and then a writer for film and television.

One day, I saw Mr. Stefano watching the action from a corner, away from the set, while we were shooting in South Philly. I had known of some of his scripts and there was one that had been made into a film that was a particular favorite of mine. I was not in the scene and decided to cross the street to speak with him. I said hello and introduced myself.

"You wrote one of my favorite films,” I said. He gave me a quiet, yet cordial, hello. I could see, after mentioning the phrase, "one of my favorite films,” he was expecting, and steeling himself, for one more person to say, "Psycho.” I then finished the sentence by saying, “The Black Orchid,” which had starred Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn. If you have seen the movie, you know it's about a widowed Italian woman whose husband was murdered by a small-time gangster. She then meets an Italian widower. The two get together despite the woman's sorrow and the possessive jealousy of the man’s daughter.
     
When I mentioned the title, Mr. Stefano's eyes pleasantly lit up in surprise and, I noticed, with satisfaction. We talked about the movie and he told me, with what I noticed was a bit of pride, that Sophia Loren had told him, that “The Black Orchid” was one of her personal favorites of the many films she made. 

We didn't have much time to talk, as I had to get back to the set, and I never crossed paths with him again. However, it's an experience I remember well, mostly because I believe Mr. Stefano was truly surprised by the film I mentioned. He epitomized for me the man who feels he can do something, like songwriting and screenwriting, without much background or education in those areas; but he stays at it to become a success through determination.
   
Editor’s Note: Pictured is a poster of “The Black Orchid,” screenwriter Joseph Stefano and Italian poster for “Psycho.” Mr. Primerano is a professional singer, musician and songwriter who performs regularly in venues throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey. Please visit his web site at http://www.johnprimerano.com/

 

Op-ed
IS AMERICA BETTER OFF THAN ITALY?
- Italy is Ruled by a Dictator, Says the Author. America is not.
- True Federalism Exists in America, Albeit Beside a Powerful Oligarchy

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

Italy is ruled by a dictator. If you have read my previous article, you know that I believe this. My detractors have not actually supplied any facts to contradict my assessment. Mario Draghi is going to be in power until 2023, by all appearances. An unelected man gets to stay in power for another two years thanks to the support of the European Union, which is trying to colonize Italy. What does that sound like to you? It sounds like dictatorship to me.

Is the United States better off?

The United States is run by a broad oligarchy - a ruling class that seeks to erase the voices of non-constituents. Academia, media, sports, the entertainment industry, many state and local politicians and many national political elites belong to the broad oligarchical class that seeks to rule America. Do not make the mistake of believing this coalition to be liberal-progressivism; it is illiberal at its core. Real liberals do not cancel people. A monopolistic newspaper in New Jersey has me blacklisted, in part, for supporting Italian American civil rights.

Democracy is endangered outright at the national level and essentially over in New Jersey and other “progressive” states. However, in the oligarchical lands of America, there is still more freedom here than in Italy, where a national dictatorship prevails. Because Italy is a unitary state, where all real power is held by the central government, not the regions, there is no counterbalance to the current prime minister’s power.

The United States is federal. Power resides at federal and state levels. State leaders can check the federal government and vice-versa, as it should be. However, in a unitary state, the central government has all the power. If a region of Italy tries to go its own way, it cannot win.

In contrast, states in America have rights. This is true no matter who rules the nation. Ultimately, the United States is a union of states. When states become ruled by an oligarchy, like in New Jersey, the regional bureaucracy and oligarchical elected politicians cannot rule with impunity unless supported by national elites. It is not easy to run both national and state levels with a single oligarchical coalition.

That said, the Democrats, my party, are trying to turn the nation into a unitary oligarchy, which would set the stage for a dictatorship, right or left-wing in the future. The electoral laws that Democrats want to impose on states will bring us closer to a unitary state, as it is in Italy.

Despite our challenges, the United States is much better off than Italy. Both countries are ruled by leftist coalitions of a sort, but the coalition in Italy has no real power because they are beholden to Draghi and his allies in the European Union. Biden is no dictator and relies on many other groups and individuals for power. We may be a questionable democracy and certainly not a liberal democracy, but we are far from a dictatorship thanks to checks and balances, federalism and the independence of the judiciary.

Editor’s Note: The views, all or in part, as expressed by the author may not be shared by PRIMO. Dr. Binetti’s email address is cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. He currently heads the Italian American Movement.

 

Op-Ed
A MOVE TO RESTRICT FREEDOM IN ITALY
- Italy’s Proposed “Zan’s Law” Seeks to Curb Freedom of Speech, Press and Religion
- Is America Next?

By Cameron Cutrone

Summer’s always a time for love. And Italians know a thing or two about that. However, love in the current age has been a little less Romantic, and increasingly more politically charged.

Recently Italy’s lower house passed “Zan’s Law,” penned by activist and politician Alessandro Zan. It seeks to curb “homophobia” on it’s face, but as other politicians like Matteo Salvini and even the Catholic Church have pointed out, it could limit freedom of speech, press, assembly, and even personal conscience if applied as broadly as it’s proponents would have it. Keep in mind, we’re talking about speech some may deem offensive, not a global pandemic. So this has many Italians saying “basta!” Enough already.

Anyone who cares about the sacred freedoms listed above has to look at this law carefully, as this type of legislation is bound to reach America’s shores soon enough.

For years, the LGBT movement has focused on increasing freedom, a laudable goal if the whole point is to be a part of society, rather than a marginal subculture. But recently it has taken a turn, not towards more freedom for themselves, but LESS freedom for individuals who voice an objection, be it private, public, religious, or secular.

Moreover, as the readers have undoubtedly noticed, multinationals and Fortune 500 companies are 100% into celebrating “Pride Month.” They have an enormous influence in molding public opinion. That is a clear sign of not only acceptance, but even approaches the territory of advocacy. It is that exact point that needs addressing.

Those behind Zan’s Law, and undoubtedly their counterparts on this side of the Atlantic, don’t distinguish very well between the concept of tolerance (simply accepting LGBT people as members of society, worthy of the same rights) and advocacy (active allies in a social movement).

They are two different concepts. One should not view a person as a criminal or hater for simply tolerating their existence, but refusing to “celebrate” their sexual preference. Too often, the words “hate speech” are confused with someone who, even modestly in their individual capacity, disagrees with LGBT activists or their tactics.

This legislation has a chance of being made law in Italy, and is most definitely on the horizon in the United States. It must be handled by affirming the rights of individuals and organizations to voice their opinions, and exercise their conscience. Corporate America has made it’s stance clear. So why not let individuals and churches have their opinions too? This works for everyone. Western values like these have taken us (including people of an LGBT lifestyle) very far, both in Italy and the USA. Let’s not give up on those values so easily out of fear. We can’t criminalize people who profess their belief in marriage being between a man and a woman, or that women’s sports should be exclusively for people with X chromosomes. Let us be reminded that respecting diversity has nothing to do criminalizing those with different points of view. 

Editor: The writer is a proud Italian American from Texas. The views expressed may not be shared by PRIMO

 

ITALIANS GO ON OFFENSE
- Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations Holds Second Summit in Unified Effort
- The Italian Parliament Enacts Legislation to Defend Columbus in America
- Judge Basil M. Russo and Family and Their Efforts to Help Italian Americans

The first meeting has led to a second.

Italian Americans are moving on all fronts in a broad counterattack to preserve our historical legacy. Unity is the call word. All Italian American civic, cultural and charitable organizations are consolidated into a phalanx-like move behind Judge Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations.

On June 12, participants representing Italian American organizations throughout the United States held a virtual meeting to push forward a new agenda for Italian Americans. With considerable zeal and focus is the call to defend Christopher Columbus, to right historical wrongs in the teaching of Italian American history in public schools, to report and analyze the charitable works of Italian Americans and to encourage frontline public and legal advocates in their fight to help Italian Americans at odds with municipal and state government actions.

Basil M. Russo, former federal judge and majority leader of the Cleveland City Council, began the meeting with a clarion call for unity. “As Italian Americans, we finally come to understand that if we want to preserve our culture, that if we want to preserve our heritage, and if we want to preserve our values, we need to join hands, we need to stand up together and we need to speak with a loud forceful unified voice,” he said. For too long, Italian Americans have played defense to preserve their legacy in the face of protests, demonstrations and even riots among activists representing other special interests who sought to change the narrative in schools and media at the cost of Italian American heritage. Judge Russo wants Italian Americans to go on offense. “We have to prepare an Italian American national agenda and effectively articulate it; to gather the information to do that, our various committees are working hard to find answers to very difficult questions.”

The teaching of history in public schools is of vital concern. Periods of persecution are brought to light for students to understand how various ethnic groups were mistreated in America. Yet, a period of discrimination and ethnocentrism directed at Italian immigrants and their descendants seems strangely understated, or, in most cases, outright omitted, from history text books and instruction. Congressman Tom Suozzi seeks parity for Italian Americans with special emphasis on amends for past mistreatment. He seeks to offer legislation that will establish a curriculum for Italian American history in public schools.

“Two significant pieces of legislation are to be introduced in the U.S. Congress,” Suozzi said. “The first is to address the shameful enemy alien designation imposed by our government against Italian Americans in World War II. We all know about the internment of Japanese Americans, but little is said about Italian Americans.”

Suozzi has crafted the first bill for the U.S. government to offer an apology for the mistreatment of Italian residents during the war while the second bill authorizes the secretary of education to provide grants to establish educational programs detailing the history of Italian Americans in World War II.

“The tragic irony is that so many Italian Americans were serving in war in Europe and Southeast Asia while 600,000 of their parents and relatives were being treated as if they were criminals,” Suozzi says. “When my father passed away, he was a navigator on a B-24, he was only two of the first generation Italian Americans in Congress, I looked in his yearbook and when he was 18, he was asked ‘what was your goal in life?’ he replied, ‘my goal is to be a real American.’ This gives you an idea about how Italian Americans were mistreated. My father was one of many Italian Americans who felt displaced in America.”

How to reconnect to Italian American youth was discussed by John Viola, former president of the National Italian American Foundation and host of the Italian American podcast, and Stephanie Longo, a producer of that program and a renowned historian who has written several books, most notably “The Italians of Lackawanna County.”

They were followed by the public policy committee as presided over by Aileen Riotto Sirey, a founder of the National Italian American Organization for Women and William Cerruti, executive director of the Italian Cultural Society, based in Sacramento, California. As Ms. Sirey reminded the audience, Italians were the largest and, in many ways, most oppressed to immigrate to the United States. She recalled the assessment by Booker T. Washington who claimed, after his visit to Sicily, that Italian peasants had it worse than freed slaves of the American South. Mr. Cerrutti followed this with another sobering fact, that Italians were the second most lynched group, after African Americans, in the United States.

The committee seeks to set up a civil rights and legal rights action group to further the cause of justice and equality for Italian Americans.

Dr. Joseph Scelsa, founder of the Italian American Museum in New York, leads the museum and cultural institution committee. After 40 years involvement in the Italian American community, he says this is the first where all groups are unified. “It is very important that we establish our own committees, our own groups and our own institutions,” he said. “We have to control our own institutions. So that our word gets out our own way rather than other people telling it for us in their way. That’s why we need these institutions because the school systems don’t do the job. The only way to change our school systems is to have cultural institutions such as this.”

Charitable activities committee is currently co-chaired by Dr. Frank De Frank, current president of UNICO National and Joseph Sciame, vice president for community relations for Saint John’s University. They have crafted a survey to be sent nationwide to better record and analyze the charitable contributions made by Italian Americans. “In this day and age, data is power, data is strength,” Dr. De Frank says. “We want to document how charitable has been the Italian American community.” Mr. Sciame followed this by saying, “The need for unity is best espoused with data. I think we are going to come up with a figure of our level of generosity; not only in scholarship support but also in charitable support.”

Two front line participants spoke about efforts to defend the legacy of Columbus in New Jersey and Illinois, respectively.

The first was Andre Dimino, spokesperson for the Italian American One Voice Coalition. He reported the latest from Randolph, New Jersey, where the board of education there, voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. In a follow up meeting where the decision was met with strong resistance by Italian Americans, the board then voted to eliminate all holidays for the school year calendar. In place of holiday names will be only the words: “Day Off.”

Near the end of the meeting was the latest from Chicago, where Ron Onesti, president and CEO of Onesti Entertainment, is active in the Italian American community there. He reported that the city made an assessment of all 500 public statues and monuments to claim 41 as identified “problematic.” Yet, only 3 were taken down: the statues of Christopher Columbus. Underway is a law suit that claims, in part, the city had no right to tear down the statues last year, since the artwork was given with a condition that only the statue’s donors could authorize removal. He went on to say, “We are not backing down. We are meeting one-on-one with Chicago community leaders. We want to be broad based and inclusive of all groups. What happened to Columbus today can happen to Martin Luther King tomorrow.” He plans a mass rally in July as organized by the Heal Chicago Coalition to counter the cancel culture that seems to predominate Chicago, not to mention other cities in the country.

ITALY LENDS HER SUPPORT TO THE CAUSE OF COLUMBUS
- Italian Parliament Has Voted to Defend Columbus Day, Statues in the U.S.

History was made on June 16 when members of Italy’s parliament in Rome overwhelmingly approved a motion in defense of Christopher Columbus. The motion was presented by Hon. Fucsia Fitzgerald Nissoli and Hon. Federico Mollicone, who are distinguished members of the Italian Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies.

Discussions on the motion began in October 2020 and its’ passage represents a landmark victory for Italians and Italian Americans. 

The motion’s stated purpose is outlined below: 

The Italian Chamber of Deputies commits the Government

1) to take action, on the political and diplomatic level, so that the Italian cultural heritage in the USA and the symbolic figure of that heritage embodied by Christopher Columbus may be safeguarded;

2) to use all the communication tools available to the Government, to grant the enhancement, both at the level of bilateral Italy-U.S. relations and at the multilateral level, of the real historical role of Christopher Columbus, an explorer moved by the noble sentiments of discovery, at the basis of the evolution of society and of the whole of humanity.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, led by Basil M. Russo, fully endorses this first-ever motion by the Italian Parliament, which, up until now, was unengaged in the fight for Columbus in the United States. The organization extended its unwavering gratitude to Hon. Nissoli and Hon. Mollicone, and to Umberto Mucci — the Founder and CEO of We the Italians, a web site, online magazine and newsletter that reports on Italian American issues.

In July, Mucci will organize a press conference live from the press room of the Italian Parliament in Rome, where Hon. Nissoli and Hon. Mollicone, as well as Basil M. Russo, will comment on the outcome of the vote.

THE RUSSO FAMILY
- Judge Basil M. Russo, Wife Patricia and Children are Committed to Preserving Our Italian American Heritage

Basil M. Russo serves as president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. He and his family continue their efforts to help preserve the legacy of Italian Americans in the United States.

Basil M. Russo is the family patriarch who, as president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, has accomplished the following:
· Initiated the largest gathering of Italian American leaders in history with the first National Italian American Summit Meeting held Feb. 20, 2021, with 354 organizations in attendance. Its mission: to create a spirit of national unity among Italian Americans to better preserve our history and heritage.
· Built Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations into the national voice for all Italian Americans by uniting 48 major Italian American organizations from throughout the country.

As President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America
· Created an Italian American website and social media platforms that engage more than 3 million readers and followers annually.
· Grew ISDA’s Fraternal Association member assets from $62 million to $225 million, making ISDA among the most financially-funded, not-for-profit Italian American organizations in the U.S.

Patricia E. Russo is the family matriarch who does the following in support of Italian Americans:
· Serves as Executive Editor of La Nostra Voce, ISDA’s national Italian American newspaper.
· A Founder and Board Member of the Italian American Museum of Cleveland.

Judge and Mrs. Russo are proud parents of sons, Anthony and Joe, who, together, have achieved greatly in Hollywood:
· Internationally acclaimed directors, writers and producers who hold the distinction of having directed the highest grossing film in history, "Avengers: Endgame."
· Founded the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum, which awards multiple grants to filmmakers each year who create movies that explore the IA experience in a positive way for the benefit of present and future generations.

Judge and Mrs. Russo are proud parents of daughters Gabriella Rosalina and Angela Russo-Otstot, who have distinguished themselves in the legal and cinematic professions:
· Gabriella, an attorney, worked with her father to create the Ohio ISDA Community Foundation, Inc. which provides grants for many Italian American groups and causes dedicated to preserving our heritage.
· Angela, President of Creative at AGBO Studios in Hollywood, serves as chairwoman of the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum grant selection committee.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is Judge Russo, Congressman Suozzi and Joseph Scelsa, founder and current president of the Italian American Museum in New York, file photo of the Italian parliament, second photograph of Judge Russo and a group photograph of the Russo family. You too can get involved in helping to preserve our Italian American heritage in the United States by visiting the web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations at www.copomiao.org.

 

 

Op-Ed
IS ITALY A DICTATORSHIP?
- A Parliamentary System Moves Towards Authoritarianism
“A new prime minister can be selected without a new election…”

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

About a year ago, I wrote about Prime Minister Conte’s seizure of dictatorial power in Italy. Well, I was unsure of myself after he fell from power late last year. I thought that perhaps I had overreacted.

However, I looked into the matter further, like any good political scientist, and I asked a source on the ground. I also started reading about events in Italy again. I just read the latest news from Italy just now. And what did all of my research find?

I was not wrong.

Defining a dictatorship is important as a first step to convincing you that Italy had been and is still a dictatorship during the Coronavirus crisis. A dictatorship is a regime that gains authority over the state and is not subject to any democratic control. It does not have to have one absolute leader, or dictator, but can be ruled by a small number of oligarchs.

It is unclear what type of dictatorship we have now in Italy under Prime Minister Draghi; whether it is based on a narrow oligarchy or a single dictator, but the old system under Conte was very much based on his personality. We political scientists call this a “personalist” dictatorship. Either way, whether Draghi sees himself as a new Roman emperor as Conte seemed to or just the first oligarch amongst the Cabinet, he, along with the Cabinet, are the absolute law in Italy.

The vaccine in Italy might not be safe. No one knows. In the United States, it is safe, but the vaccine in Italy is different. Someone died in Italy from the vaccine, or so it seems, and a medical worker was charged with manslaughter in the death. That person, by decree of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, has been cleared without trial because of absolute immunity has been given to all medical workers who administer the vaccine, even if it leads to avoidable death. At the same time, any medical worker fearful of death by vaccine is mandated to take the vaccine or that person will be suspended for a year.

This is government, if not at its worst, at a low point for sure. The Italian government has no checks or balances on its power. We see this at the state level in the United States, but not at the central or national level. Why? I am glad that you asked. We have a federal system meaning that the states have rights vis-à-vis the federal government. The regions of Italy had governments, budgets and responsibilities and the illusion of freedom from the central government of Italy, but no rights against the center, unlike in the United States.

As a result, while we have state-level dictatorships (or something that looks like dictatorship) in states like New Jersey, we have a genuine national dictatorship in Italy. A great check and balance on the central government is subnational government. The establishment of federalism, of constitutional regional rights for the Italian regions, is the most important constitutional concern in Italy now and in the immediate future.

Moreover, the current electoral system in Italy is broken. A new prime minister can be selected without a new election. A vote of no confidence does not mean a new election, as it should. So, an unelected prime minister such as Conte is replaced by another unelected Prime Minister such as Draghi. The election has been delayed by decree so long that it strained constitutional credibility. Essentially, elections mean nothing at the central level and all other elections are meaningless because all real power is in the central government.

Italy is a dictatorship in a very real sense, but the European Union, as I have said before, does not seem to care. Draghi, like Conte before him, is very pro-European Union. The international media supports dictators and dictatorships, as long as they share their views. Liberal and republican ideals like checks and balances and opposing dictators are out of principle to be replaced by Europeanist and progressive ideals for central control.

What needs to be done? The people need to, peacefully, oppose the draconian Coronavirus restrictions and demand democratic elections. They also need to rally behind anyone who rejects both the far-right alternatives to the current regime. However, most importantly, the Italian people need to embrace federalism within Italy and reject European federalism.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist from New Jersey.

 

 

WHAT TO READ THIS SUMMER?
TRY ONE OR MORE OF THE BOOKS WE
REVIEWED IN OUR FIRST EDITION 2021
All Italian: From Pompeii to Brooklyn

PRIESTESS OF POMPEII: THE INITIATE’S JOURNEY - BOOK 1
By Sandra C. Hurt
Published by Thyrsus Publications. Available at Amazon.com

What is it like to go back in time and observe the daily lives and customs of antiquity? Not much different than what one will experience when reading Sandra C. Hurt’s phenomenal new novel, “Priestess of Pompeii - The Initiate’s Journey, Book One.” The book is the closest we can get to actually visiting the time prior to the birth of Christ and seeing for ourselves how people lived in ancient Rome, or, more pointedly and according to the premise of the novel, how people lived in ancient Pompeii.
   Sandra C. Hurt has provided us with a novel that goes far and beyond most works of historical fiction. Her research is extraordinarily thorough, precise and all-encompassing. She shares her immense knowledge of antiquity in her soft touch of crisp, declarative sentences, coupled with a vivid imagination and her passion for the past. “Priestess of Pompeii” is an epic tale of the Istacidii family of Pompeii, their close relatives, friends and servants. As wealthy landowners, they must face one of the most important eras of history: The rise and fall of Julius Caesar and the ascension of his grand-nephew Octavian Augustus. The battles and intrigues play out on the Italian peninsula while Mount Vesuvius hovers in the distance ready to explode and destroy Pompeii, one of the great cities of antiquity.
   The protagonist is, no doubt, Rufilla, a girl, abandoned by her birth parents; only to be later adopted by Rufus and Aridela Istacidii, along with their son Cil, some years older than her. The book follows the time of childhood through adulthood for Rufilla and Cil, while living the traditions and customs of Pompeii as dictated by pagan worship, a mix of Roman, Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses. Rufilla is considered unique as a child, when it is discovered by one of the priests that she has the power of prophecy. As events unfold in Pompeii and Rome, not to mention Greece and other lands of the Mediterranean, Rufilla and her family must rise to the challenges of survival. “Priestess of Pompeii” is that rare novel that is both entertaining and educational. Mrs. Hurt provides all the necessities of an intriguing page-turner with contrasting characters and engaging subplots. What is most praiseworthy is the history. The author gives all the incredible details of how Pompeiians lived: The food, feasts, wines, clothing and decorations. “Priestess of Pompeii” is an extraordinary novel to be read and relished by all Italian Americans, especially those who take great pride in what was, perhaps, the greatest civilization in history - ancient Rome and Pompeii.

A DAY IN JUNE
By Marisa Labozzetta
Published by Guernica World Editions; Available at Amazon.com

What could be better than an early summer wedding in the foothills of Vermont? How about a wedding in the same locale…free of charge!
That’s the premise of Marisa Labozzetta’s warm, funny and fascinating new novel, “A Day in June.”
   Labozzetta is the rare writer who can convey a plot, settings and characters with numerous epiphanies in a smooth and fluid style. The author is well-versed in the human experience. She covers it all: Love, religion, family, culture and the changing times. Here is a tale filled with humorous anecdotes, the pointed yet whimsical notions of approachable and likable characters. The novel is like a fine wine; to go down easy and to be celebrated in one’s memory. “A Day in June” has as its main protagonist, Ryan Toscano, a 28-year-old woman of mixed ethnicity, Jewish and Italian, who lives in Boston. An aspiring novelist, now employed as a paralegal for a non-profit, Ryan enters a writing contest sponsored by the chamber of commerce of Brackton, Vermont. The small town, suffering hard times, seeks rejuvenation by way of offering the winner a free wedding ceremony and reception nestled in the scenic countryside. Native son, Eric Boulanger, a professional photographer, thought up the idea to help kickstart local vendors and make theirs the future destination for brides to come. Ryan wins the contest. Except, there’s a problem: She is not engaged. Indeed, her boyfriend, Jason, has left her to join the priesthood.
   “A Day in June” provides us with a conflict not easy to resolve. Should Ryan come clean, admit her duplicity and turn down a free wedding? Or, go along with the preparations and find a groom in time for the June nuptials? The author sums up the dilemma when considering how Ryan’s middle class background contrasts with her wealthy roommate’s. She writes: “Ryan’s parents, on the other hand, can’t wrap their heads around someone turning down anything of value. That is the difference between those who have always had and those who are just beginning to; or, in Ryan’s father’s words: between those whose ancestors came on the Mayflower and those whose parents docked at Ellis Island.” “A Day in June” is a most refreshing novel. Labozzetta’s writing is in stark contrast to the cynical and, at times, servile offerings of most authors today. She is most accurate in capturing the thoughts, ambitions, fears and memories of her diverse characters. They all have good hearts and, in the end, want to do what’s right. The novel is not to be only compared to a fine Italian wine, but, considering the setting, a pint of Vermont maple syrup, sweet and wholesome and a joy to savor. “A Day in June” is most magnificent.

THE CASE OF THE CROSSEYED STRANGLER: A SERGEANT MARKIE MYSTERY
By Anthony Celano
Published by Boulevard Books; Available at Amazon.com

Serial killers can be anyone: A kindly merchant, a punctual cab driver or a well-respected high school science teacher, as in Anthony Celano’s riveting and highly entertaining new novel, “The Case of the Crosseyed Strangler: A Sergeant Markie Mystery.”
   Everett Skidmore is the villain, a well-built man nearing middle age who dresses in women’s clothing. He keeps hearing voices of an old Sicilian woman who lived near his boyhood home. She’s not your stereotypical Italian grandmother, cooking and conveying Old World words of wisdom. Rather, she is a strange witchlike figure whose sheer presence adversely affected Everett. Her legacy wreaks havoc in his mind to lead him to strangle unsuspecting women in different parts of Manhattan. Celano is a 22 year veteran of the New York Police Department who, when he retired, began and operated a private investigation firm for 17 years. He puts his extensive experience to good use in the novel. His protagonist is Al Markie, a skilled, down-to-earth detective who leads a small group of policemen and police women to find the serial killer. The grisly crime scenes, the endless interviews of witnesses and potential suspects and the gathering of clues make a day in the life of a police officer always compelling. Danger is ever-present as they confront other crimes in their investigation. In one scene, Detective Sheridan is ordered by Markie to canvass the West Village. He soon comes across one potential witness, with dissociative personality, who says his alter ego wants to kill his father. Moments later, the detective meets another potential witness living with dead dogs. He has to stop what he’s doing to report these other crimes and hazards.
   Celano is a spirited and empathetic writer of exceptional fiction. What distinguishes his novel is the treatment of the villain. Everett Skidmore is conveyed in an unbiased light. The author shows him to be what he is: A brutal, wicked killer who also happens to be an outstanding science teacher and mentor for young adults. He shares the antagonist’s background, one that elicits feelings of horror and sympathy in the reader. “The Case of the Crosseyed Strangler” is an excellent crime novel. The hunt for criminals is a most intriguing and honorable endeavor. Here is a novel to be read and remembered by all who love excellent crime mysteries and the profound admiration and respect we have for the good people who protect and serve us. An outstanding novel is “The Case of the Crosseyed Strangler.”

CELIBATE: A MEMOIR
By Maria Giura
Published by Apprentice House Press; Available at Amazon.com

An exceptionally well-written and deeply human story, “Celibate: A Memoir” by Maria Giura conveys a central attribute of Italian American life in the intertwining of faith and culture. It’s a highly engaging account of how her Catholic faith, combined with family dynamics, becomes both catalyst and resolution to her many conflicts and struggles. Giura delves into its mysteries and devotions while, at the same time, she fearlessly shares the flaws of her sin and transgression.
   In many ways, Giura epitomizes the Italian American experience of Generation X. Born in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn to parents who are Italian immigrants, she grew up in an imperfect, loving, close knit family. She also felt a strong connection to God from a young age. The bulk of the memoir begins when, at 24, Giura breaks off a two-and-a-half year relationship with a man she doesn’t love enough to marry. She moves out of her family home and gets her own apartment, so she can “have something to show for [her]self in place of marriage.” Not unlike other single women, she spends the next few years alone and struggling. As her peers marry and start families, she has yet to find true love. Giura soon begins lectoring at Mass after James Infanzi becomes the new parish priest at Saint Stephen’s. The two are only four years apart and share the same tastes and temperament. They seem meant for each other, and, as a result, Giura faces a deep crisis. Will she follow her feelings and start a relationship with Father Infanzi? Or will she forgo what might be the love of her life for the sake of the Church?
If falling in love with a priest is not distressing enough, Giura finds herself torn as to whether or not God is calling her to the religious life. She experiences various signs but remains unsure about her destiny. The memoir becomes uniquely instructive when she seriously inquires about becoming a nun. She must meet with several Sisters to openly discuss her background, her thoughts on God and the Church and to honestly assess whether she is capable of such radical devotion. Not an easy undertaking, as Giura learns.
   Readers will enthusiastically follow Giura through this valley—this push and pull of two choices—and into the beginning of the next and promising phase of her life. She’s a likable, trustworthy narrator and a master of rhythmic sentences that lock the reader in. Her honesty is admirable as she shows herself to have many of the same failures, successes, hopes and dreams that all people share. An entirely compelling work of nonfiction, “Celibate: A Memoir” will resonate with readers and move them in many ways.

SICILIAN DREAMS
By Vincent Panella
Published by Bordighera Press; Available at Amazon.com

Sagas of Italian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century almost always take place in New York, Chicago or a Midwest mining region. Hence, a different and refreshing approach to the novel, “Sicilian Dreams,” by Vincent Panella is an immigrant story set in the Deep South, in addition to New York.
   Santo Regina, the main character, finds himself not too far from New Orleans working on a plantation. Here, Panella shares one of many uncovered truths about American history. Just 50 years after the Civil War, African Americans were hired by their former white masters to keep order in the cotton plantations that employed Sicilian immigrants. Santo witnesses a co-worker beaten by the foreman while held down by African American farmhands-turned-guards. Much of the story centers around the pervasive persecution of Sicilian peasants in their homeland and in the United States. The novel begins in Sicily where Santo is recruited by Don Vito Cascio Ferro to help the Fasci Siciliani overthrow the system of padrone and tenant farmers. In its early stages, fascism began as a radical form of socialism, more in line with Marxist ideology. Panella writes: “‘What is property?’ Don Vito asks. ‘Property is an idea, nothing more. It’s like the air, for the use of all humanity. Is the air for sale? Does one buy air as one might a pair of shoes made with the hands! No, property is in the imagination! Ownership can be traced to those who stole the property long before men kept records. Who owned the land then? All of us! Property, my friends, is thievery!”
   Inspired by these words, Santo confronts a baron but is humiliated when the peasants do not support him. A widower with a teenage daughter and younger son, Santo sees America as his only hope. Yet, he faces in rural Louisiana, the same oppression as he did in Sicily. Rich landowners take severe advantage of poor Sicilian immigrants. Add to this, the plight of his daughter Mariana, back home in Sicily, who finds herself in trouble with a young man. A host of factors affect a man’s life outside his control in the novel. Panella considers the geographical differences between Sicily and the United States. He writes: “Here was the same pattern of ownership as in Sicily, only the land was richer, and here the Negroes took the place of the contadini…Like the Sicilians at home, they walked in their sleep.” “Sicilian Dreams” is a novel about the Sicilian immigrant, forever a representative of the struggle to overcome persecution and oppression. Panella writes with compassion and perception for the people of his family’s homeland. “Sicilian Dreams” is awesome.

ITALIAN HORROR CINEMA: The Most Influential Horror Films From Italy
By Truby Chiaviello
Available at www.onlineprimo.com/books

A discussion of Italy’s best filmmakers is usually limited to Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and others of Italian neorealism. These are great directors, no doubt, and their films should be viewed and praised. Yet, Italian cinema is made up of other filmmakers, such as those of specific genres, i.e., Westerns, action and horror. Their influence is even more far-reaching as they are increasingly considered some of Italy’s most pioneering and innovative filmmakers. Truby Chiaviello, publisher and editor of PRIMO, pays tribute to Italy’s horror filmmakers in his new book, “Italian Horror Cinema: The Most Influential Horror Films from Italy.”
   The author grew up in the 1980s, a time when he, his friends and other teenagers were often found inside movie theaters watching the likes of horror films, “Halloween,” “Friday, the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” just to name a few. What’s most interesting is that these and many films we see today follow a template first developed in Italy many years prior.
“Italian Horror Cinema” highlights the creative and technical innovations from Italy. The country invented new horror sub-genres and cinematic styles; later adopted by Hollywood and utilized today in all kinds of films. What began in Italy was the slasher sub-genre, the found footage theme, hallucinatory horror, dystopian and end-of-the-world settings, the fusion of science fiction with horror. Even, the zombie craze can be traced to Italy.
   In “Italian Horror Cinema,” Mr. Chiaviello recounts how American filmmakers were seduced by Italy’s brave extravagances. Horror masters Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci greatly influenced a generation of American filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Roger Corman, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Ridley Scott, George A. Romero, Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Dante, Sam Raimi and others. As Mr. Chiaviello writes in the book’s preface: “Italy’s most influential horror films...come with a mix of stories and styles that produced great films and, at other times, celebrated failures. Whatever their fine points and most egregious flaws, these films are to be understood and appreciated...” The book comes with an array of fascinating stories and anecdotes for scores of films; from the critically acclaimed “Suspiria,” by Dario Argento and “I Vampiri,” by Mario Bava to the condemned “Zombi II,” by Lucio Fulci and the outlawed “Cannibal Holocaust,” by Ruggero Deodata. “Italian Horror Cinema” is an entertaining and informative book to be cherished by today’s filmmakers and all fans of horror, Italian and international cinema.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
ITALY MAY SOON BE FREE OF ANTI-COVID RESTRICTIONS
- George Clooney Returns to Lake Como
- Italy Mourns the Death of Carla Fracci
- Modern Art Comes to Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

Here in Italy, as we come to the end of Weeks 37, the regions Sardinia, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and Molise are now classified as “White,” with a minimum of anti-Covid restrictions. Infections and deaths from the virus continue to decrease. This is thanks to the positive results produced by the restrictions in force up until now, to the growing numbers of the population being vaccinated, and to the arrival of warmer weather. The rumor going around is that all of Italy may soon be “White” as summer approaches. Keeping our fingers crossed.

Good news comes from the Research Center of the Confindustria, the main association representing manufacturing and service companies in Italy. With coronavirus restrictions slowly easing up, it has predicted there will be a small increase in Italy's GDP in the second quarter of this year and a stronger one in the third quarter, up to plus 4 percent. Industrial production should increase while tourism and the cultural industry undergoes a notable revival, especially during the summer season. Confindustria noted that between January and April 2021, 130 thousand new jobs were created.

On May 31st, after five years, the Court of Assizes of Taranto delivered its decision in the first instance of a case nicknamed the "Sold-out Environment Case.” It was against the prior owners and CEO of the Ilva steelworks, once the largest steel producer in Europe. They and the former governor of the Puglia Region were found guilty of causing serious health risks through the production of carcinogenic dioxins and mineral particles for more than half a century. This caused a surge in cancer in the adjacent city of Taranto. The case involved 44 individual defendants and three companies in the proceedings. Appeals are sure to follow.

The Italian theatrical world is in mourning after the death of the 84-year-old classical ballerina Carla Fracci on May 27, after a long battle with cancer. Born near Milan, the daughter of a tram driver and a factory worker, Fracci rose to international fame and acclaim. Many people filed past her coffin in the foyer of the Scala Opera house before her funeral and burial two days later.

Over the weekend of May 29th and 30th, the Italian media was in a flurry. It was reported that George Cloney and his family, after two years of absence, have returned to their villa on Lake Como to spend their usual summer vacation there. This has been interpreted as a sign that Italy is leaving behind the bad times for the tourist industry to be in full swing again, with visitors returning here from all over the world. Thank you, George.

In fact, here, in Florence, we are seeing tourists returning to our streets. Although they are mainly British, French and German, some North and South Americans are also reappearing, owing to the Covid-free flights. Museums and exhibitions are also open, an important one of which concentrates on modern American art between 1961-2001. At the Palazzo Strozzi are featured more than 80 works by 55 artists, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko and many more. The works are here in Florence thanks to a collaboration with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis to span the development of American art from the outset of the Vietnam War until the 9/11 attack.

Here, at home, my geraniums on the terrace are in full bloom and my spring cleaning has begun. June and September are probably the most beautiful months here and it's a shame to miss a single second; so I've decided I won't.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

 

 

 

CAPTAIN PIETRO PIRRO
The Author Recounts Her Husband’s Life at Sea
Captain Pirro Passed Away on April 28, 2021

By Deirdre Pirro

Pietro was born in Portici, near Naples, on August 8, 1929. His father, also Pietro Pirro, a retired carabiniere officer, was born in 1857 in Barletta, Puglia and died in Portici in 1935 when Pietro, an only child, was still very young. His mother, Assunta Goglia, was born in Vallo della Lucania in 1900, died in Portici 1984. Because her father, Gennaro had been nominated superintendent of the Royal Prison in Portici in the early 1920s, he was assigned lodging for him and his family in the magnificent Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) of Portici. This palace was originally a hunting estate for the Bourbon kings of Naples built in 1738 which, today, is the home of Portici's Botanical Gardens and is located just a few meters from the Roman ruins of Herculaneum.

After Pietro was born, he lived with his mother, his grandmother until her death, his mother's maiden sister and her bachelor brother in the palace. He went to school in Portici and remembered the terrible hardship they suffered because of hunger and the Allied bombings during World War II. One of his aunts worked at the central post office in Naples. She was hit by flying glass from an explosion to severe her femoral vein. She bled to death.

This is when Pietro's love of languages began (he would end up speaking 5 fluently). After the Allies arrived, some Scottish troops were billeted in Portici to teach him his first work in English: “barrage balloon.”

Pietro studied at the Naval Academy in Naples and then at the Naval Academy in Livorno. He qualified as a Master of Ocean Going Vessels on June 25th, 1948. His first jobs as a cadet officer were on banana boats sailing to South America. These were very long trips at sea with no air conditioning to extremely hot places. He was only 19 years old.

In the early 1950s, he won a permanent position with the historic Lloyd Triestino Navigation Company, a state-owned company headquartered in Trieste. He was a navigator with them until he retired in 1988. Lloyd Triestino sailed all over the world except to North and South America. With time, he moved up the officer ranks to sail on traditional cargo ships, passenger liners, container ships and huge Roll On Roll Off vessels. He circumnavigated the world 23 times during his long career.

In 1956, when Abdel Nasser closed the Suez Canal, Pietro was on a cargo ship off the coast of Mogadishu. Unable to return to Italy, he remained on board for six months. Towards the end of this period, he contracted malaria and was taken to the British Hospital in Aden where he remained for another four months.

In 1971, he was promoted to “Comandante,” the youngest “Comandante” the company have ever had. His specific role at that time (1971-72) was to follow the building of the “Lloydiana”, the first container ship in the fleet. Unfortunately, due to a tragedy in his family, he was unable to captain it on its maiden voyage. Instead on a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning in January 1973, I boarded the “Galileo,” an ocean liner at Port Melbourne, Australia. Pietro was the captain. My older brother was my chaperon and we had 14 suitcases and a sea trunk between us. We were about to spend four months sailing around the world with 22 European and African countries before returning to Australia. I met Pietro at the Captain's Cocktail Party and I think I immediately fell in love with this amazing man even though he was over 25 years older than me. He had such charisma and an air of authority,

By December 27th that same year, I had gone around the world and had immediately flown back to Italy again the day after the ship docked back in Sydney because he had left a plane ticket there for me. I again returned to Australia and worked a semester as an assistant law professor at Melbourne University. Again, another flight to Italy in November and a cruise to South Africa and India on my now fiancé's ship. We married during the trip to Cape Town, South Africa and, on our return to Italy, we settled in Florence. Our only son, Piero, was born in March 1975. Over the coming years, Piero and I often travelled on board with Pietro.

After Pietro retired, he often said that he didn't miss the ships all that much but he missed the sea terribly. It was in his blood.

Pietro died peacefully, 91 years old, at home on April 28, 2021.

Editor’s: Deirdre is the writer of the insightful Covid Chronicles and writes articles for PRIMO’s print editions and is our official translator. Our heartfelt condolences are extended to her and son Piero. May Captain Pirro rest in peace.

 

 

Op-Ed
GOD BLESS AMERICA AND VIVA L’ITALIA
A Comparison of Two Countries
- The Author Has Lived in Both Italy and America
- Now an American Citizen, She is the Daughter of Italian Immigrants, Originally to Canada
“Do not be fooled by the beauty, culture, and history of Italy. Visiting is one thing but living there is a completely different animal.”

By Joanne Fisher

I must make a premise. I am going to discuss these two countries before COVID hit, simply because these two countries had quite noticeable differences before this pandemic.

Here we are: 2019. Italy is the garden of the world, and when I tell people that I lived there for many years, they swoon and comment: “Wow, you’re so lucky!” or “Why are you in the USA?” or “Why did you leave?”

These are simple questions with not-so-simple answers.

Do not be fooled by the beauty, culture, and history of Italy. Visiting is one thing but living there is a completely different animal.

Additionally, do not be fooled by the United States, either. We (I say we, because I am now an American citizen) have our issues and lots of them—however, certain aspects of life differentiate both countries in different ways.

Let’s begin with my favorite subject, food. Italians idolize food. They spend a good part of their day talking about food and wine, about which they are very selective and discriminating, almost snobbish. Surprisingly enough, Italians do not eat a lot. But when they do, it must be cooked right, aged right and most importantly, priced right. Italians are very closed-minded about their food. They do not like foods from other countries. Italians prefer Italian cuisine over any other—and to be more on point, Italians love their mamma’s cooking. Unfortunately, today, many young Italian women do not cook because, alas, their moms never taught them. And similarly in United States, many Italian men are learning how to cook.

Americans love food and love to eat a lot of it, causing an enormous amount of people to suffer obesity and its derivative consequences: diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and so forth. However, we Americans not only adore Italian food—it’s possibly our favorite—but we enjoy foods from many other countries from around the world. I believe that food is a main reason that the United States is called a “melting pot.” One of the common misconceptions that I find particularly amusing is Americans’ reliance on recipes. It’s very common for me to just throw something together, such as my biscotti, or a lasagna, and have someone say, “Can I get that recipe?” Of course, I then have to patiently explain that there is no recipe, that I just threw a bunch of things together. I must say that this answer impresses my American friends, although I suspect that sometimes they don’t believe me.

Fashionista? Well, you should live in Italy, for sure! Not even in New York will you find the everyday Maria and Giuseppe dressed like they just walked off the catwalk. Even if they buy their clothes and shoes at the “mercato,” their fashion sense is impeccable, to say the least. Americans try exceptionally hard, but sorry, there is no comparison here.

How many times have you heard “use your inside voice”? Americans are extremely careful to speak softly while they are dining, even in a fast food restaurant. When my children and I first moved to Florida, my son and daughter had conversations at a higher tone than my husband’s children. One time, my stepson asked Leonardo, “Why are you always yelling?” Leo’s response was, “I’m not yelling, I’m Italian.” In Italy, an inside voice does not exist. In fact, when Italians gather in a restaurant or trattoria, they are heard in the neighboring stores, apartments and even by the “Vigile Urbano” down the street who may even decide to join in on the conversation if it interests him.

Does Italy have immigrants? Oh yes, they do but the majority are illegal, and they come to Italy expecting the Italian government to cater to their every need. Of course, it does. The Italian government has forcefully taken small hotels from their rightful owners so that migrants can live there. The owners get peanuts. Italians, in turn, are very prejudiced towards these migrants. One episode that truly enraged me was when Balotelli (a Ghanaian soccer player who was adopted by a couple from Brescia) walked onto the soccer field and the fans made monkey sounds and indigenous dance-like moves. When I saw that, as an American, I was horrified. I realized that, even though we hear on a daily basis that Americans are racist, we really are not. America truly is the Land of Opportunity—always has been, and hopefully, always will be. Of course, Balotelli’s team was penalized for such behavior, but the damage was done. He proudly gave the “one-finger salute” to the crowd, shrugged his shoulders, and made his parents proud. He is a bit of a hothead, but can he play soccer!

Speaking of sugar-coating: In general, Americans have become very polite over the years and would never think of offending anyone in any way, shape, or form. Italians, as stated above, don’t care if they offend you. They will tell you to your face that you’re fat, thin, tall, short, pretty, or—well, not-so-pretty. Perhaps, the younger generations have learned to think before they speak, but the older crowd will tell it to your face. One thing that really made my head turn in the 1980s when we moved to Italy, was the help wanted pages. Job listings typically specified that an applicant had to be attractive, good legs, pleasant voice and so on. Civil rights and anti-discrimination laws in the States would not allow for that!

Like the United States, Italy has two paces of lifestyles: northern and southern. And like the United States, the northerners are fast-paced and the southerners are very laid back, not worrying about anything. (In the United States, that has been diluted somewhat, with the mobility of Americans—something else that differentiates the two countries.) Personally, I experienced quite a shock when I moved from Canada (the Toronto area is very much like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.) to Florida. I used to get genuinely irritated when we needed to be somewhere, and my native Floridian hubby wasn’t anywhere near being ready. To this day, I am compulsively punctual, and hubby is still that last one out the door. I used to complain a lot, but now I simply give him “the look.” He gets the message right now!

Families are quite different in Italy. Even though the man is the titular “Head of the House,” the reality is that women have always run the show—and still do! After the war, only men went to work, and women stayed home to cook, clean and raise the children. In America, it was quite similar. But as times change and the world becomes smaller, both countries are evolving when it comes to the family nucleus. One big difference between our two countries is that Americans tend to “kick out” their kids immediately after high school, whereas Italian children live with their parents until they move out on their own or they get married. When we visited Italy in 2018, my cousin, who is almost 50, was still living at home with his parents. My husband was quite surprised by this. The major reason for this is housing. It is very expensive to rent an apartment on your own. Most landlords won’t even consider leasing you an apartment that could be occupied by a family or future family, instead of a single person who may leave after a while, causing the landlord to search for new tenants. Plus, he can charge more for a family than a single person.

Which brings me to space.

In America, we have a saying “go big or go home.” We have big cars, big houses, big everything. Not so in Italy; because there is no space. The cars are tiny, the apartments are tiny, the courtyards are tiny, the malls are small (where they exist), and their city halls are small. The only large buildings are churches and museums. This is because museums are simply former palaces where the uber-rich, blue-blooded nobility formerly resided. When Italians visit America, they marvel at how much land we possess, how huge our skyscrapers are, how enormous our malls are, how much wide-open spaces we have and how large our tiniest apartments are. To Italians, owning a home is like winning a lottery, whereas to us, it’s part of the American Dream, attainable by anyone who works hard to better themselves.

Want to open a small business? If you live in Italy, don’t even think about it. The amount of bureaucracy involved in opening a small restaurant or a shoe store or a barber shop is beyond imaginable. Any Italian who has a small business most probably inherited it from relatives who passed it down from one generation to the next. Starting a business from scratch is costly and time-consuming, and the documentation is tremendous. In America, you can simply rent a space, get some financing, pay for an occupational license, and voilà! You have your very own small business! Now, I understand that in many states, it’s not quite that simple; however, for the most part it is. And if you think the IRS is difficult to deal with, you haven’t dealt with la Finanza, the Italian Financial Police. That government entity is one of the most powerful in Italy. They handle all tax fraud, business and personal, contraband, building codes, you name it. I know because I’ve heard many detailed stories from my cousin who was a colonel and worked in that law enforcement agency for forty years.

I would like to end on a romantic note. Italian culture has romance in the air, always. Italian music, cinema, books and attitudes about relationships are very romantic and exalted. Courting a woman is still a big thing in Italy and a man will do anything to prove his love to his beloved. Americans love courting, also, but tend to be more practical. Having lived in both countries, I have noticed the difference. But you can see the difference simply by watching a classic Italian movie and a classic American one. “Ah! L’amore!” as they say in Italy.

Bottom line, I personally feel that the United States is still a beacon of hope, opportunity and individualism. These are the main reasons people from all walks of life desire to come here. Even Italians. Some of them simply fly in and end up staying. Some float in on rickety boats and rafts. Some come in through our southern border and some through our northern border. I’ll bet you didn’t know that, right? For over 200 years, people have risked life and limb to immigrate to America, because it is the land of the free and home of the brave. No matter how bad we think America gets, it still is the highest-ranked destination for immigrants.

Editor’s Note: Joanne Fisher is a Canadian-Italian-American author who is renowned for her steamy romances, historical fictions and murder-mysteries. She loves writing Christmas novellas, giving them an Italian flair. She has penned two nonfiction travel guides, titled Traveling Boomers, along with the corresponding website TheTravelingBoomers.com. She has participated in various Space Coast Writers’ Guild anthologies, and has even written one of her own, Baker’s Dozen Anthology, which is free on Kindle Unlimited. She is the president of the Space Coast Writers’ Guild and lives in Central Florida with her husband Dan and two Dachshunds, Wally and Madison.

 

 

READING “I VICERE”
In a Time of Pandemic, The Best Way to Learn Italian is to Read the Best of Italian Literature
- How does “I Vicere” compare to another classic novel, also set in Sicily, “Il Gattopardo”?
- “Now after 24 sessions with the book covering 60 pages; all of it written in Italian, I am beginning to understand the dynamics and the characters, but I am still struggling with the vocabulary.”

By Susan Collina Jayne

For students of Italian who are missing their sessions with tutors and teachers, I recommend reading an Italian classic, “I Vicere” (The Viceroys) 1894. Written by Federico De Roberto, the novel follows the saga of Sicilian nobility in the Risorgimento. I originally started reading the novel in 2017 but gave up after a few pages. More desperate this year, I began again. The grammar is fairly simple by Italian standards, but the vocabulary is archaic and the subjects far from modern experience; nevertheless, the book is still compelling. The story opens in the 1850s at the Francalanza Catania Palace with news of the unexpected death of Princes Teresa Uzeda ne’ Risa. There follows the arrival and non-arrival of her seven children; with their wives, one husband, in-laws, various lavapatti (hanger-ons), servants, neighbors, clergymen, etc. In one early scene, there are more than a dozen people in the Sala Galla. Most modern dictionaries may define lavapatti as dishwashers; human or machine. De Roberto’s are definitely human, but they clean their patron’s plates at the table. The term must have been considered vulgar because at the princess’ elaborate funeral (with a glass coffin, yet) someone is reproved for using it in church.

Now after 24 sessions with the book covering 60 pages; all of it written in Italian, I am beginning to understand the dynamics and the characters, but I am still struggling with the vocabulary. De Roberto gives few physical descriptions of the people; relying, instead on dialogue to define them. In the beginning, the servants and by-passers in the courtyard give us some gossip; the whole family hated each other and the mother especially hated her eldest son, Prince Giacomo XIV. Will he be bypassed in favor of the third son, Raymond, Count of Lumera? The rule demanding that the oldest son gets everything (primogeniture) can be by-passed because Teresa’s husband (Consalvo VII), a descendant of Spanish Viceroys, was so impoverished that he married a country woman of minor nobility 10 years his senior for her large dowery. Her father’s condition for the match was to allow her to manage the family’s financial affairs. So the fortune she builds up, as opposed to the title, is hers to command. She ruled with an iron hand. The whole family accepted her domination except for her brother-in-law, Don Balsco. He hounded her unmercifully from the beginning and said she had less “class” than the impoverished nobles who became lavapatti.

Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s more famous novel on the subject “Il Gattopardo” (The Leopard), 1958, is often compared to “I Vicere,” but Lampedusa (1896-1957), told his wife that the earlier book tells the story from the point of view of the servant’s hall. That might have been a dig at De Roberto’s middle class origins and lack of personal knowledge of the nobility. The characters in Lampedusa’s novel are, in many cases, based on historical figures in the author’s family. De Roberto, the son of a Neapolitan colonel, had been a successful critic and literary journalist in Milan and Florence for decades before returning to Catania to live with his aging mother. Thus, his grammar is more modern and not as elaborately poetic as is Lampedusa’s, who was much younger but lived a relatively reclusive and scholarly life after World War I. He had been wounded, taken prisoner, escaped, recaptured and escaped again, only to develop pneumonia. Lampedusa might have chosen a quiet life to avoid the Fascists who took over after the war.

The books also differ in setting. One is in Palermo and the other is set in Eastern Sicily; which was for centuries part of the Magna Greco, dominated by Mount Etna and the Mafia. Another difference is that Prince Fabrizia is the Leopard. He dominates the book as did Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With The Wind.” In “I Vicere,” it is the late Princess Teresa who sets in motion the conflicts to determine the family’s reactions to Garibaldi’s invasion and all that follows.

Another difference between the two books is the role of the Church. The dominance of the church in Sicily was greater than elsewhere in Italy, partly because the Norman kings (1072 until about 1300 AD) gave the church a third of the land on the island, probably most of it confiscated from the Arabs whom Roger I (Ruggero I) drove out. From the point of view of the family members in the two novels, however, the role of the Church differed greatly.

In “The Leopard,” Prince Fabrizio had a mild-mannered Jesuit as his family priest, but, also, to assist in his astronomical research, even though Jesuits were technically thrown out of Southern Italy because of their role in the 1848 revolt against the ruling Spanish Bourbon. However, none of Prince Fabrizio’s children joined the clergy. At the end of the novel, but not the film, 50 years after Garibaldi’s arrival, the prince’s three spinster daughters develop a mania for religious relics, many of them fake.

Princess Teresa had sent one son and one daughter into convents to spare the family’s resources. At that time, wealthy families had to pay to place their offspring in some orders, but the amount was relatively modest compared to providing a dowery for a noble daughter or supporting son. This practice is described in two very sad chapters of Manzoni’s “I promessi sposi” (1827) set in the 1700s when the young Lombardi Princess Gertrude is forced by her father to take the veil.

At the time of Princess Teresa’s death, her cloistered son and daughter seem to have accepted their religious life with grace, but for decades her brother-in-law, Benedictine monk Don Blasco, has been raging at his loss of freedom and fortune. When the princess dies, the family does not send a messenger to the monastery to tell him the news but to the home of the woman with whom he passes the time of day. At the long awaited reading of the princess’ will, he raises cane and tries to get it overturned, even though it would not have a dried fig’s effect on him.

I still miss many subtitles, but I can now understand most of what is going on in the Uzeda family in the 1860s if not what’s going on here and now. With my slow pace and the 700 pages of the novel, De Roberto might be my tutor until next election.

Editor’s Note: Susan Collina Jayne has written several articles for PRIMO. She lives in New Orleans.

 

 

 

750 A.D.ANTE
A Birthday Poem for the Great Dante Alighieri
2021 marks the 700th year of his passing on September 14, 1321

By Gerardo Perrotta

Happy birthday dear Dante
forever grande
your cantos still resonate
loud and clear from your florentine cradle.
Every age has considered your wise seeds
and still we find ourselves in darkened spaces
reveling in the profane
struggling with the divine;
while glimmers of hope
pull us skyward, there
where Cristoforetti sowed
your wisdom anew
in the vast ocean of your infinite stars.

Buon compleanno caro Dante
sempre grande
i tuoi canti risuonano ancora
forte e chiaro dalla tua fiorentina culla.
Ogni era ha considerato la tua semenza
ma ci troviamo tuttora in luoghi oscuri
dilettantoci nel profano
lottando col divino;
Mentre barlumi di speranza
ci tirano verso il cielo, la`
dove la Cristoforetti ha seminato
la tua sapienza di nuovo
nel vasto oceano delle tue infinite stelle.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Perrotta is originally from Paola, Calabria. He is retired from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

 

 

 

Covid Chronicles
ITALY'S STATE OF EMERGENCY MAY CONTINUE UNTIL AUGUST
- New PM Draghi Insults Turkey
- Italian Navy Officer Caught Spying for Russia
- Florence Celebrates Scoppo del Carro for Easter

By Deirdre Pirro

Here in Italy, as we come to the end of Week 33, the Draghi government announced at the beginning of April that, if the present situation with the deaths and spread of coronavirus continues, the state of emergency in the country could be prolonged until July 31st 2021; instead of ending on April 30th as originally programmed.

On April 1st, the new leader of the 5 Star Movement, former prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, appeared before an assembly of the Movement's parliamentarians to outline his plans for the future. He affirmed that changes needed to be made but that it would not be just a simple “restyling”. On the contrary, he said the Movement needed “refounding.” With this in mind, he is searching for new headquarters in Rome and has expressed his willingness to work with the new leader of the Democratic Party. Nonetheless, his future may mot be so rosy as important questions about the handling of the pandemic continue to hang over his head.

A 56-year-old Italian navy captain, a certain Walter Biot, was arrested on April 1st, it seems, for spying for the Russians in return for money. Investigators have found that the memory of his computer hard drive contains more than 180 photographs of classified documents, nine documents of which are classified as very secret, while another 50 were secret NATO documents. Biot's defense lawyer said his client was not a traitor but acted out of necessity caused by "his family's financial difficulties.” Either way, his career is ruined and he risks 15 years imprisonment.

The health minister has made mandatory a quarantine of five days for anyone who has visited one or more countries in the European Union in the 14 days before arriving in Italy. His decree is to last until April 30th.

On April 6, Mario Draghi made his first state visit as Italy's prime minister, to Libya. He called it an occasion to renew an "old friendship". Relations with Libya are fundamental for energy resources and because of its role in controlling the migratory flows through its territory towards Italy. Lately, France, Turkey and Russia have been attempting to extend their influence in the region diplomatically, economically and, on a military level, which, in the end, would be to the detriment of Italy's interests.

At a press conference on April 8th, Draghi lambasted those whom he called “furbi” (cunning); who were finding ways around the system to be vaccinated before they were rightfully entitled. He said the average number of these individuals amounted to 20 percent of those already vaccinated, except in Sicily, where they increased to 34 percent. The protocol to more rigidly favor those over 70 years old being vaccinated has now been tightened.

In the same press conference, Draghi created a diplomatic uproar. When the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was on an official visit to Turkey together with European Council President Charles Michel, no seat had been provided for her. Draghi referred to this humiliating incident and called Turkey’s President Erdogan “a dictator”. The Turkish government immediately summoned the Italian ambassador to Ankara to express its disapproval of the comments and demanded an apology. So far, silence reigns.

Here, in Tuscany, we are in the Orange zone as a region. Florence, however, is in the Red zone, as is the province of Prato, until April 20th (which may be extended) to ease the pressure on hospitals. This means we, in the city, remain under heavy lockdown conditions. Only nursery and primary schools were opened on April 7th. Secondary schools and universities will continue distance learning. These restrictions are necessary because the almost 300 Covid patients in Tuscany's intensive care units have almost brought the system to its knees.

In Florence, the traditional and spectacular Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart) in front of the Duomo on Easter Sunday was held this year but, because of the Covid restrictions, it was not open to the public. The dove-shaped rocket, loaded with fireworks, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, flew out of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and ignited the cart, called the Brindellone. The Florentines believe that this is a sign of good fortune for the coming year. In 2020, the mechanical dove failed to ignite and we all know how we have passed this last year.

At home, our Easter was an unusually quiet one because of Covid. We were not allowed to entertain or be entertained. Nonetheless, we had all the trimmings – chicken liver crostini, Easter spinach and ricotta pie with hard-boiled eggs included, fresh tagliatelli made at home and hung on the clothes horse to dry out before cooking; roasted lamb with oven potatoes and peas; and a “Colomba” cake in the shape of a dove. A selection of fine Tuscan wines accompanied the meal. They had been gifted to our son, Piero, by one of his patients. Hope your Easter was a good one too...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro is a writer and translator for PRIMO. Pictured: The Brindellone, a cart ignited on Easter to symbolize the Holy Spirit.

 

 

Op-Ed
VENICE IS DYING
Mass Tourism and Climate Change Perils the City of Water
The Author Argues for a Worldwide Effort to Monitor and Save Venice
Many cities of cultural and historical importance are also under severe existential threats. Of these, Venice is the poster child.

By Silvio Laccetti, Ph.D.

Spring is a time for renewal and rebuilding, a time to focus on all things natural, a time to reflect on planet earth's environmental problems. We consider climate changes, the polar regions and the Brazilian rain forest. However, we rarely consider in the same light the built-up environments. Many cities of cultural and historical importance are also under severe existential threats. Of these, Venice is the poster child.

Venice is dying. This kaleidoscopic collection of past, present and future may not long survive as an urban center. Arguably, Venice is the most unique city in the world, renowned for beauty, building technology, arts and culture, history, entertainment and tourism. Paradoxically this living Carnival may close down for good, a victim of ecological nightmares and economic paradoxes.

In 2018, the Swiss government-supervised World Economic Forum addressed these types of problems in the Davos Convention to outline measures for preservation of historical and cultural centers. My namesake foundation became involved in a subsequent effort to familiarize world youth of a tentative action plan to safeguard Venice. The fruits of this occurred very recently with a first-of-its kind trans-oceanic zoom conference connecting Italian high school students to their peers in the United States.

The main threat facing historic cultural centers is over-tourism. For me and my foundation, the most reprehensible situation was the passage and dockage of great ocean liners (Le Grandi Navi) in the canals and lagoons of Venice. The damage they do to building foundations, the pollution they cause in various ways, the collisions with historic wharfs or other vessels portray a horrifying picture all too evident from the most cursory internet search. These behemoth ships range up to 220,000 tons, 1100 feet in length (almost 4 football fields!) and 200 feet in height. In canal waters, their sight is both surreal and horrific.
Fortunately, on March 25th, the Italian government issued a decree banning the monster ships from Venetian waters!

This is a temporary measure. A brand new port should be built at a location balancing safety with convenience for tourism.

Beyond banning ships, authorities must consider what over-tourism is doing to the life and lifestyles in Venice. In 2019 (pre-pandemic), over 30 million visitors besieged Venice. That's more people than visit high ranking Disneyworld or Atlantic City, and about the same number as visitors to Niagara Falls, the most visited natural attraction in the United States. Venetians can hardly maneuver in the area around St. Mark's Square when big liners discharge 5,000 passengers at a time. Since these travelers eat and sleep aboard-ship, they contribute almost nothing to the economy of the city, so most businesses in the tourist areas have closed, to be replaced by souvenir shops!

Tourists who don't spend onshore is a problem plaguing many historic cities from Barcelona to Bruges and from Dubrovnik to Key West.

The urban economy of Venice has been decimated. The population of this historic center city has declined from 95,000 in the 1980's to just 55,000 today. Many locals can't afford to live in the city, as a significant (and growing) portion of housing has been converted to bed and breakfast/Airbnbs charging high rents for limited stays. Except in the tourist sector, jobs are scarce. Unhappily, tourism is what drives the remainder of the Venetian economy. Is Venice destined to become a Museum City, otherwise lacking in vitality? What is to be done?

Perhaps the solution lies in the employment of engineering, science and artificial intelligence.The new Mose system, a series of dam panels that deploy when high seas are forecast, will, hopefully, end Venice's perpetual flooding. The main university, Ca' Foscari, in the heart of the historic city, is rapidly developing new research programs to tackle problems of sustainability and resilience for coastal cities. One such initiative, The Bridges project, is ongoing in the United States, in cooperation with University of Virginia, in the Norfolk seacoast area.

Artificial intelligence offers the best key to regulation and control of tourist flow. For example, drone  monitoring will bring efficient crowd control to the main squares. Artificial intelligence can create staggered sailing schedules before ships even depart from home ports worldwide to ease congestion. Finally, with a new port, tourists can be directed to mainland centers when Venice is "overcrowded.”

So. Will we see death in Venice? There are various groups and agencies working to protect the city. But until Venice joins the polar regions and the rain forests in popular imagination as a main ecological flashpoint, this serene city cannot be saved.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is one of many massive cruise ships that visited Venice, to drop off more than a million tourists each year to flood the piazza. Increasingly, Venetians gather to demonstrate against hordes of tourists. The author is a retired university professor of history from Fairview, New Jersey. His eponymous foundation seeks to raise awareness of the special eco-cultural problems facing Venice. For more information, or to participate in a local initiative, contact zferreira@gmail.com

 

 

Covid Chronicles
ITALY STRUGGLES WITH STUBBORN CORONAVIRUS
Health System Copes with Rise in Intensive Care Patients
- Astra Zeneca Vaccine, Suspended, Now Reinstated
- Celebrating Florentine Republic and Dante
- Author…still can’t get vaccinated

By Deirdre Pirro

Here in Italy, we come to the end of Week 32, and according to data from Agenas (the National Agency for Regional Health Services), Covid patients admitted to hospital have exceeded the 40 percent alert threshold increasing pressure on the health system. As of March 22nd, those in intensive care are about 38 percent above the alert threshold. This means the latest restrictions will stay in place until after Easter and movement between the regions will be prohibited except in exceptional circumstances. The color system used for the regions - Red, "Reinforced" Orange, Orange, Yellow and White - will also remain in force until April 6th and may be extended until the beginning of May.

On March 15th, the health minister suspended the use of the Astra Zeneca vaccine as a precautionary measure following the death of several people in different parts of the country soon after being vaccinated. In all, 11 European countries did the same. An investigation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) found that the vaccine is safe, effective and that the benefits outweigh the risks. It also excluded any relationship between it and thrombosis. On this basis, on March 20th, Italy reinstated administration of the vaccine.

On March 18th, Prime Minister Mario Draghi was in Bergamo to commemorate the first National Day of Covid Victims. The city has become the symbol of the tragic death rate during the first wave of the pandemic.

On March 20th, Draghi gave his first press conference in which he announced the details of the 32 billion euro Support Fund to help families and businesses in Italy try and get back on their feet. These include emergency relief funds; the refinancing of the Citizens' Income for those in need; the cancellation of taxation bills up to 5,000 euro between the years 2000 and 2010 for people whose income is less than 30,000 euro a year. Help will also be given to Covid hospitals, schools, universities, municipalities, freelance professionals and seasonal workers in ski resorts. For some types of companies, the prohibition on dismissing their employees will be extended until October 31, 2021. Of course, some critics have expressed their dissatisfaction, saying it is too little and too late. In my view, it's a start and I believe a bird in the hand is always better than two in the bush.

On March 22nd, the noted German weekly, Der Spiegel, pointed the finger at the Conte I government saying that Italy had reacted too late and incorrectly to the pandemic. It claimed the country was overwhelmed, partly because there were no emergency or obsolete plans. Based on the judicial complaints of over 500 people who lost loved ones, the weekly alleges that former Prime Minister Conte and the health minister hid their mistakes, covering up the real number of deaths. That health minister is still on the job after served in both Conte's cabinets and now in Draghi's. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Chaos has reigned in Lombardia, one of the regions hardest hit by Covid in the country which, in some places, had the vaccine but almost no one turned up to be vaccinated. This appears to be due to the ineptitude of Aria, the regional agency responsible for managing the vaccination campaign. It seems those eligible to be vaccinated never received their convocation. The governor of the region, Attilio Fontana, who set up Aria, has now fired three of its principal executives (whom he previously hired) and has now brought in Guido Bertolaso, the ex-head of Italy's civil defense, as a consultant. Talk about mayhem.

On March 25th and 26th, Mario Draghi attended his first Council of Europe meeting as Italy's prime minister. U.S. President Joe Biden was also there in a video conference with the other 27 heads of European countries to work towards a global solution to the Covid crisis.

Here, in Tuscany, from the beginning of March, local doctors are now able to administer the vaccine. Pharmacists may soon be able to do so because the government aims to boost vaccinations to 500,000 per day throughout the peninsula.

In Florence, March 25th was the beginning of the New Year from the time of the city's Republic. As such, it is still celebrated on that day with special ceremonies in the cathedrals of Florence, Pisa, and Siena because it celebrates the Annunciation. This year, it coincided with the annual DanteDi (Dante Day); for the 700th anniversary of the date on which the Supreme Poet began writing his masterpiece. To mark the occasion, the City of Florence and the Uffizi Galleries had a giant fir tree sculpture by the Piedmontese artist, Giuseppe Penone installed in piazza della Signoria. The restored (and still empty) cenotaph dedicated to Dante was also unveiled in the Basilica of Santa Croce.

A black-and-white, photographic, 28 meters high by 33 meters wide installation, the work of the French contemporary artist JR, now decorates the Renaissance facade of the Palazzo Strozzi Museum. It gives the illusion of being inside some of the spaces such as the library in the Palazzo. Its idea is to make the viewer reflect on the accessibility to cultural centers during the pandemic and it is of strong impact. The title is " Ferita" (Wound).

At home, I am still waiting for vaccination because the over 80's age group and those with pathologies are currently being vaccinated. But, its annoying, having to wait as new categories are continually being added to the list of those who have now become eligible to get vaccinated despite their age or physical condition. These comprise teachers, prison guards, judges, court officials and others. Frustration is the only word for it.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro is a writer and translator for PRIMO. Pictured is the new artwork, titled “Ferita” by the French artist JR; a frontal view of Basilica di Santo Spirito in Florence and the National Library of Florence.

 

 

CANALE DI MONTERANO
Italy’s Ghost Town
History, nature and mystery come together in the Lazio region
North of Rome is Canale di Monterano; hidden in a vast natural reserve, but if you manage to find it, you will definitely have something to write home about. PRIMO Magazine went for a visit.

Text and photos: Jesper Storgaard Jensen

 

 

The narrow road that leads from the small village of Monterano towards Canale di Monterano is quite bumpy. At times, you are thrown from one side of your car to the other. Here and there you’ll see signs announcing that you are now approaching Canale di Monterano, and eventually you’ll reach the parking lot. This is where your real journey will begin – a journey which will be a mixture of loneliness, fantasy, history and mystery. No wonder this place is called “Lazio’s fascinating ghost town.”

You are only some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Rome. Yet, this limited distance is enough to project you into what seems to be a distant era. In fact, as you walk along a narrow sandy road, the first historic testimony that pops up is an aqueduct from the 15th century. It’s hiding in the green vegetation; as though nature was trying to cover the remaining traces of history. Most of these trees are holm oaks, hornbeams and elderberries.

The history of Monterano goes way back to the Etruscans, and even to the bronze age, with antique objects found here from that era. The Etruscan name for this area was Manthuris, taken from Latin Mantus (who was the god of the beyond world), which later became Manurianum and finally Monterano. The name “canale” (channel) derives from a small river, the Lenta, which divided the area into two parts.

Here, you’ll find yourself 378 meters (1,248 feet) above sea level. If you let your eyes take a panoramic tour you’ll be overwhelmed by all the green of this natural reserve called Riserva Naturale di Monterano, which covers an area of about 1,085 hectares (2,681 acres).

Rise and fall
From the 4th century, the Romans had full control of the area due to the fact that the Via Clodia road was running from Rome to Saturnia, just three kilometers (1.9 miles) from Monterano. For that reason, Monterano became the center of the so-called Forum Clodii, a Roman prefecture that had a central role for the inhabitants in the area.

Foreign enemies from northern Europe tried several times to conquer the area. This made many of the inhabitants leave and move to, what later became, the modern town of Monterano, where they built new defense walls.

In 1300, old Monterano repopulated to achieve its maximum splendor. It was in this period that the majestic aqueduct was built. This blooming development was due to Emilio Bonaventura Altieri, who, in 1670, was elected Pope, at the age of 80, under the name of Pope Clement X.

Pope Clement X did not have any male heirs, so a male member of the important noble family Paluzzi Albertoni was “appointed” to take the Altieri surname of the Altieri. In this way Paluzzi Albertoni became Gaspare Paluzzi Albertoni with the title as Duke of Monterano. And under his guidance many new projects saw the light of day.

Duke Gaspare commissioned the famous sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who built several famous fountains in the center of Rome, to oversee several ambitious works in the Monterano area. Bernini built the Church and the cloister of San Bonaventura and the facade of the ducal palace with the splendid lion fountain, which has become one of the artistic symbols of Canale di Monterano. Frequently you’ll see people gather beneath it and point upwards.

Later on, when Pope Clement X died in 1676, Canale di Monterano went under the rule of the Papal States of the Roman Republic. By the late 18th century – the Altieri-family lost interest in the Monterano area. That was when the decline started. A malaria outbreak forced many of the inhabitants to flee the village. Later on, according to history books, a disagreement between Monterano and the nearby village, Tolfa, about the usage of wheat, was used by local French troops to attack and plunder Monterano. That was the coup de grace. The French burnt down many buildings, which explains the state of the abandoned ghost town as you see it today. The last to stay behind were two priests from the San Bonaventura convent.

Sun burned and wind swept
You actually approach Canale di Monterano with a feeling of awe. History lingers in the air as the whole area is embraced in a somewhat mysterious atmosphere of loneliness and abandonment.

San Bonaventura church, which was erected between 1677 and 1679, due to a commission of the Altieri-family, is today a ruin. Look around, tread carefully, see the clouds floating by as you gaze through the hole in the church’s rooftop. Don’t touch the walls, as they might fall down. Close your eyes and concentrate on the feeling of history that surrounds you.

There have been some discussions about the octagonal fountain in front of the church. Someone claims it is attributable to Gian Lorenzo Bernini, but there seems to be some doubt about the historic foundation of this claim.

Not far from there, on a small hilltop, you’ll reach the former Fortezza Monteranese – a defense fortress – transformed into the duke’s palace. On one of its walls, on the Piazza Lunga, you’ll spot the famous Fontana del Leone, the Lion Fountain, built by Bernini. Without any doubt this whole area is a small jewel of history and architecture. The local authorities have left this area to its own destiny. The wooden signs leading visitors towards the antique constructions are falling apart. The whole area is embraced by eternal decay: Burnt by the sun in summer and windswept in winter. Day after day. Year after year.

Backdrop for many films
When you visit the area you’ll surely notice a striking atmosphere of something slightly mysterious. This, of course, has been noticed by many, also from the film world. In fact, over time, some 20 different film productions have partly or fully been shot among the old ruins. Some of these are “Guardie e ladri” (Guards and thieves) from 1951, by Mario Monicelli. Ben-Hur from 1959 by William Wyler. The famous Italian movie “Il Marchese del Grillo”, from 1981, by Mario Monicelli, but also several modern Italian films such as “Puoi baciare lo sposo” (You may kiss the groom) by Alessandro Genovesi, from 2018 and the Netflix series “Luna near” (Black moon) from 2020.

A yearly attraction to take place in August in the modern part of Monterano is the Palio delle Contrade, a horserace, like the one in Siena, just in a much smaller format. Here, young competitors from six different neighborhoods will compete running along the streets of the modern part of Monterano to conquer the Gonfalone, a prestigious banner showing the town’s coat of arms. This event is a great attraction among the locals and should definitely be seen if you happen to be in the area on the date it takes place.

 

 

OUT OF AFRICA
Photojournalist Damiano Rossi Made a Quick Escape from the Dark Continent
- The Sweet Science of Uganda as Captured on Film

Italy is inherently tied to Africa. From Trapani to Tunis is just 160 miles; less than the span from New York to Baltimore.

It’s a reversal of migration. While hundreds of thousands of Africans made their way across the Mediterranean Sea to Agrigento and the hopeful claim of refugee status on the Italian mainland, Damiano Rossi settled inside the center of the Dark Continent.

As Mexico is to the United States, so Africa is to Europe; a land poorer yet wilder, a captivating mix of people of different cultures and customs. The land offers a canvas of opportunities for a photojournalist such as Rossi. The chaos of living as steeped in poverty, violence and political intrigue is captured in his many incredible photographs. Originally from Brescia, the 34-year-old photographer kept busy recording the daily lives of Africans. His new book “Via dall’Africa: Confessioni di un fotoreporter,” conveys his personal adventure in the cities, jungles and plains of Central Africa.

Rossi utilized his love for boxing to convey an anthology of unique photographs. With camera in hand, he captured the goings on of the Kampala Boxing Club in Uganda. The Sweet Science is forever a global sport. Contenders fight their way to the top from all over the world. John Mugabi comes to mind as one of the best from Uganda; a WBC super-welterweight champion from 1989 and 1990, he is, perhaps, most famous for his grueling match against the late great Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Rossi shows us the determined young fighters inside the dusty gym of Kampala. They work on heavy bags made of rubber tires and spar inside ruddy boxing rings with only a wooden floor to greet their fall.

The book’s title, “Via dall’Africa,” is translated in English to mean “Leaving Africa.” Rossi did just that. He had to make a quick exit when he was too eager to record the injustices of the continent. Powerful forces wanted him out. He shares with readers his incredible photographic odyssey inside Africa.

Editor’s Note: “Via dall’Africa” is in Italian and can be purchased by M n M Edizioni at http://www.mnmprintedizioni.com/1/shop_3914045.html. Above are photographs by Rossi during his time in Africa.

 

 

CATHOLIC MARTYRS
The Vatican Announces The Names of Those Killed in Service to the Faith
- Twenty in 2020
- Two were Italian

By Rami Chiaviello

Roman Catholics around the world were reminded of the inherent danger to priests, deacons and church laity on the March 24th Feast Day of Saint Oscar Romero.

To mark the passing of Saint Romero, martyred in 1980, the Vatican announced the names of 20 individuals who were murdered while in their service to God in 2020. From South Africa to Venezuela, they are to be remembered for their valiant sacrifice in spreading the faith. 

A model for contemporary martyrdom remains Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, who, in 1980, was assassinated while saying Mass at a chapel outside the Hospital de la Divina Providencia in San Salvador. Romero was known for his outspoken activism against violent right-wing, left-wing and corrupt, entrenched government forces in El Salvador. His support for human rights in Central America won him international acclaim. In 1993, the Vatican declared the anniversary of his death a Day of Prayer and Fasting in Memory of Missionary Martyrs. 

Two Italian priests are among last year’s list of martyrs.

Father Roberto Malgesini and Father Leonardo Grasso were both murdered in Italy. Their deaths reflect a growing trend of anti-Catholic violence throughout the world. 

Father Malgesini, 51, served in the archdiocese of Como. He was known for his work among Italy’s homeless and migrant residents. On September 15th, Malgesini was scheduled to attend a breakfast event for the homeless, but was found stabbed to death inside his rectory at Lake Como. Within days, the Italian carabinieri arrested a suspect, a 53-year-old Tunisian migrant with a history of mental illness who had been counseled by Father Malgesini. 

Father Grasso, 78, served the Italian province of Catania as the director of a drug rehabilitation center in Riposto. Grasso spoke about his days prior to becoming a priest in a television interview he did in 2014. He admitted to being a bon vivant and ladies man while selling real-estate in Italy. At the age of 50 and after the tragic death of his parents, he entered the priesthood to eventually serve in the Order of Ministers of the Infirm. Police claim Father Grasso was killed prior to a fire that destroyed his facility on December 4th. Investigators arrested a guest at the facility whom they claim set the blaze for purposes of covering up the murder.

Both priests served the call of Christ with great humility and selflessness. They were remembered by their colleagues as hardworking, passionate and empathetic members of the Roman Catholic Church. Theirs and the deaths of other missionaries were addressed by Pope Francis as selfless acts of martyrdom. He called upon all to pray for those “who work with people in need and rejected by society.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured is Father Malgesini saying Mass and Father Grasso beside a shrine to the Madonna. You can learn more about today’s Catholic missionaries by logging on to http://www.fides.org/en

 

 

 

ITALIAN AMERICANS UNITE TO DEFEND COLUMBUS
VICTORY IN CONNECTICUT
Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations Convene to Save Columbus’ Legacy in the United States
- Connecticut Opts to Keep Columbus Day

By Robert Petrone, Esq.

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (CoPoMIAO) received some good news at their meeting of subcommittee chairpersons on Saturday morning, March 21, 2021: Frank Lorenzo of Connecticut announced that Connecticut Bill #6652 to eliminate Christopher Columbus Day in Connecticut died in committee. Thus, the defenders of Christopher Columbus' legacy have won their first victory in a battle for Western culture, marking an important turning point in this battle of the culture war. 

Mr. Lorenzo noted that the efforts of the now-unified Italian American organizations across the United States played a major role in this defeat of the bill. Judge Basil Russo, President of the CoPoMIAO, noted that these results have come after only a single month of unification of Italian American organizations to demonstrate what this alliance can accomplish.

The meeting, moderated by Judge Russo and Robert Ferrito, president of the Commission for Social Justice at the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, hosted 50 representatives from 50 Italian American organizations from across the nation. Rafael Ortiz, learned Taino-American author who has written three books on Christopher Columbus, attended the meeting. International Christopher Columbus activist Angelo Sinisi of Italy, moderator of the "Hands off Christopher Columbus" Facebook group, which includes as active subscribers prominent politicians from Italy, informed that some of Italy's politicians have pledged their help to fight to preserve Christopher Columbus's legacy in the United States. The Speaker of the House of Liguria offered his assistance. The mayor of Genoa wrote a letter to the mayor of Columbus, Ohio (to which the Columbus, Ohio mayor did not respond) exhorting him to send the torn-down statue of Christopher Columbus to Genoa, if Ohio did not want it, so that it could be erected with honor in Genoa's main square.

Saturday's meeting mainly served to identify and introduce to each other the chairs and co-chairs of the six subcommittees established at the first, historic, CoPoMIAO meeting in March:

1. Subcommittee to Save Columbus Day as a National Holiday: Robert Petrone and William Cerutti
2. Subcommittee to Save Columbus Day and Statues at the State, Local and School-Board Level: Angelo Vivolo and John Fratta
3. Subcommittee to Design a "Celebrate Columbus" Brochure: Dr. Dona De Sanctis
4. Subcommittee to Distribute the Knights of Columbus's "About Christopher Columbus" Documentary (https://www.kofc.org/en/news-room/columbus/index.html):  Charles Marsala
5. Subcommittee to Retrieve & Display Confiscated Columbus Statues: Angelo Vivolo and John Fratta (this subcommittee was folded into the second subcommittee)
6. Subcommittee to Coordinate Efforts of Italian Anti-Defamation Groups: Andre DiMino

Judge Russo and Mr. Ferrito charged the subcommittee chairpersons with convening a meeting of their subcommittees within the next two weeks to formulate ideas, plans and agenda to be discussed at the next Conference of Presidents, tentatively scheduled for April.  

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus, Ohio, that was removed by order of the city on July 1, 2020. Hands Off Christopher Columbus Facebook page is accessed at https://www.facebook.com/groups/314042049720599

 

 

PRIMO Review
ITALIAN AMERICANS SHINE IN “ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE”
- Today’s Vision Was Conceived by Camine Infantino in the Silver Age of Comics
- Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke
- Chris Terrio pens the screenplay

By Rami Chiaviello







Now showing on HBO Max, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a once-in-a-generation film to be noted as perhaps the greatest comeback in cinematic history. It’s a film that will be remembered, not only for its quality, but, for the story behind its rise, fall and redemption.

Central to the film is Batman and Superman, key heroes in the comic book universe. They and others were given a serious renovation in the 1950s by Carmine Infantino. What we see today is based primarily on the the Silver Age of comics as pioneered by him and others, most notably Julius Schwartz. A comic book artist from New York, Infantino focused his talents to convey a darker, grittier tone for Batman with new color schemes and sketch work. He is given worthy tribute in the film’s end credits.

“Justice League” was a renaming of the “Justice Society of America” by DC Comics in 1960. Heroes came together to fight villains when artists were recruited to redraw and colorize the comic such as Joe Giella and Frank Giacoia.

The recent film version of “Justice League” had its creative start when Zack Snyder was hired by Warner Bros to direct “Man of Steel.” A Superman film released in 2013 was to the new seed planted by DC Comics to rival Marvel and its reign as box office king.

“Man of Steel” outperformed expectations and Warner Bros. tasked Snyder to write and develop the film’s sequel, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Superman appeared opposite Batman (played by Ben Affleck) Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) and Lex Luthor (played by Jesse Eisenberg) to kick-off an array of films to compete with Marvel.

“Batman v Superman” did not do as well as Warner Bros. had hoped. Released in 2016, the film was criticized for its bloated plot, poor structure and dark tone. Although not a flop, it underperformed for Warner Bros at near $850 million but much less than the $1 billion expected.  

Snyder and company planned a trilogy of Justice League films beginning with “Batman v Superman.” The introduction of legacy characters such as Cyborg, The Flash, Aquaman and Green Lantern contrasted with the villainous forces of Apokalips. Fans were most excited to see a continuation of the “Knightmare Sequence.” Bruce Wayne’s vision of the world dominated by Superman and the forces of Darkseid will lead Batman and other DC characters towards a desolate future. This sequence was one of many to entice fans for Justice League films yet to come.

Warner Bros., regrettably, had no faith in Zack Snyder after “Batman v Superman.” The studio began to reign in the director. “Justice League” was written by Chris Terrio, a screenplay author who won an Oscar for his work in the 2012 film “Argo.” Executives were present on set to order script rewrites. A clash between artist and committee resulted in Snyder leaving the project after suffering a terrible tragedy when his daughter died in early 2017. Warner Bros. hired “Avengers” director Joss Whedon to reshoot and reassemble the film. Meanwhile, deleted scenes of Snyder’s initial cut began to show up online. The film to be released, however, was not at all what fans were promised.

In November of 2017, “Justice League” premiered as a critical and commercial failure. It remains one of the worst comic book films ever made. The film was a tonal mess, filled with awful dialogue, awful color grading, awful visual effects; jarringly obvious rewrites and reshoots. The film jumped from scenes by Zack Snyder to those by Joss Whedon. Near the beginning, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) recruits Barry Allen (The Flash, played by Ezra Miller). The scene, as directed by Snyder, contains the Flash in full action after an intriguing back and forth sequence between he and Bruce Wayne. Then the scene devolves, as directed by Whedon, into an awful monologue by The Flash who proclaims his hatred for brunch. Yes, brunch. A gag that regrettably comes back as the film's post-credit scene. 

Fans, such as myself, left the theater, baffled. How could a man with such unique visual style give us characters and dialogue this pathetic? Soon, speculation arose all over the internet as to Snyder’s original vision. The campaign - #ReleaseTheSnyderCut - took off after the director confirmed he possessed a cut of the film, true to his original vision. For three years, the social media campaign grew. A petition with over 180,000 signatures demanded Warner Bros. release Snyder’s version. Banners were flown over the Warner Bros. lot and San Diego Comic Con. Fans pooled together to purchase a billboard in Times Square, demanding the release of the original cut. Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Mamoa (who plays Aquaman), Ray Fisher (who plays Cyborg) and Ezra Miller gave their support for releasing the Snyder version. This eventually got the attention of Warner Bros., and, in 2020, it was announced that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” was to be shown on HBO Max on March 18, 2021.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is in no way just a simple “director’s cut”; but rather, it’s a restoration of a unique vision tainted by so many people. At a whopping four hour run-time, the film contains nearly two hours of unseen footage, restored color grading and sound design; a new original score from Junkie XL and a complete expulsion of all reshoots and rewrites by Joss Whedon. The film is incredible! It’s an ambitious and creative work to far exceed the 2017 film. The returning characters (Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman) get plenty more to do and the new characters (Cyborg, Flash and Acquaman) get well-needed character motivation and development.

Many heroes and villains were added to tease the audience. Joe Manganiello makes a brief but intriguing appearance as the villain Deathstroke. His is one of the more memorable characters in the Batman franchise. Deathstroke first appeared in 1980 as an elite military commando turned mercenary. He attained superhuman powers after a secret government agency gave him a drug to expand his physical and mental capacity. He is, no doubt, a character, as perfectly portrayed by Manganiello, most worthy of a future feature film.

“Zach Snyder’s Justice League” benefits from a better narrative for scenes and characters to breathe more drama and tension into the story. The film contains a sustained and cohesive style, a temporal tone and scope, something severely missing in the 2017 version.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is vindication for a director embattled with personal and professional tragedy. It’s a masterclass of faith in bold and creative filmmaking to be eventually rewarded. Fans are to be commended for three years fighting for this film to see the light of day. I have every intention of re-watching “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” many times in the coming months and I recommend this film to all, comic book fans or not.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the poster for “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke, a villain in the film, Carmine Infantino, who pioneered the Silver Age of Comics and Chris Terrio, screenwriter of the film.

 

 

 

Covid Chronicles
CORONAVIRUS WORSENS IN ITALY
Regions’ Red Zones Increase
- Another National Lockdown May Come Again In Italy
- Vaccine Difficulties

By Deirdre Pirro

Here in Italy, we have come to the end of Week 31 with Italy topping 100,000 deaths from Covid and infections are increasing. Several regions have returned to the Red (high Covid risk) zones such as Campania, Molise and Basilicata while Lombardia and Piemonte are now in a new category called “Reinforced” Orange (medium Covid risk but worsening) zones. Sardegna is the only White Region that is exempt from most of the restrictions in other zones, including the 10 p.m. curfew and 6 p.m. closing time for bars and restaurants. As the situation is progressively worsening, experts are calling for another lockdown, perhaps beginning as early as next week and for three or four weeks. Heavier restrictions are set for Easter. Italy will be declared a Red zone from April 3rd to 5th.

On March 10, 2021, the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, aged 79, was vaccinated against the coronavirus at Rome's Istituto Spallanzani. He is to be respected because, despite his role, he had rigorously awaited his turn, not like many others who, it seems, are finding ways of jumping the queue.

Draghi's presence is slowly but surely being felt. We now have a new commissioner for the Covid Emergency, replacing Domenico Acuri who had been burdened with too many tasks and had made some very costly mistakes. His replacement is an Italian army general Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, an “Alpino,” with wide experience in logistics. He is currently working on stepping up the vaccination program.

On March 4th, Nicola Zingaretti resigned as leader of the Partito Democratico, explaining that there were too many divisions within the party and that many of its parliamentarians only seemed concerned about which of them were to secure seats as under secretaries. He indicated his decision was irrevocable. He remains as governor of Lazio. One of the founders of the 5 Star Movement, the comedian, Beppe Grillo, announced he would be willing to join the party and lead it out of its problems; although this was treated as a provocation by many of the newspapers. The former prime minister Enrico Letta was approached for the job and, on 12th March, after consideration, he accepted.

A group of young supporters of the Partito Democratico, known as the “Sardines,” set up tents outside the party's headquarters where they are holding a peaceful occupation. They want their opinions to be taken into consideration and they are also calling for the restructuring of the party's decision-making processes.

Talks are underway between the 5 Star Movement and Giuseppe Conte to make the ex-prime minister leader of the party. He is preparing a new plan for the Movement's future until 2050.

The third preliminary hearing in Catania has been heard in the Gregoretti case against Matteo Salvini, minister of the interior in the Conte I government. In the summer of 2019, the coast guard ship had been left for several days at sea off the coast of Sicily before 131 illegal immigrants were saved and allowed to disembark. As a result, Salvini, who was then minister for the Interior, risks being tried for abuse of office and kidnapping. Luciana Lamorgese, who took Salvini's post in the Conte II government, gave evidence to confirm that the principal priority was to get a commitment from the European Union to redistribute migrants among the member states. The hearings are continuing but, if Salvini is committed to trial, he could risk 15 years in jail. Hard to fathom when, as he says, he was just doing his job in accord with his then-government allies.

Here, in Tuscany, certain towns are in the Red zone like Pistoia, Cecina, Viareggio, Prato and Arezzo. Meanwhile, Florence is still Orange but local regulations have been put into place to stop the sale of alcohol between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. or its consumption in public places on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It is also prohibited to assemble in some of the most popular squares where, in the past, young people gathered to drink and talk, often without masks, thereby augmenting the risk of contagion.

At home, because our son Piero, a psychologist, is classified as a health worker, he has been given the two Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine shots. Although his father, Pietro, was called to have his, because he is in the over 80 bracket, he was hoping the doctor would vaccinate him at home. This proved to be impossible. Due to a back injury, he couldn't go down the stairs in our building for his appointment. Nor could the doctor come here because the Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at a low temperature and administered immediately. This means he will have to wait for a mono-dose vaccine, probably Moderna. My vaccination age group may not be reached until June which is far from heartening news. Hopefully, things are moving much faster in America.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro is PRIMO’s official Italian translator. She writes for the magazine also and lives in Florence.

 

 

 

 

SUPER-MARIO
Mario Draghi Becomes Italy’s New Prime Minister
- Appointed by the President and Approved by the Parliament
- Not elected by the people
Draghi definitely has an enviable reputation – both in Italy as well as abroad - which means, that right now he is actually able to put the phrase "Italy's most popular man" on his business card.

By Jesper Storgaard Jensen

 

Say the name Mario Draghi to 10 different Italians on the street, and the majority of them will roll their eyes and make a movement with their hand as a sign of recognition.

Draghi definitely has an enviable reputation – both in Italy as well as abroad - which means, that right now he is actually able to put the phrase "Italy's most popular man" on his business card. Lately everyone - politicians, journalists, newspapers, people from TV, the man on the street, my local newsstand owner and many, many more - has stepped on each other's toes to praise someone who almost from one day to the next has become the absolute protagonist on Italy's political scene. Or to paraphrase a Facebook post written by writer Christian Raimo: "Now we only need the support of Tuscany's United Girl Scouts, and all the major groups in society will have expressed their support for Mario Draghi.”

The government crisis, that has now placed Draghi in Italy's most important political chair, began shortly before Christmas, when then-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced his intention to have a so-called expert group administer and distribute the huge sums which will allegedly float to Italy from the EU support fund later in year. The amount of 209 billion euro - where the 81 billion euro is not to be repaid to the EU - is the largest amount of aid any European country will be awarded in connection with the pandemic.

This decision did not please Matteo Renzi, leader of the small center party Italia Viva. He felt that Conte had gathered too much power around his own persona. Renzi subsequently withdrew Italia Viva’s support to the government. Thus, the Conte government became a minority in the Senate the prime minister was forced to resign, and the government crisis was a reality.

About 10 days later, Draghi entered the scene. That was the moment when the Italian newspapers and magazines stepped into a certain Draghi-worthship-mood. Rarely have so many acclaimed portrait articles been published in such a short time.

But who is really Mario Draghi?

He was born in 1947 into a wealthy Roman family. At the age of 15, he lost both his parents at short intervals, and he is quoted saying: "As a young man I let my hair grow, but not too much, since I had no one to rebel against".

In Rome, he attended a special high school for Jesuits, reportedly one of the best in the city. A number of his fellow students from the same high school today hold high positions in Italian society. Today, everyone says that Draghi was the best in the class. A mathematical genius. Later, he graduated in economics at Rome's La Sapienza-University. Subsequently, he went to the United States to take a Master's degree in economics at MIT, one of the most prestigious in the world.

The Savior has come

Draghi began his career as a senior official. He is part of the ministry team that draws up the economic strategies that have since contributed to Italy joining the Euro-system, despite the fact that the country, at that time, had a government debt that went far beyond the 60 percent limit, the maximum level as stated in the Maastricht Treaty.

While the ordinary Italian and the Italian press can hardly get their arms down - almost as if it were il salvatore in persona, the Savior Himself, who had found his way down to the Italian part of Mother Earth - the same jubilant optimism cannot be traced to the foreign media, which has a habit of distancing themselves from the Italy's own – often quite emotional – press. Shortly after it became clear that Draghi would gain access to Italy's softest political armchair, the prestigious Italian weekly magazine Internazionale brought several critical comments, published by various European media, about Draghi's persona and past occupations. Especially, as vice president of the private U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs. American journalist Matt Taibbi described Draghi as "a giant vampire squid wrapping its arms around humanity's face to relentlessly place its bloody funnel where money can be sucked" - allegedly, according to the Spanish daily El Pais, "should have helped Greece falsify its accounts with the EU". El Pais further writes that "Draghi has never really stated what he was doing during that period at Goldman Sachs.” Translated, the question is: was Draghi involved or was he aware of the accounting fraud that Greece, with the assistance of Goldman Sachs, had put into practice? The newspaper further writes that Draghi later, during Greece's economic crisis, pressed the country, in such a hard way, that it faltered on the brink of state bankruptcy. Yanis Varoufakis, the then Greek finance minister, has described Draghi as "a tragic despot.”

It was also Varoufakis who recently commented on Draghi to the English newspaper Daily Express: "Mario Draghi is the perfect Italian Prime Minister if Italy who intends to pursue a policy that will please Brussels and Berlin, and if one wants to pretend that the great financial support from the EU will actually save Italy. In fact, in the past we have seen that the countries that receive this financial support usually end up being even more indebted than they were before.”

The German Die Tageszeitung also expresses pessimistic tones: "Draghi has given the Lega (far right wing in Italy which is now part of the Draghi government, ed.) the opportunity to change its image in Europe and thus get out of the corner of shame where the party has been so far.” Well, it's actually hard not to agree with the newspaper.

The Argentine daily La Nacion states, in a rather concise manner, that "Draghi is just another technocrat who has been appointed prime minister of Italy.” Here, too, one cannot disagree with the newspaper. Draghi's appointment underlines, once again, the deep crisis of Italy's political system: Every time the glowing political chestnuts have to be ripped out of the fire, politicians must take a step back to make room for a well-known and esteemed technocrat. We have seen this several times in the past and now we see it again.

What ever it takes

After Draghi’s time at Goldman Sachs, he then returned to Italy’s public sector once again, this time to become Governor of Italy’s National Bank. Later, in the period from 2011 until 2019, he contested the prestigious position of head of the European Central Bank. It was with this title - during an economic conference in 2012 in London - that he pronounced the famous words "whatever it takes", to emphasize that he, as head of the European Central Bank, would do "everything in his power" to shield the euro from the speculation that took place on the financial markets during that period. Just a shame that the other half of Draghi's legendary phrase - "... and believe me, that will be enough" - has been somewhat forgotten. For it actually turned out that "what ever it takes" was performed with such strength and pathos, and that it was apparently such an understated institutional demonstration of power, that no one would doubt that Draghi was deadly serious. He emerged as a man with a goal and with the means to achieve it. And so it was. The euro was saved, thanks to the support of Draghi and the ECB. Thus, Draghi was later nicknamed "the savior of the euro,” which he could add to his other two nicknames, "God's own banker" and the more popular "Super-Mario.”

"What ever it takes" has almost become a kind of mantra in Italy. You almost sense that, now in Italy, there is a nascent "what ever it takes-ism". It is so pervasive that you can even buy "Draghi T-shirts" on the social media with the caption "What ever it takes” written on them.

However, if you think that the story about Draghi is only about money and exchange rates on the financial markets that go up and down, then you are wrong. At least according to Draghi himself, who has repeatedly described himself as "a liberal socialist" - in other words, a person whose heart apparently beats both for the man in the street and for the financial markets.

Lately, the Italian press has written thoroughly about Mario Draghi. La Repubblica has even tracked down the local newsstand owner in the small Umbrian town, Città della Pieve, where Draghi usually lives with his wife. The owner of the newspaper kiosk said that, "Draghi gets seven newspapers every morning, five Italian plus the Financial Times and Die Zeit.” In addition, Draghi is an eager golfer and he is reportedly passionate about playing chess online.

Now Draghi has taken a seat on Italy’s highest political throne, thanks to unusual large parliamentary support. In fact, practically the entire parliament is backing him, with the exception of the right-wing party The Italian Brothers, which has described the new government as "an indecent scrape up.” Also the well-known journalist Andrea Scanzi is negative: “I wish Draghi all the best of luck with the his new government. But with a government where everyone is on board - all the old enemies who have been screaming at each other for years - there is only one way to describe that such a government: It is the biggest parliamentary scam Italy has seen in the past decades.”

Other observers, on the other hand, have pointed out that it is necessary to stand together across political ideas and ideologies, and despite old hostilities, when an external enemy - the coronavirus - threatens.

Well, truth be told, Draghi’s government seems actually rather motley. Party leaders who have been enemies for years now sit shoulder by shoulder. Berlusconi has also gained a place. It’s therefore obvious that Berlusconi's enemies mock Draghi and call the government the Berlusconi 5-government. Meanwhile, everyone is talking about money. Renzi says: “When we receive 209 billion. euros from the EU, it’s an advantage to have Draghi.” Salvini says: “When we have to distribute 209 billion. euros, it is better to sit at the table than to stand outside and look in through the window.” And there is a clear feeling that the majority of the parties, that have now taken a seat in Draghi's government, have thought about the well-known saying "follow the money", which is used when the police's economic department has to find the perpetrators behind an economic undead.

The birth of the new government has caused major problems in the Five star movement (M5S). The movement is in the middle of a huge identity crisis and is right now in a considerable slide - what in Italian is called "dale stele alle stalle", from the stars to the stables. Several members of the Five Star Movement voted against the Draghi government despite being part of it. Now, it’s only matter of time, before the movement breaks up into two halves. The M5S got 32 percent of the votes in the elections in March 2018. If there were elections tomorrow they would get just approximately 15 percent. They came to power by criticizing the old political class, those with too many privileges. But the Five Star Movement has now, for the past two years, embraced power in an almost psychotic way. Political issues and ideologies have been replaced by a kind of click-democracy that has been dictated by the gut feelings of social media. Opinions and political ideals have been exchanged with about the same frequency as Italian men change their socks, i.e. at least once a day. What is white on Monday quickly turns black on Tuesday, in the M5S. The Five Star Movement has betrayed its own "ideals" (if they ever had any), its own principles, and millions of voters no longer trust them. Over the years, the Five Star Movement has thundered "never in a government with Berlusconi", "never with Salvini again", "never with Renzi", and now the M5S is so comfortably placed with all these three controversial names in the new "colorful" Draghi government. When the historians of the future will one day write about Italy's political life during this period, their accounts of the Five Star Movement will certainly be read in the section entitled "Political Jokes and Laughs.” I would not be surprised if the Five Star Movement would no longer be on Italy's political map in some three-four years from now.

A hot spring

So what now? Draghi has invited almost everybody into his government, and only after a few days it seems that the price to be paid for such broad support could be pretty high. The right-wing parties Lega and Forza Italia have, from the very start, begun to complain about new possible closures. They advocate - of course - that society should be reopened as soon as possible, despite the fact that all figures now show that the more contagious English variant of the virus will account for at least half of all new cases of coronavirus-infection in Italy from the beginning of March.

In both chambers, Super-Mario has been received by standing ovations as he presented his government’s program. The upcoming months will present huge challenges. The government decree, adopted in 2020, which has made it illegal to dismiss people during the pandemic, expires on March 31. If not extended, it is predicted that hundreds of thousands of workers will soon lose their jobs. The newspaper Corriere della Sera reports that about 675,000 jobs have already been lost during the pandemic. In other words, the social catastrophe is lurking. Italy has not been in such a catastrophic economic situation since World War II. In 2020 the Italian national debt increased from 133% of GDP to 159%. The Italian vaccine campaign is moving rapidly on. The concept is: it cannot go fast enough. That, the vaccine campaign, will be another major challenge for Draghi's government.

There is no doubt: Draghi will soon be facing a very hot Italian spring.

Editor’s Note: Jesper Storgaard Jensen is a frequent writer for PRIMO Magazine. You can visit his web site at http://www.mysecretrome.eu/

 

 

Op-Ed
ITALIAN AMERICAN DISCRIMINATION AT CUNY
Brooklyn College Cancels Italian as an Academic Major
City University of New York (CUNY) Fails to Uphold Affirmative Action Hiring of Italian Americans for Faculty and Staff Positions, According to Study

By Prof. Santi Buscemi

In 2020, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (CUNY) removed the study of Italian from its list of academic majors. As expected, this was a terrible blow to students, faculty and the community surrounding the Flatbush campus. The fact that this occurred in a borough that has, for many decades, defined Italian America is quite troubling. But this is only one of many actions and inactions that have emphatically demonstrated discrimination against Italian Americans at CUNY.

The shoddy treatment of Italian Americans by CUNY has had a long history. In 1976, the university’s chancellor, Robert Kibbee, recognized the need to grant Italian Americans Affirmative Action status at CUNY. Ten years later, a new chancellor, Joseph Murphy, reaffirmed that status and directed the university’s Affirmative Action office to research and collect data to comply with the chancellor’s directives.

In 1979, the New York legislature created the John D. Calandra Institute (originally the Italian-American Institute to Foster Higher Education), named after State Senator John D. Calandra, who spearheaded an effort to address inequality in hiring and promotion of Italian Americans at CUNY. A major purpose of the institute is to advocate for Italian American participation throughout the CUNY workforce—administration, faculty and staff—vis-à-vis recruitment, hiring and promotion.

In 1990, Dr. Joseph Scelsa, on behalf of the Italian American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund (IALDHEF) and several other Italian American plaintiffs, filed a complaint with the United States Department of Labor over CUNY’s lack of commitment to fulfill the demands of the chancellors’ directives. Dr. Scelsa was then the Calandra Institute’s director. In 1992, CUNY informed him that he was demoted from his position and that the Institute was to be removed from its Manhattan location to the College of Staten Island. This was clearly an attempt to retaliate for his filing with the US Department of Labor. Interestingly, he was notified of CUNY’s plans only days before they were to take effect; so he immediately sued for a temporary injunction against the university. Judge Constance Baker Motley found in his favor and enjoined CUNY. It was clear that the university was upset with Dr. Scelsa for doing exactly what he had been hired to do. Motley made it clear that CUNY had “an obligation to increase the number of Italian-Americans employed in its workforce, an obligation it [had] failed to discharge.”

Some five decades later, Italian Americans are still woefully underrepresented among CUNY faculty, administrators and staff. For years, the IALDHEF has attempted to make CUNY more active in its recruitment and promotion of Italian Americans; but our efforts were greeted with silence and disdain. The removal of Italian as an academic major at Brooklyn College and its effect on several of its excellent faculty members, its students and community has provided new impetus for the IALDHEF’s mission.

Several studies undertaken by Italian American researchers show CUNY’s lack of effort and interest to recruit, hire and promote Italian Americans. In “Italian-Americans and Discrimination in Higher Education Today,” a paper delivered at St. John’s University in 2013, Dr. Vincenzo Milione, Itala Pellizzoli and Carmine Pizzirusso of the Calandra Institute concluded the following.

• In the last 40 years, the number of qualified Italian American applicants for professional and non-professional positions at CUNY has doubled, while the number of Italian Americans in the CUNY work force has barely budged. In some cases, it has declined.
• “The Italian-American labor pool for higher education positions has approximately doubled…,” but CUNY has done little to recruit, hire, and promote qualified Italian Americans. Moreover, while “other Affirmative Action groups have doubled their participation, the Italian-American presence has remained basically unchanged.” Indeed, Italian Americans are the “most underutilized Affirmative Action group at CUNY for all positions….”
• “The higher Italian-American underutilization is due to lower proportions of Italian-American applicants, interviews, and offers than those afforded other Affirmative Action groups. This downward trend results in Italian-Americans having the lowest proportion of new hires compared to the other Affirmative Action groups relative to their workforce (3 percent).”
• There is a significantly large hiring pool of Italian Americans qualified for all types of employment at CUNY. Candidates include a very large number with master’s, doctoral and professional degrees.
• Italian Americans are significantly more represented at regional colleges in New York than we are at CUNY. This is applicable for all types of positions: faculty, administrative and staff. CUNY is a public university that must represent the diversity of the community and proportionality hire and offer academic positions to Italian American. Yet, when it came to a study of Italian American employment at universities in New York, CUNY ranked 16 out of 23.
• Affirmative Action is the civil rights process to address the under-representation of groups within institutions in the United States. In discussing these issues at length, however, the IALDHEF has learned that some CUNY administrators do not believe in Affirmative Action for Italian Americans, but that is irrelevant. Italian Americans do fit into that category. It’s the law, and it must be upheld. As Dr. Milione concluded, “The Italian-American community in academe in the New York metropolitan area remains ‘The Invisible Minority.’”

In December 2020, the IALDHEF wrote a letter to current CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos-Rodriguez asking for his “pledge to support the 44-year-old decision by Chancellor Kibbee to designate Italian-Americans as an Affirmative Action category.”

In support of the IALDHEF, Basil Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian-American Organizations, wrote to Chancellor Matos-Rodriguez expressing his concern. The Conference represents 50 of the largest and most influential Italian American organizations in our country. Mr. Russo informed Dr. Matos-Rodriguez of the Italian American community’s alarm over actions that have negatively impacted it, including the “cancellation of major and minor studies at Brooklyn College,” and he explained that the Conference of Presidents would join the IALDHEF “in pursuing all legal and political options available to our community to rectify this situation.”

To date, there has been no response from the chancellor or his administration.

Editor’s Note: Santi Buscemi is a professor of English at Middlesex County College and secretary of the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund. Pictured is Dr. Joseph Scelsa, president of the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund and the founder, president and director of the Italian American Museum. CUNY hosts a number of colleges and campuses throughout New York such as Brooklyn College and Hunter College.

 

 

 

A Legacy of Liberty and Exploration
COLUMBUS: A HERO
Columbus’ Fourth Journey Further Discovers New Land in Central and South America
The Spanish King and Queen Apologize for the Slander Directed at Him by the Hidalgo Conquistador
“Columbus condemned the Spanish slavers who subverted his own efforts to aid the tribal peoples of the Caribbean. He explained to the King that he gave passage to the islanders from Hispaniola to Castile ‘for the purpose of instructing them in our Faith, our customs, crafts and trades, after which [Columbus] intended to reclaim them and return them to their lands so they could instruct others.’”

Robert Petrone, Esq.

With great gratitude to the readers who have persisted throughout the long and complicated history of the settlement of the West Indies to this, the final installment of the 1492 Project, I commend you. You have done what the cultural majoritarians (such as the splenetic "Mr. Coarse" I mentioned in my first article) had hoped you would not: you have examined the content recounted in the primary sources in great detail; learned the intricate story of the West Indies; and seen the falsehood of the broad-brushed, bumper-sticker-ready, meme-driven, revisionist, conflated version of events pushed by the cultural majoritarians, Marxists, race-baiters, hate-mongers, and other detractors of the man who was, in fact, the first civil rights activist of the Americas, Christopher Columbus.

And the hate-mongering cultural majoritarians and their ilk have themselves noticed. You may have observed that since the publication of this serial exposé, the anti-Western polemicists have dialed back their vitriolic rhetoric. No longer have they been claiming that Columbus was an evildoer; rather, they have noticeably backpedalled, claiming merely that his statues and memorials should be razed because he is "a symbol of oppression." But now you, dear reader, know the truth.

You have seen -- and the cultural majoritarians can no longer deny -- that the primary sources unequivocally establish that Christopher Columbus succeeded in a nigh-impossible trans-Atlantic voyage that no one thought possible with nary a nautical instrument at his disposal; provided Jews with crew positions that allowed them to flee the Spanish Inquisition; brought to light to the rest of the world the existence of the Americas; established peaceful first contact with the islanders (both the friendly and otherwise); freed Taino slaves from cannibalistic Carib captors in the first Underground Railroad of the Americas; brought Christianity to the willing; created the first permanent European settlements in the Americas; forged lifelong friendships with Taino chieftains; protected the islanders from enslavement by the hidalgos (low, landed nobles) who wanted to enforce Spain's feudal encomienda system on them; defeated all the slander levied against him by the resentful hidalgos in a court of law; defeated multiple rebellions by the hidalgos using arbitration rather than armaments; brought a Pax Columbiana to the West Indies in which "things were calm, the land was rich and everyone lived in peace"; unseated the villainous Viceroy Bobadilla who unleashed a reign of terror on the West Indies; and successfully lobbied for the first civil rights legislation of the Americas ensuring that "all the Indians of Hispaniola were to be left free, not subject to servitude, unmolested and unharmed and allowed to live like free vassals under law just like any other vassal in the Kingdom of Castile."  And Admiral Columbus still had one voyage to the Indies left before his story ended.  That story is the subject of this article.

Although Christopher Columbus was no villain -- much less the racist, rapist, maimer, murderer and genocidal maniac that the anti-Western cultural majoritarians would like you to believe he is -- Viceroy Francisco de Bobadilla, knight of the Reconquista, was all of those things.  Fortunately, Christopher Columbus ensured that Bobadilla's reign of terror was short-lived. Unfortunately, once he secured Bobadilla's removal from office, Columbus no longer wished to return to the governorship over the "dissolute [hidalgos,] full of vice and malice," so the crown appointed Nicolás Ovando, another military knight, like Bobadilla, to replace Bobadilla (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Books I, II & III, passim; Digest of Columbus's Log Book and collective epistles of Christopher Columbus, passim; Hernando Colón, The Life of the Admiral, passim).  

Ovando was no better than Bobadilla. In many ways, he was even worse. This time, Christopher Columbus had ensured that legislation was in place to protect the Tainos and other tribal islanders from harm, but Ovando largely ignored the legislation, in defiance of both divine and Spanish law. While Christopher Columbus was far away in Castile, Ovando availed himself of the lack of supervision and accountability that Columbus's presence had always ensured. Like Bobadilla, Ovando took the opportunity to murder and enslave the tribal islanders, including their chieftains and their families, but to a greater degree and for a longer period of time than Bobadilla had (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Books II & III, passim; Digest of Columbus's Log Book and collective epistles of Christopher Columbus, passim; Hernando Colón, The Life of the Admiral, passim).

Columbus seethed in Spain over Ovando's misdeeds, not the least of which included ignoring of the civil rights legislation for which he had so persistently fought and the atrocities Ovando continued to inflict upon the tribes. Chomping at the proverbial bit to return to the West Indies, Admiral Columbus negotiated yet another contract with the Crown of Spain for his Fourth Voyage. In the wake of Christopher Columbus's hard-earned success in lobbying for the legislation protecting the tribal islanders, the Crown was well aware of his attachment to them, and his feelings about Ovando's oppressive reign.  Ovando, however, had at least satisfied the plaints of the recalcitrant hidalgos (by giving them free rein to exploit the islanders) and that was one headache of which the Crown was glad to relieve themselves (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Books II & III, passim; Digest of Columbus's Log Book and collective epistles of Christopher Columbus, passim; Letter of the Crown of Spain, dated March 14, 1502; Hernando Colón, The Life of the Admiral, passim).  

On March 14, 1502, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella personally wrote Christopher Columbus a letter of apology for the treatment he sustained at the hands of Bobadilla urged him to press on with another Caribbean expedition. They knew the idealistic Admiral Columbus once again would want to free any slaves he found in the Caribbean, as he did on his Second Voyage, and bring them back to Spain for Baptism (because Baptized people could not be enslaved in Catholic Europe), but they knew his doing so would stir up Ovando and the hidalgos again. They commanded Admiral Columbus to bring none of the hidalgos' slaves, or those of any Portuguese slavers, back to Spain for liberation. In fact, the Crown gave Columbus explicit instructions to avoid Ovando altogether -- not even to land on the island of Hispaniola, the seat of Ovando's court. Rather, they instructed the Admiral to sail in further exploration of the Caribbean only. The monarchs wanted no more trouble in the West Indies (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapter 4; Letter of the Crown of Spain, dated March 14, 1502; Hernando Colón, The Life of the Admiral, Chapter 87). 

But Christopher Columbus was destined to protect the tribes of the Caribbean, and a higher monarch saw to it that he had one last chance to manifest that destiny. Columbus set sail to the West Indies for the last time on March 14, 1502, with a flotilla of only four ships -- a drastic departure from the seventeen the Crown provided him on his Second Voyage -- crewed by a total of only 150 men, including his thirteen-year-old son Hernando (who would grow to be an historian and biographer), Christopher's brother Bartolomeo (who was resistant to taking the voyage) and the less-than-loyal Captain Francisco de Porras (as a favor to Porras's brother-in-law, Royal Treasurer Alonso de Morales).

Despite harsh vernal winds and storms in the Caribbean, Admiral Columbus explored extensively, begrudgingly obeying the Crown's mandate to stay away from Ovando's court in Hispaniola. He made first landfall in Cariay (now the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua). The islanders received him warmly, regaling him with stories of fields of gold in nearby in Veragua (now Veraguas, Paraguay), and escorting him to their chieftain. The chieftain, perhaps in an act genuinely-intended, if misplaced, generosity, perhaps with evil intent, sent to the Admiral's cabin "two magnificently attired girls, the elder of whom could not have been more than eleven [years old] and the other seven." They "had magic powders concealed about them" -- narcotics -- and attempted to drug and seduce the Admiral with behavior "so shameless that they might have been whores." Columbus was immediately horrified and sent them away. So as not to offend them -- as Columbus understood that the tribal islanders had vastly different mores than the Europeans, he "ordered that they should be given some of [the ship's] trinkets and send them back to land immediately” (Christopher Columbus's Letter to the Sovereigns of Spain, dated July 7, 1503).

Christopher Columbus was no debaucher. After his first wife, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, died giving birth to their first (and, for her, only) son Diego, the widowed Columbus began canvassing Europe, with his young son in tow, looking for a patron to fund his First Voyage, eventually winning over the Crown of Spain. In the nearly eight years he spent in that country pitching his expedition to the monarchs, he met a noblewoman of the Castilian Court, Beatriz Enríquez de Arana. Though he never married Beatriz -- she was a noble and he was not -- she did bear him a son, Hernando, who had accompanied the Admiral on the Fourth Voyage. Columbus, a devout Catholic, strove to practice -- and demanded his sailors strive to practice -- the three "counsels of perfection" of Christianity:  obedience, poverty and chastity (though the roughneck sailors were far less adherent than he).  He obeyed the moral code of the Bible, he sought not riches (in fact, he died devastatingly in debt to the Crown for failing to mine enough gold to slake the insatiable greed of the monarchs), and he remained faithful to the mother of his new child. While many Spanish settlers contracted syphilis (among many other diseases the Europeans had never encountered) from the islander women who, unfettered by European mores, willingly engaged in coitus indiscriminately, Columbus did not contract any sexually-transmitted diseases. This encounter in Cariay demonstrates why, and demonstrates his upstanding moral character.  

Admiral Columbus made the second landfall of his Fourth Voyage in Ciguare (now Guatemala), home of ancient Mayan cities. There, as always, he established peaceful first contact and trade with the tribal occupants (Christopher Columbus's Letter to the Sovereigns of Spain, dated July 7, 1503).

Admiral Columbus made his third landfall on the Epiphany, January 6, 1503, in Veragua (Veraguas, Panama). There, the Admiral encountered diverse tribes, two of which were tribes of cannibals who frequently attacked other tribes. As always, the Admiral established peaceful first contact with the quibian (chieftain) of one of these warlike tribes, though the quibian proved somewhat mercurial. The quibian's son acted belligerently and even threatened to kill the leader of the landing party, Captain Diego Mendez. Nevertheless, Mendez, a trusted emissary of the insightful Columbus, won over the young warrior, "and [they] ate and drank in love and camaraderie and remained friends" thereafter. Nevertheless, the quibian launched a "thousand warriors" unprovoked against the flotilla at the Yebra River (now the Belén River), as Captain Mendez described it, to "burn our ships and kill us all."  Admiral Columbus did not act rashly -- and never aggressively -- "but discussed with [Mendez] how [to] make certain of these people's intentions." The quibianmade them known:  in Columbus's absence -- the Admiral was always a pacifying influence -- the quibian sent four hundred warriors to attack the landing party unprovoked, and Mendez and his men fought defensively only, ending the conflict after only seven to ten fatalities on each side. Admiral Columbus "was quite delighted to hear" that the matter was resolved with such celerity and relatively little loss of life. Despite the unprovoked attack by the quibian, Admiral Columbus wrote a letter to the Crown in July of that year counseling the monarchs against the "seiz[ure]" or "plunder" of the Veraguan tribe that attacked him, but rather urged "fair dealings" with the Veraguans.  Once again, Christopher Columbus demonstrated his love of the tribal islanders, going as far as to turn the proverbial cheek to even their unprovoked hostilities (Id.; Testament of Diego Mendez, dated June 6, 1536).

Christopher Columbus's persistent tenderness and altruism toward even the most hostile of islander tribes stemmed not only from his unwavering devotion to the divine mandates of Catholicism. He also had a much more terrene motivation: he had hoped the Spanish settlements he established "would be an example to others" from Spain and other nations who might follow. He lamented that Bobadilla and Ovando had perverted his vision into such "a bad example, detrimental to both trade and justice in the world" (Christopher Columbus's Letter to the Sovereigns of Spain, dated July 7, 1503).
  
By April 1503, the ships of the flotilla were so worm-ridden and unseaworthy, Admiral Columbus had to retire two of them, halving his flotilla. By May, he had restrained himself enough, and finally set sail for Hispaniola to confront Viceroy Nicolás de Ovando in his own court.  Just as in the previous year, the springtime Caribbean tides again tossed his remaining ships for over a month, stripping them of rigging and framework and filling their holds with seawater. The Admiral decided on a desperate and dangerous tack that would require a great display seamanship, and he rose to the occasion:  with the tides and the winds against him, in late June of 1503, Admiral Columbus "safely grounded" the two ships on the nearest island, Jamaica. Once again, without exception, he established peaceful and friendly first contact with the islanders. Three tribes on that island fed and traded with his crew, though eventually the food ran short and the Admiral and his crew began to starve (Id., Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapters 30 ff.; Testament of Diego Mendez, dated June 6, 1536).  

To make matters worse, Columbus refused to let his sailors leave their ships for fear they would molest the women of the island. He kept personal watch over his men. Starving for food and fornication, the concupiscent Captain Francisco de Porras led not one but two mutinies, attempting to kidnap and enslave several islanders in the process. Admiral Columbus and those crewman still loyal to him -- including the valorous Captain Mendez -- defeated the mutineers, arrested them and put an end to their plot. Once again Christopher Columbus demonstrated his wise leadership at great cost and hardship to himself. Admiral Columbus later admitted "he had never expected to leave Jamaica alive." Once again, Christopher Columbus had suffered personally, to near death, to protect the islanders of the Caribbean (Letter of Christopher Columbus, July 7, 1503; Testament of Diego Mendez, dated June 6, 1536) (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapters 30 ff.; Testament of Diego Mendez, dated June 6, 1536).

Captain Mendez then volunteered to take a death-defying canoe journey to Hispaniola to inform Viceroy Ovando of the shipwreck of the flotilla in Jamaica. Mendez's adventures on this trip are worthy of their own chapter in this series, but beyond the scope of this one. Suffice it to say, that after great peril, including an unprovoked attack by tribal sea raiders and starvation from depletion of provisions, Captain Mendez ultimately arrived alive in Hispaniola and gained an audience with the Viceroy. Undoubtedly fearful that Admiral Columbus would unseat him for his treachery as the Admiral had done to former-Viceroy Bobadilla, Ovando let more than a year pass in delay, keeping the Admiral languishing and starving on Jamaica, plainly in the hopes he would perish there. While he waited, Admiral Columbus penned a letter to the Crown calling for them to "punish" Ovando for his many misdeeds, adding persuasively, "It would be a most virtuous deed and a famous example if you were to do this, and would leave to Spain a glorious memory of your Highnesses as grateful and just princes" (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapters 30 ff.; Letter of Christopher Columbus, July 7, 1503; Testament of Diego Mendez, dated June 6, 1536).

Though Viceroy Ovando "kept [Captain Mendez] with him for seven months" while he waged a murderous war against the tribes of Jaragua (the westernmost chiefdoms of Hispaniola), Mendez spread the word to the locals and the clergy of Admiral Columbus's plight. The priests exerted their spiritual influence to overcome the Viceroy's nefarious political machinations. Ovando "finally relented only because people were talking in Santo Domingo and missionaries there were beginning to reprehend in in their sermons" (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapter 36; Letter of Christopher Columbus, July 7, 1503; Testament of Diego Mendez, dated June 6, 1536).

Help finally arrived on June 27, 1504. Ships from Hispaniola shuttled Columbus, his crew and the arrested mutineers not to Santo Domingo, the seat of the Viceroy's court, but to "the small island we call Beata, not far from Hispaniola." The trip was perilous. "Unfavorable winds and currents made the navigation arduous." The murderous Ovando was not above selecting the least favorable time of year for sailing to reduce the chances that Admiral Columbus would arrive alive. But Ovando's constant skulduggeries were no match for Christopher Columbus. Once in Beata, Admiral Columbus waited for the strength of the currents to subside and personally sailed to Hispaniola against the mandate of the Crown and their Viceroy (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapter 36; Testament of Diego Mendez, dated June 6, 1536).  

Christopher Columbus confronted Nicolás Ovando in the Viceroy's own court with a long list of grievances, not the least of which involved Ovando's continued mistreatment of the tribal peoples in the face of the civil rights legislation for which Columbus had successfully petitioned the Crown.  Ovando put on a show of welcoming the Admiral with "a false smile and a pretense of friendship" but gave him no quarter. Ovando "released Porras," the mutineer and "tried to punish those who had been responsible for his imprisonment" -- to wit, Admiral Columbus and his still-loyal crewmen. Ovando and his hidalgo minions mocked Christopher Columbus behind his back, pretending not to understand his speech due to his Genoan accent. Columbus accomplished little in this, his last sojourn to Hispaniola, but headed back to Spain with a civil rights mission (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Chapter 36; Letter of Christopher Columbus, July 7, 1503; Testament of Diego Mendez, dated June 6, 1536).

Christopher Columbus was less than two years away from death when he departed Hispaniola for the last time on September 12, 1504. In his own words to the Crown, "I came to serve at the age of twenty-eight and today I have not a hair on my head that is not gray. My body is sick and wasted." He spent most of his last return voyage to Spain "confined to his bed by gout." However, even in his winter years, he proved himself an indomitable sailor. The ship hit "a most violent storm" a third of the way across the Atlantic, stripping its rigging and breaking the mast into four pieces. Despite the pain of his gout, he jerry-rigged a sail "with material from the forecastles undone for that purpose. Later, another storm broke the mizzenmast." In the words of historian and Protector of the Indians Bartolomé de las Casas, "indeed it seemed the Fates were against the Admiral, pursuing him relentlessly throughout his life with hardship and affliction. He navigated this way another 700 leagues until God willed he reach the port [of Spain] whence he went to Seville to rest a few days" (Letter of Christopher Columbus, July 7, 1503; Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Chapter 36).

In Seville, Admiral Columbus learned to his great grief that Queen Isabella, his most ardent supporter, had died that same month. As he had returned to his benefactors, she had returned to her Maker. The widowed King Ferdinand, always jealous of Columbus, paid little attention to the Genoan mariner thereafter. But Columbus spent the last two years of his life persistently reporting to the King in epistolary memoranda the many misdeeds of Ovando, including reports of the Viceroy's constant murder and other mistreatment of the tribal peoples of the Caribbean (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapter 37; Hernando Colon, The Life of the Admiral, Chapter 108).  

Columbus condemned the Spanish slavers who subverted his own efforts to aid the tribal peoples of the Caribbean. He explained to the King that he gave passage to the islanders from Hispaniola to Castile "for the purpose of instructing them in our Faith, our customs, crafts and trades, after which [Columbus] intended to reclaim them and return them to their lands so they could instruct others." He complained that the Spaniards, instead, "sold" the people into servitude. "[B]ut either [King Ferdinand] did not believe [Columbus] or had other important things to attend to; the fact is that he paid no attention" (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapters 37 ff.).

Though, to his dying day, Christopher Columbus hounded the King with these epistles, he did not live to see the eventual unseating of Ovando. De las Casas writes that "the Admiral's gout grew worse from the vigors of winter, aggravated by the mental state of desolation" at the insouciant King's disregard. Ferdinand's abdication of his throne to his son-in-law Philip I of Burgundy did little to sooth Columbus's soul; though King Philip proved less dismissive than his predecessor, Philip survived Columbus by only four months. De las Casas writes, "I believe that had the Admiral and King Philip lived longer, justice would have been done." Christopher Columbus made his final voyage in 1506, not to the Caribbean, but to his celestial resting place among the stars that had guided his navigation in life. De las Casas reported of the Admiral, "He devotedly received the holy sacraments, for he was a good Christian, and died in Valladolid, on the day of the Ascension, the twentieth of May, 1506, pronouncing his last words: 'Into Thy hands, oh God, I commend my soul,'" the final words, too, of the crucified Christ. Though King Philip gave Christopher Columbus a hero's burial in the Cathedral of Seville, de las Casas noted that the Admiral "died dispossessed of the status and fame he had won at the cost of incredible pain, dispossessed ignominiously and unjustly imprisoned without due process, judged by people seemingly acting as if they lacked reason, as if they were mad, stupid and absurd and worse than barbaric brutes" (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapter 38; Hernando Colon, The Life of the Admiral, Chapter 108). It seems, quite evidently, that history repeats itself today.

Yet terrestrial death did not terminate Christopher Columbus's civil activism. In his will, he bequeathed his estate to his sons and brothers on the stipulation "that his heir increase the value of his estate and use the income thereof to serve the King and for the propagation of the Christian religion, setting aside ten percent of it as charity for the poor" (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapter 38).

More importantly, Christopher Columbus's lifetime of civil rights activism inspired one young man, who grew up in the Spanish settlements of Hispaniola under Governor Columbus's benevolent administration and would later take the vows of a Dominican friar, assume the official mantle of "Protector of the Indians" conferred to him by the Church and Crown, and eventually pen the decades-long history of the settlement of the Caribbean in his three-volume Historia de las Indias: Friar Bartolomé de las Casas.  Pope Julius II sent Dominican friars to establish churches in the West Indies; they, like Columbus, spoke out against the encomienda system and the enslavement and oppression of the tribal peoples. Unlike Governor Columbus, however, who held and used his gubernatorial authority to protect the tribal peoples and restrain the conquistadors and settlers, the Dominican friars held no authority, save spiritual, over the settlers. The friars availed themselves of what influence they possessed by preaching sermons at Mass condemning the hidalgosfor oppressing and enslaving the tribal peoples (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book III, Chapters 1-4).

Friar Bartolomé de las Casas took his role as "Protector of the Indians" seriously.  Even as the conquistador Hernán Cortés began what de las Casas's Historiadescribed as a "violent" and "tyrannical" conquest of Mexico, the Friar followed in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus.  De las Casas persistently petitioned King Ferdinand to fund the creation of a religious brotherhood funded by the royal treasury to enforce the civil rights legislation for which Christopher Columbus had successfully lobbied. As the King had done with Columbus's petitions for the civil rights legislation, he granted de las Casas's petition as well (Id., Chapters 114, 130, 138 and 217).  

Friar Bartolomé de las Casas and his band of mendicant brothers traveled the settlements of the New World, ministering to the aggrieved tribal peoples, preaching sermons to the hidalgos of the evils of slavery, and enforcing the civil rights legislation Christopher Columbus had secured. As with Christopher Columbus, de las Casas's civil rights efforts earned him the enmity of the hidalgos. However, in time, de las Casas succeeded in putting an end to the enslavement of the tribal peoples of the New World (the Portuguese would not start the African slave trade until 1516), to Ovando's war against the tribes, and to the Viceroy's reign of terror. When peace finally fell once again between the settlers and the tribal peoples, the survivors intermarried and the Latino race was born.  Modern Latinos would not exist if not for Christopher Columbus's civil rights activism, continued, after his death, by Bartolomé de las Casas. De las Casas wrote of his own deeds, "This was one of the most outstanding events that occurred in Spain: that a poor clergyman with no estate and no outside help other than God's, persecuted and hated by everybody (the Spanish in the Indies spoke of him as one who was bent on destroying them and Castile), should come to have such influence on a King...and to be the cause of so many measures discussed throughout this History" (Id., Book III, passim; Chapter 138, parenthetical in original).

De las Casas's description of his own success, surely by no coincidence, paralleled his portrayal of the greatest hero of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries: Christopher Columbus, the low-born and humble Genoan sailor who was hated by the Spanish hidalgos for actively opposing their encomienda system and for restraining their greed, sloth and mistreatment of the tribal peoples of the West Indies during his nearly eight-year term as governor there. Though Christopher Columbus had been dead more than a decade by the time of the events closing the final volume of de las Casas's Historia de las Indias, the narrative echoed Christopher Columbus's legend and legacy as the Biblical David versus Goliath; the low-born, self-made defender of the downtrodden; and the first civil rights activist of the Western Hemisphere and the New World.

De las Casas’s accounts demonstrate indisputably the reason why the Crown of Spain gave Christopher Columbus a majestic burial and monument in the Cathedral of Seville; the Founding Fathers of the United States named the nation’s capital after him; American Presidents William Henry Harrison and Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted Columbus Day holidays celebrated annually to this day; and one hundred forty-four places in the United States have been named after Christopher Columbus, including cities, counties, towns, bodies of water, and schools. That reason is this: despite the "Big Lie" of the cultural majoritarians, the primary historical sources show that by his deeds, his motives and his efforts – realized and unrealized – Christopher Columbus was unmistakably, far and away, and by any standards, the single greatest hero of human rights of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries.

Editor’s Note: The author Robert Petrone, a practicing attorney and Italian American activist and leader in Philadelphia. He can be reached by email at robertpetrone@yahoo.com.

 

 

PRIMO Review
“SANPA: SINS OF THE SAVIOR”
A New Netflix Docuseries Explores the Controversial Life and Legacy of Vincenzo Muccioli
Rehab Center San Patrignano is Examined
How Far Should a Person Go to Save Lives?

By Truby Chiaviello



The new Netflix documentary series, “SanPa: Sins of the Savior,” is a riveting, watchable expose on the controversial life and legacy of Vincenzo Muccioli. The founder of the innovative drug rehabilitation center, San Patrignano, conveys an important story for our time, as shown on Netflix in five episodes, each about an hour in length.

Muccioli is practically unknown here in the United States. Yet, before he died in 1995, he was one of Italy’s most popular figures. He was famous for helping addicts overcome their dependence on illegal drugs. Muccioli was a large man with movie star looks. He came with a full head of hair, broad mustache and tailored clothing. He was a frequent guest on Italian news programs when the topic arose of drug crimes and addiction.

The first episode in the documentary revisited 1975 when heroin flooded the streets of Italian cities. Young addicts, sick and homeless, crowded Italy’s back alleys, abandoned buildings and public parks. The country was overwhelmed by a plague of drug abuse. In 1980, there were some 60,000 Italians who claimed addiction to heroin.

Italy was in need of a redeemer; someone who sought a way forward. Enter Muccioli. A wayward figure, he was not unlike a character in Federico Fellini’s “I Vitelloni.” Just like the filmmaker, Muccioli also came from Rimini. He dropped out of high school and philandered his way for much of his young adulthood. He settled down only after marriage when his father-in-law gave him San Patrignano, a 50 acre farm in the countryside of Emilia-Romagna.

A farmer, perhaps, Muccioli and his wife Antoinetta embraced an alternative lifestyle. They and their friends dabbled in seances and other spiritual exercises. Muccioli was inclined to take in societal outcasts to work his farm in return for shelter and food. He soon gave refuge to young addicts under the condition they gave up drugs and alcohol. In 1978, his farm became Italy’s most famous drug rehab center.

The documentary “SanPa” was conceived by Gianluca Neri, an Italian journalist and filmmaker who was but a boy when Muccioli structured San Patrignano. Neri has won praise by many media critics in Italy for introducing Muccioli to an American audience via Netflix. His detractors, however, are found among those who manage San Patrignano today, still a popular and well-respected center for drug addicts. They claim the series is salacious and biased; a wrongful portrayal of Muccioli as tyrannical and criminally inclined.

Directed by Cosima Spender, “SanPa” moves along at a fast, steady pace. Commentary is given by Muccioli’s son Andrea, who took on management duties after his father died and recovered addicts who were once guests at San Patrignano. Some credit Muccioli with saving their lives while others condemn him for alleged abuses. The series uses dubbing, rather than sub titles. There is just too much commentary and dialogue for viewers to fully comprehend by reading lines on a screen.

As the film recounts, Muccioli’s heroic status came under serious scrutiny after an investigation of San Patrignano by journalists and law enforcement. Some addicts complained that they were not allowed to leave the rehab center until Muccioli was convinced of their recovery. Difficult patients were pictured chained to stakes and poles inside chicken coops and empty kennels. Those who left without permission were tracked down and returned to the farm by force. Muccioli and staff were arrested and charged with kidnapping. He was found guilty at the initial trial but later exonerated at appeal.

San Patrignano expanded in size and scope when Gian Marco Moretti, whose family owned Italy’s largest oil refinery, granted large sums to the center. Parents of addicts praised the founder’s methods. Stars of Italian film and television were shown extolling Muccioli when their young adult sons and daughters enrolled in San Patrignano to overcome heroin addiction.

Muccioli achieved cult-like status by the late 1980s. He was seen in an array of public relation photographs and videos leading hundreds of young recovering addicts in the countryside. San Patrignano became one of the most profitable farms in Italy thanks to free labor provided by young addicts. Muccioli soon leveraged into textiles and other services. He made a fortune as one of the best horse breeders in all of Europe.

Muccioli, now running a massive operation, divided the farm into working groups. Draconian methods were employed with a disdain for the latest innovations in treatment and care. In lieu of methadone for an addict’s gradual recovery, Muccioli opted for herbs and natural supplements. He opened a hospital on the premises to cater to guests’ physical needs. No psychologists or therapists were hired while he increasingly took a get-tough approach with addicts. Complaints were made of beatings and torture on the farm. Two patients committed suicide on the premises while a third was found murdered outside of Naples. The investigation by police discovered that a staff member and some patients had beaten the recovering addict to death in San Patrignano. The body was transferred by car to Campania and dumped at road side. Muccioli new of the killing after occurrence but kept silent, he claimed, for fear of hurting the fragile psychological condition of those involved.

Muccioli was charged with manslaughter and accessory after the fact. The trial galvanized Italy with parents, dressed in fur coats and fine apparel, demonstrating for his acquittal. His fate rested with an Italian judiciary that could go in one direction at the trial phase but another on appeal.

“SanGa” is an extraordinary documentary to be watched and remembered. The question arises as to how far should a man go, and, for that matter, society, in saving human lives. When care and treatment descends into abuse and torment, should an entire operation be shut down?

The crisis of drugs and drug addiction remains with us today. San Patrignano continues as a drug rehabilitation center with a success rate of more than 70 percent. Some 60,000 people have come through their doors since its founding. Many Italians have become productive citizens after breaking their addictions to heroin, cocaine and, today, opioid thanks to San Patrignano.

Editor’s Note: “SanPa: Sins of the Savior” can be viewed on Netflix. To learn more about San Patrignano and what they find disagreeable with he documentary, please visit their web site at https://www.sanpatrignano.org/en/

 

 

Covid Chronicles
MARIO DRAGHI TAKES OVER
A New Cabinet Forms with Technocrats in Charge
- Italy Marks the One-Year Anniversary of Patient No. 1
- Codogno, Lombardy was Location of First Coronavirus Case
- So far…3 Million Infected

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, we come to the end of Weeks 29 and 30 with the brand new Draghi government almost in place. The problem is that Italy is still amid this pandemic and already several Regions have returned to the Orange (medium Covid risk) zone. The 21st of January 2021 marked the first anniversary of Patient No. 1, the first case of coronavirus in Italy at a place called Codogno in Lombardy. Back then, they knew almost nothing about the illness and kept telling us it was just a sort of influenza. Now, we know it's a deadly virus that has brought the world to its knees! In Italy, so far, there have been almost 93,000 deaths, 3 million people infected, over 2,000 of whom are currently in intensive care as well as 260 medical staff who have died. Yet, numbers show little sign of placating. This is why the Draghi government must step up the vaccination program.

On 12th February 2021, Draghi called on the president of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, to present the list of cabinet ministers. The next day, they were sworn in: Draghi as prime minister and 23 ministers, 14 politicians and technocrats (experts), and seven reconfirmed ministers from the Conte II government. This last group included the previous health minister and minister for the interior which many thought should not have kept their jobs. Critics have also pointed out that there was insufficient gender balance as only eight female ministers were appointed. The hope is that this will be remedied when Draghi nominates the 40-odd under secretaries.

Draghi has appointed an important triangle of three of his inner circle of technocrats to key positions: Daniele Franco to the Economy, Vittorio Colao to Technological Innovation whom, you may remember, was the man who headed Conte's famous Task Force and whose advice, for the major part, was ignored, and, finally, the physicist Roberto Cingolani to the new Ministry of Environmental Transition. These three men will closely advise him on how the billions from Europe's Recovery Fund should be best spent.

On Wednesday, February 17th, Draghi appeared before the Senate for a mandatory vote of confidence. He emphasized that his government would be Europeanist especially regarding the Next Generation EU and then stated his priorities included Covid, schools, the environment, equal rights and the role of women and employment. The new prime minister also noted that major reforms to the economy, the administration of justice and the public administration were programed.

Draghi won the confidence vote in the Senate hands down, 262 for and only 40 against with two abstentions. Support came from six parties from both the left, i.e., the Partito Democratico and Italia Viva and the right including the Lega and Forza Italia. The only party, in what they call “patriotic” opposition, is the conservative right Fratelli d'Italia party meaning that they would only vote with the government if they believed the measures were for the benefit of Italy and its citizen.

The question was, however, was the Fratelli d'Italia party the only opposition? It seems not. Indeed, 15 of the Senators of the 5 Star Movement voted “no” to the Draghi cabinet. These were hardliners who still embraced the original Eurosceptic and anti-establishment stance of the Movement thereby disobeying the party line after 60 percent of its base had voted online to approve the Draghi parliament. The leadership immediately announced they would be expelled from the Movement, risking a split of the party that had won more seats than any other in the last 2018 elections.

Things went from bad to worse for the 5 Stars the day after when Draghi appeared before the Chamber of Deputes for its vote of confidence. He won this easily after repeating the same concepts in his maiden speech before the lower house as he had done before the Senate. Of the 629-seat chamber, 535 votes approved the confidence motion with 56 against. Another 16 of the 5 Star’s 189 deputies defied the party line by voting against Draghi. A small number of others in both houses abstained or failed to show up to vote. The Movement's leadership announced the expulsion of 21 of these renegades some of whom will probably attempt to form a new Movement within Parliament called the “Alternative” while others plan to take legal action against the 5 Stars for reinstatement.

On February 22nd, the Draghi government, after a Cabinet meeting issued its first Covid Decree, which will be in force until 27th of March. It prohibited movement between regions and visits between relatives and friends in Red Zones.

Here in Florence, a new museum is planned to celebrate the famous photographers, the Alinari brothers. The new Alinari Foundation has set its headquarters in Villa Fabbricotti where the brothers' immense photographic archive, dating back as far as 1840, and the vast and unique library focused on photography, are housed. The museum will also probably be there also, but this has not, as yet, been officially announced.

At home, even though barbers and hairdressers are now open, this morning I cut Pietro's hair. He has become accustomed to my “basin” cuts since lockdown first began and refuses to do without them. Instead, I have been so happy to return to my hairdresser as it's the only place where I can catch up on all the local gossip now my favorite cafe is closed.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. Photographs taken of Florence, window shopping. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE AN INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER
Giovanni Pugliese Has a Number of Short Films to His Credit
His Latest, “Tailor Shop,” is Based on His Grandfather

How hard is it to be an independent filmmaker? Giovanni Pugliese will have the answer for you. He has made his fair share of films in various genres. A graduate of Cornell University, Pugliese heads Elon Productions, Ltd. His latest work is “Tailor Shop,” a short film that tells the story of John, an Italian immigrant dressmaker. Now at retirement age, he is in the process of selling his store. One day, he comes across an old dress and looks back at the time when he first came to America. He was tasked to make a dress for Madi Miller, a free-spirited American woman, with whom he develops a romantic relationship. Pugliese discussed his new film, his work and background with PRIMO Magazine.

What inspired you to make "Tailor Shop"?

“Tailor Shop” is a very personal project for me. The film is loosely based on the life of my grandfather, John Pugliese. John is an Italian immigrant who left his country during the Mussolini regime; a regime built on fear and censorship. With only 20 dollars in his pocket, he decided to leave his mother, father and siblings behind and do what many immigrants did, capture his idea of the American Dream. Working 16 hours a day, learning a new language and being separated from his family, was the price to be paid. He worked two jobs as his business was just beginning. His kindness and hard work paid off as he began to make the right investments and meet the right connections. John’s life did not come without great tragedies. He lost his first wife to cancer in his fifties. Years later, John would eventually remarry with his second wife who showed him another side to life that he is forever grateful for. She showed him a life that went beyond work. If you were to ask John about the times he remembers he constantly brings up traveling around the world for months with his second wife. However, tragically John lost his second wife to cancer two years ago.

Now at age 86, John looks back at his long life and sees it filled with beauty and darkness. He has lost two wives, only two out of his five siblings remain, but he has a son, a daughter, and five grandchildren to carry on his name. You would think with all that he has seen and experienced John would want to rest, but that is far from the case. If you were to sit with him today and ask what else you want in life he would tell you, “His grandchildren’s happiness.”

For the filming of Tailor Shop, John helped out with actors Len Bellezza and Marc Lombardo on how to be a tailor. Ask any of these two actors and they will say that his dedication to his craft speaks highly of the man’s character. During the filming of Tailor Shop, people were curious to see what was going on. Some had feared he had died, while others were happy to see that a film was being done about him. People would stop by just to speak highly to crew members about John. The tailor shop which will still reside today serves as a reminder to John of the life he has lived. It’s a place he goes for solitude, not necessarily to work. Like the character in the movie, the tailor shop is a part of him, his second home. No one can deny or diminish the life that John has lived, one that has granted him the opportunity to live to his fullest potential as a man. This is John’s story.

Tell us where your family is from in Italy?

My family is from Montefalcione, Avellino, Italy.

Few films - short or feature - are made with Italian characters and stories such as "Tailor Shop" that are outside the gangster genre. Do you see yourself making more films such as "Tailor Shop" to feature positive Italian role models?

I’ve made another short film called “War Cellar,” which was a movie about an American soldier and an Italian woman trapped inside of a cellar in the midst of World War II. This Italian character I created was influenced by the story of Princess Mafalda of Savoy. Once again, this was an attempt to create a film that brought to light an Italian character that is far removed from the gangster genre. I consider myself a history buff on both American and Italian culture. You can thank my cousin, Stanislao Pugliese, an Italian Professor, whose book on Carlo Rosselli opened the doors to my exploration of the Italian culture. I’ve learned that there are many influential Italian role models that unfortunately do not get enough praise. For now, I’m exploring other film genres, but one day it would be a dream to create an Italian featured film that is far removed from the gangster genre, and portrays Italians for the positive values they consist of.

You have a lot of passion for film and filmmaking. How challenging is it to be an independent filmmaker today?

It’s very challenging - to be quite honest - for a lot of different reasons. Besides battling yourself on a day to day basis, you’re looking to convince people to trust your vision. Not only that, for most independent filmmakers, you’re either funding the project yourself, or you’re asking people to help fund your project in which there is a slight chance those people will ever see a return on their investment. As I’ve heard many times from people, if you’re in this industry to make money on your films then go somewhere else.

The truth is, it’s never been easier to make films with the resources we have at our hands. However, that does mean it’s easy to make quality films and films that people are willing to invest their money in. You will find in independent filmmaking, no one is going to believe in the project as much as you will. This means you don’t have the studio at your disposal or the multi-million dollar budgets. That being said, you find yourself having to be creative in ways in order to figure out how you can shoot that film. Ask any filmmaker that made their film and I believe they will say the same thing. Independent filmmaking requires determination, perseverance, sacrifice, and the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty. There’s days where I ask myself, why do I do this? I went to school and got a finance major, not a film degree! However, it’s those days where you realize that you’re not doing it for the fame, you’re not doing it for the money, but rather you’re doing it because your soul is giving you no choice but to do it. When your soul literally eats away at you to create that film, those challenges no longer block you from achieving what you have to do. Just because the odds are highly against you, doesn’t mean you don’t try, and that goes for anything in life.

You're working on a psychological feature film. Please tell us about that.

This psychological feature film I’m working on is something that is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. The movie, “The Hotel,” is a surrealist, psychological thriller; it's the story of Roman Murphy, a struggling novelist who has just checked into a luxurious, secluded hotel. Without going too much into it, “The Hotel” is my confession of my own struggles as an aspiring writer. This my honest attempt to reveal the struggles of love and living in a world that continues to scorn vulnerability and originality. “The Hotel” is a story that could only be shown on the screen. I'm proud to say that a story like this has never been told. I will say, Federico Fellini “8 ½” played a huge influence in this script. However, because of the pandemic we had to pause the project. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise due to the complex nature of this movie and what I was getting myself into. Currently, I’m working on a short film that takes a lot of the elements of “The Hotel” and allows me to experiment on a smaller scale before attempting this riskier project. This psychological short film is called “The Keys” and is slated to be shot this summer.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is a scene from “Tailor Shop,” starring Madeline Smith and Marc Lombardo; Giovanni Pugliese, the filmmaker, gets ready to shoot the film; his grandfather John Pugliese teaches tailoring to actor Len Bellezza. You can learn more about Giovanni Pugliese’s work in film and see “Tailor Shop” at www.giovannipugliese.com and www.elonproductions.com

 

THE LARGEST GATHERING OF ITALIAN AMERICAN LEADERS CONVENES
A Nationwide Virtual Meeting Seeks to Preserve Italian American Heritage in Face of Continuous Assaults
- Some 350 Italian American Organizations Represented
- New Web Site Established
“The meeting is to ensure mutual support among all of us and preserve our Italian American heritage.”

By Truby Chiaviello




 


The largest gathering of Italian American leaders convened on February 20th in a broad based effort to push back against the ongoing assaults of Italian American culture and heritage. The Summit Meeting of Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations garnered some 350 participants representing Italian American organizations, both large and small, in all 50 states.

The gathering was done virtually by Zoom link. What began at 12 p.m. was presided over by Basil M. Russo, current president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. A former judge and former majority leader of the Cleveland City Council, Mr. Russo currently serves as the national president of Italian Sons & Daughters of America, an executive committee member of the National Italian American Foundation, president of the Justinian Forum Italian American Bar Association and vice president of the National Columbus Education Foundation.

Mr. Russo began the summit on an optimistic note when he said the gathering “had far exceeded expectations in those in attendance. We have every state represented. Italian American organizations are everywhere, as far away as Hawaii and in states such as Alabama and Idaho.”

Mr. Russo conveyed a theme of unity. “The meeting is to ensure mutual support among all of us and preserve our Italian American heritage,” he said. “The more supportive we are of each other, the more likely we are of success.”

The previous summer was a harrowing one for Italian Americans as they witnessed one city after another that tore down statues of Christopher Columbus after votes of city councils, orders of mayors and attacks by mobs. The days and weeks that followed the tragic death of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis were of riots with Columbus as scapegoat; seen by anarchists and vandals as a historical figure of oppression, rather than one of heroism and the discoverer of the New World.

Italian Americans are in need of a concerted effort to change the current political and social dynamics that either seeks to destroy or grossly diminish our culture and heritage in the United States.

Mr. Russo was a principal figure in organizing the summit with the hope of a new constructive era in Italian American activism. He announced three main agenda items: (1) How to unify all the Italian American organizations across the country; (2) How to reconnect the younger generations with their Italian American identity and (3) How to address the eradication of Columbus holidays and monuments.

Central to the cause is a new web site, as introduced by Mr. Russo, www.ItalianAmericaOnline.com; where Italian American leaders can log on and volunteer.

Representing Unico National was its current president, Frank DeFrank, M.D. After he was introduced by Mr. Russo, Dr. DeFrank spoke about recruiting Italian American leaders to lend their time and expertise in the following working groups: (a) Reconnect Our Youth, (b) Save Columbus, (c) Italian Language, (d) Charitable Activities, (e) Italian Museum and Cultural Institution and (f) Public Policy. The web site - www.italianamericaonline.com - contains a page for a person to enter his name, contact information and mark which working group(s) he will support through volunteer action.

“We have not been as well organized as other ethnic groups,” admitted Dr. DeFrank. “We have been left behind while others move ahead. If you want to move quickly, go alone. However, if you want to go far, go together.”

John M. Viola, the youngest president of the National Italian American Foundation from 2012 to 2018 and today a host of the Italian American Podcast, https://italianamericanpodcast.com, spoke on the topic of inspiring young Italian Americans to connect to their Italian heritage. “It is a myth,” he said, “that the youth are not interested.” He reminded the audience of a chat room alongside the meeting’s visual display where he noted comments made by young people in attendance. Nevertheless, he said, “We need to communicate where they are (on social media and internet venues). We have to come to them, not the opposite.”

The main topic is the ongoing effort to save Columbus Day from further replacement with Indigenous People’s Day, as recently done in Philadelphia by way of Mayor Jim Kenney’s executive order. Attorney George Bochetto, of Bochetto & Lentz, P.C., spoke about his success in Philadelphia when he stopped the removal of the Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza by Kenney. He briefed attendees as to his current efforts to reverse the mayor’s order to eliminate Columbus Day as a recognized holiday in the city. From intense legal research, Bochetto believes the move by Kenney violates the constitutional and civil rights of Italian Americans. He is confident of success in further litigation and welcomed moral and tangible support from attendees.

Another speaker was Angelo Vivolo, chairman of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, based in New York that, that, among other activities, organizes the city’s annual Columbus Day Parade. He spoke of the need for Italian Americans to stand together and counter the revisionism of history that depicts Columbus as either genocidal maniac, slave trader or both. “Columbus never owned slaves,” said Vivola. “Genocide is the intentional killing of a specific race of people. That’s not what happened to the natives of North and South America. It was a pandemic that killed them, not Columbus.”

Vivola shared the trailer of a new documentary produced by the Knights of Columbus titled “Courage and Conviction: The True Story of Christopher Columbus.”

Linda R. Carlozzi, an attorney and shareholder in the New York office of Jackson Lewis PC, is a former board member and current member of the National Organization of Italian American Women. She reminded the audience that Italian American women were pioneers in breaking the glass ceiling in politics. “Over 35 years ago,” she said, “Geraldine Ferraro ran as the first women vice president…and now Kamala Harris serves as vice president.” Ferraro was one of the founders of the National Organization of Italian American Women.

The summit began at 12 p.m. and was completed in a little over an hour. It was Tom Suozzi, Congressional Representative of the 3rd District of New York that captured the spirit of the meeting. A mainstay of politics and government in and around Nassau County, especially his hometown of Glen Cove, and the borough of Queens, he has served in Congress since 2016. His father, Joseph, emigrated from the province of Potenza in Italy’s Basilicata region, served in World War II and, after graduating from Harvard Law School, was elected the youngest judge in New York’s history. Suozzi shared his father’s wisdom in context to the summit and current efforts to preserve Italian American heritage in challenging times. It is an age-old Italian phrase spoken at weddings and rites of passage. “There is no rose without thorns,” Suozzi said. “And we have had our share of thorns this past year.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured is Basil M. Russo, John M. Viola, George Bochetto, Linda R. Carlozzi and Congressman Tom Suozzi. To learn more about the continuing effort to preserve our Italian American heritage and culture, log on to www.ItalianAmericaOnline.com

 

YOGI BERRA CATCHES A STAMP
Another Honor Awarded to the Great Yankee Catcher
- “It ain’t over till it’s over…” It’s a forever stamp!

By Gerardo Perrotta

There are many Italian Americans who played baseball with distinction. This year Yogi Berra will join Joe DiMaggio and Roy Campanella, among the elites of this group, to be honored on a postage stamp.

The United States Postal Service recently announced to issue a stamp (date to be determined) honoring Yogi Berra. This presents the latest occasion to affirm and celebrate with pride the history of another notable Italian American.

Lorenzo Pietro (Larry Peter) “Yogi” Berra, the son of Italian immigrant parents, was born in 1925 in the Italian neighborhood of St. Louis called The Hill. His parents Pietro and Paolina (née Longoni) Berra, both were from Malvaglio, Italy, a village near Milan. He grew up on the hill speaking the Milanese dialect and playing baseball with friends, including Joe Caragiola and Bobby Hofman, who christened him “Yogi” for his likeness to a yoga teacher when he sat to wait his turn at bat.

With an eighth grade education, he began working to help the family while finding time to play baseball. World War II interrupted his baseball playing. He joined the Navy and served as a gunner’s mate on a rocket boat during the D-Day invasion of France, making him a WWII veteran, and a member of the greatest generation. He earned a Purple Heart, received a medal from France, and, in 2009, received the Lone Sailor Award from the U.S. Navy for the skills he learned in the Navy to further his career.

Home from the war, he entered the “House that Ruth Built” in a Toscanini-like presence (short in height, tall in stature) and took command of the diamond with discipline and fidelity to the team. At home plate with gloved hand, squatting at the tip of the diamond, he orchestrated the game’s strategy by guiding the pitcher and players with authority and keen attention to detail; and at bat, he used the wood as the baton to swat pitches everywhere and create a crescendo of cheers as he accumulated accolades and records.

Berra’s unique style, a diamond in the rough, made him one of the most admired catchers. Post catching, he managed the Yankees, the Mets and the Astros with similar flair and success. He gave the sport his all garnering impressive records throughout his long and distinguished career. The sport, the fans and the nation, in turn, rewarded him with a string of well-known awards that are in the record books, including his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 and MLB All-Century Team in 1999.

An endearing characteristic of Yogi Berra is his unique wording artistry which garnered the attention of the listener; while on the surface, the quip may have appeared funny, it provided a vocabulary that many use today to make their points clear with some levity. Let’s be honest, how many times have we ourselves used “it’s deja` vue all over again”?

The stamp presents Yogi Berra as a catcher in the classic Yankee pinstripe uniform with his gap toothed smile, the glove close to his chest. The illustration suggests the simultaneous release of a ball and an aphorism. Yes, Yogi Berra was a Yankee baseball player; he was also an Italian American whose story expresses eloquently the dream of all immigrant parents who labor and sacrifice for the betterment of their children. His parents made the sacrifice and Yogi’s memorable performance on and off the field fulfilled nobly their dream. A lesson still valid today.
He passed away in 2015. His memories are not only etched in baseball history but also carefully preserved at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Montclair State University in New Jersey. So hopefully we can catch this stamp before spring training and remember, it ain’t over…it’s forever.

Editor’s Note: Gerardo Perrotta writes and gives presentations on Italian Themes on American Postage Stamps. He has written a book, “Phila-Italy Americana, American Themes on United States Postage Stamps.” Xlibris Publisher.

 

 

 

Covid Chronicles
CONTE OUT, DRAGHI IN
A New Government Forms with Mario Draghi as Prime Minister
- Former President of European Central Bank is Credited with Saving the Euro in 2012
- Can Draghi Save Italy?
- New Movie Filmed in Florence

By Deirdre Pirro



Here, as we come to the end of Week 28, and the inevitable has happened. The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, having governed as an adjunct of the 5 Star Movement in his first government, was a coalition partner with the right-populist party, the Lega. In the Conte II government, the Lega was ditched for the left Democratic Party. Now, after 16 months, with this latter coalition in its death throes, Conte tried to rustle up enough moderate center parliamentarians to save the day and form the Conte III government. His attempt failed and he resigned on 26th January 2021.

The President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, called on the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Fico, to hold talks with the various political parties to see whether he could form a government, perhaps still with Conte in the role of prime minister. He too failed. At this point, using the pandemic as an excuse for not calling new elections (even though Germany, Holland, and Portugal will soon go to the urns), Mattarella called for a broad-based government inclusive of the interests in parliament and society. To accomplish this, he officially invited Mario Draghi, an economist, banker, and former head of the European Central Bank to do so on February 3, 2021. Draghi's reputation in Europe is solid; as he is credited with saving the euro which was in deep financial water in 2012. This earned him the title of “Super Mario”. This kind of praise may not, however, be auspicious; as Italians have a habit of bringing down their heroes, namely, as they say, “dalle stelle alle stalle” (from the stars to the stables).

On accepting the challenge, Draghi affirmed he had four main objectives: to defeat the pandemic; to vaccinate the population; to solve the every-day problems of citizens, and to relaunch the economy. It's ironic that the last “technical” government, headed by life senator Mario Monti met 10 years ago, was “austerity” whereby his unpopular job was to get us to tighten our belts. This time, instead, Draghi will have a fortune to spend on renovating the country. But this may still be a problem because the government, if and when he forms it, will have to present the European Union with a credible Recovery Plan if we are ever to see the 200 plus billions it has promised.

This time instead of merely listening to what the political parties wanted, Draghi began indicating what he had in mind which included the reform of the public, justice, and fiscal administrations, accelerating the vaccination regime throughout the country, and extending the school year to enable students to compensate for days lost thanks to Covid. All good but no matter what, his task will be monumental and all we can do is to wish him all the very best.

Meanwhile, Conte has announced he will not seek a ministerial position in the new Draghi government and he will not run for the post of Mayor of Rome. Perhaps he has his sights on something better? Could it be the top job when President Mattarella's mandate expires?

Here in Florence, the center of the city has turned back the clock to the 1970s as the third HBP-RAI Fiction television series directed by Daniele Luchetti based on Elena Ferrante's book, “My Brilliant Friend” is being filmed. Scenes have already been shot in piazza della Signoria and others will be shot in piazza della Signoria, piazza Santa Croce, piazza Santissima Annunziata, and other historic private locations. Filming will continue later in September both in Florence, and Versilia.

Other news is that, on January 20th, 2021, Florence tested its first battery-run, environmentally friendly tram. As the number of these trams increases, it means that eventually the electrified poles required for the present system can be removed making the system more sustainable, especially in a historic city.

At home, we are still awaiting vaccination, even Pietro, my husband who is in one of the primary categories to be protected, the over 80s age group. Newspapers report that this category started being vaccinated in Lazio on 8th February but we still have no news. Hopefully, for you all, the vaccination campaign is moving faster in America than here.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. Photographs taken of Florence, window shopping. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

TWO LETTERS TO MAYOR KENNEY CAPTURE THE OUTRAGE OF ITALIAN AMERICANS AT THE CANCELLATION OF COLUMBUS DAY IN PHILADELPHIA
"Your action perpetuates the polarization problem in our country."
"I write this as not only an American of Italian heritage, but as an AMERICAN born and bred in Philadelphia..."

Mayor Kenney:

It is reprehensible that you resorted to using an executive order to eliminate Columbus Day in Philadelphia. Numerous scholars, who are far more knowledgeable than you about the life of Christopher Columbus, have debunked the many false negative narratives about him. Your action perpetuates the polarization problem in our country. One root cause of this problem is that people adhere to the practice of labeling someone, and then loving or hating that label.

Trump supporters, fueled by inaccurate beliefs, attempted to impose their will on others by storming the Capitol last month. You took the same kind of action by signing an executive order.

The practice of labeling must be replaced with understanding. That concept requires a comprehensive gathering of information, interpretation, discernment, assessment, inference, appreciation, and valuation.

I urge you in the interest of justice to pause, reflect, and then rescind your executive order. Instead of labeling, pursue understanding and the highest truth through public hearings, deliberation, and debate.

Carlino Giampolo
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

********************

Mr. Mayor:

I am writing to protest the actions that you, and you alone, have taken in eliminating the Philadelphia holiday honoring Christopher Columbus, the founder of what was known as The New World, and what has been known for decades as "COLUMBUS DAY".

I could say, "How dare you!" in dismayed alarm but any knowledgeable person, whether a citizen of this city or not, knows why your actions have occurred. You are part of the so-called "progressive" (read Socialist here) Democrat movement, better known as THE CANCEL CULTURE, that is gaining momentum in changing, for its own purposes, our country's history and destroying this nation.

Many Italian-born, and Italian-Americans, look to Christopher Columbus with pride, with October becoming Italian-American heritage Month. I am one of them, but I write this as not only an American of Italian heritage, but as an AMERICAN born and bred in Philadelphia, a city of which I was once proud because of its place in the founding of the United States. You, Mr. Mayor, and I use the term very loosely, have changed that pride into shame. Your newly ordained, Indigenous Peoples Day IN PLACE OF COLUMBUS DAY, plays right into the hands of the people who would tear the very fabric of our nation to shreds. You want an Indigenous People's Day? Fine, no objectives to that here. But make it ANOTHER DAY. Don't sacrifice Columbus Day by saying, "Christopher Columbus is no role model to anyone", as I heard it reported you said on KYW Radio on Sunday morning. Who are you, I would like to know, to tell ANYONE who he/she should choose as a role model? Why haven't I heard you criticize the radicals and looters that caused so much destruction this past summer on Aramingo Avenue, for instance. Police weren't allowed to step in and control the early Christmas shopping binge that occurred. Perhaps those "model citizens" were role models for your political party, ya think?

Speaking of your political party, your sole reason in eliminating Columbus Day is that you're a Democrat who believes he's keeping, or gaining, minority votes, for said party. Your statement, some time back, that "Philadelphia would be proud to be a Sanctuary City" disgusted me then and disgusts me now. Your actions regarding Columbus Day ranks alongside that same disgust.

I didn't vote for you in either election in which you ran, which from this letter must come as no surprise to you and I am glad your time in office will end when this term does. Should you decide to run for another elected office, you will not get my vote for that position as well. But that doesn't matter, it's just a bit of venting on my part. However, your actions about eliminating Columbus Day for "crimes" he has been accused of committing against the "Indigenous Peoples" he found in Central America, which have been proven to be false, DOES matter but fools no one. First of all, whom did he hurt in the Philadelphia area? Columbus was dead before Philadelphia even existed, so to say your "sensitivity" is ludicrous is almost a redundant statement. Are you suddenly feeling an attack of consciousness for the Lenai Lenape or Delaware "Indians"(yes, I wrote the politically incorrect term, Indians instead of Native Americans)? I sincerely doubt it. You're just a Democrat who is jumping on the bandwagon of destroying our history solely for the sake of partisanship. What would you say if Philadelphians, and Americans across the country, banded together to eliminate Saint Patrick's Day? I'm sure you know that's a bigger drinking day than New Year's Eve. Isn't that a danger to driving?
In conclusion, I have but one thing to say: FRANK RIZZO!! WHERE ARE YOU WHEN WE NEED YOU????

Yours in accurate American History,

John Primerano

Editor's Note:  The mayor's email address:  James.Kenney@phila.gov; phone number: (215) 686-2181; or write him at City Hall, Office 215 Philadelphia, PA 19107.

 

MAYOR JIM KENNEY STRIKES AGAIN
The Mayor of Philadelphia Signs an Executive Order to Eliminate Columbus Day;
Replaces with Indigenous People's Day
No Public Hearing, No Deliberation, No Debate - No Columbus Day

By Robert Petrone, Esq.

Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia has, without a public hearing on the issue, and by bypassing City Council, resorted to executive power to eliminate the municipal holiday of Christopher Columbus day in Philadelphia, renaming it "Indigenous People's Day" despite that (1) two holidays have already been established honoring the tribal peoples of the Americas, (2) the national holiday of Christopher Columbus Day still exists and (3) Christopher Columbus was the first civil rights activist of the Americas.

I strongly urge all concerned Americans to express their outrage in a letter to Kenney either to his email address: James.Kenney@phila.gov; his phone number: (215) 686-2181; or by writing him at City Hall, Office 215 Philadelphia, PA 19107.

I urged all of you to contact Mayor Kenney to express your outrage regarding his erasure of the municipal holiday of Christopher Columbus Day. Angelo Vivolo, president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition, drafted a version of the letter below, which I have modified and augmented. If you have not yet expressed your outrage to the Mayor's Office already, I urge you to use the below template as a model for your own correspondence:

Dear Mayor Kenney of Philadelphia, 

Your arbitrary decision to eliminate Christopher Columbus Day in Philadelphia by executive order outrages the Italian-American community not only in Philadelphia but across Pennsylvania. You have been informed that the slanderous lies against Christopher Columbus that have driven this action are myths that have been debunked by all experts in the field.  Nevertheless, you have struck at the soul of Italian-Americans across this country with a blatant act of divisiveness that fuels mistrust in government -- particularly your administration thereof -- and demonstrated that ignorance drives policy in the Kenney Administration.  

The Italian American community in Philadelphia, in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and across the country, in the interest of our one nation under God and our democratic system, demand that you reconsider your actions and rescind your executive order to eliminate Christopher Columbus Day.  

Sincerely,
(Your Signature)

Editor’s Note: The author Robert Petrone is a practicing attorney, Italian American activist and leader in Philadelphia. He can be reached by email at robertpetrone@yahoo.com.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
PRIME MINISTER CONTE FALLS
His Coalition Fractures Prior to His Resignation
- New Merger Between FIAT and Stellantis
- Andrea Bocelli Comes to Florence
- Bitter Cold Weather in Tuscany

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, as we come to the end of Week 27, and the crisis in PM Conte's government has come - or has it? On January 13, 2021, Senator Matteo Renzi, leader of the Italia Viva party, a coalition partner in the Conte II government, announced the resignation of his two Ministers from the Cabinet. He maintained that he is not responsible for the crisis that this provoked in Conte's government but, instead, that the government has been in serious trouble for months. Amongst a series of other lamentations, its failure in managing the pandemic, he argued, is witness to this. On January 18, 2021, this led to the government facing a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies. It managed to win this with 321 votes in favor, 259 against and 27 absentions including those of Italia Viva. This was predictable but the government's problem was that it needed a majority in the Senate as well. In his speeches before both Houses of Parliament, Conte asked for "help" in saving his government when, strangely enough, we thought he was supposed to help us, the nation. He never mentioned Senator Renzi by name but indicated the crisis was Renzi's fault. His aim was to personalize the crisis rather than address the litany of problems in the country which Renzi had highlighted. After the prime minister called on those he called "Constructors" while others term them "Turncoats" to come to his assistance, the senators on January 19, voted 156 in favor of the government and 140 against, with 16 abstentions. This was not an absolute majority which would have been 161 votes in favor. Instead, it was a relative majority, leaving the government in a very weak position tottering on the edge a precipice. As the government will face a crucial vote on the administration of justice in the Senate on January 28, 2021, it is engaged in a fury of horse trading and influence bargaining behind closed doors to prevent its collapse. On January 21st, the centre-right opposition (Forza Italia, Fratelli d'Italia and Lega) informed the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella that it would be "impossible" to work with the current parliament after Conte lost his Senate overall majority after Renzi's defection. While bowing to the president's authority, they called for long-overdue new elections. Unfortunately, this is an unlikely if well overdue alternative.

All we can do is wait and see what happens. Some say the prime minister will resign and then seek to create the Conte III government formed by the same political forces as the Conte II government but with a wider majority opened up to moderate center-right components. Perhaps they are banking on these being renegades from Berlusconi's Forza Italia party. In this scenario, Conte may also be forced to accept Renzi's Italian Viva back into the fold, something he swore he would never do. Should he be defeated then the president may call for a technocratic government with a limited mandate to handle the pandemic and manage the 200 billion euros plus Recovery Fund from the EU. Italy is, like the rest of the European Union, except for Germany which wisely made auxiliary arrangements to buy more doses of vaccine from different sources, is facing delays in the promised delivery of vaccine from both Pfizer and AstraZeneca. The government is likely to take legal action against these companies.

The bottomline for us citizens is that the scheduled timetable for vaccinating the different categories and age groups will have to be rewritten and there is now no telling how long we will have to wait our turn.

Stellantis N.V., the Amsterdam-based multinational automotive manufacturing corporation was listed on the Italian Stock Exchange on January 18 and a day later on the New York Stock Exchange. It is the result of the merger of the French Groupe PSA and Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Stellantis is the corporate brand, while its brand names and logos of its vehicles like Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, Citroen, and Peugeot will stay the same. Over 400,000 employees spread over 130 countries with manufacturing facilities in 30 countries work for the corporation,

Here in Florence, on 24th January 2021, International Day of Education, the tenor Andrea Bocelli and his family officially inaugurated the new headquarters and the adjoining education laboratory, called the ABF GlobaLAB of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation at the Baroque San Firenze palazzo, the old courthouse complex, just behind Palazzo Vecchio. This comes a decade after the Foundation began its work and Andrea Bocelli told reporters, “For me, ABF represents one of the highlights of my life. I am looking forward to experiencing many special moments with our global community in its new spaces.” Congratulations and best wishes to the Foundation and the great work it does.

At home, although we are a Yellow zone at present, it is the freezing and wet weather rather than Covid that is keeping us indoors. We don't have snow as it rarely snows here but the thermometer is below zero in the mornings and the windows are frosty. In the afternoon, the only thing to do is light the fire and snuggle into my armchair with a hot chocolate and a good book.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. Photographs taken of Florence, window shopping. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

Op-ed
ITALIANS UNFAIRLY TREATED BY BIDEN’S NEW IMMIGRATION PLAN
Amnesty to Unauthorized Immigrants is Racist and Unconstitutional.
“Italians are almost never unauthorized immigrants and have a much harder time coming here, legal or illegally, than immigrants from Latin America.”

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.


Biden did not talk about immigration much during the campaign or during most of the transition. Now that he has a friendly Senate, a friendlier House, and control of the Executive Branch, he is going to make immigration a priority for the first time. His initial plan is not necessarily going to be his final plan, but right now he is offering to give unearned amnesty to the vast majority of over 11 million unauthorized immigrants. He is also talking about giving near-automatic citizenship over eight years to unauthorized immigrants, while not necessarily giving automatic citizenship to legal immigrants who have been in the United States longer than eight years.

Citizenship is supposed to come seven years after permanent legal status, but Biden’s plan would make it five years for unauthorized immigrants, and, yet, longer for legal immigrants. Not only this, but getting legal permanent status (Green Cards) will be made easier for unauthorized immigrants than for legal immigrants.

Italians are adversely affected by President Biden’s plan. They and other ethnic groups have a much harder time coming to this country due to having to cross whole oceans. They are thus are disproportionately affected by an advantage for unauthorized immigrants over their status as legal immigrants. Italians are almost never unauthorized immigrants and have a much harder time coming here, legal or illegally, than immigrants from Latin America.

Biden’s plan does what Democrats have long argued is both racist and unconstitutional: He’s favoring one category of immigrants over another. He disproportionately favors one racial or ethnic category over another. As Democrats, like me, have long argued, disproportionately discriminating on race for political purposes is unconstitutional.

Biden’s new immigration policy leads to voter suppression. Italians have a hard time coming to this country legally and since it is hard to come here illegally across the Atlantic Ocean, we are disproportionately disenfranchised by this proposal. Other ethnic groups, such as Indian Americans, will be likewise disproportionately disenfranchised. In the end, the Democrats, for partisan-political reasons, will be granting preferred status to one ethnic or racial group over another; which in all other situations would have the Democrats outraged as the guardians of anti-racism.

Make no mistake, the Party with which I am associated is doing something to change the voting demographics on purpose: 11 million new citizens will ensure structural advantages in the voting math for a generation to come, if not longer. Already, the inclusion of non-voting unauthorized immigrants is used for apportionment and redistricting creates the unconstitutional situation in which voters in different districts have different voting power due to mal-representation.

The Democrats only care about voter suppression when it affects their constituents. Indian Americans and Italian Americans are not viewed as their constituents, so depriving them of voting power, effectively disenfranchising them, does not seem to bother Democrats.

Nevertheless, the Constitution will possibly have a problem with flooding the voter roles with people of one race, who are not legally entitled to even be here, in order to outvote people who have come to this country legally, who are disproportionately in different ethnic or racial categories than the preferred group.

Civil rights should be for everyone. However, my Party refuses to acknowledge the civil rights of Italian Americans and other ethnic groups. Liberal democracy will continue to crater in this country if your right to vote is based strictly on which party you are likely to support. As a liberal Democrat, I know what happens to Italian Americans in New Jersey due to our perceived “undesirable” status. It is is important to not nationalize this racist policy of ethnic preference in which the politicians literally pick their own voters.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is the president of the Italian American Movement, a 501c3 Italian American civil rights organization dedicated to reclassifying Italian Americans as Mediterranean Americans instead of Non-Hispanic White. He is a political scientist, historian, and adjunct professor associated with Middlesex County College. His email is cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion, as expressed in the article, may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

THE MAN I LONG TO BE

By R.P. Infantino

I could not labor forty years
At work I could not take.
To toil eight hours at a job
For the little I would make.

I could not buy a meager house
And turn it to a castle.
To build, repair, and paint it all
For me would be a hassle.

I could not find a queenly lass
To love and be my wife
And live together happily
To the end of my long life.

I could not raise a family
On the little that I made,
Giving them the things they need
With nothing left to save.

I could not do these kinds of things
It’s not my inner trait.
Yet one excelled in all of these
A man of kingly state.

A man so loved by one and all,
A pillar in the town.
All people praise him without end
His head should wear a crown.

My father is the one I speak
He’s selfless to a T.
The greatest man I’ve ever known,
The man I long to be.

 

 

 

NEW COURSES OFFERED BY ITALIAN CHARITIES OF AMERICA
Virtual Classes Begin in February

Italian Charities of America wishes everyone a Happy & Healthy New Year!
As we celebrate our 85th Anniversary this year, Italian Charities of America wants to thank you all for your support throughout the years since 1936. We will continue to promote Italian and Italian American culture and heritage as well as providing events and programs for many more years to come. 

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic we will not be offering Italian Language courses in our non-profit building. Italian Charities of America will continue to offer online courses for the Winter/Spring semester. We are happy to announce that we are offering even more  online courses and programs this year. We hope that you will join us and we will continue to update you as new courses will continue to be added. Please call 718-478-3100 or email us at italiancharitiesofamerica@gmail.com for more information.

Sicilian Level I – Saturday, March 6th from 10:00 am to 11:30am EST
Sicilian Level II – Saturday, March 6th from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EST

Are you of Sicilian Descent or just interested in learning Sicilian?
Come join us and learn the Sicilian Language with Italian Charities of America. A native Sicilian instructor will teach from a beginner level in Sicilian Level I, you will learn the language; reading, writing and speaking! If you already speak Sicilian or have an understanding, need to review and improve then Sicilian Level II will be a better fit for you. These courses will be offered for the Winter/Spring 2021 Semester as online courses on Zoom. Courses start on Saturday, March 6th will run through Saturday, May 29th. Each language course consists of 12 lessons and each lesson will run for an hour and a half.

Italian Level I - Online Language Course
The Winter/Spring semester Italian Level I online course is a 12 week course beginning Saturday, February 13th from 10:00 am to 11:30 am EST running through Saturday, May 8th. This course is for students who have never studied Italian before or who would like to continue working on and practicing the fundamentals of the Italian language. In this course we will learn about, work on, and practice Italian grammar, reading, writing, and spoken communication. Grammar will include: nouns and adjectives and noun-adjective agreement, the present tense, the past tense, the imperfect tense, simple prepositions, possessive adjectives.

Italian Level II - Online Language Course
The Winter/Spring semester Italian Level II online course is a 12 week course beginning Saturday, February 13th from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EST running through Saturday, May 8th. This course is for students who wish to continue their study of Italian, to move beyond the present, past, and imperfect tense. In this course, we will learn, work on, and practice Italian grammar, reading, writing, and spoken communication of our writing. Grammar will include: the present progressive, future/conditional, reflexive verbs, si impersonal verb construction (an absolute necessity of Italian communication!), subjunctive, complex prepositions, direct object pronouns, and indirect object pronouns.

Italian Cinema Online Course
Join Italian Charities of America for this interactive course that will focus on Italian Cinema as a driving force to advance you further in your Italian Language skills. The Italian Cinema course is a 12 week course beginning Sunday, February 14th from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EST running through Sunday, May 9th. In this course, we will enter the magical world of Italian cinema in which we will focus on one Italian film each week to write about in Italian and discuss in English and Italian. Each week we will have written exchange to work on our writing (grammar and expressions). This course is great for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students!

Italian Reading Online Course
Join Italian Charities of America for this interactive course that will focus on Italian Reading as a driving force to advance you further in your Italian Language skills. The Italian Reading course is a 12 week course beginning Sunday, February 14th from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm EST running through Sunday, May 9th. In this course, we will dive into the great works of Italian literature (From Dante to Calvino to Maraini!) in which we will explore one Italian writer each week to read and write about in Italian and English and discuss in Italian and English. Each week we will have written exchange to work on our writing (grammar and expressions). This course is great for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students!

Editor’s Note: To register for classes and learn more about the Italian Charities of America, please visit: https://italiancharities.org/

 

 

The First Civil Rights Act of the New World
COLUMBUS: A HERO
After Fully Exonerated and Freed from Prison, Columbus Sought to Enact a Law Protecting the Indians
Continuing The Series on Why Columbus is a Hero

Robert Petrone, Esq.

Many express surprise at the characterization of Christopher Columbus as the first civil rights activist of the Americas. This may be expected, given the steady diet of falsehoods propagated by Columbus's detractors, the sinister axis of cultural majoritarians who have fulfilled the promise of Marxist crusader Rudolf Dutschke, of a "long march through the institutions" of the West, including academia and, now, state and local government. As a counterpoint to the New York Times' toxic propaganda series, the "1619 Project," this serial exposé, which I call the "1492 Project," seeks to untangle the twisted web of lies being fed to our children in our schools -- now as early as grade school -- and resulting in the razing of statues and other monuments dedicated to Christopher Columbus, the first civil rights activist of the Americas.

The previous article detailed Admiral Columbus's slave-freeing sojourn around the West Indies, the first "Underground Railroad" of the Americas ("Underwater Railroad"?) in which he sailed the Caribbean islands delivering Tainos from bondage from the man-eating Caribs who repeatedly descended upon Taino villages, raping, kidnapping, murdering and eating Tainos. Columbus shuttled to shore those rescued Tainos who wished to remain in the West Indies, and brought back to Spain with him those who wished to be Baptized, rendering them immune to slavery and placing them under the protective aegis of the Spanish Crown and the Catholic Church.  

But these efforts constituted only the first half of Columbus's Second Voyage, and the first half of his civil rights activism during it. The previous article also detailed how Governor Columbus quelled no less than three rebellions by the hidalgos (low landed nobles of Spain who wished to enslave the tribal peoples to build their settlements) -- Alonzo de Hojeda, Fray Bernardo Buil and his conspirator Captain Pedro Margarite, and Juan Aguado -- and finally brought peace and prosperity to the West Indies. But before he brought this Pax Columbiana to the land, while still in the throes of these many rebellions, Governor Columbus had written to the Crown, beseeching them to send him someone the hidalgos would respect. On a dark day in history, the Crown sent Francisco de Bobadilla, the true racist, rapist, maimer, murderer, slaver and genocidal maniac that current revisionist-"historians" incorrectly conflate with Christopher Columbus.  

In fact, Columbus and Bobadilla were arch-nemeses. As previously detailed, immediately upon landfall, Bobadilla, seduced by the promise of an easy subjugation of the tribal people of the West Indies and an abundance of gold, shackled Columbus and his brothers on sight and sent them back to Spain in the bowels of a prison ship. He then undid all the restrictions on the hidalgos that Governor Columbus had imposed and unleashed a murderous and plunderous reign of terror on the West Indies.  Knowing that the truth would soon exonerate Columbus in the Court of the Spanish monarchs, who would undoubtedly unseat the villainous conquistador, Bobadilla exhorted his conspirators to "[t]ake as many advantages as you can since you don’t know how long this will last" (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book II, Chapter 2).

As Bobadilla expected, Columbus's next act of civil rights activism was the undoing of the villainous conquistador. And that is where this latest article resumes, with Christopher Columbus cementing his role in history as the first civil rights activist of the Americas.

With his hands in chains aboard the prison ship, Columbus penned a letter to Doña Juana de Torres, the governess of Prince John of Spain. He wrote that Bobadilla "did everything in his power to harm me" and such damage to Hispaniola that, "Their Highnesses...would be astonished to find that the island is still standing" (Id., Book I, Chapter 181). He listed all of Bobadilla's treachery that he knew about, which was barely the beginning of the hellfire Bobadilla was unleashing in Columbus's absence. He promised that he would see to the unseating of Bobadilla and restore order to the West Indies.

Columbus made good on that promise. Once he returned to Castile, he presented his own case before the Crown, refuting Bobadilla’s slander and revealing Bobadilla’s misdeeds. Based on Columbus's testimony and the evidence he was able to provide, the Crown, now fully seeing the hidalgos' plot for what it was, released Columbus of his shackles and dismissed the false charges against Columbus as calumny. Pursuant to the evidence Columbus had presented regarding Bobadilla's lies and earliest misdeeds, the Crown deposed Bobadilla from the viceroyalty of the West Indies. Though Bobadilla had done a great deal of damage to the tribal peoples and the West Indies in the time it took for Columbus to get back to Spain and conclude the legal proceedings, finally Bobadilla, the terror of the West Indies, was no more. His plot to remove Columbus as an obstacle to the tyranny of the hidalgos was short-lived, and Columbus and the tribal peoples of the West Indies emerged victorious.

But Columbus wanted nothing more to do with governing the hidalgos of the West Indies. He told the Crown, "I wanted to escape from governing these dissolute people...full of vice and malice.” (Letter of Christopher Columbus to Doña Juana de Torres, dated October 1500). Thus, rather than re-seat Columbus in a governorship he no longer wanted, the Crown replaced Bobadilla with a new governor, Nicolás de Ovando, Knight of Alcántara, and Comendador of Lares.  

Having learned from the tyranny of Bobadilla, Columbus was skeptical of Ovando. Columbus remained in Spain while the newly-appointed Governor Ovando and the newly-frocked Friar Bartolomé de las Casas -- who would eventually pen this history he was witnessing in real time -- traveled back to the West Indies. Columbus carefully drafted a petition to the Crown that he hoped would protect the tribal peoples from any further depredations by Spanish governors: a petition for the first civil rights legislation of the Americas.  

This act by Christopher Columbus marked a milestone not only in the life of this Genoan mariner and not only in the history of the Americas, but in the history of worldwide civil rights. Historian and translator Andrée M. Collard noted that Christopher Columbus ignited what was to be the undoing of the feudal encomienda system, sparking the spread of "the enlightened Spanish legal tradition" first set forth in "the Siete Partidas" (Historia de las Indias, editor's "Introduction"), a seven-part (as the name implies) Castilian statutory code first compiled in the Thirteenth Century during the reign of Alfonso X, establishing a uniform body of normative rules for the kingdom akin to the Magna Carta or the American Bill of Rights. Columbus sought to extend these civil rights protections to the tribal people of the West Indies.

The monarchs read Columbus's petition for the civil rights legislation, and agreed with him. They granted his petition and promulgated the first civil rights legislation of the Americas. This royal decree from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella included, "a very specific clause" at Columbus's behest: "all the Indians of Hispaniola were to be left free, not subject to servitude, unmolested and unharmed and allowed to live like free vassals under law just like any other vassal in the Kingdom of Castile" (Book II, 83). Whatever treachery the hidalgos might plan this time under Ovando's governorship, Columbus saw to it that the tribal peoples of the West Indies would now have the protection of law as mandated by two kings, the worldly and the heavenly.

And with that crowning deed accomplished, Columbus and the monarchs could now turn to planning Columbus's fourth -- and final -- voyage.  Though Ferdinand and Isabella made clear it was to be solely for the purpose of exploration, Columbus would defy his benefactors one last time in the name of civil rights.  In the next "1492 Project" article, I will recount Columbus's final confrontation in the West Indies for civil rights, "In the Court of Ovando."  

Editor’s Note: The author Robert Petrone, a practicing attorney and Italian American activist and leader in Philadelphia. He can be reached by email at robertpetrone@yahoo.com.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
ITALY ON VERGE OF A NEW GOVERNMENT
PRIME Minister Conte’s Coalition Breaks Apart
- Italy Remains in National Lockdown
- Feast of the Epiphany Celebration is Canceled in Florence
- Coronavirus Could Not Stop Befana

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, with a wish to you all for a Healthy, Happy, and More Serene New Year than the year that has just left us.

There is a serious crisis in the air hovering over Prime Minister Conte's government. There are rumors about a cabinet reshuffle to give us Mr. Conte's government No. 3 or, perhaps, a replacement of the prime minister with another member of the current government or else a prestigious international figure like the banker, Mario Draghi, or even new elections (to be hoped for but most unlikely).

Senator Matteo Renzi, an ex-mayor of Florence and head of the Italia Viva party, is a coalition partner in Conte's present government is not happy. He has issued an ultimatum to the prime minister in a letter outlining his party's major concerns. These involve programming the projects to be covered by the EU's Recovery Fund. This involves Italy's credibility and capability in managing the considerable amount of money the EU is making available for improving the health system, for implementing green initiatives and for digitizing, in particular, the public administration. Further, Renzi has objected to the slowness in putting into operation the nation-wide vaccination policy; the failure to provide a systematic plan for improving Italy's infrastructure like introducing a better fast railway service especially in the south and the inability to confront and solve the problem of youth unemployment. He added that it was unacceptable that, on January 5th 2021, parents still didn't know whether their children would be able to return to their classrooms when the school holidays finished on January 7th. He has also criticized the prime minister because he refuses to use the customary power for delegating responsibilities regarding the Italian intelligence forces and wants to keep them for himself. Finally, he has lamented that the Extraordinary Commissioner for the Covid Crisis, Domenico Acuri, has been loaded with too many duties, including his recent appointment to resolve the question of ILVA, the troubled steelworks in Taranto.

The problem here is that, up until now, most of the commissioner's work, like the provision of masks and swabs, has been controversial and, some say, a flop. The pundits seem to think this might be another machination of Renzi, who is known as the “Scrap It Man” because, in the past, his campaigns centered on the idea of “scraping” the old and bringing in the new, often him or his. Some time ago, to become secretary of his old party, the Democratic Party, he challenged the then secretary on these grounds and won. After the downfall of the first Conte government coalition between the 5-Star Movement and the center-right coalition, he also spearheaded its replacement with the current center-left parties, of which his party is one. However, the party he founded is believed to have no more than two or three percent consensus, so he is unlikely to want new elections. His aim is much more than likely to gain other ministries, in a cabinet reshuffle.

New revised nationwide lockdown rules from 7th until 15th January 2021, are about to be announced as a third wave of the pandemic is feared. This means further uncertainty for business and restaurant owners, families with school-age children, and workers struggling to do their jobs from home who long to return to their offices.

Here in Florence, the piazzas and streets are usually overflowing with people at New Year because free open-air concerts of all kinds take place. Not in 2020. The city was eerily deserted and silent as assembling was prohibited. Even the midnight fireworks were languid and brief.

Usually, on the 6th January, one of the most picturesque and beloved processions takes place in Florence. To celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, a cavalcade led by the sumptuously dressed Three Kings, also known as the Three Wise Men, or Magi, winds its way through the historic center. They reenact the Christian tradition in which the Three Magi bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn Jesus, following a bright star to the manger where he rests. This local pageant in its present form is a mere 25 years old but revives a cortège celebrating the Festa de’ Magi (Festival of the Three Kings) last held in the 15th century. All the participants wear beautiful replicas of Renaissance costumes and include members of local ethnic communities living in the city. Sadly, this year, coronavirus has managed to cancel even this.

At home, the Befana (the witch with her pointy hat and broomstick) will come to help us celebrate the Epiphany. Although it is a day for children to receive their gifts, toys if they have been good all year and candy “coal” if they have been naughty, it's sometimes fun to pretend you have never grown up. I'm expecting toys – probably kitchen gadgets which I'm crazy about.

Again best wishes for 2021 to you and yours and always remember a glass or two of Italian prosecco.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. Photographs taken of Florence, window shopping. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

CITY OF FEAR
A Walk Around Capitol Hill

By Truby Chiaviello

Since PRIMO is based in Washington, D.C., we can provide an insider’s view of what is happening in our nation’s capital.

Yesterday, January 9th, my son Rami and I took a walk around the area of the U.S. Capitol and took a set of photographs depicting the enhanced security now underway.

The riots of January 6th saw a group of pro-Trump rally participants enter the U.S. Capitol, to clash with U.S. Capitol police, resulting in the deaths of five people, including U.S. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknic. The assault on the Capitol has now exacerbated, what had already been, after the pandemic and summer riots, a restricted, guarded and fearful nation’s capital.

A 10 foot hight metal grading now surrounds the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, named after Capitoline Hill in Rome, and what many refer to as the “people’s house.” Concrete barricades rest alongside the massive fence in front of the building.

The presence of soldiers from the Washington, D.C. national guard are immediately noticeable with groups on every corner, manning entrance and exit ways. U.S. Capitol police officers are also many in number, well-armed and dressed in windbreakers, sunglasses and black nit hats for the sunny yet cold wintry day.

Across the street from the U.S. Capitol were contrasts in security. The Baroque inspired Jefferson building, part of the Library of Congress, was surrounded, not by a 10 foot metal fence, as is the U.S. Capitol, but, rather modest metal barricades, about four feet in height. National guardsmen and women were at the ready blocking the stairway entrance to the building.

The disparity across from the library at East Capitol Street was the U.S. Supreme Court building. A massive fence, similar to the one surrounding the U.S. Capitol is in place to contain the perimeter of the neoclassical designed building and grounds. Perhaps, the added security measures has to do with a case pending here on allegations of election fraud in Pennsylvania brought by President Trump and members of his campaign team.

The U.S. Capitol covers an area of four acres in the center of Washington, D.C. Consider how First Street crosses the north and south ends of the U.S. Capitol grounds to expose four sections of the city: First Street, N.E., First Street, S.E., First Street N.W. and First Street S.W. At the north and south ends of the building and grounds is Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue, respectively.

Today, a metal fence surrounds the entire perimeter of the U.S. Capitol. At the corner of Constitution Avenue and First Street, N.E., lies the Russell Senate Office Building. The last months have seen considerable construction and renovation work there. Scaffolds and barricades add to the level of obstructions in place and might be confused by onlooker as part of enhanced security measures.

Several factors are to thank for a sense of foreboding and paranoia that has overtaken the city. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic put much of Washington, D.C. in lockdown. Although the nation’s capital has suffered much less than other cities such as Philadelphia and New York in the number of verified infections and deaths caused by the pandemic, the people here have taken the disease very seriously and have complied with a number of draconian measures instituted by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

After the death of criminal suspect George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, the city experienced a week of riots and violence that saw hundreds of stores looted, not to mention clashes with police too numerous to count and a number of deaths and injuries. The White House was under siege until gas canisters were ignited to disperse crowds and the national guard was brought in to restore order. Much of the area around the National Mall and downtown Washington were blocked by local police, federal officers and national guardsmen.

Now comes the inauguration of the 46th president in Joe Biden, former vice-president and U.S. senator from Delaware. The ceremonies will commence on January 20th for the exchange of power as directed in the U.S. Constitution. Security measures have always been enhanced for the ceremony and at times today it was difficult to discern which security precautions were normal and which were enhanced because of the January 6th riots.

The U.S. Capitol was famous the world over as a parliamentary forum that was open to the public with extraordinary works of art and priceless decorations inside the building. Now a massive fence separates people from where their congressional representatives and U.S. senators work. Although closed off from the public, the area outside the fenced perimeter was not unlike any other day with many pedestrians, tourists and people riding bicycles and scooters. A makeshift memorial was made for Sicknic, with flowers, words of hope and recent photographs of the slain officer. The display stands beside the pedestal of the memorial to Ulysses S. Grant at First Street, N.W.

The current state of fear and precaution did not happen suddenly but was ongoing, one incident at a time, beginning in 1994 when Frank Eugene Corder stole a Cessna 150 aircraft to crash it on the south lawn of the White House on September 11th, that year. Soon after the incident, on October 29, Francisco Martin Duran unveiled a semi-automatic rifle from China to fire at random at the White House before tackled and subdued by a pedestrian.

Based on these separate assaults, President Clinton ordered the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to automobile traffic. What was once a rite of passage for members of families visiting those who lived in Washington to drive by the White House is now a remnant of the past.

Under President Bush, much of the area around the White House and the U.S. Capitol were constricted or closed off after the terror attacks of 9/11 and subsequent Iraq War. This continued under President’s Obama and Trump.

The notion that Washington will regain a sense of freedom and openness, that made this a capital city to be envied the world over, seems unattainable as the country becomes increasingly divisive with fear and foreboding a continuing theme among the caretakers of the country.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is fenced-in U.S. Capitol, fenced in Supreme Court, a makeshift memorial for U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, National guard soldiers in front of the Rayburn office building and modest barricades in front of the Library of Congress, Jefferson Building.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
ITALY RETURNS TO NATIONAL LOCKDOWN
Restriction of Movement for Two Weeks
- The Italian Restaurant and Hospitality Sectors are Crushed
- Blood of Saint Gennaro Did Not Liquify in Naples This Year; First Time Since 1980
- No Matter the Hardships; Christmas is Joyful

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, we are at the end of Week 25 and, sadly, Italy is on the top of the list for deaths in Europe, even outstripping the United Kingdom which has just discovered a more virulent strain of the coronavirus. Given the serious nature of the pandemic all over the continent; Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Great Britain have reintroduced harsh lockdown restrictions to stem contagion during the holidays. Prime Minister Conte's government contradicted itself and dithered, yet again! This was summed up by the president of the Senate, Elisabetta Casellati, during her traditional exchange of greetings with the parliamentary press at Palazzo Madama on December 18 when she said, "It is incomprehensible that the Italians do not know what they are supposed to do [during the festive season]. Rules, even strict rules, but clear rules, because it is unimaginable that we find ourselves at the last minute faced with not being able to take our greetings to an elderly parent, who is alone and perhaps even ill. Ten months from the beginning of the pandemic, there are too many delays, too much indeterminacy and lack of homogeneity in the reorganization of the health system."

New revised Christmas holiday regulations were passed on December 18th. The main provision is that a nationwide lockdown will be in place from December 24th until January 6th. As of December 21st, we cannot leave our regions except for exceptional circumstances. And so it goes that for at least the following two weeks, we will be hiccuping between being in Yellow, Orange or Red zones. Furthermore, you will probably need to carry this encyclopedia of rules around with you to try and work out what you can and cannot do when and where.

Restaurant owners are livid and in revolt as only a week or so ago they were told they could open on the main days of the Christmas season; their most profitable time of what has been a very difficult year for them. Instead, they have now been shut down. This means many have already paid their suppliers and stocked their larders only to find there will be no one in their restaurants to eat the food. I think Senator Casellati might call this not only “incomprehensible” but downright “unacceptable.”

Trouble is continuing to ferment in the government ranks. Talk is rampant that there could be a Cabinet shuffle or even that a new possible candidate for premier may be the international banker, Mario Draghi. Italia Viva, a coalition partner, is not happy and has issued an ultimatum. It wants satisfaction by January 6, 2021 but about what? Money, of course. After Prime Minister Conte announced that the projects which would benefit from the 200 billion euro that Italy has been promised by the EU's Recovery Fund would be chosen by yet another Task Force of his choice, warning flags went up. Who would these people be? What would they be paid? Where was the necessary transparency? And above all else, what was parliament supposed to do, just sit back and allow yet another abuse of power and attack on democracy to go by without taking action? Apart from that, it's no surprise that all the parties want their slice of this cake.

On December 16, 2020, the miracle of the liquefying of the blood of San Gennaro failed to happen during the third event of the year. This had not occurred since 1980. This news has brought concern and dejection to Naples.

Finally, after 108 days, the 18 fishermen and their boats have returned home to Mazara del Vallo after being sequestered by the militia of General Khalifa Haftar in Libya. One of the fishermen told the press that they were not treated well while in captivity.

Here in Florence, this year, although closed like other museums and art galleries in this period, the famous Uffizi Galleries have presented a novel, pop art and luminous nativity scene that can be seen in its windows from afar throughout the holiday season. Lombard artist Marco Lodola has created colorful back-lit figures featuring Italian musicians as the religious figures: Lucio Dalla appears as Joseph, Gigliola Cinquetti as Mary, while Pavarotti, Rino Gaetano, and Renzo Arbore are shepherds. Even David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Louis Armstrong are present. The comet, also known as the ‘people’s star,’ is a sea of faces in which, the artist says, "everyone can see their own." It points towards Ponte Vecchio, a bridge which over the centuries has survived floods, plagues, and wars, an inspiration for us all.

Here, at home, because of the restrictions, there will be just the three of us together with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin singing in the background. The pantry is full and the fridge and freezer are bursting: Fish on Christmas Eve; smoked salmon, chicken (not turkey or goose this year) and lamb, baked vegetables, a small English Christmas pudding and, of course, a panettone on Christmas Day. But, for every penny we spent, the supermarket matched with a percent for products destined for the city's Food Bank so that others less fortunate, either because of the current times or because they are homeless, will have a Merry Christmas too. Best wishes also to you and yours and always remember a glass or two of Italian prosecco.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

 

PRIMO Exclusive
ROME LOSES ITS SOUL
Previously Rome was for Everybody; Now Many Romans are Leaving The Eternal City
In recent years, due to the rise in home prices, the poor public services, as well as the dirt and the noise, many of Rome’s inhabitants have turned their backs on the Eternal City. Before Covid-19, tourists had taken over the center. But with the pandemic, they too have now disappeared.

Text and photos: Jesper Storgaard Jensen

  The sidewalk cafe in Rome's Jewish ghetto is sheer idyll. A generous December sun casts its long morning shadows across the ghetto's main street, Via del Portico d'Ottavia. Here and there, people stand and chat undisturbed. It is one of the few areas in the center of Rome without the annoying traffic, and so it has a completely relaxed atmosphere. Yet it is as if something is missing.
   “Before covid-19, this area was usually very crowded. But as you can see, there are not many people on the streets these days. If we go back to the 1980s, both Rome's Jewish ghetto and the area around Campo dei Fiori were residential areas, where ordinary Romans lived. It was middle-class and even people from the lower-class, because house prices were low. There were not very many restaurants compared to today. The area, on the other hand, was full of shops selling everyday necessities. There were also many small workshops where people could have all sorts of things repaired, and where the prices were average. In retrospect, it was probably from the early 1990s that the city began to change. For the worse.”
   Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi, 53, is a historian and author of, so far, eight books on fascism, persecution of Jews and Rome under German occupation. His essay number nine comes out in January 2021 with the title “Specialists in hate. Reports, arrests and deportations of Italian Jews.” He has lived in the heart of the city, near Torre Argentina, since 1992, and has witnessed how the city center has slowly changed over almost three decades.
   “Two of the center's historic bookstores, close to where I live, Rinascita and Croce, have both closed down. And in recent years, a big number of so-called bangla grocery stores have opened. Bangla is Roman slang for shops run by Bangladeshi people. But they do not sell things from Bangladesh. They sell milk, water, fruit and tourist tinsel, such as reproductions of the Pantheon and of Venice's gondolas. Now they are everywhere. In addition, you can count numerous fast food chains and kebab shops, which are probably exclusively aimed at tourists. And then there are also the many bank branches that have opened in the center in recent years. They don’t really constitute a poetic element”.
   We just got a good cup of Italian espresso placed in front of us, after which Amedeo continues to recount.
  "With the pandemic, it is now obvious to everyone that the center of Rome is in a pretty bad state. But this is not just because of Covid-19. For many years, it has been difficult to live here. House prices have reached an insane level. This skyrocketing started in the 1990s, simply because people had acquired more disposable income and started buying homes in the historic center. This has pushed up house prices significantly. Later, mass tourism started quite slowly, mainly due to the low-cost airlines, which flew thousands of people to the city every day. And in recent years Rome’s historic center is suffering a huge daily invasion of tourists.”
   Amedeo's story about the center of Rome shows the considerable difference between “the real Rome” and the Rome that is usually described in lifestyle articles and colorful tourist brochures.
   “Prices in the center of Rome are significantly higher than on the outskirts of the city,” says Amedeo. “This also applies to prices on everyday groceries. And then there is the noise. I am consumed by noise here: Street musicians, ambulances, the sirens of police cars as they drive past with politicians. The city is dirty. Chaotic. Public services are generally poor. There are only a few schools here in the center and even fewer crèches, for which there are long waiting lists. Therefore, many families choose to move out of the city, or out into the periphery. And then there is the Bed & Breakfast phenomenon, which probably really started four or five years ago. Since then, these B&Bs, especially Airbnbs, have totally invaded the city. This has clearly changed what one might call the city's anthropological composition.”

B&Bs everywhere
   Covid-19 has made it crystal clear that Rome is now in the same situation as several of Italy's most coveted tourist cities. First and foremost, Florence and Venice, but partly also Verona, Naples and Milan. They are all affected by what the Italian press calls "disneyficazione.” This phenomenon describes an area that has been hit by over-tourism and which especially lives and breathes in honor of and by virtue of tourists. At the same time, however, this mass tourism means that the ordinary residents choose to give way and search for new areas to live.
   In an article about the B&B-phenomenon in Rome, the web-magazine Huffington Post writes that in 2019, in the triangular area Tratevere-Monti-Colosseum alone, as many as 15,000 Airbnb rental homes were registered. If you count the entire territory of Rome, this figure rises to over 29,000, which is significantly higher compared to other European capitals. The article further states that many Romans prefer to rent out to tourists, rather than having permanent Italian long-term tenants. If the regular tenants do not pay rent, one typically has to go through years of litigation, while the tourists who only stay for a few days rarely create problems.
   "Many have left Rome's high prices and chaos to live outside the city. Instead, they have transformed their downtown home into an Airbnb apartment. And virtually no one pays tax on what they earn. But now there are problems. One of my friends is a bank employee. He says that during this period the bank has conversations almost daily with people who cannot pay their loans because the tourists no longer come to Rome due to the pandemic”.

Romans moving away
   In recent years, mass tourism has spread like a thick oppressive blanket over Rome’s historic center. In 2018, Italy's statistical office, ISTAT, registered a record number of tourists in the city, a total of 28 million. Over time this has caused an increasing number of Romans to move out of the city. In 1951, about 400,000 people lived in the historic center of Rome. Today, this number is just 80,000, and over the past 15 years, the population of the historic center has fallen by about 1,500 people a year.
   Today - with the pandemic and thus a striking absence of tourists - the city center appears almost lifeless. However, not only due to the absence of tourists. Thousands of ministry staff and office workers who previously worked in the city center and who flocked to the streets around lunchtime to eat, now work from home to avoid the risk of infection. Especially in the afternoon, the city streets and piazzas appear depopulated. Often, you can hear the sound of just one pair of heels walking through an empty street. Shops and hotels that have succumbed have put brown paper in the windows, and at the entrance to many shops, the employees stand with a bored expression, waiting for customers. Only 20 percent of the hotels in the city center are reopened after the summer holidays. In some streets, every fourth shop has closed down. It is only when you get outside the historic center, out into the periphery, out into the suburbs, that you can feel life again. Because this is where the Romans actually live.
   However, Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi does not share the concern about the city's normally large tourist invasion. Instead, he calls for quality in what Rome offers to the visiting tourists.
   “Now, take an attraction like the Colosseum. With more than seven million visitors annually, it is Italy’s, and one of the world's, biggest attractions. But the visitor organization around the Colosseum is really embarrassing. Extremely long queues. Mock gladiators who almost fight to be photographed by tourists for a fee. There is no tourist and visitor center. No organized sale of souvenirs. No website has been created with, e.g., virtual reality, which many other museums now use. And the area around the Colosseum, e.g. Colle Oppio, is mostly of all characterized by decay, beggars and homeless people. Something similar can be seen near many other attractions”.
   Over the years, he has often been to Germany to lecture and had the opportunity to make comparisons between Berlin and Rome.
   "Berlin is a fascinating city. But if you take an attraction like Checkpoint Charlie, then it's really not much more than a crossroads! Don’t get me wrong ... of course the place is fascinating, because it's about World War II, which I have been dealing with a lot. But if we talk about antiquity and cultural treasures, then Berlin has only a fraction of what Rome offers tourists. But Berlin still has plenty of tourists, because the Germans have been adept at creating a cultural identity around the events of World War II. Far more skilled than Italy. Mussolini's dictatorship lasted from 1930-1943. Thirteen years that have passed into history and which to a certain extent still characterize Italy to this day. Mussolini lived for ten years in Palazzo Venezia in the center of Rome. Why did Rome not create a museum that tells the story of that period? There is plenty of material available of these 13 years. In thousands of film clips, official documents, photos, testimonies, books, and so on.”
   Now we are under the influence of Covid-19, with all that entails of health and economic problems. But further ahead lies the future. So the question is whether one can expect Rome and especially the city center to develop in a positive direction.
  "If anything is to change in this city, it requires a political class and a future mayor with vision and a clear idea. But first and foremost vision. It's hard to believe. Many of the city's problems have been discussed for years, even decades. Rome's political class is characterised primarily by indifference. There is a lack of both initiative and courage. As far as tourism is concerned, Rome has always rested on its laurels. Most of all, it seems as if no one bothers or dares to take new initiatives, because as they say … 'the tourists come anyway'. We still have the Colosseum and the Vatican and the Vatican Museums, and the restaurants will still continue to offer their cheap tourist menus. What we are missing is a strong political voice saying, ‘We have a lot of interesting places, but we need to make better use of them. We need to organize them so that they become even more interesting to visit'. I'm sorry to say that, but unfortunately I do not think we will see that change.”
   Despite the fact that the city's development right now does not seem to be going in the right direction, Amedeo declares that he and his family have no plans to move, neither away from Rome nor from the city center. “We have many friends who live around here, and it is easy to meet. If my wife and I decided to rent our apartment here in the center, we would be able to rent a house outside Rome for the same amount of money. But even with the many problems that the city has, Rome’s historic center is still magnificent. Once you get used to living in the middle of all that beauty and history, it's definitely not easy to move away."

Info on Rome:
Rome has 2.8 million inhabitants. Over the years the city's mass tourism has forced many ordinary Romans out of the city center. In the 1950s, the center of Rome had about 400,000 inhabitants, today just 80,000. The center of Rome has survived due to its many tourists, and with their absence today because of the pandemic, the area now appears both lifeless and abandoned.

Info on Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi:
Born in Rome in 1967. He has a master's degree in history. He is a researcher at the Rome Holocaust center and the author of nine books on Jewish persecution, fascism, World War II and Rome during the German occupation. He is married, the father of two and has lived in the heart of Rome since 1992.

 

 

 

Op-ed
MALREPRESENTATION OF ITALIAN AMERICANS
How Unauthorized Immigration Disenfranchises Italian Americans
“Whenever demographics change away from Italian Americans, we are expected to give up some of our representation in order to accommodate the new immigrants.”

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

I am an Italian American civil rights activist. I am the President of a small 501c3 Italian American civil rights non-profit called the Italian American Movement. I also am a Democratic-leaning independent. I am a liberal Democrat more than I am a moderate or conservative. However, time and again, I find that my party, the Democratic Party, harms Italian Americans, intentionally or unintentionally, especially in New Jersey, the center of the Italian American homeland. Nowhere is this more clear than in immigration policy.

New Jersey has a policy of encouraging immigration to New Jersey. This is not a problem in of itself. However, New Jersey does not encourage legal immigration. It especially does not encourage Italian immigration. However, it encourages unauthorized immigration from Latin America.

In New Jersey, you can practice law despite being an unauthorized immigrant. Also, you get in-state tuition and can get a driving license. All of these policies are meant to encourage unauthorized immigrants, who both change the state’s demographics and cannot vote. Perhaps, they will be able to vote one day, but right now, they are treated as non-voting cattle by the Democratic elites.

Whenever demographics change away from Italian Americans, we are expected to give up some of our representation in order to accommodate the new immigrants. However, when our ancestors came to this country, this did not happen. We still are not considered minorities in New Jersey law. As a result, our numbers are already too low and likely to go down as demands for accommodation of new Latino residents, even those who are unauthorized. The State does not count us, but the bringing in of these residents is meant to “counter-balance” us. If we asked to bring in more immigrants from Italy to “counter-balance” unauthorized immigrants, which is perfectly fair, this would be viewed as racist. However, the reverse is considered perfectly acceptable.

The idea is not that unauthorized immigrants are bad but that there is a potential conflict between the civil rights of unauthorized immigrants the civil rights of Italian American. I think that it is problematic that unauthorized immigrants, who cannot vote, have more political power than Italian Americans, who are not allowed to be counted, but account for almost seven percent of American citizens. Standing up for Italian American civil rights is often viewed as racist, because Anglos insist on keeping us as non-Hispanic white in the U.S. Census, even though we are not truly white.

Italian Americans are affected by malrepresentation in New Jersey more than any other group. When unauthorized immigrants are counted for the purposes of representation, this violates the Constitution. In Baker v. Carr, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that each person’s vote count equally. This is called the one-person/one-vote principle. This means that each federal or state legislative district should have the same number of potential voters. Since unauthorized immigrants are not here legally, they are not potential voters until legalized and this they throw off the proper numbers of the districts.

Italian Americans live mainly in districts with low numbers of unauthorized immigrants. Since unauthorized immigrants are not distributed equally, it means that districts can have far less voters and the same amount of representatives. Since Italian Americans tend to be in areas with far less unauthorized residents than in areas where there are less of us, it means that we are disproportionately disenfranchised by including unauthorized immigrants in representation.

Malrepresentation, the lack of alignment between persons represented and their representation is unconstitutional and discriminates disproportionately against Italian Americans. Imagine that malrepresentation disproportionately affected Latinos and African Americans. It would be condemned as racist (which it is) and would be challenged by the ACLU in court. It would then be struck down as unconstitutional. However, since Italian Americans are being disproportionately and systemically discriminated against by malrepresentation, the media does not care.

No one cares about Italian American civil rights other than us and we need to make non-Italians care about our civil rights. In New Jersey, there are few media outlets and one of them, the Star-Ledger, is staunchly anti-Italian. When the media controls the narrative and cannot be sued for racism, it can effectively cut off all Italian American op-eds in parts of the State.

There is only one media company in the State of New Jersey that is friendly to Italian Americans - the Gannett company, which controls The Asbury Park Press and The Record. Since there are many other groups that need attention, we rarely get any coverage in the state, despite the best intentions of the Gannett company.

Italian Americans need to organize and demand that unauthorized immigrants do not count for the purposes of representation in New Jersey or anywhere else. The state legislature needs to only consider persons that can be counted for the purposes of representation under the U.S. Constitution. This includes both federal and state legislative districts. Malrepresentation reduces Italian Americans’ ability to be represented at the federal and state levels, which violates our civil rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, state laws, and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Other interest groups laugh at Italian Americans because we are the least litigious group in the State of New Jersey or anywhere in America. Since we never sue to protect our civil rights, we can be safely ignored. Only by threatening to sue, and if need be, actually suing, to overturn malrepresentation in the state’s current and future representation schemes, can Italian Americans finally get taken seriously in New Jerseyan and American politics.

In sum, unauthorized immigrants are perfectly fine people and are not trying to hurt us. However, there are Anglo-white politicians who are trying to dilute our counting power and they are the real threat to Italian American politics.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is the president of the Italian American Movement, a 501c3 Italian American civil rights organization dedicated to reclassifying Italian Americans as Mediterranean Americans instead of Non-Hispanic White. He is a political scientist, historian, and adjunct professor associated with Middlesex County College. He can be reached at 732-549-2635 and 732-887-3914 by phone. His email is cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion, as expressed in the article, may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.
 

 

COLUMBUS HERITAGE COALITION SEEKS TO STOP REMOVAL OF BROOKLYN COLUMBUS STATUE, CREATED BY EMMA STEBBINS; PIONEER IN WOMAN AND LGBTQ ARTS

By Angelo Vivolo
President, Columbus Heritage Coalition

Columbus Hatred or Truth? Time to Choose.

Pioneering 19th-century gay sculptor Emma Stebbins may well be the latest victim of the irrational frenzy that seeks to wipe away all memory of Christopher Columbus.

Stebbins, described as ‘‘a rising star” by the New York Times, was the first woman to create public artworks for New York City. Now a small group has set their sights on ridding Brooklyn of Stebbins’ acclaimed statue of Columbus, commissioned in 1863, and one of her earliest works.
We know that the Italian explorer’s legacy has been twisted and misrepresented into a biased and hateful view of Hispanic and Latino cultures and of the Spanish, who were the first European settlers in the new world. And we know about the history in America of bias against Italian Americans.

The hatred now extends to the work of a pioneering gay artist.

Where will it stop?

We will not allow Emma Stebbins’ Columbus to be carried off into the night. We will join with all fair-minded groups to support more creation of more statues and the true meaning of fairness and inclusion for all.

It’s time to drop the hate and seek the truth.

Editor’s Note: The Columbus Heritage Coalition works to preserve the legacy of Christopher Columbus in the United States. To learn more about the organization, please log on to www.columbusheritagecoalition.org.

Their current Go Fund Me Page:
https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/save-columbus1

 

 

GEORGE BOCHETTO TO RECEIVE HERO AWARD FROM FILITALIA INTERNATIONAL
- Attorney’s Legal Efforts to Preserve Columbus Statue in Philadelphia are Duly Recognized
- “I cannot emphasize enough how heroic Mr. Bochetto's efforts have been,” says Robert Petrone

Filitalia International will be honoring attorney George Bochetto with an award for his efforts to preserve the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza in Philadelphia. The awards ceremony will take place on December 20, inside the Ballroom at the Phoenix in Upper Chichester, Pennsylvania. The venue can host up to 700 people; with only a maximum of 70 people (10 percent capacity) allowed because of Covid-19 precautions. Everyone else attending, including those in Italy and everywhere in the world, will participate via a simulcast virtual event.

“I cannot emphasize enough how heroic Mr. Bochetto's efforts have been,” says Robert Petrone, an attorney from Philadelphia who has written extensively about Columbus. “Philadelphia attorney George Bochetto has been the moving force behind our legal actions preserving the Philadelphia Columbus statue, and has been doing so pro bono -- at his own expense.  His efforts did not go unnoticed outside of the city. The city of Pittsburgh hired him to spearhead the legal fight to preserve their Columbus statue as well.”

Filitalia suggests: "Please reserve your tickets in advance and make sure you plan ahead of time your attendance. At the entrance door we will check your body temperatures and require you to wear a facemask. Call us and send a check, or pay via credit card over the phone, so you will not miss this opportunity to celebrate our people, start the holiday season and reconnect with our mother organization." Please do not hesitate to contact the organization for any questions or concerns at (215) 334-8882 or info@filitaliainternational.com.

 

Covid Chronicles
PANDEMIC AT CHRISTMASTIME
A New Decree Issues More Curfews and More Restrictions of Movement
- Midnight Mass at 10 p.m.
- Naples Mourns Death of Soccer Star Diego Armando Maradona
- Christmas Lights Take Over Florence

By Deirdre Pirro



 

Here in Italy, we are at the end of Week 24 and, on the night between 3rd and 4th December 2020, we came to know how we could pass the festive season. And, yes, no prizes for guessing the information came from Prime Minister Conte's latest “Save Christmas Decree.” The zoning of Italy's regions has changed to ease up on the strictest restrictions as of December 5th and to give economic activities like stores and shops, restaurants and bars some breathing space in what would normally be their busiest period of the year. Only Abruzzo remains in the Red Zone (high coronavirus risk). Instead, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Lombardy, Piedmont, Tuscany, Valle d'Aosta and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano have returned to the Orange Zone (medium-high risk) whereas Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Marche, Lazio, Liguria, Molise, Puglia, Sardegna, Sicily, Umbria, Veneto, and the Autonomous Province of Trento are all now in the Yellow Zone (medium risk) with the least restrictions.

The nationwide curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. still applies, except for New Year's Eve when it has been extended to 7 a.m. Finally, shops can open, although malls are still closed on weekends while museums, theaters, cinemas and gyms remain closed. Restaurants, bakeries and bars are still unable to provide table service, but they can continue a takeaway service until 10 p.m. However, restaurants can open with table service on Christmas Day and Boxing Day until 6 p.m.; with a maximum of four people per table, not counting couples who live together. In church, Mass on Christmas Eve will be celebrated at 10 p.m. and not at Midnight, a decision that has been controversial as it is a radical break with tradition. We are allowed to move about within our municipality but only for work, study, health and necessary services. We can carry out urgent work on holiday homes, boats, campers or caravans in other municipalities; for couples who are separated, a parent can visit his/her children who live with the other partner. However, on December 25th, 26th and January 1st, 2021, we are banned from moving outside our municipalities. This has caused an uproar, particularly for people who live in small communities, or elderly people who may live alone or may have no family or friends close by and they cannot be with them. Anyone returning from outside Italy, even from within the European Union, between 21st December 21, 2020 and January 6, 2021 will be quarantined. Ski resorts remain closed until January 6, 2021; which has also caused discontent when countries like Austria and Switzerland have kept their ski resorts open. Cruises are also prohibited between 21st December 21, 2020 and January 6, 2021. Although hotels remain open, they cannot organize New Year's Eve dinners or parties but, from 6 p.m., only room service meals can be served. There will, however, be some relaxation of the rules relating to schools after January 7, 2021. Above all, we are still strongly advised not to have people in our homes unless for work or need or urgency.

All these regulations, prohibitions, bans and their exceptions make for head-swimming reading and often confusion and chaos which leads to their difficult application. Certainly, rules are necessary to protect us from this insidious and deadly virus but, as the opposition objects, perhaps there are too many and they could have been clearer and simpler.

Trouble may be brewing for the government and there is talk it may fall because the 5 Star Movement, contrary to its coalition allies, the Democratic Party and Italia Viva, does not want to take the money offered by the EU's Economic Stability Mechanism to invest in the national health system. Political pundits seem to think, and I have to agree with them, that the majority of the sitting parliamentarians are so glued to their seats and their 15,000 Euros a month salaries that they will stoop to any compromise to stay where they are, particularly after a recent survey found that seven out of every eight of them are unlikely to ever be voted in again!

This week, Naples, in particular, but also much of Italy, was veiled in shock and sadness when news reached the city that the mythical Argentinian footballer, Diego Armando Maradona died on November 25th at just 60 years old. He was a hero in the city as he had played for the SCC Napoli soccer club from 1985 to 1991, leading the team to a string of unprecedented victories including its first win in the championship of 1986-1987; its win in the Coppa Italia; and its win in the 1989 UEFA Cup, and, again, a win in the 1990 Supercoppa. After the wake at the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires, he was buried alongside his parents. The Mayor of Naples has announced that the town's San Paolo Stadium will change its name to the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

Here in Florence, the Mayor, Dario Nardella, has pulled out all the stops to try and cheer us up and to celebrate Christmas "with hope" for the future. The Christmas lights decorating the main streets throughout the city are beautiful and from December 8th until the Epiphany, the annual F-Light Festival will be held with video mapping, projections, lights and artistic installations on a "Sight, From the Dark Wood to the Light" theme related to the celebrations of the 700th anniversary of Dante's death in 2021. As a tribute to the city's hospitals, three light beams will be projected into the sky around Christmas time. On December 7th, the lights on two large Christmas trees were switched on in piazza Duomo and by the Palazzo Vecchio. When this happens each year you know the festive season has begun.

Here, at home, taking the lead from the city, we decorated our Christmas tree and put the momentarily empty basket at the foot of it ready to be filled with brightly wrapped presents which are always opened on Christmas morning. The laurel and holly wreath is hanging on the front door ready to welcome Santa when he calls. Next week it will be time to fill the pantry and the fridge but I'll tell you all about it then.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre.

Editor’s Note: Photographs taken by the author of the beautiful light display and manger scene in Florence. Another photo is a wax replica of Naples’ soccer star Diego Armando Maradona, who died last month.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
CHAOS IN CALABRIA
Prime Minister Must Take Over Region as Health Commissioners Fail at Job
- Regions Categorized Under Zones: Red, Orange and Yellow
- Virtual Thanksgiving in Italy

By Deirdre Pirro

Here in Italy, we are at the end of Week 23 and the Italian regions, at this time, are divided into the Red Zone (high coronavirus risk): Calabria, Campania, Lombardy, Piedmont, Tuscany, Valle d'Aosta and Autonomous Province of Bolzano; the Orange Zone (medium-high risk): Abruzzo, Basilicata, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Marche, Liguria, Puglia, Sicily and Umbria; and the Yellow Zone (medium risk): Veneto, Lazio, Molise, Autonomous Province of Trento and Sardegna, each with its own series of increasingly stricter restrictions which will be in force until December 20, 2020. The zoning has been considered necessary because, in this second wave of the pandemic in Italy, there are now almost four deaths every 100 cases of Covid-19. This makes Italy the third country in the world after Belgium and the United States on the mortality index probably, in part, because of its aging population.

In this week, Calabria could be said to have been the scene of a comic opera if it were not such a serious scandal. For the last 10 years, the Health Service in the Calabria region has been under the control of a commissioner in a kind of receivership. Two weeks ago, when questioned about his management of the Covid crisis, the then-commissioner replied, more or less, that he didn't realize it was his responsibility to have a coronavirus program! Hello, just who did he think was responsible? Promptly replaced by another candidate favorable to the governing coalition and, especially to the 5 Star Movement, the new candidate was caught on video saying that face masks were totally useless and then went on to say "what was necessary was distancing, because to catch the virus, if I were positive you would have to kiss me for 15 minutes with my tongue in your mouth.” After being criticized for his incredible remarks, he apologized, saying it was a private conversation and was never meant to be made public. Too late. Next candidate, after a day or two's reflection, declared he would not accept the job as his wife didn't want to move to Catanzaro. Perhaps, they could have asked him before his name was splashed all over the newspapers. At this point, the government tried to involve Dr. Gino Strada, founder of the NGO Emergency and famous for setting up hospitals in war zones. He refused to take over as commissioner but appears willing to act as consultant to whomever the government appoints - if it ever manages to do so. In a television announcement, Prime Minister Conte magnanimously stated “I assume full responsibility" for the chaos in Calabria's health system. Big of him; but I imagine it doesn't go down too well with those suffering from the virus or in danger of contracting it in that beautiful region.

On November 14th and 15th, the 5 Star Movement held its so-called Estates General where the major issue requiring attention was the leadership of the movement itself. The two main critics of the current leadership following the Movement's mauling at the last elections, Alessandro Di Battista and Davide Casaleggio, president of the Associazione Rousseau, the electronic voting platform of the 5 Stars and the son of one of the Movement's founders both deserted the Estates General. In fact, Casaleggio said that, in his opinion, everything had been decided before the meeting so what was the use of his participation. Instead, the more institutional wing led by Luigi Di Maio and Vito Crimi (the present leader) prevailed and it seems in future the leadership will be collegiate.

An interesting debate arose recently regarding the tracing systems of positive Covid cases and their close contacts which have successfully been put into practice in some Far Eastern countries whereas in the West there has been resistance in implementing such systems because of worries about privacy. The question is whether or not some of our previous priorities require further thought in exceptional times like these?

Naples has always been famous for what is called a “caffè sospeso.” This is an old tradition among many people who, when they go to pay for a cup of coffee they have drunk in a cafe or bar, pay for two instead of one. The extra money is to gift a cup of coffee to any needy person who perhaps cannot pay for one. In the Sanità quarter of the city, people are now leaving money for “tamponi sospesi” (suspended swabs) for those who need a swab but can't afford it. A great sign of typical Neapolitan solidarity.

Here in Florence, the week saw Florence added to the 88 cities in the world which make up the A list of cities that have been recognized by the international Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for major progress in the battle against climate change in keeping with the 2016 Paris Agreement. Turin is the only other Italian city on the list.

Here, at home, over the years, we have spent Thanksgiving with American friends who pull out all the stops to give us a genuine true-blue experience of their special day. Unfortunately, not so this year, as the regulations strongly recommend no socializing in other people's homes. So being just the three of us, it looks like a takeaway turkey dinner, gravy and stuffing and, of course, pecan pie but with no leftovers assured. I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving with your family and friends and remember, a glass or two of the best Italian prosecco you can find...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Photo of the 130-hectare Cascine park which had initially been a Medici hunting and farming estate until 1776, when the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorena opened it up to the public.

 

 

WHAT TO BUY FOR CHRISTMAS GIFTS THIS YEAR?
TRY ONE OR MORE OF THESE BOOKS
REVIEWED IN OUR SECOND EDITION 2020
All Italian: From Adventure to Historical Dramas, Romance and Memoirs

“Sicilian Dreams,” by Vincent Panella; published by Bordighera Press, available at Amazon

   Sagas of Italian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century almost always take place in New York, Chicago or a Midwest mining region. Hence, a different and refreshing approach to the novel, “Sicilian Dreams,” by Vincent Panella is an immigrant story set in the Deep South, in addition to New York.
   Santo Regina, the main character, finds himself not too far from New Orleans working on a plantation. Here, Panella shares one of many uncovered truths about American history. Just 50 years after the Civil War, African Americans were hired by their former white masters to keep order in the cotton plantations that employed Sicilian immigrants. Santo witnesses a co-worker beaten by the foreman while held down by African American farmhands-turned-guards. Much of the story centers around the pervasive persecution of Sicilian peasants in their homeland and in the United States. The novel begins in Sicily where Santo is recruited by Don Vito Cascio Ferro to help the Fasci Siciliani overthrow the system of padrone and tenant farmers. In its early stages, fascism began as a radical form of socialism, more in line with Marxist ideology. Panella writes: “‘What is property?’ Don Vito asks. ‘Property is an idea, nothing more. It’s like the air, for the use of all humanity. Is the air for sale? Does one buy air as one might a pair of shoes made with the hands! No, property is in the imagination! Ownership can be traced to those who stole the property long before men kept records. Who owned the land then? All of us! Property, my friends, is thievery!”
   Inspired by these words, Santo confronts a baron but is humiliated when the peasants do not support him. A widower with a teenage daughter and younger son, Santo sees America as his only hope. Yet, he faces in rural Louisiana, the same oppression as he did in Sicily. Rich landowners take severe advantage of poor Sicilian immigrants. Add to this, the plight of his daughter Mariana, back home in Sicily, who finds herself in trouble with a young man. What transpires in “Sicilian Dreams” is a host of factors to affect and change a man’s life outside his control. Panella considers the geographical differences between Sicily and the United States. He writes: “Here was the same pattern of ownership as in Sicily, only the land was richer, and here the Negroes took the place of the contadini…Like the Sicilians at home, they walked in their sleep.”
   “Sicilian Dreams” is a novel about the Sicilian immigrant, forever a representative of the struggle to overcome persecution and oppression. Panella writes with compassion and perception for the people of his family’s homeland. “Sicilian Dreams” is awesome.

“Celibate: A Memoir,” by Maria Giura; published by Apprentice House Press; available at  Amazon

   To be Italian, typically, is to be Catholic. A truism, if there ever was one, in light of the fact that the Vatican, not to mention the most famous churches, the relics and tombs of most saints, resides in Italy. A new and enlightening memoir by Maria Giura conveys a central attribute of Italian American life in the intertwining of faith and culture. “Celibate: A Memoir” is the author’s highly engaging account of that period of time in her twenties and thirties when her Catholic faith, combined with unresolved personal and family issues, become the catalyst for her many conflicts and struggles. Giura delves into the mysteries and devotions of her faith while, at the same time, she shares the human flaws of sin and transgression.  
   In many ways, Giura epitomizes the Italian American experience of Generation X. Born in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, to a mother and father who are Italian immigrants, she grew up in a close knit family. She also felt a strong connection to God and the Church from a young age. Because her father was a workaholic, though, marital discord took hold, and Giura’s parents were eventually divorced. The bulk of the story begins when she’s 24 and breaks off a two-and-a-half year relationship with a man she didn’t love enough to marry. Embarrassed that she is the only single woman on both sides of her family, Giura moves out of her family home and gets her own apartment, because she wants to “have something to show for [her]self in place of marriage.” Not unlike other single women, Giura spends the next few years alone and struggling. As her siblings and friends marry and start families, she has yet to find true love. Enter James Infanzi, the new parish priest at Saint Stephen’s. Giura is soon attracted to the cleric and begins lectoring at Mass. The two are only four years apart and share the same tastes and temperament. They seem meant for each other, and, as a result, Giura faces a deep crisis. Will she follow her feelings and start a relationship with Father Infanzi? Or will she forgo what might be the love of her life for the sake of the Church?
   If falling in love with a priest is not distressing enough, Giura finds herself torn as to whether or not God is calling her to lead a religious life. She experiences various signs but remains unsure about her destiny. The memoir becomes uniquely instructive when Giura seriously inquires about becoming a nun. The process turns out to be lengthy and thorough. Before a person is accepted into a religious order, she must meet with several Sisters to openly discuss her background, her thoughts on God and the Church and to honestly assess whether she is capable of such radical devotion. Not a simple undertaking, as Giura learns.
   Readers will enthusiastically follow Giura through this valley—this push and pull of two choices—and into the beginning of the next phase of her life when she earns a PhD and commits to writing. She is a likable narrator and a master of distinct, rhythmic sentences that lock in the reader. Her honesty is admirable as she shows herself to be very human with many of the same failures, successes, hopes and dreams that all people share. An exceptional work of nonfiction, “Celibate: A Memoir” will resonate with readers and move them in so many ways.  

“No Kings, No Kooks: Confessions of a National Security Agent,” by Thomas Sarnicola; published by New York Books; available at Amazon

   Thomas Sarnicola’s entertaining and informative book “No Kings, No Kooks,” suggests an insider’s account of post-9/11 national security efforts. Here is a memoir of a federal investigator who cared about his job and the people he interviewed for national security clearance. This book could be made into a television series in the vein of past crime dramas. Sarnicola never faced such dangers as apprehending serial murderers or bank robbers. Mostly, he was tasked to interrogate applicants for national defense employment. He had to delve into events of their past that were disturbing and questionable. One can imagine each episode where a main character, in the guise of Sarnicola, visits a particular applicant, played by a famous actor or actress, and their life stories are conveyed in flash backs and recollections.
    Sarnicola shares the necessity of a thorough investigation when he writes: “...a cleared federal employee must safeguard...Confidential, Secret or Top Secret Information. A breach…may cause serious, or exceptionally grave damage to national security. Getting a security clearance is serious business!” Sarnicola was based in California for much of the last 20 years. This remains his home state after his father Ben decided in the early 1960s to move the family from the Bronx, where Sarnicola was born, to Los Angeles. Sarnicola’s family hails from Naples and Agropoli, both in Italy’s Campania region. It is this Italian sense that allowed him to better understand those he interviewed. He shares the story of Ivanna, a beautiful Iranian immigrant in Los Angeles with hopes of film stardom but now needing a job with the federal government. Then there is the captain with an unblemished record who divulges in the interview he is addicted to pornography. Another is about a wife of an airman who discovers her husband’s mistress is also in the military and drives to the base to confront her. These real-life stories are eventful, dramatic and, even, suspenseful.
   Sarnicola’s cynical sense of humor conveys an amusing take on the today’s military. He writes about an Air Force major suspected of rape: “Today’s military still reflects a cross section of our society. Unfortunately, it is a sick society with easy access to online pornography, popular music with degrading lyrics towards women, and lurid movies depicting violence and hyper-sexuality.”
   “No Kings, No Kooks” is an extraordinary memoir. The book conveys the nation’s business done by regular folks with dreams, regrets and ambitions. “No Kings, No Kooks” is outstanding.

“The Arnolfini Art Mysteries 2,” by Rich DiSilvio; published by DV Books; available at Amazon

   Rich DiSilvio gives us another round of unique art mysteries for his reliable private eye Armand Anolfini to solve in “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries 2.” In the previous book, the private eye worked mostly alone. In part two, however, Armand is joined by his wife Andrea, reminiscent of “The Thin Man” series with Nick and Nora Charles, played by William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Rich DiSilvio is a celebrated commercial artist and an expert in history with books to his credit on both subjects. He is surely in his element with “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries 2.” The book is ideal for fans of the detective genre and those who love art and history.
    The first of five stories is titled “Leonardo’s Leda,” in reference to the masterpiece “Leda and the Swan,” by Leonardo da Vinci. Armand and Andrea are hired by a wealthy Frenchman to find the painting that has been missing for some years. They discover the Bugatti automobile company in France had stored the painting in one of their factory vaults for safekeeping in World War II. Armand believes the culprit may be someone who once worked for Bugatti. Armand has an uncanny eye for artistic detail. No matter the setting, be it an ornate office or modest gallery, he is able to recognize the creator of an obscure painting, statue or even office furniture. In “The Carpeaux Caper,” the title of the second story, Armand and Andrea are asked by Interpol to uncover potential fakes of the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. They investigate an old shop in France that unwittingly sells priceless originals of Carpeaux.
Sometimes, it is another crime that involves Armand’s sleuthing abilities. “The Poe-Pourri Mystery,” the third story, is about a double murder for the duo to solve at the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage Museum in the Bronx. Not just paintings and sculpture, but architecture, specifically the drawings of New York’s historic Woolworth building becomes the heart of the fourth story,          “The Five and Dime Mystery.” References to great masters are frequent in the “Arnolfini Art Mysteries” as styles and techniques are noted to uncover clues. The last story in the book comes with the catchy title, “Amnesia of Artemsia.” Armand and Andrea visit the Cloisters in New York to find the true identity of an artist for one painting. Armand believes it to be none other than Artemsia Gentileschi, arguably the greatest female artist in history.
    Art, mystery and a good dose of suspense makes “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries 2,” a most wonderful joy to read. A superb book by DiSilvio.

“Magnolia Blossom,” by Joanne Fisher; published by Joanne’s Books; available at Amazon

   Italians have always liked the American South. The reason has mainly to do with the warmer climate where palms and fruit trees thrive the same as they do in Italy. Add to that Southern hospitality, good food, fine living and the zeal for family tradition, and Italians are won over in Dixie.
    Joanne Fisher is an Italian woman who relocated to Canada and then on to Florida. She spent many years in the Deep South and knows well the area’s history and culture. Joanne is one of the busiest writers out there today. She has written a number of romance novels set in Italy. The time has come to set a new story closer to home, albeit the antebellum South.
“Magnolia Blossom” contains the ingredients for a romance novel, in the tradition of “Gone With The Wind.” The story transports readers to a whole different time and place. The setting is Valdosta, Georgia, in the years of the Civil War. Southern belles take residence in glorious mansions with handsome men in gray uniforms to escort them to banquets and dances. The main character is the beautiful Magnolia Mae (Maggie) Terry. In the beginning of the novel, she mourns the death of her parents from dysentery. She turns for comfort to her best friend Flora, a slave the same age as her. Together, they face the changing times brought on by the war. Maggie must run the plantation when her husband is called to fight for the Confederacy. In treating her slaves humanely, as taught by her parents, “Magnolia Blossom Plantation was a perfectly-oiled machine. The Terrys had been firm believers that if you treated your slaves with compassion, understanding, and friendship, the Lord would reward you twofold, and that’s exactly why the plantation was the most envied and sought-after estate in the all of Georgia. Even without the head of the household present, Magnolia Blossom was flourishing.”
    Joanne’s love for the South shows well in “Magnolia Blossom.” She conveys the majesty and flamboyance of the era with great vigor. As the novel progresses, Maggie realizes the defeat of the Confederacy is imminent. An abolitionist at heart, she frees her slaves and only allows them to work her estate as hired hands. Soon, the land is occupied by the North and Maggie finds herself in a forbidden romance with a Northern officer, Lieutenant Wesley Jenkins.
    “Magnolia Blossom” is a gem of a novel that mixes the delights of romance with well-researched history. The Italian touch appears throughout the novel with the details of fashion, food and romantic passion. “Magnolia Blossom” is the perfect novel for anyone with loves romance novels, Southern living and Italian style.

“Italian Family Cooking and Wine Pairing: Seasonal and Holiday Recipes from Throughout Italy with Special ‘Nuovo Cuisine’ Dishes,” by John Oliano; self-Published by the author; available at Amazon

   “Italian Family Cooking and Wine Pairing” brings the best of Italian cuisine to readers. Author John Oliano knows his subject well. He was born with a natural affinity for Italian cooking. He added to his instincts by traveling throughout Italy to sell electronics. When visiting one province or another, he dined on the local cuisine and came away with an appreciation for the unique complexities of Italian food. John is a member of Piazza Nuovo Lodge, Order Sons of Italy In America, in Yardley, Pennsylvania. This book serves as a means to raise money in support of various causes. In the past, the lodge provided financial assistance to Bosnian refugees and they gave clothes and other needed materials to Navajo children.
    The book consists of family recipes among lodge members and new recipes that the author uncovered in Italy. There is a photograph on every page depicting each of the delectable dishes. John acknowledges assistance in preparing this book from the Chef Apprenticeship & Culinary Arts program at Buck’s County Community College and Cento Fine Foods. Italian food depends on the geographical and historical makeup of Italy. He writes: “French and Austrian customs influence the Northern regions while Southern regions have absorbed many Arab and Greek customs and influences. The unique distinction between the various provinces makes Italian food infinitely diverse reflecting these many cultural differences.”
    The book discusses basic ingredients, herbs and olive oil, a thorough examination of Italian wines and the health benefits of Italian food. What follows is an incredible array of magnificent dishes. There is Torta Rustica di Pasqua, a traditional ham and cheese pie for Easter. Agello al Forno is a roasted lamb that contains a rub made of fresh rosemary, bread crumbs and Pecorino Roman cheese. There is a recipe for sautéed vegetables, Ciambotta, with a mixture of peppers, zucchini, potatoes and black olives. Each recipe contains health information such as the number of calories per serving, levels of saturated fat and dietary fiber. For meat, poultry and fish dishes, the author will suggest a wine to go with a meal such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano for Chicken Cacciatore and Soave Classico for Chicken with Lemon.
    “Italian Family Cooking and Wine Pairing” is a book to be savored all year long. These recipes will help keep the family together at the dinner table and inspire future generations to relish life in the kitchen. “Italian Family Cooking and Wine Pairing” is great!

“Basilica: Authentic Italy,” by Karen Haid; published by Hilder Press, Las Vegas; available at www.karenhaid.com

   Karen Haid loves Italy but not necessarily the Italy of travel agents. Her first book about the peninsula was not set in Florence, Rome or Venice, but rather, Calabria, an entire region few people, not of Italian blood, visit. “Calabria: The Other Italy,” was heartily praised when published some years ago. Karen took readers on an incredible tour of the most obscure villages and communes of Calabria.
    Karen takes the same approach about a land that is even more remote and mysterious than Calabria, in her new book, “Basilicata: Authentic Italy.” When students of Italy try to name all 20 regions, they usually miss one - Basilicata. The region is at the arch of the boot, wedged in between Campania, Apulia and Calabria. Basilicata lies alone in so many ways. The other regions are more famous for large numbers of Italian immigrants to the United States. However, for its size, Basilicata is well-represented in America.
    As Karen points out, the original name for the region was Lucania but changed to Basilicata “around the 11th century. The Normans are generally accredited with naming the region in honor of the majestic basilica in the town of Acerenza.” Karen writes: “…the great Lucania never went away entirely and even today, the region is commonly referred to as Lucania.” Indeed, during the reign of Mussolini, the region reverted back to its origins and was named Lucania. After World War II was when the name Basilicata returned.
    Made up of 10 extensive chapters, “Basilicata: Authentic Italy” conveys an incredible amount of in-depth research. Karen’s first-person narrative captures the area’s sights and sounds. She visits key sites such as the region’s capital, Potenza, the massive landmark of Matera and the castle of Melfi. She also describes places that few, if any, tourists will ever visit. Her unique excursions extend to Craco, for instance, a ghost town once “known as paese del grano (town of wheat).” She explains that the village managed to survive mass emigration only to succumb to a devastating landslide. “The last straw came in 1971 with the construction of a new containment wall…No sooner had the work been finished when the village collapsed…the hill of clay couldn’t support indiscriminate modern technology.”
    Karen is a natural writer with a smooth, crisp style. Each page flows seamlessly with in-depth information and provocative insight. “Basilicata: Authentic Italy,” is much more than an educated traveler’s visit to an Italian region. Rather, it is a love letter for a land and her people by a writer whose soul now belongs to Italy. “Basilicata: Authentic Italy” is awesome.

“Only Our Destiny: A Novel of the Italian Experience Up To and Through World War II,” by A.G. Russo; available at Amazon

   Life was harsh in Italy especially for women. That’s the premise of A.G. Russo’s riveting new novel “Only our Destiny.” The author takes readers to the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy from the end of World War I to the end of World War II. The novel begins in the aftermath of the Spanish flu where a small seaside village of Punto Roccioso has lost many of its inhabitants because of the epidemic.
    People here either fish the rough seas or work the land. As described by the author, “And it had to be said that the mountains could be vengeful. The land, too. Volcanoes and earthquakes caused tremendous damage and death. South of Naples, only one had to see the ruins of Pompeii to know how much destruction the mountains could inflict.” The main character is Anna Raffaela Coriello. The daughter of Domenico, an owner of a modest olive grove, she weds Giuseppe Esposito, the town mechanic. The marriage is doomed from the start. With 10 children to feed, Raffaela is beaten mercilessly by Giuseppe almost daily. One of the children turns to a local witch for a potion to quell her father’s rage and save her mother. One night, things come to a head as all children fight their father in the street to save their mother. He leaves the family and Raffaela and her children must fend for themselves.
    Raffaela might seem a doomed character for her circumstances are continuously dire as many townsfolk and her own siblings turn against her. She is a strong woman and finds a means to survive. At the national level, Italy is taken over by Benito Mussolini and his Fascists. Self-excluded from his wife and children, Giuseppe is attracted to Il Duce’s rhetoric and joins the ranks of the Fascists.
    Russo is a crisp and succinct writer who moves the plot in various directions. As the novel progresses, intriguing characters are introduced to add more mystery and drama to the novel. Two at opposite ends are Old Carlotta and Dr. Ernesto Minzi-Livin. The first is a witch who helps Raffaela with potions and premonitions. The second is a Jewish physician who moves to the small fishing village with his family after he was accused of medical malpractice in Milan. What will inspire all readers is the resolute nature of Raffaela as she bounces back from setback and another to always go forward.
    “Only Our Destiny” is an incredible saga that all Italian American women (and men) will cherish. The novel is a tribute to the perseverance of Italian women.

“L’America,” by Joseph M. Orazi; available at Amazon

   Joseph M. Orazi gives us a captivating and well-written novel in “L’America.” The author is no stranger to the saga of Italian immigrants. He was the screenwriter and associate producer for a riveting documentary on the internment of Italians in World War II titled “Prisoners Among Us.” He delved into the subject to explore new angles and sub plots not normally covered.
In “L’America,” Orazi tells the story of three men who find themselves on the same ocean vessel in steerage “in the belly of the beast called SS Santa Ana.” There is Giuseppe Mosca, a peasant farmer from Calabria who leaves for America to become a tailor. There is Aldo Grimaldi, a skilled contractor in Naples where corruption and nepotism has all but excluded him from the market. He hopes to restart his business in the United States where he believes work is won on merit instead of connections. Paolo LaChimia is the youngest of the three; a teenager from the streets of Palermo whose early life in crime leads him overseas.
    Dialogue between characters convey the conditions of past migration; much more dire and ominous than what we see today. In one scene, a ship’s steward explains steerage to Paolo. “Get used to it. This is the best it’s going to smell. Wait until we’re a week out. Then you will long for day…This is steerage. The occupants are nothing more than cargo with legs.”
    Historical photographs often show Italians by themselves as a group of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island. In truth, people from many different countries were represented on the same ocean liner. When Aldo gets settled inside the large boat, he sees “the strange assembly of nationalities and the drone of voices evoked a kind of Babel. There were Russian Jews, Irish farmers, Greeks, people strangely attired in kilts, Arabs in long robes, and even Cossacks with terrifying scowls and long, curved swords that hung from their belts in ornate sheathes. Thirteen days suddenly seemed like an eternity.”
    Orazi is an observant writer whose passion for history comes through in every scene and sentence. The reader is immersed in the past at every turn and twist in this incredible novel. Most appealing are characters who possess the hopes and flaws to make them approachable and understandable. Even on the rare occasions when they are at their worst, we somehow still root for them. Orazi is commended for writing such a profound novel that takes readers back to a time much different than our own. “L’America” will inspire in all of us inherent respect and admiration for those who came to give us a better life.

“The Little Breadwinner,” by Lucia Mann; published by Aperion Books; available at Amazon

   It is hard for a person to get more worldly than Lucia Mann. The journalist-turned-activist-turned-novelist has traveled to the farthest reaches of the globe. She likes dangerous places. Where life is cheap is where Lucia wants to go. Her Sicilian blood makes her curious. She is an adventurer who wants to help. She brings the struggles of the world’s victims to today’s readers. Lucia’s latest novel, “The Little Breadwinner: War and Survival in The Salvadoran Heartland” is set in the Latin American country where one human crisis follows another. The main character is Estrella Lozano, a young woman caught up in revolution, repression and the CIA backed government.
    El Salvador and other countries in Latin America were caught between the United States on one hand and Cuba and communist satellites of the Soviet Union on the other. Lucia relays in her introduction a history of conflict and geopolitical factors at work in El Salvador. She writes: “Equivalent to 0.08% of the total world population, El Salvador is known to have been beleaguered by violence and overwhelming crushing poverty due to over-population and class struggles in which most Salvadoran citizens were affected.”
    In an online interview with PRIMO in August, Lucia claimed her experiences as a journalist led her to write her latest novel. “Fluent in Spanish, I traveled to El Salvador in the late 80s to uncover the ‘truth’ about the United States government’s involvement in this ‘dirty’ war,” she says. “It was my personal interactions with a couple of rebel fighters and several impoverished, downtrodden Salvadorans that inspired my latest book; which has taken many years in the making.”
    Although much of the book covers events of the last 40 years in El Salvador, the author provides important background about the main character Estrella. She comes from a family with deep yet complex roots in Latin America. There are connections to native tribes in the Amazon and Christian missionaries. “The Little Breadwinner” is a fascinating novel that transports readers to the dangerous geopolitical struggles of El Salvador and other countries in Latin America. When asked in her interview if things have improved in El Salvador, Lucia said: “As a matter of fact, it is far worse since the civil war ended. Today, this Latin American country remains in the grip of fierce gang violence. My concern is that many Salvadorans are facing a death sentence.”

 

 

The Rest of Fellini’s Best
THE OVERLOOKED FILMS OF FEDERICO FELLINI
Supplemental Coverage of PRIMO’s Second Edition Cover Feature on Italy’s Greatest Filmmaker, Federico Fellini
“Fellini directed a total of 24 films. In the second edition of PRIMO, we list and explain what we consider are his eight best. Now comes an opportunity for us to review his other films - the also-rans - and highlight their pros and cons.”

By Truby Chiaviello

 


  In this current 2nd edition of PRIMO, we feature an extraordinary article on the life and legacy of the great Federico Fellini. Ask any Hollywood filmmaker today whom he thinks is the best director in history, and he is likely to say Fellini.
   The Italian film director, not to mention producer and writer, lived from 1920 to 1993. This year marks the centennial of his birth. Celebrations to commemorate the milestone were originally planned in Italy and elsewhere. However, they were canceled due to the current pandemic and are to be rescheduled in 2021.
   Fellini was most famous for crafting shots that were considered by many to be works of art. Midway in his career, he mastered the technique of filmmaking and was able to convey the simultaneous moves and interplay of actors and actresses like no director before him. Players entered and exited the camera frame at rapid speed. He utilized a host of camera movements such as tracking, panning, closeups, tilts and zooms. A Fellini film was akin to a trip to a carnival with a caravan of surrealistic images. Yet, the director remained true to his stories and prided himself on making films that were understandable by audiences.
   Fellini directed a total of 24 films. In the second edition of PRIMO, we list and explain what we consider are his eight best. Now comes an opportunity for us to review his other films - the also-rans - and highlight their pros and cons.
   Not all of Fellini’s films were features. On occasion, he joined other directors to present an anthology of short films centered on specific themes. Near the start of his career, in 1953, he participated in “Love in the City.” The title suggests a romance film, but was, actually, contained episodes by different directors about suicidal characters. Nine years later, Fellini joined directors Vittorio de Sica, Lucchino Visconti and Mario Monicelli for another anthology film; this time about struggles in ethics and morality, in “Boccacio ’70.” In 1968, Fellini went to France to make a horror film titled “Spirits of the Dead.” He joined French New Wave directors Roger Vadim and Louis Malle to interpret the stories of Edgar Allan Poe for the silver screen. It should be noted that Fellini made two documentaries. The first was a strange yet fascinating undertaking commissioned by NBC in 1968 titled “Fellini: A Director’s Notebook.” He then made a documentary titled, “I Clowns,” for RAI television in 1970. That film was edited by Ruggiero Mastroianni, brother of Marcello, the famous actor who starred in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and “8-1/2.”
   For this article, we will only focus on films Fellini exclusively directed. We review a career to be categorized into three segments: The films that came before “La Dolce Vita,” released in 1959, the films that followed “8-1/2,” released in 1962 and until “Amarcord” in 1973 and then the remaining films until Fellini’s death, on Halloween day, in 1993.

Before “La Dolce Vita” - 1950 to 1959

  “La Dolce Vita” displayed a technical mastery by Fellini only to be outdone by his ultimate masterpiece, “8-1/2.” The films Fellini made in the decade prior were consistent with the usual black and white offerings of the era where cohesive plots came with approachable characters. Fellini’s first film was made in 1950 and titled “Variety Lights.” Although listed as co-director with film star, Alberto Lattuado, much, if not all, of the direction was done by Fellini. This film offered key attributes in plot, setting and characters that were to revisited as signature traits in other Fellini films. The director was fond of carnival side shows, dance troupes and circuses. Such was “Variety Lights,” a film about a group of singers and dancers who move from village to village in Italy, barely able to sustain themselves. A young female fan joins the group only to steal the spotlight with nothing more than her sex appeal. Fellini’s films were peppered with humor and irony. He sought to use camera movements to convey the plight of characters. In one scene, players are invited to dinner at a rich man’s house. The camera pans the table showing the group gorging themselves, a sign of their desperation; all to the discomfort of their host.
   Fellini’s second film was in 1952 and titled, “White Sheik.” The story is about a young woman, recently married, who travels with her husband to Rome to join her in-laws for a meeting with the pope. She reviews the latest edition of a soap-opera magazine to feature a film star, modeled after Rudolph Valentino, in the role of the White Sheik. She seeks to find the mysterious actor. Beset by abandonment, her husband tries to hide her disappearance from his family while visiting the Vatican.
   Besides films from this era that PRIMO considered to be Fellini’s best, there is one that was especially noteworthy and almost made it on our list. “Il Bidone” was released in 1955 after Fellini made a name for himself as one of Italy’s best directors. He was able to recruit two stars from Hollywood: actor Broderick Crawford, who won an Oscar in 1949 for his performance in “All the King’s Men,” and the forever youthful Richard Basehart, who appeared the year prior in Fellini’s “La Strada.” Both actors portrayed characters who form a gang of crooks to swindle farmers out of their life savings. For this film, Fellini did not engage in techniques such as quick panning shots and rapid close ups. Rather, he presented a plain canvas for an intriguing film about rogue figures who struggle for redemption. In one famous scene, Crawford, dressed as a frocked priest, meets a poor family with an invalid daughter. Reluctantly, he hears the girl’s confession and is overcome with guilt at his deception. The final scene was especially powerful when he meets his end.

“8-1/2” to “Amarcord” - From 1963 to 1973

   In 1963, after the release of “8-1/2,” Fellini was celebrated as the world’s best director. The content of his films were combined with a unique style for a descriptive definition in cinema known as “Felliniesque.” With color film now less expensive, he abandoned black and white to convey dreamlike scenes in his remaining films. He even went so far as to take LSD for inspiration.
   Fellini made “Juliet and the Spirits” in 1965 to star his wife Giulietta Masina. The film was about a bored housewife who finds solace in the strange home of her eccentric neighbor. Fellini utilized a cadre of camera movements and angles to show scenes drenched in a wide range of colors for a dreamy atmosphere.
   Fellini offered more surrealistic films in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Restrictions were lifted in Italy and elsewhere and Fellini, as did other filmmakers, pushed the envelope with more salacious content. His films offered more nudity, graphic sex and violence. “Roma” was a film he made in 1972 that was semi-autobiographical and was to cover his young adulthood in Italy’s capital city. The film was a whirlwind of activity where scenes jumped from the past to the present. In this way, the film might be seen as a time capsule since many shots were done on location in Rome. One scene depicted a motorcycle gang in the dead of night speeding through the Roman forum. The film is most famous because Anna Magnani made a brief appearance. This was to be her last film. She died just months after the release of “Roma.”

After “Amarcord” - From 1974 to 1993

   Fellini was nominated 12 times for an Oscar. Four of his films won the Oscar for best foreign film, “La Strada” in the year 1954, “Nights of Cabiria” in 1957, “8-1/2” in 1963 and “Amarcord” in 1973.
   His peak years were behind him. His health slowly deteriorated and a new generation of American and Italian filmmakers were soon able to match his technical expertise. Nevertheless, he remained active with seven more films from 1976 to 1990.
   His most ambitious production was “Fellini’s Casanova” in 1976. The film recounted the real-life legend of the Venetian noble famous for his love affairs and sexual conquests. Although an extraordinary undertaking, much of it completed inside Teatro Five, the Cinecitta studio made famous by Fellini, the film was greeted with ambivalence by critics. Donald Sutherland was miscast as the lead and Fellini was downright negative about the project when interviewed by journalists. He went so far as to say he hated Casanova, whom he thought was superficial and devoid of intellectual insight, after reading his memoirs. Watching “Fellini’s Casanova” today, however, is to see a film far better than the initial assessment by critics. Although the director takes a darker view of the main character, the lighting, color, and camera techniques, not to mention the incredible Rococo set designs, make this a worthy film by Fellini.
   In our list of Fellini’s best, we include one film from this era - “City of Women,” released in 1980. Yet, there are two other films from this time that were quite good, although not on our list. “Orchestra Rehearsal” was a film Fellini made for RAI television in 1978. A little more than an hour in length was a humorous and insightful tale of an orchestra in Rome practicing for a coming performance. What makes the film most unique is how it delves into the psyche and mindset of musicians. We get to know the players of string and brass instruments, woodwinds and percussions. Fellini criticized society for equalizing participants. The relationship between composer and musicians breaks down under the weight of union rules and political interference.
   “Ginger and Fred” was released in 1986 and was the last time Fellini collaborated with his two greatest stars, Giulietta Masina, his wife, and Marcello Mastroianni. The film is about a dance duo who copied the moves of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They are invited to perform on an Italian variety show. Whisked from hotel to studio, amidst a garbage crises, they await go on stage beside a cadre of acrobats, jugglers, impersonators and an assortment of strange acts. The film was a funny and bittersweet take by Fellini on fame and modernity in Italy.
   Fellini finished his career with three other films. One, titled “The Ship Sails On,” made in 1983 and prior to “Ginger and Fred” and his last two, “Intervista,” made in 1987, and “Voice of the Moon” in 1990. Fellini’s final film starred Roberto Benigni in the lead role and furthered the comedian’s ascension in Italian cinema.

   Although Fellini is rightly considered one of cinema’s best directors ever, he is not as popular among audiences today as he was in his lifetime. A glut of films in the American market has overshadowed his contributions. He is relegated to Turner Classic Movies and other venues that showcase his works and those of other Italian filmmakers from decades ago. Fellini was not just an arthouse auteur. He was a popular filmmaker whose films filled theaters with enthusiastic audiences throughout Italy. His reputation today is mistakenly dependent on a style rooted in a mastery of technique. His films were far more than that. Fellini was first and foremost a story teller. He moved audiences with memorable characters in scenes that were simultaneously tragic, comedic and ironic. Even his technical abilities remain unmatched. True, film directors today are able to copy his tracking and panning shots to capture the chaos of action, often with the help of the latest technology, but they do so without his finesse or personal touch. What Fellini gave us were awesome films. His legacy will live on as younger filmgoers discover his work and celebrate his stories equal to his technical expertise.

Editor’s Note: Pictured are scenes from Fellini’s films, “Il Bidone,” “Juliet and the Spirits,” “Roma,” “Fellini’s Casanova,” “Orchestra Rehearsal” and “Ginger and Fred.” To purchase the current edition on Federico Fellini, please log on to: http://www.onlineprimo.com/back_issues.html

 

 

The New World
COLUMBUS: A HERO
A Conquistador Brings Hell to the Indies
The Arrival of Columbus’s Enemy Francisco de Bobadilla

Robert Petrone, Esq.

In the last article, I recounted how Christopher Columbus, the High Admiral and Governor of the West Indies, had freed the Taino slaves; overseen the building of multiple settlements in harmonious coexistence with their tribal neighbors; and defeated the Carib marauders, bringing peace and slowly restoring prosperity to the land. He brought to the West Indies what I call the Pax Columbiana, as his very name suggests: "Columbo," Italian for "dove," the symbol of peace.

This week's article tells the shattering of that fragile peace by the true villain of the West Indies whose deeds have, of late, been falsely attributed by revisionist "historians" to the good Admiral Columbus. The true terror of the West Indies -- the man known to the Jihadist invaders of Europe as their bane and conqueror; to the Spaniards as their war hero of the Reconquista, but to the innocent Tainos of the West Indies as the racist, rapist, maimer, murderer and genocidal maniac -- was none other than Francisco de Bobadilla. To Christopher Columbus, Bobadilla was the mariner-governor's arch-nemesis.

Even as Governor Columbus had finally brokered peace in the West Indies, a letter he had written to the Crown while still in the throes of the insurgencies of the hidalgos (the low, landed Spanish nobles) finally reached Spain. In it, he had requested the Crown send someone to aid him whom the hidalgos would respect. The hidalgos constantly rebelled against Governor Columbus for a multitude of reasons, mostly, however, that he was not of noble birth and was a Genoese, a ”foreigner.” In their words, Columbus ”had no experience of controlling people of quality" -- in other words, high-born noblemen such as themselves (Hernando Colón, Life of the Admiral, Chapter 85). The self-characterization was ironic; many of them were, in fact, low-born criminals pardoned by the Crown in exchange for their agreement to accept a noble title and settle the tropical frontier of the West Indies.  

Mainly, however, the tension arose because Governor Columbus refused to allow the entitled hidalgos to enslave the tribal islanders of the West Indies, and forced those same hidalgos to build their own settlements. Betrayed by his own mayor and beleaguered by the hostilities of the conquistadors, Columbus complained to the Crown: "I wanted to escape from governing these dissolute people...full of vice and malice" and "begged Their Highnesses...to send someone at my expense to administer justice.” (Letter of Christopher Columbus to Doña Juana de Torres, dated October 1500). 

The Crown answered Columbus's request, unaware that, since receiving the letter, he had actually single-handedly succeeded in suppressing the hidalgo rebellions with sheer diplomacy and without arms. As historian Bartolomé de las Casas, who lived through and personally witnessed these events, wrote in his “Historia de las Indias” (History of the Indies), by now things were calm, the land was rich and everyone lived in peace (Book I, Chapter 181), Columbus's hard-earned Pax Columbiana. It was a dark day in history when on May 21, 1499, the monarchs appointed Comendador Francisco de Bobadilla, reconquistador, knight of the Order of Calatrava.  

The King and Queen informed Bobadilla of the mutual letters of complaint written by the hidalgos and Governor Columbus. The monarchs instructed Bobadilla to conduct an independent investigation of the competing claims; make findings of fact; and, if he found that the wrongdoing really did lie with Columbus, to unseat him and take over as Viceroy, a hereditary title that would be passed down through generations. This was all the ambitious reconquistador needed to hear.

The fate of the West Indies made a turn for the worst in late August, 1499, when Comendador Bobadilla set foot on the shore of Hispaniola. He conducted no investigation. He made no findings of fact. All of the primary historical sources agree that his first deed upon landfall was to arrest all three Columbus brothers on sight, shackle them and keep them in the bowels of a prison ship for exile to Spain. Then, he commandeered Governor Columbus's house, personal effects and papers, having "kept most hidden" any documents "which would have cleared" the lies that were to follow (Id., Book I, Chapter 181).  Bobadilla "began to draw up a case against" the Columbus brothers, "citing as witnesses the Admiral's enemies" among the recalcitrant and rebellious hidalgos, "publicly favoring and encouraging anyone who came forward to abuse the prisoners" (Colón, Life of the Admiral, Chapter 85).  

What followed may seem eerily familiar to the modern reader. "These witnesses were so malevolent and abusive in their declarations that a man would have to be more than blind not to recognize that what they said was prompted by passion, not by truth" (Id.).  

Bobadilla took complete control of the settlements. "The day after he arrived he constituted himself governor, appointed officials, performed executive acts and announced gold franchises and the remission of titles...for a period of twenty years, which is a man’s lifetime" (Id.). He did so to ingratiate himself with the hidalgos. He raised "adherents" by "allying himself with the richest and most powerful" of them. "He gave them Indians to work for them" and required, in return, that the hidalgos pay tribute to him, rather than to the Crown. He sold all the known lands and possessions of the Crown in the West Indies by public auction to the hidalgos. Of his "companions,” he only required payment of one-third of the price.  

Bobadilla had "no other aim but to enrich himself and gain the affection of the people" while he could.  To that end, he "allowed the ill-disposed mob to speak all kinds of libels against [Columbus and his brothers] in public places." They went about "posting abusive notices at the street corners."  Bobadilla "showed great delight" at the calumnious exhibitions and "each man did the utmost to rival his neighbor in such displays of effrontery" (Id.).  

History, it seems, has repeated itself. As modern, entitled, recalcitrant, revisionist-history mobs in the United States -- and indeed, so-called "educators" of revisionist history in American universities, high schools and grade schools -- have modeled themselves after their lying, 15th Century hidalgo counterparts, they have again wrongly placed Christopher Columbus at the center of their cyclone of slander. 

To add insult to injury, even as Christopher Columbus lay shackled and imprisoned in the bowels of the prison ship Bobadilla had commissioned to take him and his brothers back to Spain, Bobadilla gave the ship's master, one Andres Martín, strict instructions to leave the prisoner in chains. Nevertheless, as the ship sailed, Martín offered to free Christopher Columbus of the manacles, a great testament to how affable a person was Columbus.  Christopher Columbus refused. He defiantly declared that "only the monarchs could do this," and insisted on principle on remaining shackled until he reached the royal Court (Bartolomé de las Casas, Book I, Chapter 181).

With his hands in chains, Columbus began penning a letter to the Spanish Crown, addressed to his friend, Doña Juana de Torres, the governess of Prince John, for whom his own sons had been made royal pages. He wrote that Bobadilla provoked the settlers, gathered "rebels and other untrustworthy people" and aroused "a quantity of people [who] did not deserve baptismal water before God or the world," including slavers "who go out to look for women [and] girls [selling them] at a premium” on the slave market (Id.); some translations of this passage refer to the enslaved girls as being nine or ten years old, others that there were nine or ten of them currently on sale by the slavers as Columbus was writing his letter of complaint. Columbus was sure to clarify matters once he appeared before the Crown. As Bobadilla’s prisoner, Columbus learned that Bobadilla "did everything in his power to harm me" and such damage to Hispaniola that "Their Highnesses...would be astonished to find that the island is still standing" (Id.).

This was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; Christopher Columbus truly had no idea of the extent of Bobadilla’s depravity, as the worst of it occurred while the Genoan mariner was being shuttled across the sea back to Europe. Once Bobadilla had removed Christopher Columbus as an obstacle, as the new, self-appointed Viceroy, he unleashed all Hell on the West Indies.

Viceroy Bobadilla undid all the restraints on the Spanish encomienda system that Governor Columbus had effected in his years of reigning in the indolent hidalgos. Bobadilla eliminated the hidalgos’ requirement to pay all but nominal taxes.  He imposed forced labor upon the tribal people as miners and cooks so his fellow hidalgos would not have to labor (Id., Book II, Chapter 1). Worse, Bobadilla assigned Indian tribes to [the colonists], thus making [the Spaniards] very happy" (Id.). 

Young Bartolomé de las Casas, not yet a friar or historian, but still a settler and observer of Bobadilla's atrocities, witnessed the comendador take control of the Crown's military "force [which] was more than enough...to keep the Indians pacified, had [the hidalgos] treated them differently, but also to subdue and kill them all, which is what [Bobadilla's forces] did."  Bobadilla exonerated and decarcerated all the traitorous hidalgos Governor Columbus had imprisoned for sedition and other crimes, most of whom were very violent men.  De las Casas wrote, "I saw them a few days later, as if nothing had happened, safe and sound, happy and living as honored members of the community."  He further lamented, "You should have seen those hoodlums, exiled from Castile for homicide with crimes yet to be accounted for, served by native kings and their vassals doing the meanest chores.  These chiefs had daughters, wives and other close relations whom the Spaniards took for concubines either with their own consent or by force" (Id.).  By de las Casas's accounting "three hundred hidalgos lives for several years in a continuous state of sin" after the removal of Columbus as governor, "not counting those other sins they committed daily by oppressing and tyrannizing Indians" under Bobadilla's tyrannical reign (Id.).  

In Christopher Columbus's absence, Bobadilla and his hidalgos enslaved, raped and murdered tribal people, sometimes simply on a whim and as cruel jokes.  Bobadilla's men called the Tainos "dogs" and plundered their villages.  Now, without Governor Columbus to keep the hidalgos in check, "they grew more conceited every day and fell into greater arrogance, presumption and contempt toward these humble people."  Without Christopher Columbus's humane governance and the strict discipline that he had imposed on the hidalgos, they became "[s]oulless, blind and godless."   They "killed without restraint and perversely abused" the tribal peoples of the West Indies (Id.).

Bobadilla and his mob of hidalgo "grievance squads" engaged in another tactic the modern reader will recognize. In the words of de las Casas, Bobadilla enacted "the first plan of tyrants:  to ... continually oppress and cause anguish to the most powerful and to the wisest so that, occupied by their calamities, they lack the time and courage to think of their freedom" and, thus "degenerate[] into cowardice and timidity."  De las Casas posited that "if the wisest of the wise, whether Greek or Roman (history books are full of this), often feared and suffered from this adversity, and if many other nations experienced it and philosophers wrote about it, what could we expect from these gentle and unprotected Indians...?" (Id., parenthetical in the original).

With Bobadilla’s usurpation from Christopher Columbus of the governance of the West Indies, the encomienda, as well as Bobadilla’s own personal brand of murderous tyranny, reigned supreme. De las Casas writes of this dark time, "The Spaniards loved and adored [Bobadilla] in exchange for such favors, help and advice, because they knew how much freer they were now than under Columbus" (Id.).

Whereas Christopher Columbus, from the beginning, had always characterized the Tainos to the Crown as "intelligent" and willing and worthy to become Spanish citizens and Christians, with all the rights and privileges attendant thereto, Bobadilla, instead, spread virulent propaganda about the tribal peoples.  Bobadilla deceived the monarchs into "believing them to be nonrational animals," who were "incapable" of receiving citizenship or the faith, and perpetuated this lie "throughout the world" for the sole purpose that he might "keep power over them."  Of this "evil design of those deceivers and counterfeiters of truth," De las Casas lamented, "may he who persists in it burn for such beastly heresy" (Id.).  De las Casas's lament merits repeating today.

Drunk with power and with an insatiable thirst for gold that no amount of Taino blood could slake, Bobadilla knew his reign of terror could not last long.  In perhaps the most damning statement of record in this history, he explicitly told the hidalgos, "Take as many advantages as you can since you don’t know how long this will last" (Id.).  De las Casas heard the statement with his own young ears.  When he wrote of it years later in his official capacity as "Protector of the Indians," he punctuated this grizzly account with the following words:  "And let this suffice to account for the state of affairs on this island under Bobadilla's government, after he had sent Admiral Columbus as a prisoner to Castile" (Id.).

Indeed, Bobadilla warned his conspirators to do what they might in what time they had because he knew that his own calumnious writings against Columbus were lies soon to be debunked.  He knew that his own deeds as the new Viceroy were nothing short of the most profane wickedness, and that when the Crown heard Christopher Columbus's true accounts, Bobadilla's reign of terror would be terminated.

Indeed, in the letter to Doña Juana, Christopher Columbus had already set forth to set things right, even in chains.  He wrote that he relied not only on his faith for assurance and internal strength, but on his confidence in his position and the propriety of his deeds.  "Comendador Bobadilla is striving to explain his conduct," he declared in the letter, "but I will easily show him that his scant knowledge, great cowardice and exorbitant greed are the motives that pushed him into it."  He added assuredly, "Their Highnesses will know this when they order him to give an account, especially if I am present when he gives it" (Id., Book I, Chapter 181).

Though confident in his rectitude, Christopher Columbus bore no hubris and still wrote with humility about his ability to govern, despite that he had proven himself to be the greatest governor the West Indies had ever seen under Ferdinand and Isabella's rule, if not the greatest governor the West Indies has ever seen.  Despite having freed the Taino slaves, built multiple settlements and defeated the Carib marauders, bringing prosperity and a Pax Columbiana to the land, he lamented about the naive trust he had placed in the hidalgos to respect his authority.  He admonished that he should not be "judge[d] as if I were a governor in Sicily or of a well-regulated town or city" – where the social fabric is intact and the laws "observed in their entirety."  Rather, "I should be judged as a captain who left Spain for the Indies" and found himself unwittingly in "a warlike nation [with] no towns or governments," all the while opposed by villainous hidalgos and conquistadors who imposed upon him "the ingratitude of injuries" (Id.).  

These days, Christopher Columbus is judged as neither.  The revisionist "historians," the pseudo-academic re-educators and the mindless "grievance squad" mobs that echo their calumny have conflated the evil deeds of Francisco de Bobadilla, the terror of the West Indies, with Christopher Columbus, the first civil rights activist of the Americas and the pious Genoan who would spare no effort to unseat the reconquistador villain and undo his wicked deeds.  Next week's "1492 Project" article in Broad + Liberty will recount just that.  We will explore how the greatest hero of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century vindicated himself, vanquished Bobadilla and ventured forth on his fourth and last voyage to once again champion the denizens of the West Indies.

Editor’s Note: In the next article in PRIMO Magazine's 1492 Project, the author will explain how Christopher Columbus managed to defeat Bobadilla's slander in a court of law, unseat the villainous viceroy and start the long process of setting things right once again in the West Indies.

 

 

 

 

RADIO LIVING LEGEND, DICK BIONDI
A New Film, to be Released in 2021

By Pamela Enzweiler-Pulice and Joe Farina



Richard Orlando Biondi was born in Endicott, New York, in 1932 to Rose and Michael Biondi, a homemaker and a fireman. Growing up in the Italian neighborhood known as the Nob, he described himself as a kid who was always yakking. A devout Roman Catholic, he intended to enter the priesthood.

Things changed for Dick, when, at eight years old, he spent the summer at his grandparents’ home in Auburn, New York. There, he was discovered at a local radio station. He stood and watched the announcer until, one day, he was invited into the studio to read a commercial. When he returned home his family announced, "We heard you on the radio!" That's when Dick's dream was born.

Dick began his career playing Race or Sepia records, and soon discovered rock and roll. At his early record hops, he introduced Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Darin, Paul Anka and went on to promote many artists' careers. Dick's dream came true at superstation WLS in Chicago where his rock and roll persona, a.k.a. The Screamer and The Wild I-Tralian made him the #1 DJ in America. It was at WLS in February, 1963 that he introduced the first Beatles record to be heard on the radio in the U.S. and later introduced the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in concert.

A proud Italian American who kept his real name throughout his career, Dick was a role model for the kids who adored him. He was exciting, fun, and goofy, but he also had a serious side. With a heart of gold, Dick never tired of using his voice for good. The annual Dick Biondi Toy Drive, a 36-hour marathon, brought joy and gifts to needy children and is featured in the film.

The Dick Biondi film is the passion project of former fan club president, Pamela Pulice, who met Dick in 1961 and has remained a lifelong friend. Since March 2014, Pam and her team interviewed Biondi, his friends, fans and notables in the broadcast and entertainment industry, including Frankie Valli, Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Paul Shaffer (Late Night With David Letterman), Tony Orlando, Walt Parazaider (founder of the band Chicago), Jim Peterik (Ides of March and Survivor), Dennis Tufano, Carl Giammarese (The Buckinghams), comedian Tom Dreesen and Ron Onesti of Onesti Entertainment, to name a few.  In the competitive, youth-oriented, ever-changing radio and music industries, Dick Biondi has endured to become one of the most influential and best loved radio personalities of the 20th century.

We are excited to share Dick's story with you and invite you to join us in bringing this important Italian American hero's story to the world. Now in post-production, our goal is to complete the film for release in 2021. We thank our wonderful sponsors, Paul Shaffer, Onesti Entertainment, VC Plumbers, Douglas and Lynn Steffen, The Village of Bolingbrook and Mayor Roger C. Claar, Jim Peterik, Hagerty Insurance, Beverly Records, Italian American Executives of Transportation, Jim & Tracey Corollo, Katherine Konopasek, Dennis and Carolyn Terpin, Carol "Chucko" Tenge, Michael Ungerleider and Stephanie Serna, Mike Wolstein and California Aircheck for their generous support. We will be honored if you join us by making a tax-deductible donation or by becoming a sponsor. For more information visit www.dickbiondifilm.com/donate/, contact Director of Communications and Marketing, Joe Farina Joe@dickbiondifilm.com or Producer/Director Pamela Enzweiler-Pulice pam@dickbiondifilm.com

 

Covid Chronicles
ITALY, ALMOST AT NATIONAL LOCKDOWN AGAIN
Number of Infected Continues to Rise
- New Curfew Implemented
- Just Like America, Italy Sees Rise of Professional Agitators and Rioters
- 54th Anniversary of Tuscany Flood

By Deirdre Pirro

Here in Italy, we are at the end of Week 22 in a situation that looks as though it may be moving towards full lockdown soon if the curve of contagion does not begin to go down. Prompted by this increasingly dramatic situation, Prime Minister Conte finally went before Parliament to outline the new anti-Covid regulations in the government's latest decree (the fourth in 4 weeks) – and he's surprised that people are confused and frustrated! All of a sudden, he decided he needed the support of Parliament and the Regions because he knows these measures will be very unpopular. It was clear to anyone who could see their hand before their face that he wanted to spread responsibility and cover his back. Trouble is, it's yet again, too little and too late and his popularity dropped from 60 to 40 percent in a matter of days.

On November 4th, the new decree was passed. There is now a nationwide curfew between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. You are only allowed out during these hours for work, health or situations of need and must show an auto-certification document if the police stop you. Museums are closed while shopping malls are shut in weekends.

For the moment, the Italian flag seems to have changed color. It is no longer red, white and green but is now red, orange and yellow. The regions are classified according to this three level color-coded system based on 21 parameters relating to the risk of transmission, the number of active hotspots and available hospital beds. So Italy is divided into Red Zones (high risk), Orange (medium-high risk), and Yellow (medium risk) Zones to which Tuscany initially belonged. At present, Red Zones include Lombardia, Piemonte, Calabria and Valle d'Aosta with their frontiers closed and their businesses are almost on total lockdown; Puglia and Sicily are Orange Zones. However, the latest data from the Ministry of Health is that Abruzzo, Basilicata, Liguria, Umbria, Veneto and Tuscany are now also within the Orange Zones whereas Alto Adige has autonomously decided to become a Red Zone to safeguard its citizens. Being Orange means we are only free to move within our municipality, unless for work, study, health reasons or in situations of need. Bars, pubs, restaurants, ice-cream parlors and bakeries will be closed although takeaways and home deliveries can continue until 10 at night.

Dissent was not slow in coming from regional governors as many, like the governors of Piemonte and Liguria, believe that these restrictions should not have been enforced region-wide but rather, that it would have been more effective to identify and isolate specific hotspots within each regions. The presumption was that this would be economically less devastating for their territories.

Peaceful demonstrations on the streets of many cities continue as the new rules strongly encourage everyone to work from home as much as possible, whether in the public or private sector. Problem is, that's not possible if you are a restaurant owner, a car salesman, a taxi driver, a ballerina or do one of a host of other jobs in which it is impossible to work remotely. Before zoning reared its ugly head, a famous restaurant overlooking Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence staged an interesting peaceful protest by offering a “dinner” at six in the morning, outside curfew hours, and, therefore, legal. The house was full.

Here in Florence, the week began badly. On the night of October 30th, after a week-long barrage of messages on social networks, the city was invaded by unauthorized demonstrators intent on creating mayhem and damage. Police in riot gear were prepared and blocked the main Piazza della Signoria from invasion whilst the most fashionable shops in the vicinity had boarded up their windows with plywood barriers to prevent breakage and looting. Other piazzas and streets in the center of town were not quite so lucky. I cannot ever remember witnessing scenes like this with these hooligans, both male and female, hurling stones, Molotov cocktails, and cherry bombs at police who retaliated with tear gas. Twelve police were slightly injured, four protesters were arrested and twenty two were reported and will appear in court. From their accents, it appears that many of them were not Tuscan but were simply professionals of disorder. Fortunately, the timely intervention of large numbers of law enforcement officers prevented damage to the city's monuments. This shameful episode just goes to show that there are fringes of society like these thugs who are intent on wrecking violence for violence sake and that they could not care less about the thousands of people who are genuinely suffering from the economic and social fallout of Covid-19.

November 4th marked the 54th anniversary of the 1966 flood when, after three days of incessant, heavy rain, the usually peaceful Arno river which meanders through the historic center of Florence burst its banks, spilling water reaching nearly 18 feet high into the city's narrow streets. Celebrations were solemn and restrained comprising a Mass for the 35 victims of the tragedy at the Santa Croce Basilica and a blessing of the river from the Ponte alle Grazie bridge with a laurel wreath from the City cast into the waters.

Here, at home, today felt like we had moved into a time warp, careening backward towards last March again. Once more, I ordered our groceries and green groceries by telephone and they were left outside on the landing. Autumn has not brought good tidings but, this time, at least we know the ropes...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: These are pictures of the George Washington monument in the Cascine Park in Florence. It was placed there in 1932 by American citizens resident in Florence to celebrate the 2nd centenary of America's first President. Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian.

 

Op-ed
WHY ARE ITALIAN AMERICANS UNDERREPRESENTED IN POLITICAL SCIENCE
Although Political Science was Invented in Italy, Universities, Especially Those in New Jersey, Refuse to Hire Us
“Often, we are told that Italians and other Mediterraneans are not important to History, Political Science or even Political Theory.”

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

   Political Science is my field. I have seven years of training in it. I practice it. I teach it. However, most political scientists in America are not Italian or Mediterranean. Anglo-white Protestants are still predominant, despite being a small minority of modern Americans. They like to pretend that Political Science or Political Theory is either an English phenomenon, a Western European phenomenon, or a general “European” phenomenon.
   In New Jersey, Political Science is not often taught by Italian Americans. Rutgers refuses to count Italians (I have bugged Rutgers about this several times). Although 20-30 percent of the citizens of New Jersey are Italian, fewer than five percent of Political Scientists at the state’s 4-year colleges and universities are Italian American.
   I was challenged by several white Anglo-Protestants at my dissertation defense. I claimed that Political Theory, the heart and soul of Political Science, was predominantly a Mediterranean, especially an Italian, phenomenon. It shocked people. I was worried that I was going to flunk my dissertation defense because I was the first Italian to declare that Political Science was really our field, culturally appropriated by the Northern Europeans and denied to us.
   However, the funny thing about novel academic arguments is sometimes people are so shocked by them that they do not shut them down. I defended my dissertation with our ancestors’ fervor and I convinced every one of my five advisors to support my dissertation. Why? It was because the facts were strongly in my favor and it was an interesting proposition.
We Italian Americans are excluded from Political Science in America, especially in New Jersey. Often, we are told that Italians and other Mediterraneans are not important to History, Political Science or even Political Theory.
   Machiavelli was a great Political Scientist and Political Theorist. He is far greater than Locke or Hobbes or many other English theorists. He is greater than the Francophone theorists that elites study more. Machiavelli is not the first Political Theorist, however, he is the first modern Political Scientist. His Italianness is routinely ignored, except when he is compared to Mussolini and mafia people.
   In Political Theory, only Machiavelli is studied commonly by Anglo-Whites among all of the Italian political theorists, with the exception of some communists. There are plenty of other great Italian Political Theorists who are ignored such as Tommaso d’Aquino, Marsiglio di Padua, Francesco Guicciardini, Dante Alighieri, Cesare Beccaria and Gasparo Contarini. Their contributions are, simply put, whitewashed, culturally-appropriated, and/or ignored.
   Even before Italians were distinct from Latin-speaking Romans, there were great Political Scientists and Political Theorists. Cicero is often condemned as not a good theorist by Anglo-White Political Theorists. His uniqueness and greatness as a Latin-Roman and as a proto-Italian are often ignored. This simply is the classical appropriation and condescension of Southern European and Mediterranean greatness by lesser Northern European minds.
   The greatest contributions to Political Science belong to the Italians, but not exclusively to us. Our allies amongst the Mediterranean peoples have done great work as well, especially the Greeks. The first Political Scientist was probably Aristotle while the first Political Theorist is Thucydides, a little before Aristotle. Aristotle inspired the Romans greatly and probably did more for us than for his own Greek compatriots.
   If you mention Aristotle to modern Political Scientists, they will say good things about him until you start asserting his Mediterraneanness. When he is an example of Mediterranean culture, people start acting weird. Only when we give him up to Northern Europeans and their twisted sense of “whiteness” do they accept him. Why? Because they want to claim him and when we want to justify ourselves through him, they feel threatened.
   In truth, Political Science, as a field, is indebted to Mediterranean people. However, we Mediterraneans are kept out of four-year schools and universities’ faculty. The president of Rutgers said plainly that Rutgers will never change its exclusionary policies towards us because we never complain about the treatment, so it must be okay. He is not even from New Jersey. Imagine if he had spoken to a Cuban that way!
   In the end, Political Science and Political Theory were both invented by Mediterraneans. Most of the greatest political scientists and political theorists were Mediterraneans, including many Italians and Greeks. However, in New Jersey, which has a very large Mediterranean minority, we are excluded from participation in our own field on the basis of ethnicity and race. This  situation is unconstitutional and illegal but no one challenges it.
   If I were a political scientist with five articles to my name, a book in the works, a PhD and years of teaching experience, but an Anglo-White or Cuban, I would have a permanent job in New Jersey. But I am an Italian American and I can beg for a job. Political Science and Political Theory are our fields but we are excluded from studying them for pay. It is time for reclassification so that Mediterranean academics can actually take our rightful place in Political Science departments in New Jersey and other states that systemically discriminate against Italians and other Mediterraneans in this field of academia, among others.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a historian, political scientist, and adjunct professor at Middlesex County College. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion, as expressed in the article, may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
BACK TO MARCH WE GO
Italy Returns to Almost Lockdown Status
- A new rise in Covid-19 cases forces greater restrictions in Italy
- Italians rebel; no more solidarity in face of the pandemic
- Raphael’s painting returns to Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, we are in Week 21 of a now more rigid partial lockdown in Florence with Covid-19 contagion galloping back again, not only in Italy where there are over 25,000 new cases and the death rate is rising but throughout Europe. Germany and France are close to lockdown and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has reported the situation in her country to be “dramatic” which sums up the situation throughout many countries in the continent. Instead, on the home front, the magniloquent governor of the Campania Region goes further and describes what is happening in his fiefdom, “as a step away from tragedy.” He has ordered a curfew in the region, closing all commercial businesses, social and recreational activities between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.; which will be in force until 13th November 2020. It is not a popular measure.

Because of the alarming upsurge in Covid cases and in an attempt to avoid a re-occurrence of what happened last March, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced yet another restrictive decree, the third in two weeks. This time dubbed the “Save Christmas Decree,” it was announced that until November 24th, restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, ice-cream parlors, and bakeries can only operate between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. Home deliveries and takeaways can stay open until midnight but you are not allowed to eat this food on the street near these businesses. Gyms, pools, spas and wellness centers, cultural, social, and recreational centers are closed as well as ski runs and theme parks, night clubs and discos. You can go to a museum or to church but not to theaters, concert halls or cinemas which are also closed. You can take your children to the park but distance learning for high school students will be increased to 75 percent and 25 percent in person. All those new and expensive desks on wheels will now be virtually bereft of occupants!

The ink on the decree had not yet dried before spontaneous demonstrations began breaking out, first in Milan and then in Naples, Turin and Palermo, before spreading throughout the peninsula. Most were peaceful protests by restaurant, bar owners, employees, retailers, shop keepers, taxi drivers, and tour operators. However, on several occasions, these protests turned into scenes of urban guerrilla warfare with property damage and looting and the police in riot gear. In these latter instances, like in Naples on the night of October 24th, the authorities believe the violence was provoked by professional rabble-rousers from political extremist fringes and elements of the Camorra. That may be so but anger is growing fast, fueled by frustration and fear. There is now a very different climate in the country from that during total lockdown when there was a strong sense of solidarity and people sang together from their balconies. Now things are turning nasty. These categories are exasperated and irate because of the considerable investments they already have made to safeguard their clients by complying with the hundreds of rules and regulations that had been imposed on them. Fear instead comes from the knowledge that they could be facing imminent financial ruin. Imagine, for example, what would happen if you owned a restaurant and have to shut it at 6 p.m. when 85 percent of your customers come to dine in the evening from 8 p.m. onward. Already, in late August, a young restaurateur took his life in his well-known restaurant in Florence because he was worried that he would not be able to pay his bank loans and his staff.

The government is planning a budget maneuver aimed at providing some financial assistance to these people but, given its past record, many believe it will again be too little too late, a little like sprinkling stardust on a sinking ship.

The opposition has harshly criticized the Christmas Decree, complaining that, as usual, its views were ignored and blaming the government for failing to take the necessary steps during the summer months to prepare and equip hospital wards for what virologist predicted would be a second wave of the coronavirus in fall and winter and to recruit more medical staff. They maintain that the public transport system also cried out for significant action to be taken because, at peak hour, trams, trains and buses are packed with people trying to get to work or school on time. This is a surefire font of contagion.

Thanks to the pandemic, Caritas, the Roman Catholic charity, estimates that up to 90,000 middle-class families may soon become the new poor in Italy because they could lose their jobs, their homes could be repossessed if they can't make their mortgage payments, they could see their savings dry up and finish up in the hands of unscrupulous usurers. It is not a good perspective.

Italy’s health minister said that neighbors could "report" anyone who had more than six guests in their homes at a time produced predictable results. People with a grudge against their neighbors have been filing false reports, for instance, in Borgosesia, near Vercelli, and not only there. The town's mayor, tired of the waste of local police resources required to investigate the claims, has taken action against these calumniators who will be charged with filing a false police report and could be fined anything from 10 to 516 euro. They could even face criminal charges.

The families of the 18 fishermen from Mazara del Vallo sequestered by the militia of general Khalifa Haftar off the coast of Bengasi, Libya, on September 11, 2020 have been camped out in front of the parliament building in Rome calling for their immediate safe return home. They have no news of their loved ones and accuse the government of having done too little to secure their release.

Here in Florence, the city council, trying to impede infection, has passed an “anti-loitering” ordinance, prohibiting the assembling, especially aimed at young people, in major piazzas in the city and other typical sites of the “movida” between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The famous “Portrait of Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi,” by Raphael has returned home to Florence after extensive restoration and after an important exhibition in Rome, as part of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Raphael's death. It is now on display in the Sala delle Nicchie in the Palatine Gallery at Palazzo Pitti from October 27 to January 31, 2021. In early September 1518, the painting had been commissioned to hang over the main banquet table at the marriage reception of Leo X’s nephew, Lorenzo de 'Medici, Duke of Urbino, to Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne.

At home, with the gyms now closed, our son Piero is again exercising out on the terrace, except it's colder than it was during the total lockdown and often rains. His workouts appear to be getting shorter and shorter by the day.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

ITALIAN CHARITIES OF AMERICA ANNOUNCES ITS 2020 ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS

Italian Charities of America has been offering scholarships to entering Freshman college students since its founding mission in 1936. Proud of its continuing tradition, this year they have awarded four talented and bright freshmen college students each a $1,000.00 scholarship award. The Italian Charities of America congratulates the 2020 Scholarship recipients and wish them much success for the future!

The Scholarship recipients from the top row left to right are (pictured above):

Andrew Frangella is attending Binghamton University and majoring in Engineering.
 
Louis Capriotti is attending Farmingdale University and majoring in Business.
 
Bottom row from left to right;

Christopher Ciurcina is attending Hobart and William Smith Colleges and majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Education and Child Advocacy.

Rachael Anzalone is attending the College of Central Florida and majoring in Equine Studies and Business Management. 

For more information regarding the Italian Charities of America Scholarship Program please call 718-478-3100 or email us at italiancharitiesofamerica@gmail.com.

 

 

 

ARS POLITICA ITALICA
A Poem about Politics
- In English and Italian

By Gerardo Perrotta


Clear in action
dark in reaction
Machiavelli’s pen
in Borgia’s hand
Caravaggio’s brush
In David’s and Judith’s.
Reflections of guts and glory,
dueling singular heads
one lucid and intact
the other lurid and severed.

Chiaro nell’agire
scuro nel reagire
penna di Machiavelli
in mano Borgia,
pennello di Caravaggio
in Davide e Giuditta.
Riflessi di gloria e coraggio,
duellanti teste singolari
una lucida e intatta
l’altra lurida e recisa.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Perrotta is originally from Paola, Calabria. He is retired from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

 

The Second Voyage
COLUMBUS: A HERO
Columbus’s Underground Railroad
Continuing The Series on Why Columbus is a Hero
“This article resumes with Christopher Columbus's return to Spain with his willing islander passengers and tells the remarkable story of Admiral Columbus's continued efforts as the first civil rights activist of the Americas…”

Robert Petrone, Esq.

The New York Times has published a series of articles and essays collectively entitled the "1619 Project," promoting the jaundiced perspective that American history was not founded on good, true, immutable principles, but on the evils of slavery, bigotry and oppression, which poisoned every aspect of American society and culture such that all of America's problems -- including, the series posits, traffic patterns -- stem from these historic injustices. The 1619 project posits that American history did not begin in 1776, but with the arrival of the first African slaves in the American colonies in 1619.

I propose that one should go back even further. Perhaps we can call this series of articles on Christopher Columbus the "1492 Project" to demonstrate that Columbus's landfall in the North American Caribbean was really the beginning of the Americas and the establishment of Western Culture in these continents. My "1492 Project" posits that Columbus's peaceful and amicable first contact with over a dozen tribes in the West Indies on his First Voyage, and his freeing of scores of Taino slaves from Carib captors on his Second Voyage (a civil rights activism that continued, as future articles will demonstrate, on both his remaining voyages) established the Americas as a bastion of goodness, from which has sprung the United States, the freest, most-tolerant, most-successful and wealthiest heterogeneous society in the history of the earth.

My "1492 Project" is a counterpoint to the "1619 Project" polemic and is important because getting our history straight is important. Unlike other countries, Americans are not united by skin color, race, ethnicity, language or religion. As President Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, "We are a people conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all Men are created equal." Princeton University Professor and Fellow in American Studies, Allen C. Guelzo, notes that because we are a people united by a principle that is taught to us by our history, we must preserve, rather than spoil or despoil that history. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, in his three-volume book Gulag Archipelago, about his years suffering in a Soviet gulag, "The first step a tyrant takes toward enslaving a people is to steal their history, for in that case, no one has anything from the past with which to compare the present, and any horror can be normalized." To that end, I bring you my next installment in preserving the history of Christopher Columbus, who, in turn, fought tirelessly and to the end against the tyranny of the Spanish hidalgos, and to preserve the peaceful tribal peoples of the West Indies.

My last article for PRIMO Magazine, published on Columbus Day weekend, detailed his first trans-Atlantic voyage; his discovery of the Americas (in the sense of bringing them to light to the rest of the world); and his successful and peaceful first-contact with every single tribe he encountered, including the warlike Caribs, who attacked him on sight but whom he still managed to conciliate. This article resumes with Christopher Columbus's return to Spain with his willing islander passengers and tells the remarkable story of Admiral Columbus's continued efforts as the first civil rights activist of the Americas, including his life-saving "Underground Railroad" -- or perhaps, more aptly, "Underwater Railroad" -- by which he sailed from island to island rescuing many Tainos from their man-eating captors.

While moored off the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) during his first sojourn in the West Indies, a ship's boy took control of the Santa María's wheel against Admiral Columbus's orders and damaged the flagship so badly on rocks that it was rendered unseaworthy. Columbus also wished to take a cadre of not only willing but eager islanders back to Spain to meet the King and Queen. In order to do so with only the two small, remaining caravels, he left behind 37 sailors to create the first Spanish settlement, Navidad -- "Christmas," named after the day in 1492 that it was founded.  He left the settlers with strict orders not to trouble the islanders, and left his discipline officer, Diego de Araña de Córdoba, and the Crown's steward, Pedro Gutiérrez, behind to ensure that they behaved.

He did bring the eager islanders back to meet the Spanish Crown, but first landed at the Canary Island way-station, under the control of Portugal's King John, and then in Lisbon itself. King John welcomed Columbus with "trumpets, fifes and drums and with a grand escort" (Hernando Colón, Life of the Admiral, Chapter 41), having relinquished his grudge against the Genoese sailor for turning his back on Portugal and taking his business to Spain. King John did so not because the king's own treachery had prompted Columbus to cease business with Portugal -- he had delivered Columbus's maps and charts to his own private flotilla and sent them away without Columbus, a deceit Columbus discovered only when the Portuguese flotilla limped back to port crippled by a storm. Rather, King John and his Portuguese subjects -- and indeed all of the world -- saw Admiral Columbus's feat as more than merely a victory for Spain, but a human achievement.

Similarly, upon Admiral Columbus's return to Spain all of Castle "flooded from all directions to see him; the roads swelled with throngs come to welcome him in the towns through which he passed" (Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book I, Chapter 78). The monarchs received him with with great anticipation and Admiral Columbus "praised" the Tainos to the King and Queen. He urged the monarchs that the islanders were "ready to receive the faith" (id.). Indeed, the Taino passengers willingly and gratefully received Baptism, rendering them immune from enslavement by any who would seek to apply the repartamiento to the tribal people of the West Indies, that part of the feudal "encomienda" system that entitled medieval Spanish nobles to subject conquered enemies to servitude.  

Admiral Columbus rode in a parade with the monarchs through the streets of Castile, sitting in the seat next to the King that had been previously reserved for the young Prince John. Even as they rode, the King and Queen discussed launching the second expedition, and the contract for it was drafted and signed immediately.

Admiral Columbus embarked on his Second Voyage from the port of Cadiz on September 25, 1493, now fitted with a fleet of seventeen ships, manned by sailors and "hidalgos," low, landed nobles. After another stop at the Canary Islands way-station, his fleet completed the remainder of the crossing in less than 20 days, arriving on the first Sunday after All Saints Day.

The Admiral specifically went looking for the islands of the man-eating Caribs, of whom the Tainos constantly complained to Columbus.  Dr. Diego Chanca, one of the surgeons of the fleet, wrote in his epistolary account of the Second Voyage, "By the goodness of God, and thanks to the Admiral's skill and knowledge, we had reached them as directly as if we had been following a known and familiar course."  

On the first inhabited island, Guadalupe, the landing party found a small Taino boy and a group of Taino women whom the Caribs had kidnapped.  In the Carib huts, left unoccupied while the Caribs went marauding, the landing party found "great numbers of human bones and skulls" used as "hanging vessels." Through the Taino translator that had returned to the West Indies with the fleet, the women explained that the Caribs "made war against the neighboring islands" by "raids in their canoes," shooting serrated arrows tipped with poison. Chanca noted that the Caribs "raid the other islands and carry off all the women they can take, especially the young and beautiful, whom they keep as servants and concubines." The Caribs "had carried off so many that in fifty houses we found no males and more than twenty of the captives were girls." Chanca wrote, "These women say they are all treated [by their Carib captors] with a cruelty that seems incredible":  the Caribs murdered and ate the Taino men, raped and impregnated the Taino women, castrated and enslaved Taino boys (whom they later ate when they reached adulthood), and ate not only the remaining Taino children they captured but also the infants to whom the raped sex slaves give birth.  

The crew found corroborating physical evidence of the cannibalism in the huts of the Caribs. In one hut, "the neck of a man was found cooking in a pot." In another they found "human bones" that "were so gnawed that no flesh was left on them except what was too tough to be eaten" by a human (Letter of Dr. Diego Chanca).  In yet another Carib hut on Guadalupe they found "a human arm [that was] cooking in a stewpot" (Hernando Colón, Life of the Admiral, Chapter 63).  Indeed, if any doubt remained, the Caribs would themselves go on explicitly to confirm that they were cannibals. Dr. Chanca wrote of the Caribs, "They say that human flesh is so good that there is nothing like it in the world" (Letter of Dr. Diego Chanca).  

But before any parleys with the Caribs occurred on this voyage, the Admiral's fleet sailed from island to island, passing one that the Taino women from Guadalupe explained "was uninhabited, because the Caribs had removed the entire population." At every landfall, Admiral Columbus liberated Tainos from the Carib villages, many of which were found empty upon arrival, and many others of which were abandoned by the Caribs upon seeing the landing party approach. Island by island, groups of liberated Taino women and children fled "of their own accord" into the protective aegis of Admiral Christopher Columbus (id.). As the fleet was rescuing women and boys from the Carib island of San Martino, a canoe full of both male and female Carib archers returned, and opened fire on the landing party, wounding many and killing one Basque sailor.  Although the penalty for such a murder was death, Columbus spared the lives of the captured Caribs, whom he ensured would have their day in court before the Spanish Crown.

The Admiral continued to sail throughout the archipelago, visiting Boriquen (now Puerto Rico), Hispaniola and hundreds of other islands and islets, recording the flora and fauna of each. Once the fleet safely reached Taino lands that the Caribs had not taken over or emptied, Admiral Columbus "put ashore" those of the liberated Tainos who wished to return home, now well-fed and provisioned with clothes and other gifts (id.). Before long, Admiral Columbus rescued no less than ten women and an unknown quantity of children and adult, male survivors. Long before Harriet Tubman and Levi Coffin helped African-American slaves escape via the "Underground Railroad" of the United States, Christopher Columbus conducted the first North American Underground Railroad in the Caribbean, freeing Taino slaves from their Carib captors.

But Admiral Columbus could not neglect the nearly forty sailors he had left behind on Hispaniola to found the settlement of Navidad. After freeing the Taino slaves, Christopher Columbus made his way in search of the settlement. The Tainos of Hispaniola flooded the beach and wanted to board the Admiral's ships. Admiral Columbus "kindly received" those he could, but was focused on locating his forty men left behind. A cousin of Guacanagarí, the cacique (chieftain) that Admiral Columbus had made fast friends with on the First Voyage, brought the Admiral dire news:  the Carib high-king Caonabo and a lesser king, Mayreni, had attacked and burned Navidad and Guacanagarí's village, had wounded Guacanagarí, and had murdered all of the Spanish settlers in cold blood (Hernando Colón, The Life of the Admiral, Chapters 63-64; Letter of Dr. Diego Chanca).  

The next morning, Admiral Columbus went to Navidad, and found the observation shelter "burnt, and the village demolished by fire." He visited Guacanagarí and found him convalescing from a painful leg injury inflicted by one of the Caribs' stone weapons.  The islanders of Hispaniola were still shaken up by the Carib slaughter.  Some of the liberated Tainas who had remained on Columbus's ships now left to join the diminished village at the urging of Guacanagari's cousin.  Their tribe would need to rebuild and would need women to do it (id.).

Three months later, Governor Columbus, as he had been titled by the Crown of Spain, began building a new settlement, named Isabela, after the Queen who was so fond of him. He and the crews of his seventeen ships constructed irrigation canals, mills, water wheels and farms with "many vegetables." Taino caciques of many tribes and their womenfolk frequented the settlement bringing yams, "nourishing [and] greatly restor[ing]" the Spaniards, who were grateful for the succor (id.). But just as the Europeans had brought diseases to which the islanders of the West Indies had built no immunity (all of which have since been cured by modern science) so, too, did the settlers succumb to diseases transmitted to them by the Tainos (none of which have been cured by modern science, including syphilis). Also, because the Europeans were not accustomed to the tropical climate, the vegetables they grew rotted more quickly than they anticipated. For all of these reasons, as well as "from hard work and the rigors of the voyage" (id.), the Spaniards fell deathly sick at Isabela.

Though he contracted no known diseases from the Tainos, Governor Columbus too fell sick from the rigors of the voyage, the settlement-building and the differences in climate. Caciques of various Taino tribes sent villagers to help the settlers pan for gold, since they understood that the King and Queen who had sent the settlers required it as currency to make the undertaking possible. But many of the hidalgos plotted "to raise a revolt [and] load themselves with gold" as they were "exasperated" and "discontented" from "the labor of building the town" (Hernando Colón, Life of the Admiral, Chapter 51). Some of the hidalgos came from long lines of blue-blooded nobles, and had never toiled.  But because so few hidalgos deigned to depart the comforts of Castile for the tropical frontier of the West Indies, the Crown hatched a hair-brained scheme to make up the difference:  it pardoned convicted criminals -- murderers, rapists, thieves and other ne'er-do-wells -- and granted them noble titles if they agreed to help settle the Caribbean. Though the hidalgos -- noble-born and ex-con alike -- wanted to force the Tainos to build the settlement for them, Governor Columbus would not permit the use of the labor of the islanders.  

So began the discontent that would forever drive a wedge between the entitled, Spanish hidalgos and their low-born, foreigner governor. "They had been plotting in secret to renounce the Admiral's authority [by] taking the remaining ships to return in them to Castile" (id.). Beginning a tactic that would persist to this day, the fleet's accountant, Bernalde Pisa, instigated the plot by writing libelous falsehoods about Governor Columbus to be delivered to the Crown. Despite this heinous act of mutiny by Pisa, Christopher Columbus nevertheless demonstrated himself to be the "kind" and "good-natured" man of mercy de las Casas described him as in his Historia de las Indias (Book I, Chapter 3); when he discovered Pisa's libelous correspondences, out of deference to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Governor Columbus "punished [Pisa] only by imprisoning him in the ship, intending to return him to Castile with a list of his crimes" (Hernando Colón, Life of the Admiral, Chapter 51).

Now restored to health, but still distressed about the Carib menace that destroyed the Navidad settlement and threatened the Taino tribes, Columbus left the under-construction Isabela settlement and traveled to Cibao, near the northwest corner of Hispaniola. There, he built a protective fort, Santo Tomás, "with which to keep that country at peace" from Carib marauders and Spanish gold-mongers (id.).  In this endeavor, Governor Columbus encountered "many Indian villages," making friends wherever he went (id., Chapter 52).  Governor Columbus stationed Captain Pedro Margarit and a few men-at-arms at the completed fort to protect the area from High-king Caonabo's Carib marauders, and returned to Isabela (id., Chapter 53).  

In Columbus's absence from Fort Santo Tomás, a tribe of islanders robbed Margarit and his men. Margarit captured the robbers and cut off their ears in retaliation. He then brought them to Isabella, before Governor Columbus, for further punishment, but Columbus was horrified by Margarit's maiming of the islanders. Again, exhibiting the "good judgment" and "unusual insight into human and divine affairs" that de las Casas described of him (Historia de las Indias, Book I, Chapter 3), Governor Columbus used the same clever intrigue on the islanders' chieftain as he often used on the King and Queen of Spain.  He told the chieftain that the punishment for the robbers' crime was death, though Governor Columbus had no intention of ever carrying out that threat.  When the chieftain heard the pronouncement, he offered a tearful apology for his villagers' misdeeds.  Columbus immediately set the robbers free into the custody of their chieftain, and announced to Margarit that the matter was settled (id., Chapter 93).

No sooner had Governor Columbus adeptly resolved the Margarit affair did horsemen arrive from Fort Santo Tomás, informing that islanders had surrounded it and attempted to kill its occupants. In Columbus's absence from the fort and without his pacifying presence, the relationship of the settlers there and the nearby islanders soured terribly. De las Casas makes a point to note, "I would not dare blame the admiral's intentions" for the discord, "for I knew him well, and I know his intentions were good" (id.).  Indeed, Governor Columbus shed no blood over the incident. He sent cavaliers to make only a show of their "arms and horses" as to "instill fear" in the tribal warriors responsible for the siege (id.). The tactic successfully scared the warriors off with no fatalities, liberating the besieged Spaniards (Hernando Colón, Life of the Admiral, Chapter 53).

In the Spring, Admiral Columbus explored the coastline of Cuba, making friends with its inhabitants and gifting them glass beads, hawk bells and brass bells, and other offerings. The cacique of the province exhibited great interest in the Catholic Mass the priests conducted, "listen[ing] attentively" and "giv[ing] thanks to God" (id., Chapter 59).  

The following month the Admiral arrived at Jamaica. Although the inhabitants attacked on sight, he retreated as a show of peace and good will. Nevertheless, the Jamaican inhabitants attacked again, but the Admiral diffused the conflict with no fatalities. Thereafter, the inhabitants bartered peaceably and one begged to return to Spain with the fleet.  Admiral Columbus "ordered that he should be well treated," and obliged the man's request to travel with them. Throughout the entire Second Voyage, whenever the islanders sought to come aboard the ships of the fleet, Admiral Columbus "treated them very courteously" (id., Chapters 54-55). 

Meanwhile, Captain Margarit left his post, hijacked one of the seventeen ships, and returned to Castile, leaving Fort Santo Tomás. The islanders, under the command of Chief Guatigana, attacked again the unsupervised fort, murdering ten settlers in cold blood and setting fire to a hospital containing forty patients. Hernando Colón notes that the tribal warriors "would have killed many more if the Admiral had not arrived in time to prevent them" (id., Chapter 61). His men-at-arms caught some of Guatigana's murderous warriors, but again, Governor Columbus exhibited temperance; he did not presume to try, much less punish, the attackers, but rather delivered the prisoners to the Crown to have their day in court.

But again demonstrating that "unusual insight into human...affairs" of which de las Casas wrote, Governor Columbus investigated further into the Santo Tomás massacre. He discovered that the unsupervised settlers had "committ[ed] innumerable outrages for which they were mortally hated by their tribal neighbors." These outrages brought consequences.  "All the caciques and kings" of the region were pressed into a war band led by none other than the cannibal High-king himself, Caonabo, scourge of the Caribbean. Caonabo even attempted to press Guacanagarí's tribe into service, but Guacanagarí "remained friendly" to the settlers and refused to ally with the cannibal king (Hernando Colón, Life of the Admiral, Chapter 61). Thus, one of the cacique kings in Caonabo's service murdered one of Guacanagarí's womenfolk on the spot, and Caonabo himself kidnapped another (id.), no doubt to impregnate her and eat her baby as was the Caribs' want.

Guacanagarí implored Columbus to rescue his kidnapped villager.  Though outnumbered five-hundred to one, Columbus hatched a plan to merely frighten the war band into retreat with the ruckus of musket shots.  It worked, for a time. Hernando Colón noted, the war band "fled like cowards in all directions," but the confrontation was not without its fatalities.  Nevertheless, when the men-at-arms returned to the Governor with their prisoners, High-King Caonabo was among them. Caonabo defiantly proclaimed that he had indeed ordered the murder of the forty settlers of Navidad, and boldly announced that he would do the same to the settlers of Isabela. In spite of all of this, Governor Columbus did not harm a hair on the cannibal king's head. Rather, he sent him back to Spain to have his day in court before the Crown (id.).

By his careful suppression of the cannibal rebellion, Columbus proved that his skills in ship command translated well into governance, despite that he had never held any political office in the past.  Thereafter, although the settlers still struggled with food scarcity and disease, "the Christians' fortunes became extremely prosperous" and peace reigned supreme.  "Indeed, the Indians would carry [Columbus] on their shoulders in the way they carry [men of] letters" for the Pax Columbiana he established, though the humble "Admiral attributed this peace to God's providence" (id.). In gratitude and brotherhood, the Tainos led the settlers to their own copper mines and revealed to the settlers the locations of precious gemstones such as sapphires, ebony and amber; spices such as incense, cinnamon, ginger and red pepper; and gums and woods such as cedar, brazil-wood and evergreen mulberry (id., Chapter 62).

Now that Columbus had freed the Taino slaves, built the multiple settlements and defeated the Carib marauders, bringing peace and slowly restoring prosperity to the land, he decided to return to Spain to give an account of the entire affair. He suspected that Bernalde Pisa was not the only beleaguered, entitled hidalgo writing false complaints about him, and that the absconder, Pedro Margarit, may well have delivered more libelous correspondences to the Crown from the shifty and shiftless hidalgos on the ship he had hijacked.

Admiral Columbus set sail for Spain in two of the remaining sixteen ships of the fleet in March of 1496. After yet another run-in with Carib marauders who attacked him off the coast of Guadalupe, he discovered an island bereft of menfolk, the women of which were skilled archers Columbus described as exceptionally "intelligent" and of great "strength and courage" whom the Caribs descended upon periodically, as the women described, "to lie with them" (id., Chapter 63). Because these women identified as Caribs themselves, the marauders did not eat their babies, but took them to raise as warriors. "As soon as their children are able to stand and walk, they put a bow in their hands and teach them to shoot" (id.). These, and a similar all-female tribe on the nearby island of Martinino, formed the basis for the legends of the Amazonians, named for the Greek war-maidens of legend. The name would later be applied to the entire biome of the rainforests of what is now Brazil and the surrounding nations.

Despite all the conflict Christopher Columbus had endured at the hands of the warmongering Caribs, he released Carib prisoners into the warrior-queen's custody and gave her gifts as a token of good will. The chaste Admiral's charms affected not only the queens and noblewomen of Europe, but this female cacique as well.  She "agreed to go to Castile with her daughter" and so "willingly" traveled back to Spain with the fleet (id., Chapter 64).

On April 20, 1496, Admiral Columbus's fleet disembarked for home.  On the long journey, the sailors "were so near starvation that some of them wished to imitate the Caribs and eat the Indians they had aboard" or "throw the Indians overboard" to conserve rations, "which they would have done if the Admiral had not taken strict measures to prevent them.  For he considered them as their kindred and fellow children of Christ and held that they should be no worse treated than anyone else" (id.).  Once again, as his Second Voyage drew to a close, Christopher Columbus proved himself yet again to be the first civil rights activist of the Americas -- not merely of the Tainos, but of the war-mongering, man-eating Caribs as well. That "unusual insight into human and divine affairs" of his led him to see all the islanders of the Caribbean as people and children of God, and he always treated them as such.  

His safe return to Europe on June 9, 1496, demonstrated that his unusual insight was not limited only to human and divine affairs. "From that day onward he was held by the seamen to have great and heaven-sent knowledge of the art of navigation" (id.).

In next week's article of my "1492 Project" series, "Christopher Columbus: the Greatest Hero of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (as Revealed by the Primary Sources)," the Admiral's Pax Columbiana is shattered by the man whose deeds have, of late, been falsely attributed to the good Admiral Columbus. The true terror of the West Indies arrives: the man known to the Jihadist invaders of Europe as their bane and conqueror; to the Spaniards as their war hero of the Reconquista, but to the innocent Tainos of the West Indies as the racist, rapist, maimer, murderer and genocidal maniac Francisco de Bobadilla! Don't miss it as all Hell is unleashed next week at PRIMO Magazine.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is Paul Kane's "Columbus Discovering America," painted in the 1830s, depicts Indians amidst the trees, greeting the discoverer upon his landing at San Salvador. Courtesy Joslyn Art Museum. The author Robert Petrone, a practicing attorney and Italian American activist and leader in Philadelphia. He can be reached by email at robertpetrone@yahoo.com.

 

 

Primo Exclusive
DON MARIO CARMINATI
The Parish Priest of Seriate, Italy, Accepted Coffins of Coronavirus Dead in His Church
“I blamed God and asked him why he had not listened to me?”

By Jesper Storgaard Jensen

  “It is normal for a priest to work alongside death. It is inherently part of the job. However, during last spring’s coronavirus crisis, I became involved not only as a priest, but also as an individual. As a human being. I lost members of my immediate family. It was incomprehensible, and to be honest, I still cannot comprehend these devastating losses".
   Don Mario Carminati is the parish priest of Seriate, a small provincial town with 25,000 inhabitants, located just five kilometers from Bergamo in northern Italy. But he is also one of those people who makes it clear, that in a certain way, the corona pandemic can be compared to a war. Because this spring’s corona rage is – just like a war - the messenger of two types of narratives. There is the overall and factual history in which we read the many statistics of death, the infected and, luckily also, survivors. Then, if you delve further, you’ll find an infinite number of underlying stories that deal with human destinies, personal tragedies, anxious recoveries and dramatic eyewitness accounts. Don Mario Carminati carries several of those close to his heart.
  "When I think back to last March, I remember how it all started quite slowly. At first it was just a flu from China that we had heard about. But then all of a sudden it was here, and then it started to accelerate. The feeling I most clearly remember was anxiety. People were really scared,” says Don Carminati.
   The history from the Bergamo area is well-known. Thousands of small to medium-sized businesses operate here. An area where thousands and thousands of people move around every day, like small worker bees to perform their daily tasks. An area that is especially characterized by a rooted and deeply felt work culture, which entails thousands of daily contacts between people. And thus, also, a perfect breeding ground for the spread of coronavirus.
   "Suddenly it started to develop quite quickly. Although several areas were turned into red zones (so no one could neither get in nor out, ed), the infection spread rapidly. And the death toll rose. The hospitals did not have space for the numerous coffins of dead corona patients. It was at that moment that I got the idea to open my church to make room for the many coffins,” says Don Carminati.

A message of love
   Carminati's idea and gesture really captured the attention of Italy. It was something that was noticed, and to this day many know him as "the priest who opened his church to receive those who died of corona.” But how did he actually come up with this idea?
  "A few weeks after the coronavirus had taken hold, the death toll began to rise steadily. Day after day. At one point, Bergamo city and surrounding villages had an average number of 100 deaths a day. Unfortunately, Bergamo's crematorium could not keep up. It is only capable of carrying out 24 daily cremations, so the coffins just kept piling up,” he says.
   At one point, the church where Don Carminati presides, la Chiesa di San Giuseppe, received an official request from Bergamo's hospital authorities. They needed help storing the many coffins before cremations were able to take place.
   “At that point I thought of the nave itself. Even though the people were dead, we are still talking about people. We are not talking about objects. So my thought was that a place in the heart of the church before the very last journey would be obvious,” he says.
   During the period, Don Carminati and several other priests from the parish performed a careful count.
   “Seriate had approx. 200 corona deaths over two months, but we also received coffins from the surrounding villages. In the church of San Giuseppe, where I work, we received a total of 260 coffins before they were sent on for cremation. The highest number of chests we had in only one day was 76. Bearing in mind that we only had room for a maximum of 80 coffins, the church was almost completely full. Then the military trucks came and took the coffins away, and then the next day we received new coffins with yet more corona victims,” says Don Carminati.
   This went on for much of last March. It was also at this time that Don Carminati received a somewhat unusual phone call from a nurse working at Bergamo's Central Hospital.
   “During that time, I often spoke to parishioners who had lost family members and who needed comfort. But that day it was a nurse. She called on behalf of a corona patient, Pio. I knew him, because he often came to church. Through the nurse, he had left a message for me, shortly before his death. I had to call his wife and confirm his love for her. I then called Pio's wife and conveyed his words to her, after which she said: ‘I am comforted to receive that message, and it confirms that what we had together was true love,’” says Don Carminati.

Absurd situations
   A couple of times during our conversation, it is clear that Don Carminati is touched as he lets his mind go back to the dramatic events in the spring. He stops talking for a moment and draws breath, then continues. He speaks not only as a priest, but also as a human being. And as a human being who is able to see the absurd in certain situations.
  "Due to the risk of infection, family members and relatives of patients with corona could not go to the hospital. And when the infected died, they were often carried away without the family being informed. Therefore, the family had no contact with the patient before death. Often the family was simply told that their family member had passed away and that he or she would subsequently be cremated. These families often called me to hear if the deceased happened to be in my church. The problem was that they could not come to church, due to corona restrictions. So in those cases ....well, it's really a sad story ... in those cases they asked me to take a photo of the deceased's coffin where you could also see the person's name, and then send it to them. It was the last contact they had with their loved ones before the cremation. Even today, many months later, I get sad when I think about all this,” says Don Carminati.
   Throughout last spring’s corona rage, the Italian priests were often in the eye of the storm. They were in a vulnerable position and many lost their lives. Today, the number of deceased priests as a result of corona is as high as 121. Hence the question of whether or not Don Carminati himself feared becoming infected?
  "To be honest, I've never been anxious. Who knows, maybe because I was not really aware of the danger. In the storm, it is important to remain strong. As a priest, you have to consider yourself as a kind of leader. As one who guides. I also said this to my parish priests: remember that when all this is over, it is important to be able to look yourself in the eye,” he says.
   Don Carminati goes on to tell me that he himself has lost people in his immediate family. Even young people. Something he has found so incomprehensible that he has "protested to God".
   “One was my sister's son. He died at the age of 34 after having been in intensive care for five months. He was healthy and practiced a lot of sport. It was an incomprehensible death. He was loved by everyone, and at his funeral, 600 people turned up. The other was my cousin's daughter. She had been on an extended photographic tour through South America, where she had apparently been infected. She was 38 years old. It was horrible. I must admit that I have protested to God. I asked him, ‘why have you not listened to me’. It may sound strange that an ordinary priest like myself should protest to God. But Pope Paolo VI also blamed God when Aldo Moro (formerly a prominent Italian politician, ed.) was kidnapped and killed in 1978. So I felt that I had the permission to do the same,” says Don Carminati.
   Several months have passed since the dramatic spring with the many deaths and a seven-week-long lockdown, of which the Italians have not yet seriously seen the long-term effects. During that period, many have tried to find a higher meaning with the pandemic. Does this also apply to Don Carminati?
  "Some time ago, I participated in a debate where a doctor from Bergamo was also present. He said something that really struck me. Something I have been thinking about: ‘If there is anything that will be worse than the virus itself, it will be if we do not manage to use these experiences constructively. It will be worse, if we do not use this terrible experience to grow socially, humanly but also economically'. I think he is absolutely right about that”, concludes Don Carminati.

Info about Don Mario Carminati:
Don Mario Carminati was born in 1956. In 1980, he completed his training as a Catholic priest and has since served numerous parishes within the Catholic Church, particularly in Lombardy and Piedmont. Since 2005, he has been in charge of Seriate Parish Church, near Bergamo, which is subdivided into five areas, Luce, Comonte, Risveglio, San Giuseppe and Serena.

Editor’s Note: Featured are photographs of Don Mario Carminati, coffins inside La Chiesa di San Giuseppe, and military trucks carting away the dead.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE AS CASES RISE
Prime Minister Extends the State of Emergency to January 2021
- Illegal Immigrants Arrive in Large Numbers as Government Takes Softer Approach
- Flood Crisis in Piemonte
- Florence Remains Calm

By Deirdre Pirro

 

Here, we are in Week 20 of partial lockdown in Florence with Covid-19 contagion throughout Italy accelerating for the 10th successive week but, at a slower rate than other European countries including Spain, France, England, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. Over 7,000 new, mainly asymptomatic cases of contagion a day are reported with 75% of the cases occurring within households. This is usually caused by young people returning home after assembling in piazzas and bars at the weekends without masks (the “movida”) and also after the schools reopened. Although it excluded that another complete lockdown would be put in place for the moment, these statistics gave the government the golden opportunity, on 8th October, to prolong the state of emergency until 31st January 2021. One national newspaper, admittedly sympathetic to the center-right, described this way of governing as “a honey-coated form of dictatorship.” The executive can continue to govern by decree without having to bother to consult or involve parliament. The opposition protested but to no avail and the government continues to pat itself on the back and tell us all what a great job it has done and that Italy has now become the global model on how to combat this invisible enemy. In some respects, this is so but in many, it is not. Just ask the thousands of furloughed workers who have been promised payments from the national redundancy fund since March but are yet to see a penny!

On 8th October, to stem further contagion as much as possible, the Italian government ordered us to wear masks outdoors unless we were in a situation of “continuous isolation” or playing sports. A further 20-page anti-Covid decree was passed on October 13th, which will remain in force for 30 days. Quarantine has been reduced to 10 days. One negative swab test at the end of the quarantine period for positive for asymptomatic cases. For those with symptoms, a person will have to spend at least 10 days in quarantine with one negative swab test at the end of the self-isolation period. Restaurants, pubs, bars and bakeries have to close at midnight and we have to eat sitting at a table from 9 pm onward. Home food delivery and takeaway services are allowed. School trips are prohibited as well as private parties in bars, restaurants and other public places. Amateur sports events are not allowed. There should no more than 30 guests at a wedding or other ceremonies. The most contentious measures in this legislation relate to what has been labeled as "strong recommendations" because they touch on personal privacy. These include wearing a mask at home when we have guests and another is that these guests should not exceed six at a time. When the Minister of Health was asked how this latter measure could be enforced, he let it slip that neighbors could "report" anyone who was not complying with this regulation. This created a furor as it conjured up images of the "spying on one another” culture of the old Eastern European block.

On 6th October, the so-called restrictive Salvini decrees, of the last 5 Star Movement and center-right coalition regarding illegal immigration, were abolished and a new decree on the same subject was passed by the Council of Ministers proposed by Prime Minister Conte and the Minister of the Interior. The government says that international protection must be accorded by protecting immigrants from expulsion or denial of entry when repatriation involves torture or inhumane or degrading treatment. In these cases, special residence permits can be converted into work permits. The previous maxi-fines for NGO's whose boats navigate in Italian territorial waters after “rescuing” immigrants at sea have been lifted. Other measures control drug dealing through the Net and other drug-related provisions. Brawls motivated by racial hatred are also sanctioned.

As expected, news of this new decree spread fast. Over the weekend between the 10th and 11th October, 750 illegal immigrants, mainly from Tunisia, arrived in large fishing boats on the shores of Sicily and Sardinia. The Lega party predicts that these new measures will open the floodgates next spring for illegal entrants and that profit-making NGOs will resume dumping thousands on our doorstep, turning Italy into Europe's largest refugee camp, except, of course, most of them are not legally refugees, but instead they are escaping from poverty.

In early October, there were a series of serious flash floods in the North around the Cuneo area and in Ventimiglia with the city devastated with a loss of life. Instead, there was good news for Venetians. The Mosé system of 78 mobile dams forming a barrier to stop the city being invaded by water during the high tide in winter was activated for the first time, with success, on 3rd October and then again on 15th October. Some problems remain as the barriers rise only if the tide rises more than 130 centimeters. However, Piazza San Marco is one of the lowest points in the city and floods at about 90 centimeters, risking damage to the mosaics on the floor of the Basilica. It is estimated, it will take another two years for the project's engineers to remedy this.

Football fans are in an uproar now that the sport's ruling body has decided that, because the Naples Series A team failed to turn up for a match against Juventus in Turin on 4th October, it would count as a 3-0 defeat for Naples and it would be given a penalty point. The Neapolitan camp argued that, because one of its players had tested positive for the coronavirus, the region's health authority had blocked the transfer. The ruling body was not satisfied and rebutted that there had been no ban on traveling so the game should have been played. An appeal is expected. All this just adds to the woes of the top soccer clubs who have lost 650 million euro so far during the pandemic.

Here in Florence, like nationally, contagion increases but with only a small number of admissions to the hospital. The main city hospital, Careggi, believes that although we need to be careful, it is unlikely there will be another “tsunami” of cases like last March. Concern in the city is high and, in general, people are observing the new masking and assembling rules. However, with an ordinance, the mayor of Florence has restricted numbers to 1,000 people who can enter one of Florence's most popular places for the “movida” on Saturday and Sunday nights, much to the residents' delight and has indicated this ordinance may be extended to other places where too many people are meeting up.

At home, our son Piero who is a psychologist, has had to increase his visiting hours for new patients both in person at his office and online. This is because anxiety and depression due to the virus and uncertainty about the future are mounting. Further stress factors encompass working from home, fear of unemployment, home-schooling of children, and the lack of physical contact with other family members, friends, and colleagues whilst several of his patients have experienced marital difficulties and even instances of domestic violence because of enforced closure together. He is also a volunteer of the National Civil Defenses Service which has recorded a sharp rise in requests for advice and assistance on mental health issues.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre.

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

 

 

 

Land Ho!
COLUMBUS: A HERO
Continuing The Series on Why Columbus is a Hero, The Author Recounts The Harrowing Journey Across the Atlantic Ocean by Columbus and His Discovery of the New World
“It was an Italian who began the story of immigration to America," wrote the Library of Congress of Christopher Columbus. Since that time, so many have immigrated to this, the freest country ever created on earth, and with the most opportunity than any country, that the United States now boasts the largest immigrant population than any country on earth (United Nations Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs accessed Sept. 10, 2020).

By Robert Petrone, Esq.

"It was an Italian who began the story of immigration to America," wrote the Library of Congress of Christopher Columbus. Since that time, so many have immigrated to this, the freest country ever created on earth, and with the most opportunity than any country, that the United States now boasts the largest immigrant population than any country on earth (United Nations Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs accessed Sept. 10, 2020). Indeed, by the 1980s, more Africans had come to the U.S. voluntarily as immigrants than had ever come as slaves (Sam Roberts, 2005) 'More Africans Enter U.S. Than in Days of Slavery,' New York Times, Feb. 21, 2005 accessed Sept. 10, 2020), proving our nation still to be the land of opportunity and of the free, and the endpoint for all modern-day pilgrims of freedom and opportunity.  

None of this would have been possible had the American continents not been revealed to the rest of the world by Christopher Columbus. This is what we mean when we use the shorthand phrase "Columbus discovered America." No one ever said or implied that "discovered America" meant "was the first to set foot on the American continents," not our teachers, not our forebears' teachers and not the original historians who contemporaneously recorded the settlement of the West Indies.  

All accounts of Christopher Columbus's October 12, 1492, landfall in the West Indies, including his own, have always acknowledged that the Americas were occupied when he arrived. They had been colonized at least thousands of years prior by Asiatic tribes who had crossed what is now the Bering Straight via ice bridges that had formed during the Ice Age. We refer to these people as "Native Americans," but the semantic gamesmanship Columbus detractors engage in over the word "discover" is equally applicable to the term "Native Americans." The Tainos, Caribs, Canibs, and all the tribes of the Americas, North, Central and South, were not natives, but perhaps the first nations of the Americas and the first colonizers of the American continents. Technically, no human beings were native to the Americas, nor indeed to any continent aside, perhaps, from Africa, which modern science considers to be the point of origin of homo sapiens. Every other continent and the rest of Africa were colonized first by early hominid nomads, then tribes, then empires, then nations. And each group fought with other contemporaneous groups over land. The tribal, Asiatic colonists of the American continents were no exception.

But if one insists on replacing the shorthand statement "Columbus discovered America" with the cumbersome and unnecessary statement "Columbus made landfall in America, long after Asiatic tribes colonized the landmasses and, possibly even after the landfalls of Norsemen, pre-Roman Iberians, Carthaginians and Romans, and brought the existence of the lands and its inhabitants to light to the rest of the world, initiating cultural, economic and political relations between the Old World and the New, and commencing a perpetual exchange of science, technology, law, commerce, art, music, literature and people," then one is simply being overly technical. Everyone knows we mean that when we say, "Columbus discovered America."

Still, the word "discover" is, technically, etymologically correct. The original Fifteenth-Century sources used the Spanish verb "descubrir," meaning to "take off" or "undo" (des-) "the covering of" (cubrir, to cover) something, hence the English translation to dis-cover. That is precisely what Columbus did:  uncovered the continents of the Americas for the rest of the world by closing that obfuscating distance, revealing the existence of the Americas and its inhabitants to Europe.  Immediately, word spread to Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

No doubt, had Columbus not made landfall in 1492, someone else would have not long after: perhaps the Portuguese, who were making extraordinary nautical progress near the Cape of Africa at that time, where they were kidnapping Africans for slave-trade; or the English, who boasted an impressive, militarized navy under the House of Tudor; or the Moorish Jihadists, who were fleeing Spain after eight hundred years of having occupied Europe and having murdered and enslaved Europeans. Had any of those groups made landfall without Christopher Columbus at the helm, there would have been no check on or resistance to the atrocities these groups would have committed.  

The Spanish were just as warlike as the Portuguese, English and Moors, but the Portuguese and English had declined to fund Columbus's expedition, as explained in my previous PRIMO Magazine article. Columbus never bothered to ask the Moorish Jihadists, who likely would have cut off his head or enslaved him simply for being a Christian. Only the Spanish agreed to let him guide this expedition, and, as this article and my subsequent articles will demonstrate, Columbus was, at all times, a pacifying force in this endeavor.

That endeavor commenced on Friday, August 3, 1492, a half-hour before sunrise. Now bearing the title of respect of Don Christopher and the seafaring rank "High Admiral of the Ocean Sea," both of which the Spanish Crown granted him, Columbus boarded his flagship, a carrack or "nao," named La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción and nicknamed the Capitana ("Captain's ship") or Gallega ("Galician"). Captain Vicente Yáñez Pinzón boarded a caravel nicknamed the Niña, its formal name being the Santa Clara, and his brother, the treacherous Captain Martin Alonzo Pinzón, boarded another, the Pinta, its formal name being lost to history.  

Exactly seven months earlier, almost to the day, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had begun their Reconquista of Moor-occupied Spain with their now-unified, three-kingdom army. They expelled the Moorish king from Grenada and commenced their Spanish Inquisition against the Jews. Though contract-bound to the service of the King and Queen of Spain, Columbus engaged in a remarkable act of sedition against these two royal, murderous inquisitors; he offered crew positions to Jews fleeing their Inquisition. Columbus had an accomplice on the inside, Luis de San Angel, a Jew who had "converted" and received a position in Ferdinand and Isabella's Court. Columbus's collective crew manifests read like a veritable Schindler's list of lives he had saved. Admiral Columbus began his First Voyage with this, his first deed of civil rights activism, but it would not be his last. He would spend the rest of his life championing the Jews, the tribes of the Americas and the poor, in that order.  

Not all of Columbus's crewmen were fugitive Jews. Most, in fact, were "low men." Unless a captain intended to press men into service against their wills, assembling a crew usually involved setting up at a table in a tavern and taking the names of anyone willing to lay down their life for a long and dangerous ocean voyage. Those that took the job were usually covertly running from something: if not religious persecution, then a death sentence or trial for murder, rape, or some other crime; a debtor seeking significant recompense; or an unhappy family life with a difficult spouse or parent. That meant that most crewmen were secretly troubled, difficult men at best, and hardened criminals at worst. Many who had enlisted for Columbus's crew, moreover, were looking to turn a fast profit in China and then return to Spain to live comfortably, or roister away their fortune along with the rest of their short lives. But beggars could not be choosers, and after begging countless dukes and princes for a decade of his life in a "cloak [that] was poor and ragged," Don Christopher, High Admiral of the Ocean Sea, assembled the ships and men the Crown handed him (Gonzalo Fernández de Oviendo y Valdés, General and Natural History of the Indies). 

Admiral Columbus was a seasoned sailor, and knew how to deal with an unruly crew of "low men." On the morning he set sail, he attended Confession and received the Eucharist. His fledgling flotilla departed the port town of Palos (now Palos de la Frontera, Huelva, Andalusia, Spain) on a course for the Canary Islands, a way-station before setting out in earnest for the Indies. He led his crew in prayer every half hour and instructed the youngest sailors to take over that duty for the duration of the voyage. He ended each day with the crew in recitation of the "Our Father," the "Hail Mary," the "Apostles' Creed" and the "Hail, Holy Queen." This display of piety was no show. In his cabin, he privately said his Book of Hours, a collection of prayers and psalms for Catholic devotion.

Columbus and his crew would need the prayers. The Portuguese-ruled Canary Islands were dangerous for him:  King John II of Portugal held a grudge against the Admiral, despite himself being the agent of treachery against Columbus. Before Spain agreed to fund the expedition, King John promised to do so, but as a ruse; he stole all of Columbus's maps and charts, delivered them to a fleet of his own, and had them leave without Columbus. A devastating storm crippled the clandestine Portuguese fleet, forcing it to return to port and, thus, alerting Columbus to the chicanery. Columbus took back his maps and charts and took his business elsewhere, much to King John's chagrin.

King John was not the only threat to this expedition. The owner of the Pinta, Christobál Quintero, and an accomplice, Gómez Rascón, quickly decided on the third day that they "disliked the voyage," and sabotaged the rudder of the Pinta to render it unseaworthy. The other sailors nevertheless fixed it enough to reach the Canary Islands on the seventh day, where they completed the repairs. But while there, Columbus encountered a crew of Portuguese sailors who warned him that the petulant King John had sent bounty hunters to the Canaries to capture him "for taking his venture to Castile." He wasted no time in departing.

On Thursday, September 6, 1492, Admiral Columbus left the farthest stretches of Christendom for the unknown.  Facing a powerful nor'easter on his first day of travel from the Canaries, he proceeded with a sense of divine mission, evident in all his logs, journals and correspondences. He recorded his journey meticulously, though he had on board no nautical instruments -- no record of even an astrolabe -- thanks to the half-a-"trifle" the Crown deigned to spare to fund his voyage.  

Columbus was rich in experience, however, with a significant advantage over most sailors of his day -- what Fifteenth-Century historian Gonzalo Fernández de Oviendo y Valdés called, in his General and Natural History of the Indies, a "secret of navigation." Columbus had learned, from the Portuguese he had sailed with in his youth, to navigate by taking the altitudes of the sun vis-à-vis the North Star, allowing him to negotiate "very large stretches of sea" while the sailors of other nations "steered as in the Mediterranean, along the shores ... hugging the coast." He observed Atlantic wind patterns he called "the prevailing Westerlies." He introduced the principal of "compass variation," the variation at any point on the surface of the earth between the direction to magnetic and geodetic "true" north. This nautical genius, whom Bartolomé de las Casas characterized as "the most outstanding sailor in the world, versed like no other in the art of navigation" (Historia de las Indias, Book I, 17), laid down compass courses and estimated direction and distance on timeworn charts using nothing more than his own "dead reckoning"; sheer force of will; and, by his own accounts, "Divine Providence."   

Admiral Columbus understandably believed this mission to be guided by Divine Providence because it was full of miracles. First, the majority of the voyage continued over calm seas and under clear skies, save for a single storm and a single, separate encounter with high waves. On the eighth day after departure from Christendom, the flotilla encountered a tern and a tropical bird, neither of which were known to fly more than twenty leagues from land -- about a single day's travel at the flotilla's average speed -- yet they were still twenty-four days from landfall.  In the early night of the ninth day from Christendom, they spotted what de las Casas described in his digest of the Admiral's log as "a marvelous streak of fire fall from the sky into the sea four or five leagues away." On the eleventh day, they spotted a crab floating in a morass of seaweed, a sure sign that land was near, yet none was to be found.  The crewmen became frightened and depressed.  On the twelfth day from Christendom, they spotted a flock of birds, and in the many ensuing days, they saw a host of petrels, doves, frigate-birds, tropic birds, ducks, gulls, turns, river-birds and boobies, none of which were "accustomed to fly more than twenty leagues from land," yet, miraculously, there they were, as if heralds of the impending arrival in the New World, though the three ships were still weeks away from landfall and over four hundred leagues from Christendom. On the fifteenth day, a whale came to greet them in the dead-calm waters. After over two weeks of false hope of imminent landfall, this cetacean chaperone did little to allay the crewmen's growing depression. And the windless waters caused them to fear "that no winds blew in these seas that could carry them back to Spain." Again, as if by Divine Providence, a headwind miraculously appeared, lifting the spirits of the crew.  

On the nineteenth day from Christendom, a watchman called out that he had sighted land, but it turned out to be a mirage created by, of all things, a guiding cloud. For twelve more days, the crew suffered, starved and despaired. All these sure signs had still yielded no landfall.  

On the thirty-first day since their departure from the Canary Islands, a watchman again claimed to have seen land. So confident was the entire crew that this sighting was no mistake that they raised their standard and fired a Lombard cannon as a signal to port. But no port of the Great Khan, nor indeed of any other, lay ahead. The land they thought they had sighted had disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared. The crew despaired and could "bear no more." But Admiral Columbus told them there was no use complaining because, he correctly predicted, they had passed out of the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and reached the sea where landfall would be made. On the penultimate day of travel, they met "rougher seas than any they had met with on the voyage." But once through them, they found a stick that had been carved with an iron tool and another covered in barnacles. The men rejoiced, fell to their knees in grateful prayer and kept a sharp watch for the islands they now knew for certain were near.

At approximately ten o'clock on the night of Tuesday, October 11, 1492, a remarkable miracle transpired for which no explanation has ever been given.  Sailor Juan Rodriguez Bermeo of Triana, Spain, spotted a speck of land from the crow's nest of Admiral Columbus's flagship. The Admiral saw what he described as a light "like a wax candle that went up and down," though they were, in fact, too many leagues away to see any landborne source of light, telescopically or otherwise. No record since, historical or scientific, has ever explained the luminous phenomenon, but the three vessels faithfully followed this polestar westward.

Two hours after midnight, on Friday, October 12, 1492, the flotilla arrived off the shore of an island.  The Taino colonists called it Guanahani, but the desperate, starving, exhausted, rejoicing Christopher Columbus, as the Crown-appointed "Viceroy of all the lands he should discover," called it "San Salvador," "Holy Savior." He named this land, the site of unity between the Old World and the New, of the social singularity that was to change the world forever henceforth, after Jesus.

The crewmen took down all the sails but the mainsail, waiting for daylight. Whenceforth, they took to land on the small island. "Immediately some naked people appeared and the Admiral went ashore" with his caravel captains and "recorder" Rodrigo Escobedo.  "Soon many people of the island came up to them" (Bartolomé de las Casas, Digest of Columbus's Log Book). Of that moment, Columbus wrote, "In order to earn their friendship, since I knew they were a people to be converted and won to our holy faith by love and friendship rather than by force, I gave some of them red caps and glass beads which they hung round their necks [and which] pleased them greatly and they became marvelously friendly to us." Afterwards, he wrote, welcome parties of islanders "swam out to the ship's boats in which we were sitting, bringing us parrots and balls of cotton thread and spears and many other things, which they exchanged with us for such objects as glass beads, hawks and bells. In fact, they very willingly traded everything they had" (Id.)  Not only had Columbus succeeded in his trans-Atlantic voyage, proving it could be done, but first contact between the Europeans and the tribes of the West Indies was a rousing success:  Christopher Columbus embraced the Tainos in friendship and they him.

The first meeting of the tribes of the New World and the explorers of the Old involved no tribalism, no oppression, and no violence, only love, unity and the brotherhood of their common humanity. How far the modern world has fallen in eschewal of these sacred values to which Columbus adhered so piously and faithfully.

Many modern, and post-modern, revisionist historians misquote Columbus's own journals and correspondences to the Crown to portray him as counseling the Crown to enslave the islanders he found.  In fact, in every recorded address to the Crown from the outset, he counseled just the opposite.  Referring to the islanders as "very intelligent," "very gentle" and "a very fine people," he repeatedly advocated Baptizing them; Baptized people could not be enslaved in Christendom. In fact, he feared, rather, that subjects of the Great Khan would "come from the mainland to capture them for slaves," or that others from other nations or more savage tribes would attempt the same or worse. By this pledge to protect the islanders, Columbus engaged in his first deed of civil rights activism on their behalf; it would not be the last by any stretch.

Similarly, many detractors rely on a mistranslation of the Fifteenth-Century, Spanish verb "subjugar" to suggest that Columbus exhorted the Crown to "subjugate" the islanders. In fact, Columbus used the verb to exhort the Crown to "make subjects of" -- or, in the modern vernacular, to make "citizens" of -- the indigenes so that they would enjoy all the rights, privileges and protections of Spanish nationality, including protection from enslavement. He knew the ultimate decision whether to treat the islanders as conquered people or citizens would be up to the Crown, but he repeatedly counseled, sometimes explicitly and sometimes subtly where necessary, that the tribal peoples of the West Indies be given neither lashes nor servitude, but "the love and service of their Highnesses and of the whole Spanish nation" (Letter of Columbus dated February 15, 1493).

In the two months following Columbus's peaceful and propitious first contact with the islanders of Guanahani / San Salvador, he visited at least a dozen more islands, repeatedly and without exception making friends and allies with every single tribe and village he met on every inhabited island he visited.  Though all of the islanders, men and women alike, went about unarmed and "naked as their mothers bore them," he ensured no sailor harmed a hair on the head of any of them. Columbus and his crew traded trinkets for the balls of cotton the islanders offered, and Columbus ensured that his men engaged only in fair trade and did not exploit the islanders in their bartering transactions.  He insisted his sailors "give[] as much as they were asked" in bargaining with the islanders and got "angry with" the Spaniards if they did not (Bartolomé de las Casas, Digest of Columbus's Log Book).

Repeatedly, many of the Taino islanders Columbus encountered recounted tales of savage cannibals from the northwest reaches of the archipelago, the Caribs, who frequently "descended at certain seasons of the year," "robbing and taking all they can," and who "captured [the Taino] people and took them away to be eaten" (Id.; Letter of Columbus dated February 15, 1493). The settlers would later discover that the Caribs were committing many manners of atrocities upon the Tainos, including kidnapping those of Boriquen (modern-day Puerto Rico), castrating and enslaving the boys, eating the men, and raping and impregnating the women only to feast on their newborn babies.

Among the many friends Columbus made who warned of the atrocities of the Caribs was his best friend in the New World, Taino cacique (king) Guacanagarí. On Christmas Eve, while moored off of Hispaniola (now Cap Haïtien, Haiti), the steersman of the flagship Santa María, against Columbus's strict orders, handed the wheel of the vessel to a "ship's boy," who damaged the rudder on rocks so badly he rendered the ship forevermore unseaworthy. To make matters worse, the treacherous Captain Martin Alonzo Pinzón of the Pinta mutinously abandoned the flotilla to find gold, leaving Columbus's retinue reduced to but a single ship, the Niña. In the mere two-and-a-half weeks they had come to know each other, Guacanagarí so came to love Columbus as to be "proud to call [him] and treat [him] as a brother" (Letter of Columbus dated February 15, 1493). On Christmas Day, Guacanagarí had his entire village empty the shipwreck of the Santa María of all the crew's effects, placed them in three houses he had the occupants vacate, and posted armed villagers to guard the sailors' possessions throughout the night.  Guacanagarí openly "wept, showing great sorrow at" the disastrous wreck of Columbus's flagship and promised his newfound Genoan friend "he would give [him] everything he had" (Diego Colón, The Life of the Admiral, Chapter 33).

In return, in addition to bestowing gifts upon Guacanagarí and his kin, Columbus promised to protect the entire tribe, and indeed the entire island, from the Carib marauders. Even as the crew rested there, Carib canoemen, or some other hostile tribe, arrived on the shoreline and stormed the village.  Guacanagarí, aided by Columbus and his men, chased them off without a single fatality. Seeing the threat for himself, and pursuant to a formal treaty he personally drafted, Governor Columbus left behind thirty-seven sailors, supervised by the King's steward and the flotilla's discipline officer, along with provisions, arms and a rowboat to protect the island and its inhabitants from the Caribs.  

Admiral Columbus took willing passengers from each tribe he encountered aboard the Niña to meet the Crown, one islander even canoeing furiously in pursuit of the departing caravel to implore the Admiral to take him with them so he and his family could appear together before the Spanish monarchs.  "The Admiral was highly delighted by this man's action and ordered that the whole family should be well treated and entertained" (Diego Colón, The Life of the Admiral, Chapter 29).  As Columbus finally left the coast of Hispaniola, he suddenly reunited offshore with the insincerely-contrite Pinzón, Captain of the Pinta, who was chagrined at being found and restored into service. No sooner had the flotilla newly reformed was it attacked again by the Carib canoemen, this time armed with poisoned arrows.  Rather than return hostilities, Columbus welcomed the man-eating chieftain, painted head to toe in black warpaint, aboard the Niña, where, facing down the Admiral, he "made a speech as fierce as his appearance" (Id., Chapter 36). Admiral Columbus served him a meal not of human flesh; bestowed gifts upon him; and, through his new Taino translators, worked a diplomatic miracle, completely diffusing the confrontation.  Admiral Columbus sent the warrior back to shore, accompanied by a small cadre of sailors, who then bartered with the rest of the war party, whom the leader ordered to lay down their weapons.  Whether by planned perfidy or paucity of patience, the war party eventually picked up their arms again and attacked anyway.  Yet again, Admiral Columbus chased them off without a single fatality before finally departing the West Indies, and bringing his first sojourn in the Americas to a remarkable, peaceful and successful close.

Few instances of first contact in history have proceeded without bloodshed or loss of life. Admiral Columbus managed to negotiate first contact with at least a dozen tribes of the West Indies -- including hostile, cannibalistic canoemen who twice attacked him and his crew -- without a single fatality, sowing good will and friendship in every village port. But Christopher Columbus was no average man.  In his Historia, Bartolomé de las Casas, official (and vehement) Protector of the Indians, not only described the "illustrious Genoese" as "the most outstanding sailor in the world, versed like no other in the art of navigation, for which divine Providence chose him to accomplish the most outstanding feat ever accomplished in the world until now" (Book I, Chapter 3), but "that most worthy man [who was] second to God but first in the eyes of men" (Id., Chapter 76). And of Columbus's Voyage, de las Casas wrote, "Many is the time I have wished for the eloquence to extol the indescribable service to God and to the whole world which Christopher Columbus rendered at the cost of such pain and dangers, such skill and expertise, when he so courageously discovered the New World" (Id.).

Indeed, Christopher Columbus did just that. For all the unfounded accusations levied against him as a racist, rapist, slaver, maimer, murderer and genocidal maniac, the primary sources clearly demonstrate that he not only was none of those things, but precisely the opposite. He prevented the Spaniards under his command from exploiting the tribal peoples of the Americas. For all the bloodshed that ensued in the West Indies after a conspiring cabal of hidalgos (landed nobles) took Columbus out of the picture, as will be detailed in my upcoming articles for PRIMO Magazine, Columbus's presence and leadership caused things go as well as they possibly could have for both the Spanish settlers and the tribes of the Americas.  

Christopher Columbus proved it was possible to safely cross the Atlantic Ocean.  He blazed trans-Atlantic routes still used by Twenty-First-Century sailors. He founded the first permanent European settlements in and began the recorded history of the Americas. He intiated more than five hundred years of cultural, economic and political relations between the Old World and the New, commencing an enduring exchange of science, technology, law, commerce, art, music, literature, and people, benefiting and enriching the globe from pole to pole.

Our own historical icons commemorated him well for these unparalleled deeds.  In 1775, Phillis Wheatley, a fourteen-year-old, free, African-American girl wrote a poem that so moved General George Washington that he distributed it throughout the thirteen Colonies. In it she used "Columbia" as a personification of the American nation. Thereafter, Columbia and Columbus appeared in myriad poems, songs and essays, firmly weaving the intrepid mariner into the fabric of American identity.  The Founding Fathers celebrated the 300th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's landfall on October 12, 1792, one year after they named the nation's capital after him, adorned with many statues and paintings of him, none of which had been created during his life.  

Since then, 144 places in the United States have been named after Christopher Columbus, including cities, counties, towns, bodies of water, and schools. On June 29, 1868, the first Vatican Council petitioned for his sainthood. A generation later, in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison proposed a national celebration, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt institutionalized the holiday in 1937, which we have celebrated annually to this day.

Columbus Day is more than just a commemoration of this mariner, the first founder and first civil rights activist of the Americas.  It is a monumentalization of the legacy of his watershed voyage:  the European contributions of Greco-Roman democracy and law, Judeo-Christian ethics and morals, and the tenet that all human beings are equal in the eyes of their Creator.  We must never forget these sacred principles and, like Christopher Columbus, never fail to practice them in our words, in our deeds and in our government.

Editor’s Note: Pictured top is the painting, “The Discovery of America by Columbus,” by Salvador Dali, completed in 1959 for the opening of the Museum of Modern Art, on Columbus Circle, in New York. The author Robert Petrone, a practicing attorney and Italian American activist and leader in Philadelphia. He can be reached by email at robertpetrone@yahoo.com.

 

 

Op-Ed
ITALIAN AMERICAN MARGINALIZATION IS ALIVE AND WELL
The Author Argues for a Different Definition of Marginalization to Encompass How The History and Culture of Italian Americans are Ignored and Reviled Today in Politics, Academia and Media
“A marginalized people is one that is literally invisible or marginal to society…”

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

It is Italian American Heritage Month and no politician talks about it. Partly, that is, because the federal government refuses to recognize it. Even if states like New Jersey that do, politicians refuse to publicize. The media and academics who strongly support Hispanic Heritage month refuse to acknowledge Italian American Heritage Month, even though Hispanic Heritage Month came out later and was based on circumventing and ending our ethnic holiday- Columbus Day.

Columbus Day is reviled by many, but it is revered by most Italian Americans. It is the only day a year where our marginalization - past and present - is considered nationally relevant. Merriam-Webster, the definitive dictionary of American English, defined marginalized, as “relegated to a marginal position within a society or group.” This is not a great definition, as it uses a form of the word in a sentence. However, marginal means, according to Merriam-Webster, “not of central importance,” “existing outside of the mainstream,” “limited in stature.”

A marginalized people is often viewed as one that suffers active and present persecution. I am arguing for a different definition here. A marginalized people is one that is literally invisible or marginal to society, that is never talked about, that is ridiculed and easily ignored. To square this with the more traditional definition of marginalized, I have come up with the idea that there is political marginalization and social marginalization. I believe that Italians are both, but I am only arguing here that we are politically marginalized.

Other minority groups are much more socially marginalized than Italians but much more politically powerful. We are viewed as “not politically salient.” We are, in truth, politically invisible. You do not need to be politically correct around an Italian American. There is no promotion of Italian American heroes, such as in comics, television, or movies. There is promotion of stereotypes and villains that are Italian but not the reverse.

Academia also fails to represent Italians. In New Jersey, which due to a refusal to keep good statistics on Italians has an unproven but high percentage of Italian Americans, I have done a preliminary study that shows that Italian Americans are virtually absent in History and Political Science departments amongst four-year college and universities’ faculty. A state with about 20 percent Italian Americans cannot even have six percent (the estimated Italian part of the national population) of its History and Political Science professors be Italian.

There is massive underrepresentation in the arts, the media and academia. Moreover, Italian American issues are not even discussed by Italian American politicians, such as our massive underrepresentation in key culture-producing industries, the massive stereotyping problem and the need to protect our ethnic holiday, Columbus Day.

No one argues with the history of persecution and traditional marginalization of Italian Americans. Our ancestors were subjected to Spanish colonization in Southern Italy (including Sicily); which led to a severe lack of resources for Italians coming here. We were labelled as black in the beginning and massacred in 1891 in New Orleans, an act for which The New York Times has never apologized for supporting. We suffered legal lynchings such as the unfair Sacco and Vanzetti trial in the 1920’s. We were the second-most lynched ethnic group after African Americans. We were all but banned from immigrating here for about 40 years from the early 1920’s until 1964.

We have suffered forced assimilation, a loss of culture and language, interment during World War II that the government has never apologized for, police brutality in pursuit of defeating the mafia, and a whole host of crippling stereotypes that have not abated even today.

I am not trying to prove that Italians meet the traditional definition of a marginalized people; although I believe that I could with good data. However, we clearly were persecuted for a long time and still suffer from the effects of mass bigotry and one can argue even systemic racism. Moreover, Italians are still considered “not of central importance,” “existing outside of the mainstream” and “limited in stature,” all of which is the definition of marginal under the Merriam-Webster definition. White progressives exclude us and push us to the political margins. This is the definition of political marginalization. On this Columbus Day, remember the real history and present reality of Italian America.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a historian, political scientist, and adjunct professor at Middlesex County College. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion, as expressed in the article, may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

The Court of Spain
COLUMBUS: A HERO
Continuing The Series on Why Columbus is a Hero, The Author Considers How Columbus Persuaded the Spanish Monarchy to Fund and Support His Expedition
“And this is precisely why the sinister axis of cultural majoritarians, comprised of radical leftists, post-modernists, neo-Marxists, and globalist elites, hate Columbus; he was a capitalist, ahead of his time, who began the takedown of the Age of Empires.”

By Robert Petrone, Esq.

A deficit of bravery currently exists in the once-home-of-the-brave, as demonstrated by the unmitigated roughshod run over our history, society and institutions by the sinister axis of cultural majoritarians, comprised of radical leftists, post-modernists, neo-Marxists, and globalist elites. The recent, pandemic razing of statutes of American icons in an attempt at damnatio memoriae, for instance, began, only a few years ago with statues and memorials of Christopher Columbus, the progenitor of Western culture in the Americas and the first Founding Father.  

In Philadelphia, the early-morning-hour vandalizations of both the Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza and the Columbus monument at Penn's Landing on Columbus Day 2018 were synchronous with a third, simultaneous, attack on the History of Italian Immigration Museum, thus proving that the message was more than merely anti-Columbus, but Italophobic at the very least and outright Europhobic at the worst. Despite receiving a direct request to do so, the City refused to pursue the vandals, much less denounce the tripartite attack as a hate crime.

Acts of Columbus Day vandalism have persisted in the years since then, and the bigots who perpetrated them have always hidden behind the pretext that "Columbus didn't discover America" but rather supposedly "started the Atlantic slave trade." Not only are both claims false, as will be demonstrated in this and the following article in this series, but the primary historical sources, which I have discussed in greater detail in my previous articles (and continue to cite below), demonstrate the exact opposite.  

Columbus discovered America in the sense that he brought to light to the rest of the world the existence of the American continents and the Asiatic colonists -- known in the United States by the misnomer "native Americans" but more accurately described by our Canadian counterparts as the "First Nations" -- who had arrived in the Americas via "ice bridges" formed in the Bering Straight during the Ice Age. This installment of the PRIMO series of articles "Christopher Columbus, The Greatest Hero of the Fifteenth & Sixteenth Centuries (as Revealed by the Primary Historical Sources)" continues last week's story of Columbus's life, focusing on his formulation of his scientific hypothesis and his quest for funding of his great experiment, Columbus's First Transatlantic Voyage to the Americas.  

Last week's article discussed Columbus's humble birth to poor Genoan weavers; autodidactic efforts in studying the maps, charts, writings and scientific theories of countless scholars among the "Latins and Greeks, Jews and Moors, and many others of many other sects" (Historia de las Indias, Book I, 15); and early maritime adventures. It concluded with his marriage to Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, a Portuguese noblewoman who died giving birth to their son Diego. And there this article resumes, with the widowed single-father raising his motherless son alone in their new homestead in Portugal's Madeira Archipelago, a thousand kilometers out in the Atlantic off the east coast of Europe.

Bankrupted by having had to provide his late wife with a funeral befitting a noblewoman, the lowborn Columbus turned again to his familiar comfort, the sea, yearning again to traverse its waves. He listening eagerly to the Portuguese sailors' stories and legends of uncharted lands to the west. Columbus had been an early adopter of the theory of the new scientific school that the world was spherical and that but a short stretch of sea lay between Europe and "the Indies," the medieval term for the lands comprising the Indian subcontinent through Southeast Asia (and today referred to, if a bit archaically, as the East Indies).

When the grief of the loss of his beloved wife finally passed, Columbus could tolerate a sedentary life no more. With his five-year-old son in tow, he pounded the proverbial pavements of Europe in search of a royal benefactor willing to fund his "enterprise" of a possible nautical expedition westward to find an all-water route to China. Such an endeavor, should it succeed, would revolutionize trade by creating an alternative to the lengthy and burdensome overland journey of the Silk Road. In the seminal, primary historical source “Historia de las Indias,” contemporaneous chronicler of the West Indian settlement Bartolomé de las Casas recalled that nearly every royal court in Europe rejected Columbus's outlandish proposal: "Everyone laughed at [his] enterprise and dismissed it as a joke" (Id., 15-16).  

Columbus's own Genoans refused to consider sponsoring the expedition because the discovery of an all-water route to China would bring an end to their contested monopoly (with the Venetians) over the Mediterranean trade routes to the Silk Road.  Columbus succeeded in soliciting the funding of the Crown of Portugal, but it was a ruse: King John II took all of Columbus's maps and charts, delivered them to a fleet of his own, and had them leave without the Genoan master mariner. By the grace of Providence, however, the Portuguese fleet met a devastating storm, returning to port crippled and unseaworthy, thus alerting Columbus to the chicanery. He took his maps and charts and turned his back on Portugal.

Columbus remained undaunted by the selfish acts of the Genoan and Portuguese Imperialists in his search for capital to fund his scientific experiment. Still determined, he sent his brother Bartolomeo to England to solicit the patronage of King Henry VII and went himself to Spain, his last choice.  

Spain had just unified three kingdoms -- Aragon, Castile and León -- rendering it the first European superpower. But the Crown of Spain initially rejected Columbus's proposal, despite the backing of Columbus by the Cardinal of Spain, who had met him through Columbus's landlord and been impressed by his "fair speech and learning" and "good intelligence and great knowledge." Sixteenth Century historial Gonzalo Fernández de Oviendo y Valdés recalls of Columbus, in his “General and Natural History of the Indies,” that "his cloak was poor and ragged, [and] he was considered a dreamer" of "fantastic ideas" for which the Spanish royals had no time. They had a bigger concern: Spain had been occupied by murderous Jihadists for eight centuries.  

Oviendo writes, "all the Moors in Spain ... had insulted and maltreated Christians since 720 A.D." For so long had Spain been occupied by Moor slavers that the Spanish language itself -- even high Castilian -- is today but a pidgin of Latin and Arabic. With the newfound wealth of its three unified kingdoms, however, Spain was finally ready for a reconquista, a reconquering of its lands out from under the Jihadists' near-millennium-long death grip on Europe. Though Columbus intrigued Queen Isabella with his hypothesis of an all-water route to Asia, the court scholars counseled the Crown to reject the proposal for these, more important matters.  

Demonstrating the "unusual insight into human ... affairs" and "good judgment" that de las Casas described in his biographical sketch of the man in “Historia de las Indias” (Book I, 15), Columbus changed tacks. While in Spain, Columbus had personally witnessed the Spanish monarchs' overthrow of the Moorish king, who exited the city gates of Andalusia and kissed their hands in submission as they raised their banners on the Alhambra. Later that month, Columbus suggested to the Spanish Crown an alliance with the "Great Khan" of China, who had made "frequent and vain applications to Rome for men learned in the holy faith who should instruct them in it." Columbus suggested that the legendary military might of the Great Kahn might help launch a two-front attack against the Jihadists, driving them out of Europe altogether and, perhaps even liberating Jerusalem from them for all of Christendom. Queen Isabella personally reconsidered, buoyed, no doubt, by the recent success of the Crown's reconquistada of Grenada.

At the turn of the Twenty-first Century, Stanford University Professor Emeritus Carol Delaney left her tenured university position to dedicate a decade of her life to travel the world in the study of Columbus artifacts and become an unparalleled world-expert on Christopher Columbus. She details this particular angle of Columbus's persuasion in her book “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem” (Free Press, July 17, 2012), a must-read for any Columbus historian.  

De las Casas, in his Sixteenth-Century “Historia,” recalls that Queen Isabella summoned Columbus back to her Court after he had spent seven years of his life trying to persuade her and her husband. Despite continued discouragement from her advisors, she was swayed by his affability, and finally reconsidered the Crown's original rejection of his proposal, finally accepting his request for patronage.  

Christopher Columbus's personality, not the plausibility of his plan, prompted the Queen to reconsider. If not for Christopher Columbus, the man, some other nation would have inevitably found the Americas -- maybe even the murderous Jihadist slavers that Spain had just driven out of Europe, and Christopher Columbus would not have been present to be the pacifying force he was.

Using funds from the royal treasury, Queen Isabella purchased from Don Luis de la Cerda, Duke of Medinaceli, the construction contract Columbus had cannily negotiated for the building of three ships: the Niña (its formal name being the Santa Clara), the Pinta (its formal name being lost to history) and the flagship Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción (nicknamed the Capitana, the Captain-ship, or the Gallega, the Galician).  Isabella personally saw to the completion of the vessels and provided Columbus with only half the "trifle" he requested in funding (Historia de las Indias, Book I, 25-34).

But with this half-a-trifle, Columbus had acquired all the capital he had needed for a bare-boned expedition. He was not motivated by greed. Rather, he was driven by a scientific thirst for the sea, that "eagerness to learn" with which de las Casas had characterized him in his “Historia” (Book I, 15).

And this is precisely why the sinister axis of cultural majoritarians, comprised of radical leftists, post-modernists, neo-Marxists, and globalist elites, hate Columbus; he was a capitalist, ahead of his time, who began the takedown of the Age of Empires. Apparently, the cultural majoritarians, who still cling to their megalomaniacal vision of monolithic, globalist domination, failed to learn any lesson from imperialism. They failed to learn the lesson from the Peace of Westphalia, negotiated by Catholics and other Christians, whom these same cultural majoritarians hate, that independent nationhood strike the most effective balance between the chaos of tribalism and the oppression of global empires. As their ignorance of Christopher Columbus demonstrates, they have little interest in or regard for history.

Next week in PRIMO, with the arrival of Columbus Day weekend, I will present the next installment in this series of the life and legacy of Christopher Columbus, based on the primary historical sources.  It will detail his famous First Voyage to the New World, marking his discovery -- in the sense of bringing to light to the rest of the world -- of the Americas.

Editor’s Note: Pictured top is the beautiful statue, “Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella,” by Larkin Goldsmith Meade and made of Carrera marble. The statue had been a mainstay since 1883 inside the rotunda of the Capitol building in Sacramento, California. This year, the statue was removed by the Democratic majority leaders in the state legislature. Pictured here is the author Robert Petrone, a practicing attorney and Italian American activist and leader in Philadelphia. He can be reached by email at robertpetrone@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

Covid Chronicles
CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM IN ITALY CHANGES PARLIAMENT
- Number of Representatives in Parliament Drops from 630 to 400
- Five-Star Movement Wins Almost 70 Percent of Vote
- Author’s Husband Injured, Treated at Home

By Deirdre Pirro

Here we are in Week 19 of partial lockdown in Florence with contagion rates still creeping up in Italy whilst they continue to increase rapidly, above all, in Spain, England, and France.

On September 20 and 21, 2020, Italians voted in a constitutional referendum on whether or not they wanted to decrease the numbers of parliamentarians. In many places, elections for regional and city administrations, like in Tuscany were also held. Not that it's unusual, but more so than ever this time, after the votes were counted and the results announced, you would have thought that each one of the leaders of both the center-left government coalition parties and the center-right Opposition had won! It reminded me of the time I was in France during the 2006 World Cup Final when the Italians defeated the French 5–3 in the penalty shoot-out. The next day, according to the French media, you would have sworn it had been the other way round.

The 5 Star Movement had proposed the referendum and won with a 69.64 percent consensus for the “Si” vote to reduce the number of parliamentarians whilst the “No” vote gained only 30.36%. This means that, in the next legislature, the members of the lower house will be cut from 630 to 400 and those in the Senate from 315 to 200. Many constitutional experts argue that the financial benefits for the taxpayer will minimal and seriously diminish the number of representatives in the numerous Parliamentary Commissions where much of Parliament's work is done.

Another picture emerged from the regional and city elections. Here, both the 5 Star Movement and the ex-PM Matteo Renzi's party Viva Italian did badly and, in fact, two days after their debacle, the long knives were out within the 5 Star Movement challenging the current leadership. Instead, in the name of the government's coalition partner, the Partito Democratico (PD), its leader Nicola Zingaretti and the media shouted victory from the rooftops. However, in reality, the PD had merely escaped defeat by maintaining control in Tuscany, an historic stronghold of the left; by holding onto Campania mainly due to the popularity of the rebel governor of the region, Vincenzo De Luca; and by not losing Puglia. The outcome is that this “victory” has upset the already unsteady equilibrium in the coalition. As far as Matteo Salvini's Lega party and the center-right parties are concerned, they certainly did not do as well as they had predicted but, still, wrestled the Marche Region from the left. This means that the center-right now governs 15 of the 20 regions in the country, something the central government will have to live with and navigate.

Out of all of this, the only actual “winner” appears to be Prime Minister Conte who appears to have consolidated his hold on power. But his path forward may not be that rosy because he will have to conciliate the PD's reinforced demands with the 5 Star Movement's intransigence. The battle over whether to accept the offer of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) loan may be the stumbling block. The PD is in favor whereas the 5 Star Movement is strongly opposed.

Criticism rained down on Pasquale Tridico, President of INPS, Italy's national social security agency when it was revealed that, he was about to be paid an almost threefold increase in his salary. It was to jump from about 62,000 euro a year to 150,000 euro plus back pay of another 100 thousand euro. He was accorded this rise in June 2019, a month after his appointment which was sponsored by the 5 Star Movement but, because of the governmental crisis, the definitive decree has only just been passed. While the 5 Star Movement defend him, the Opposition and even the 5 Star Movement's ally, the PD party, say that the increase is outrageous because, under Tridico's management, INPS has miserably failed to implement the exceptional measures required to be taken under the pandemic. For instance, as many as 30,000 furloughed workers are still awaiting payments from the Institute's redundancy fund. When questioned on the matter, the PM once again announced he was “looking into the matter.” Sounds more and more like the words of the famous song "I don't know" are becoming his litany.

After too many years during which Italy has been on the front line, having to deal with droves of illegal migrants invading from North Africa and through the Balkans, the European Union has finally taken a positive stand. On 23rd September, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, acknowledging that the current EU policy on migration was not working, announced a new comprehensive European approach to migration. Based on improved and faster procedures in the identification, asylum, and migration systems and, above all, the introduction of a balance between the principles of fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity, migrants were to be redistributed throughout the member states. If a member stat does not want to take its share of migrants, it will be required to chip in for their repatriation or their relocation. There is also a provision for closer liaison between the EU and the countries of the departing illegal immigrants.

Here, in Florence, it was no surprise that the PD's candidate for the governor of Tuscany, Eugenio Giani was voted in, even if the opposition candidate did better than could have been expected. A man with a long and appreciable record in politics, we expect Giani will do a good job like his predecessor, of the same party. Covid-19 will bring him many unexpected problems to deal with and more than one headache.

At home, things have been almost as dramatic as those on the political front. My husband, Pietro, somehow hurt his back badly. Because he was barely able to walk and, because of his age, our doctor said that he should not be taken to the ER. Instead, he gave us the numbers for medical services at home. Within a couple of days, he had an ultrasound, an X-ray, and a visit from the orthopedic specialist - all in our bedroom. The result was that he has a fractured vertebra which only time, rest, and a space-age-looking corset will cure. Nonetheless, the availability, rapidity, and efficiency of this assistance must be praised.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

A COMMUNITY GROUP SEEKS A NAME CHANGE FOR COLUMBUS SQUARE AND COLUMBUS SQUARE PARK IN PHILADELPHIA

The Passyunk Square Civic Association is spearheading a “process” to recommend changing the name of Columbus Square and Columbus Square Park in Philadelphia.

Located at 12th and 13th Streets and Wharton and Reed Streets, Columbus Square has been a mainstay of the predominantly Italian neighborhood there since 1954. The area hosts an urban park with a playground for children, a dog park, baseball diamond, basketball court, and an open area for band concerts and other events.

The Passyunk Square Civic Association recently issued a press release titled “Columbus Square Community Conversation: Coming Together to Share Our Histories, Understand Our Value and Shape Our Future.”

The bulletin indicates that “Native American rights activists have called for a change to the name of Columbus Square Park.” They also acknowledge that many current residents do not want the name of the park changed.

The area was named Passyunk Square when founded in 1874 until it was named after Christopher Columbus on October 13, 1954.

The association states “that there are enough neighbors with strongly held views that the issue should be addressed and that there needs to be a process that ensures it is considered in a constructive manner.” They go on to claim: “…there is no question that the current moment of racial reckoning has, for many neighbors, spotlighted the perception of injustices and need for immediate action…”

In a section of the bulletin titled “objectives,” advocates seek to “create a process that engages those most concerned about the name of the park, along with broader community, to recommend to Department of Parks and Recreation and First District Councilman Mark Squila…a name of the park (Columbus, Passyunk, or something else).”

Robert Petrone, a lawyer and historian, has volunteered to speak on behalf of the Italians in Philadelphia at public hearings hosted by this and other community organizations on the future of Columbus Square and Columbus Square Park.

Mr Petrone can be reached at robertpetrone@yahoo.com.

 

The Early Years
COLUMBUS: A HERO
In His Second Article for a Series on Why Columbus is a Hero, The Author Examines the Early Years of The Explorer
"History reveals Columbus to have been a worldly intellectual who did not discriminate against scholars of any race, religion or creed in working with and learning from them."  

By Robert Petrone, Esq.

Last week, I presented an introduction to this series of articles about Christopher Columbus that included a brief summary of my credentials and sources; the local socio-political factors that make this serial exposé necessary; and the theme of this series. That theme is this: that Christopher Columbus was not only the man who single-handedly ushered humanity out of the Middle Ages and into a new era of intercontinental fraternity by bringing to light to the rest of the world the existence of the American continents, but he was also the Americas' (1) progenitor of Western Culture, (2) first "Founding Father" and (3) first civil rights activist. This astounding list of deeds, which I dare say no one since has matched, makes Christopher Columbus, beyond cavil, the greatest hero of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries by any standard.

How this unique, self-educated genius managed to defy not only the medieval ideologies of his time, but also the sizable, war-mongering, political forces that opposed him, and accomplished all his unparalleled deeds in the face of them, is revealed by his humble beginnings. A man of no rank and no formal education, Cristoforo Colombo came into the world in the latter half of 1541, the son of poor, Catholic, Genoan wool-weavers. His parents named him, perhaps prophetically, after St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, whose most famous legend tells that the surefooted Canaanite crossed a body of water carrying with him the most singular asset of Christendom, the Christ Child himself. Like his namesake, Columbus, too, would carry Christendom across the deep, but a long road lay ahead of him before he could achieve that world-changing feat.

The young Cristoforo Colombo educated himself. He studied the writings of, among others, the Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy, the Phoenician geographer Marinus of Tyre, the Greek geographer Strabo, the Roman Philosopher Pliny the Elder, the Spanish scholar St. Isidore and the French astronomer Pierre d'Ailly. In his seminal, primary historical source, “Historia de las Indias” (translated from the original 15th-Century Spanish as History of the Indies), the Protector of the Indians and New World historian Bartolomé de las Casas contemporaneously recorded the settlement of the West Indies, beginning with a brief biography of Christopher Columbus.  

De las Casas's “Historia” was no propaganda fluff piece. He wrote extremely critically of his fellow Spaniards, in particular, the hidalgos (the low, landed nobles of Spain's feudal "encomienda" system), and their treatment of the indigenes; so much so that modern Spaniards still regard his candid accounts to be a "black" mark on Spain's history. In his profile of Columbus, however, the otherwise-censorious de las Casas described "the illustrious Genoese" as "good-natured, kind, daring, courageous, and pious," and marveled at his many "acquired qualities," including his masterful calligraphy, arithmetic and drawing; his skill with Latin; his "unusual insight into human and divine affairs"; "good judgment"; "sound memory and eagerness to learn"; intense study; and "proficiency in geometry, geography, cosmography, astrology or astronomy, and seamanship."  

De las Casas noted that Columbus "avoided exaggeration" in authoring the many "documents of value" that have themselves become primary historical sources, such as his journals and correspondences with the Crown and Court of Spain. He emphasized Columbus's "over forty years" of experience "in sailing all waters known today" and noted that Columbus's autodidactic efforts included collaboration with scholars among the "Latins and Greeks, Jews and Moors, and many others of many other sects" (Historia de las Indias, Book I, 15). For a historian as hypercritical as de las Casas to cast Christopher Columbus in such a consistently-favorable light speaks volumes of Columbus's true character.

History reveals Columbus to have been a worldly intellectual who did not discriminate against scholars of any race, religion or creed in working with and learning from them.  

But Columbus was more than a mere theorist; he was a bona fide adventurer-scholar whose globetrotting, swashbuckling exploits were worthy of the pulp fiction of the early 20th Century. As a young man, still studying the arcana of the cartographers and astronomers that preceded him, he embarked on several remarkable maritime adventures that proved him the Indiana Jones of his day, including to Iceland, Ireland and Africa. Not the least of these sojourns included passage on the ship of a Genoan privateer -- also named Columbus but of no relation to Christopher -- who was fighting on behalf of the doge (akin to a "duke") of Genoa against the Venetians for dominance over the Mediterranean trade routes. The privateer's ship was burned in a naval battle, and Christopher avoided the scorching, subaqueous sepulcher of Davy Jones by jumping overboard, grasping a floating oar, and swimming two leagues to shore -- equivalent to seven miles for the landlubbers -- where he convalesced from paralysis of his legs (Historia de las Indias, Book I, 18).

After a full recovery, the young Columbus traveled to Lisbon, Portugal, where he met and married Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, the daughter of a wealthy Portuguese hidalgo, Don Bartolomeu Perestrelo, also an accomplished mariner and explorer. Don Bartolomeu's widow gifted her son-in-law her late husband’s navigational instruments and maps. Thenceforth, Christopher Columbus joined several Portuguese expeditions, ultimately establishing his early homestead in Puerto Santo of the Madeira Archipelago, an island Don Bartolomé himself had settled. There, Filipa gave birth to a son Diego, but tragically died in childbirth (Historia de las Indias, Book I, 18).

In the grief of his widowhood, and despite the burdens of single-handedly raising a now-motherless newborn, the newly single father found solace in his staunch devotion to God and the quietude of contemplation of the collective works of the many, multicultural scholars he had studied. His insatiable yearning to return to the open sea inspired Columbus, in the spirit of the burgeoning scientific method, to conceptualize and operationalize a real-world experiment to test his hypothesis that an all-water route to Asia lay across the Atlantic. An "enterprise" of a possible nautical expedition westward to China became Columbus's passion project. In what would become a dominant theme in Christopher Columbus's life (and again now, over five centuries after his death), he pursued this endeavor in the face of virtually-universal derision; de las Casas wrote that "[e]veryone laughed at [Columbus] and dismissed [his proposed expedition] as a joke" (Id., 15-16). 

Christopher Columbus would not be deterred. He was a man of science in an age of superstition, sovereigns and swords. The Dark Ages had only ended four and one-half centuries prior. While some scholars mark the end of the Middle Ages at the year 1300 and others at the year 1500, a third school of thought ends the Middle Ages firmly with the date of Christopher Columbus's First Voyage: 1492. Like the birth of Christ -- the event that reset the calendar for the Western World, -- Christopher Columbus was the worldwide singularity that ended the Middle Ages and ushered in the next era of human existence.

Next week in Primo Magazine, I will present the next installment in this series of the life and legacy of Christopher Columbus, based on the primary historical sources. It will detail his formulation of his scientific hypothesis and his quest for funding of his great experiment, his First Transatlantic Voyage to the Americas.  More importantly, the next article and those to follow will leave the reader with no doubt that Christopher Columbus not only was not the villain the cultural majoritarians attempt to portray him as, but, in fact, was nothing less than the greatest hero of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries.

Editor’s Note: Robert Petrone is a practicing attorney in Philadelphia. He can be reached at robertpetrone@yahoo.com. The picture is a painting by NC Wyeth, circa 1917, titled “The Boy Columbus on the Wharf at Genoa.”

 

 

Op-Ed
RECLASSIFY ITALIAN AMERICANS AS MEDITERRANEAN AMERICANS
The Author Argues the Time Has Come to Create a New Census Category of Race and Ethnic Identity

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

My name is Dr. Christopher Binetti and my 501c3 organization, the Italian American Movement, is proposing a non-partisan bill in the New Jersey State Legislature for the recognition and reclassification of various ethnic groups as Mediterranean and not Non-Hispanic White, as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) currently recognize us.

This proposed law, the Mediterranean American Recognition and Reclassification Act, would obligate the State of New Jersey to do two main things. First, the State of New Jersey would have to recognize that certain ethnic groups are misclassified as Non-Hispanic White by the EEOC and the U.S. Census Bureau. Second, the State of New Jersey would reclassify, for New Jersey purposes only, these certain ethnic groups as Mediterranean American (or Mediterranean for short) for the below purposes. Thus, the name of the bill, the Mediterranean American Recognition and Reclassification Act.

Let me break down the proposed law into its constituent parts in a question and answer format here.

Question 1 - Which ethnic groups would be affected?
Answer 1 - Ideally, all ethnic groups of the Mediterranean would be included. However, since Spaniards are all already grouped with Latinos as Hispanic, if the Spaniards (from Spain) do not want to be reclassified, that is okay. However, in addition to all ethnicities of Mediterranean, Brazilians who are not already covered by another minority categorization, like black, should be included here, as they are excluded by the Latino/Hispanic category. The Mediterranean people include all of the people of Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. This includes, but is not limited to Italians, Portuguese, Greeks, Maltese, Arabs, Copts, Syriacs, Persians, Armenians, Turks and American Jews of all ethnic backgrounds. Essentially, anyone with ancestry from Southern Europe, the Middle East or North Africa would count, possibly excluding Spain and hopefully including Brazil.

Question 2 - How would the State of New Jersey recognize the above ethnic groups as Mediterranean?
Answer 2 - Recognition is relatively easy - it would simply state that for all legal purposes, including statistics, New Jersey recognizes these above groups as Mediterranean Americans/Mediterranean and not as white/Non-Hispanic white.

Question 3 - How would the State of New Jersey reclassify the above ethnic groups as Mediterranean?
Answer 3 - This law would NOT require the State of New Jersey to carry out its own Census in order to count Mediterranean people. However, it would have to “endeavor to count Mediterranean people as accurately as possible” (that is the legal language that we would use. This means that the state would have to, as accurately as possible, estimate the numbers of each Mediterranean ethnic community and estimate the total Mediterranean population. It would also require every entity, institution, and business that collects information based on Census categories to include a Mediterranean category and stipulate that under New Jersey law, the following ethnic groups that are Non-Hispanic White for Census purposes are Mediterranean for State purposes.

Question 4 - How would the State deal with under-counting?
Answer 4 - The Census undercounts Italians and others because we have to fill in our ethnic group as opposed to the ethnic groups of all other census categories. The State of New Jersey would be legally required to “endeavor to count Mediterranean people as accurately as possible” and that means that the State would work hard to create an estimate more accurate than the under-counted federal data. Where the State numbers for a Mediterranean group or all Mediterranean groups together is higher than the federal data, the federal number is considered an under-count under New Jersey law and the New Jersey state estimate becomes the legally official and binding number.

Question 5 - How will affected entities, institutions and businesses implement the new requirements?
Answer 5 - This law does Not require anyone to do anything new. If you do not have to collect demographic information now, you will not have to do so because of the law. The only thing that changes is that if you are already required to collect demographic information, you must include a Mediterranean category and make sure that all affected ethnicities know that they are deemed to be Mediterranean and not Non-Hispanic white, as they would be federally.

Question 6 - In addition to having to keep statistics, what other obligations do universities, employers, institutions, businesses, and other entities, have under this law?
Answer 6 - Universities or any institutions do Not have any new obligations in type under this law. However, if they are using affirmative action, inclusion and diversity, minority mentoring programs or other similar programs, they must apply these programs to Mediterranean people. This applies both for employment and for students. However, since affirmative action is less direct in employment, the effect would be less direct.

Question 7 - How would sum up this Mediterranean Recognition and Reclassification Act?
Answer 7 - Under this proposed law, ethnicities recognized and reclassified as Mediterranean would be minorities under New Jersey law in all respects.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion as expressed in the article may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

 

PRIMO Exclusive
INTERVIEW WITH THE MAYOR OF BERGAMO, GIORGIO GORI
Ground Zero for the Coronavirus Catastrophe in Italy was Bergamo
A look back at the ravages of the pandemic; what went right and what went wrong in one of Italy’s most historic and beautiful cities

Text: Jesper Storgaard Jensen – Photo: Municipality of Bergamo



  "When the coronavirus raged in Bergamo in March this year, one could read in the Italian newspapers that the city's hospitals were under extreme pressure, and that there were almost no more available beds for the infected. This, however, was not the truth. Not only were we pushed to the extreme. We were actually pushed far beyond our maximum capacity. Actually so much that we were forced to reject patients”.
   Although it’s been half a year since the dramatic events in Bergamo, one can hear in Giorgio Gori's voice that these mental images are still standing strong in his mind. His replies to questions about these dramatic days are not at all routine. It is quite clear that these events have marked him. And in the beginning the phenomenon was really hard to understand.
“When people ask me ‘how did you experience all this in the beginning?’, I reply that ‘I experienced it as someone who was certainly unprepared and who quickly had to update his awareness’. From day to day I understood a little more. I realized that the whole situation was much more serious than what I initially thought,” he says.
   Throughout the corona rage in Italy, especially during springtime, a lot of discussions about figures went on. Did this also happen in Bergamo?
  "Well, actually yes. The official figures say that the city of Bergamo has had some 300 covid victims. But the real number is probably around 670. Many died before a test was done. And many died at home. So those people do not appear in the official statistics,” Gori says.
   If you take Bergamo's surrounding municipalities into account, this number will rise to as many as 6,000 coronavirus victims. And that’s when you consider an area of only approximately 1.1 million inhabitants.
   “Bergamo city and its province-areas probably constitute the area in the world that has been hardest hit by coronavirus, including New York and Wuhan in China,” says Gori.
He says that everyone had underestimated the virus in the beginning. "You could say that we have all failed, including myself. We had no knowledge of this phenomenon and its intensity. We politicians listened to the doctors and the experts, and they too disagreed. So there was really a lot of confusion in the first time.”
   At the beginning of the virus outbreak, Bergamo’s authorities tried to tell people to be careful. If they were, they could go out to do their shopping and continue their lives just as before. The aim, of course, was to avoid a total lockdown of economic activities in an area that is one of the most active in Italy - home to thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises.
  "We were definitely not careful enough. However, I'm pretty sure that a psychological mechanism is activated, when we face disaster. It says: 'All this cannot possibly happen to us, and if it does, it will be in a much milder form,’” says Gori.
   Unfortunately, as we all know, it went differently. The disaster occurred. The virus began to rage, and at some point in March, Bergamo’s hospitals could not accept more patients. They were simply rejected. "It was, to put it mildly, a scary situation,” says Gori.

The red zone that was missing
   The first infected Italian came from Codogno, not far from Bergamo. The infection soon spread to the neighboring town of Alzano, and the two small towns, Alzano and Codogno, were quickly turned into red zones. They were shut down and all entry and exit were banned. The same plan was ready for Bergamo when the virus also started raging here. But the red zone was not established, and disaster happened. But why wasn’t the red zone established in Bergamo?
  "When we first realized how fast the infection spread, I actually recommended the government to turn Bergamo into a red zone. But it did not happen, and to this day I actually do not know why,” he says.
   The fact that Bergamo was not made a red zone has given rise to much controversy in Italy. Confindustria Bergamo (corresponding to Bergamo’s Chamber of Commerce, ed.) launched the slogan "Bergamo does not stop.” What's worse, the organization allegedly carried out a very aggressive lobbying campaign to thwart government plans to turn Bergamo into a red zone. This has been illustrated in the Italian TV-program "Report,” which is known for its accusatory and in-depth journalism. Subsequently, lawyer Luca Fusco founded the association “Noi Denunceremo” (We will accuse, ed.) in an attempt to find out why the red zone was not established in order to save lives. The association has a Facebook page with more than 66,000 followers, and approx. 600 of the association's members have filed a lawsuit against the region of Lombardy, where Bergamo is located.
   “Virtually all families in Bergamo are marked by corona. I myself have lost my father. We do not want financial compensation. We want to find the political responsibility for not turning Bergamo into a red zone. It could have saved many lives,” says Fusco to PRIMO Magazine.
   Gori confirms that pretty much everyone in Bergamo is either directly or indirectly affected by corona. "It also applies to myself. I have also lost people in my close family. I would probably say, that I have never experienced death at such a close range as I did last spring,” he says.

When God is mysterious
   It is clear that Gori has been - and is - emotionally involved. Both as a mayor and as a private person. I ask him if he is a believer, and if the faith has helped him through the difficult period in the spring: “Yes, I am a devout Catholic, and I also practice my faith. Faith has certainly helped me to resist. I have often prayed for people I knew, who were infected with the virus. At the same time, I must add: I think it is very human to ask oneself why God allows all this? Why all the pain? In such a case, I perceive God as very mysterious,” he says.
   At a certain point the discussion about the virus took a turn in Italy. After an initial emphasis on the disease and all the health dangers, you then started to focus on the economic difficulties.
   “The epidemic, as we all know, has serious consequences on our overall economic situation. Not only in Italy but also elsewhere. I fear that there may even be a retreat of environmental values due to the fact that the focus is now on more material values. Today, after all this, people care less about air pollution or other environmental questions. Today, the basics are important – maintaining or finding work, salaries, the possibility of feeding your family. This, unfortunately, is a side effect of the coronavirus,” Gori says.
   Have these months and the overall experiences after the corona storm in the spring given him a reason to make a more existential reflection?
   "Yes, for sure. In general, we humans feel like masters of our own lives. We often regard science as an infallible instrument in relation to nature. You could say that we feel invincible. And all of a sudden something called corona appears. It makes us understand that we humans are, as a matter of fact, incredibly vulnerable. We are small. With corona, nature has simply put the relationship of power between man and nature into a very clear perspective,” says Gori.
   Part of the story about the virus storm in Bergamo is also the famous photo of military trucks driving away with hundred of Bergamo’s citizens that died from the virus. A photo that went around the world.
  "That photo hit us all hard. Me too. It was a photo with an incredibly emotional message, which perfectly illustrated what we had tried to explain to the world in words. It showed how serious the situation in Bergamo actually was, at the time. It may sound strange, but today I am actually grateful for the photo, which was taken by a Ryanair-steward from the balcony of his home. Because it helped us to tell the story of our dramatic situation, both abroad and to the government in Rome,” says Gori.
   Half a year has passed since the dramatic events. What kind of city is Bergamo today?
   "Bergamo is definitely a city that still licks its wounds. We have been down and now we have to show the world, that we are able to get up again. What has happened is impossible to forget. But Bergamo is a city carried forward by a rooted work culture. That culture is deep within us, and it will especially be the one that will carry us through the crisis and make us look ahead,” Gori concludes.

Who is Giorgio Gori?
   Born in 1960 and trained as an architect from the Polytechnic Institute in Milan.
   In his youth, he was politically active on the pro-reform left.
   In 1980, he starts working at the TV-station Rete4. He later founded the company Magnolia, which produces TV-shows and formats for a number of Italian TV-channels.
In 2012, he re-entered politics and became a member of the Italian Social Democrats. In 2014 he was elected as Bergamo's mayor and in 2019 he was reconfirmed mayor for the second time.
   Privately, he is married to TV-host Cristina Parodi, with whom he has two daughters and a son.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
SCHOOLS REOPEN IN ITALY
Illegal Immigrants, Mostly from the Balkans, Flood into Italy
- Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Tests Positive for Coronavirus
- The Birth of the Virgin Mary is Celebrated in Florence
- A Ferrari Festival Convenes in Florence

By Deirdre Pirro



Week 17 has come and gone and we are into Week 18 of partial lockdown in Florence.

School began for many pupils on 14th September. There was a chronic shortage, it was estimated, of well over 80,000 teachers. This number included teachers for special-needs students who, in most cases, because of this were unable to return to school on Monday with their friends. Some students were lucky because the teachers and parents had often worked up to the 11th hour getting the classrooms ready, often paying out of their own pockets to paint and sanitize the rooms. Many still lacked the individual desks (on wheels – a mystery why it was so necessary that they be on wheels?) promised by Minister of Education Lucia Azzolini, of the 5 Star Movement, a minister much contested by the opposition. Distancing on public transport remains a problem because of the peak-hour crush; despite the number of services being increased. Some schools lacked sufficient classrooms and students convened with teachers in gymnasiums, courtyards, marquees and even in churches and theaters, including the historic Pergola theater here in Florence. Yesterday, a taxi driver told me the class of his 16-year-old daughter, who attends a classical high school, has been split in two. One day is in the classroom the next day is distance learning from home. He was not a happy man.

Silvio Berlusconi, former Italian prime inister and leader of the Forza Italia party, was admitted to hospital in Milan after being diagnosed with the coronavirus on 3rd September. Two of his children also tested positive and are quarantining at home. They were all infected at an event on the Isle of Capri. He was discharged in good form on 14th September, in time to continue the electoral campaign for elections within some regional and city administrations, like Florence, next weekend.

Between mid-September and the end of the month, many companies and other individuals will have to make up to 270 payments to the Italian Inland Revenue Agency. Only 13 of these payments, many of which involve complicated procedures to complete, have been suspended owing to the pandemic. And they call this "simplification!" Road freight transporters are also alarmed as they fear an additional tax will be imposed on diesel fuel, although a final decision has yet to be made. Such a tax was the fuse that led to the explosion of the “yellow vests” movement in France.

About illegal immigrants, they continue to arrive in droves. A newspaper remarked a few days ago that the government managed to shut down the discotheques but seems incapable of closing the ports. But the ports are not the only problem. In Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the city of Udine has had a 300 percent increase in the arrival of illegal immigrants from the Balkans who declare they are underage when they arrive in Italy. The question is how many of them are actually minors? Many are strongly suspected of being over 25 years old. They declare they are under 18, so they will not be refused entry into the country or have to undergo medical tests like swabbing. To encourage this situation even more, the so-called Welcome Centers receive more money for minors than for the average individual. In other words, they are profitable.

Here, in Florence, to the children's delight, the “Rificolona,” celebrating the birth of the Virgin Mary, took place on 7th September and is a favorite procession on the which in normal times moves from Piazza Santa Felicita to Piazza Santissima Annunziata. This year, the children carried the home-made or store-bought paper lanterns to one of the eleven piazzas made available by the city or to public gardens like the one under our apartment. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages when peasant farmers used lanterns, with the flame protected by a covering, to illuminate their long walk into town the night before the feast day. They came not only to pray but to sell their produce after the summer harvest.

Bigger kids also had a reason for celebrating when, on 11th and 12th September, Florence was swathed in red to celebrate Ferrari cars and their 1,000th race in Formula 1 at the Mugello Circuit not far from Florence, the weekend before. Two days of festivities were held in Piazza della Signoria with guests from the motor sports' world and a gala dinner for 500 VIP invitees. Several iconic Ferraris were on display and, at night, the Town Hall, the fountain and statues were lit up in red. Unfortunately, the Ferrari team is currently on a losing streak but it takes much more than this for fans to abandon the prancing horse...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

A LEGAL VICTORY IN PHILADELPHIA
Court Orders That The Columbus Statue Cannot Be Removed Until Legal Pleas Exhausted
“Defendants are prohibited from removing or otherwise altering the Christopher Columbus statue…”

From what had been a terrible setback two days prior came a stunning victory today for Philadelphia Italians and their legal team, led by George Bochetto.

In Friends of Marconi Plaza, et al, versus City of Philadelphia, the Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the Italians' emergency motion to stop Mayor Jim Kenney from removing the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza, pending legal appeals. The ruling came today on September 17 “This should serve to provide protection for many, many months to come, perhaps more than a year,” said Bochetto. “By the way, I am very optimistic we will win the appeal. “

Just two days ago, on September 15, the prospects looked grim for Philadelphia Italians when Judge Patrick ruled against their injunction to stop the statue’s removal. Barbara Capozzi, a lawyer and real estate professional in Philadelphia, working with Bochetto and others, issued an “alert” via email and social media. “Everyone should know that the Kenney administration may choose to seize upon this order and try to immediately tear down the Statue," she said. "We will do everything legally we can, but as of now there is no stay."

She claimed, "Since our appeal with L&I Review Board is still pending, we believe it would be illegal for the Kenney administration to tear down the statue until our appeal rights are exhausted, but they will try to take the opposite position."

Capozzi then announced to all Philadelphia Italians, especially those in the area of Marconi Plaza and south side to please "be on the alert - we will need to get a crowd - without weapons - to the statue - the minute we hear of any action" at the site.

Today, however, came a reversal of fortune for Mayor Kenny and a ray of needed hope for the Italians. The statue remains - for now - where it has been since 1982, inside Marconi Plaza, the western half of the park at Broad and 20th street in Philadelphia. Albeit covered in plywood and out of public view, the statue was sculpted by Emanuele Caroni and first unveiled in 1876 in Philadelphia to commemorate the country’s centennial. The motion to stay gives more time for Bochetto to push forward his case that the City Trusts, not the mayor and city council, should decide the statue’s fate.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to help George Bochetto and Friends of Marconi Plaza in their continuing legal battle to retain the Columbus statue in Philadelphia, please send donations made payable to George Bochetto at 1524 Locust Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102.

 

 

 

AUTHOR & SOCIAL ACTIVIST LUCIA MANN TAKES ON EL SALVADOR
Her Latest Novel is “The Little Breadwinner: War and Survival in the Salvadoran Heartland”
“Fluent in Spanish, I traveled to El Salvador in the late 80s to uncover the ‘truth’ about the United States government's involvement in this ‘dirty’ war”



It is hard for a person to get more worldly than Lucia Mann. The journalist-turned-activist-turned-novelist has traveled to the farthest reaches of the globe. She likes dangerous places. Where life is cheap is where Lucia wants to go. Her Sicilian blood makes her curious. She is an adventurer, no doubt. But that’s not what moves here. Lucia is a person with an intrinsic emotional attachment to the less fortunate. The poor. The desperate. The hurt. She wants to help. She seeks to bring the struggles of the world’s victims to today’s readers. Her latest novel, “The Little Breadwinner: War and Survival in The Salvadoran Heartland” is set in the Latin American country long acquainted with one human crisis after another. She took a break from writing to talk with PRIMO about her latest work.

What attracts you to writing about the victims of society?

This novel and all my other published books are passionately focused on the less fortunate, victims of dreadful wrongdoings: human rights violations.

This novel takes place in El Salvador in 1980 to 1992; a time when you were there. What led you to El Salvador and how did the country change you?

Fluent in Spanish, I traveled to El Salvador in the late 80s to uncover the "truth" about the United States government's involvement in this "dirty" war. It was my personal interactions with a couple of rebel fighters and several impoverished, downtrodden Salvadorans that inspired my latest book; which has taken many years in the making.

What is like today in El Salvador? Have things improved?

Tragically life has not improved in El Salvador. As a matter of fact, it is far worse since the civil war ended. Today, this Latin American country remains in the grip of fierce gang violence. My concern is that many Salvadorans are facing a death sentence. At least 138  out of the 111,000 people deported to El Salvador from the United States in recent years were subsequently murdered - that comes as the Trump administration makes it harder for Central Americans to seek refuge in the United States. It is a shameful reminder of the Trump administration's xenophobic policy of denying protection to vulnerable human beings fleeing a certain death sentence in this homeland.

Your books have taken readers to different parts of the world. What do you find common with countries such as El Salvador and others in which you've worked and visited?

Blatant human rights violations that have no justice. In my humble opinion, compassionate humanity does not exist in impoverished third-world countries.

Although you cover important topics of social and political importance, your novels contain their fair share of suspense and adventure. Do you see yourself more of a social activist or storyteller?

I  would like to describe myself as an activist and a storyteller: the voice of "stifled" voices of human suffering which I will continue to expose for as long I live.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Lucia Mann’s newest novel, “The Little Breadwinner,” by logging on to: Amazon

 

 

Op-Ed
COLUMBUS: A HERO
Christopher Columbus, The Greatest Hero of the Fifteenth & Sixteenth Centuries (as Revealed by the Primary Historical Sources)
“Christopher Columbus stands for everything they stand against.”

By Robert Cutrone

Have you ever -- even once -- asked yourself where this current, fashionable narrative came from, that Christopher Columbus was a racist, rapist, murderer, slave-driver and genocidal maniac? Have you ever looked into finding out the answer to that question? A good chance exists that your answer to one, if not both of those questions, is a resounding "no." That is precisely what the Columbus detractors are banking on in perpetuating their false narrative against him.

As an attorney, historian and professional researcher, I have asked myself that question and have looked into it, on a deep, methodical and scholarly level. In fact, I was enlisted to do so by THE Philadelphia City Council when they received a petition from a local member of the bar to eliminate the municipal holiday of Christopher Columbus Day -- as over 60 U.S. cities had already done. He shall remain anonymous in this article -- let's call him "Mr. Coarse." But suffice it to say he has characterized himself in a local news-outlet interview as a "Socialist ideolog[ue]" and "aveng[er of his] enslaved ancestors" who, oddly, is admittedly "scared sh**less of statues." In that same interview, he also expressed his opinion that "[t]here are no 'good cops'" and revealed that those who know him understandably may be "surprised to know" his secret: "I don't hate all white people" (See Phillymag.com "News and Opinion" article of August 35, 2018, entitled "One of Us" by Victor Fiorillo). The splenetic "Mr. Coarse" buttressed his polemic petition with the usual lies about Christopher Columbus being a racist, rapist, genocidal maniac, et cetera. He purported to support those lies with the usual hackneyed hack-job and out-of-context pseudo-quotes of Columbus's own writings. The reader is undoubtedly familiar with these pseudo-quotes: those so carefully crafted with strategic use of ellipses to twist portions of Columbus's own correspondences to create the false impression that he means the exact opposite of what he actually said, and that are plastered ubiquitously across the Big-Tech-controlled internet.

At the request of City Council to investigate the calumnious claims of "Mr. Coarse," I reread the primary historical sources, this time in their original 15th century Spanish. These included the seminal, three-volume “Historia de las Indias” (History of the [West] Indies) by Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, who was appointed by both the Crown of Spain and the Church as "Protector of the Indians." De las Casas's account, written contemporaneously with the Spanish settlement of the West Indies -- and, importantly, very critically of his own countrymen's violent and anti-Christian deeds in that endeavor -- is the closest account in existence to having been recorded by the indigenes themselves. I also read the epistolary account of Columbus's Second Voyage written by Dr. Diego Chanca, effectively the surgeon general of the West Indies, and Columbus's own journals, which have been publicly available in English for nearly two centuries.  

All of the primary sources dovetailed in one important regard: They show, unequivocally and irrefutably, that Christopher Columbus was none of the epithets with which his detractors repeatedly characterize him. Rather, in addition to his well-known feat of bringing to light to the rest of the world the existence of the Americas and its inhabitants, Christopher Columbus actively fought against the rampant racism, rape, murder, enslavement and genocide committed by his arch-nemeses, the Spanish hidalgos (low, landed nobles). Consequently, Christopher Columbus became the first civil rights activist of the Americas and the founder of Western Culture in the New World, making him, beyond cavil, the greatest hero of the 15th and 16th centuries.  

This is precisely why Columbus's detractors -- a sinister axis of cultural majoritarians that includes radical leftists, post-modernists, neo-Marxists and globalists -- hate him; because Christopher Columbus stands for everything they stand against. That is, he was a devout Roman Catholic who valued and successfully fought for the welfare of all human lives; brought the existence of the Americas to the rest of the planet; and established the "trinity" of Western Culture in the Americas: (1) Judeo-Christian ethics and morals; (2) Greco-Roman democracy and law; and (3) the benefits of self-sovereignty, which in turn include civil rights, personal responsibility and the demos of capital. 

“The Philadelphia Inquirer,” in this spirit of cultural majoritarianism, has recently and repeatedly attempted several journalistic kill-shots at Christopher Columbus. As my own name surfaced as a local expert in the history of Columbus and his voyages, the Inquirer attempted the same at me, claiming that no historians supported my characterization of Columbus as the greatest hero of the post-medieval era and first civil rights activist of the Americas. The Inquirer was wrong, of course, and seems to have quietly removed the article from the internet without a formal retraction or apology. To add insult to injury, my multiple correspondences to Inquirer Managing Editor of the Op-Ed section, Sandra Shea, requesting to provide a historically-accurate counter-narrative, were repeatedly ignored by her.  

Yet, anyone who has actually read the primary sources -- not the internet's reimagining of them -- concurs with my characterization. For instance, Stanford Professor Emeritus Carol Delaney, who left her tenured university position to dedicate 10 years of her life to travel the world in the study of Columbus artifacts in order to write her book “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem” -- and who is truly an unparalleled world-expert on Christopher Columbus -- agrees that all the tired calumny repeatedly levied against him is simply a collection of lies. "[H]e's been terribly maligned," she wrote of Columbus, by revisionists who are "blaming [him] for things he didn't do." And that, dear reader, is the reason for this exposé.

In the months to come, I, with the help of Broad + Liberty, will continue bring you a series of articles about Christopher Columbus to put to rest these lies of the cultural majoritarians. Following this introduction, my first substantive article on the man will chronicle Columbus's birth and early life, putting a real, human face on the near-mythical historical figure Columbus has become.  The subsequent articles will detail his First, Second, Third and Fourth Voyages; the world-changing events they spawned; his lifelong and tireless civil rights activism on behalf of the indigenes of the New World; and his continued efforts to his dying day as their champion. Should you honor me by continuing to the end of this series, it will conclude with an account of the civil rights legacy his life and efforts spawned through those that proudly modeled themselves after "the illustrious Genoese" Christopher Columbus, the first civil rights activist of the Americas, our first Founding Father and the greatest hero of the 15th and 16th centuries. 

 

 

Covid Chronicles
CORONAVIRUS CASES INCREASED IN SUMMER IN ITALY
The Government Faces Criticism from Opposition Parties
- Will schools reopen?
- The City of Florence Seeks to Help Restaurants
- No Tickets for Puccini Opera

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the end of the sixteenth week of still partial lockdown in Florence.

Like in other parts of Europe, contagion rates are increasing again in Italy. This is because people returning from vacations outside the country have been infected and so swabs have now been ordered at most major airports and are available voluntarily at ports and stations. The other reason is that young people seem to believe they are immune simply because they are young and so, despite warnings, continue to assemble in large gatherings in the pizza parlors or discotheques, often unmasked. As of 17th August, the government has shut down all indoor and outdoor discotheques, night clubs and dance halls. Furthermore, face masks are obligatory between 6 pm and 6 am in outdoor areas that are open to the public such as in the piazzas, on the streets, or at the seaside where people gather. In the past months, Sardinia which had been relatively free from the coronavirus is now experiencing a sharp rise in positive cases due to the recent influx of summer vacationers.

This week, the major political hot potato is whether Italian schools will be able to open again on 14th September, the beginning of the scholastic year throughout most of the country. This is a real acid test for the Italian government and it is well aware that if it botches this one, its popularity and electoral chances will plummet. Meanwhile, the opposition is calling for the Minister of Education Lucia Azzolini of the 5 Star Movement to resign. They say she has done too little, too late to ensure that schools will open in safety. Major issues needed to be solved and, as yet, there is little evidence that they have been. These included whether pupils needed to be masked during class and whether their temperatures should be taken on entry into the school buildings or, as the government wants, at home before they leave for school with all the uncertainties that would cause. Public transport is another huge problem because of the distancing required and the number of students who use buses, trains, or trams to get to and from school. Last but not least, individual desks will be needed that are well spaced between them whereas, in pre-Covid times, students sat in pairs at their desks.

Mystery surrounds the 11 companies that have been awarded the contracts to manufacture these new desks prompting the president of the Confindustria, the influential association of Italian industries, to say that there was “a kind of state secret around a public tender.” You can't help but wonder why. Furthermore, many school buildings in Italy, a large number of which were built before 1947, are old, cramped and in bad repair. Added to all this, one of the largest teachers' unions has estimated there is shortfall of 85,000 teachers. Also, contingency plans have been made should there be an outbreak of the virus in any of the schools. Critics of the government decry “a topography of absurdity.” Perhaps, this is why Prime Minister Conte has been strangely absent from on our television screens lately. I think he socially distancing himself!

A political revolution also took place in mid-August when the 5 Star Movement, which has governed in two very different coalitions since 2018, called upon its membership to vote on two key issues on Rousseau, its controversial on-line platform. The first was to modify the Movement's regulation to allow municipal candidates to stand for a third mandate and second, that they could do so in alliance with traditional parties, both previously prohibited under its original charter. The rumor is that this is to allow Virginia Raggi to run again as Rome's mayor, despite many Romans considering her to be among the worse first citizens the city has ever had. These results caused a rumpus with traditionalists within the Movement while the opposition brands the Movement with sacrificing its ideology to become a traditional party simply intent on maintaining its hold on power and privileges.

With hordes of illegal immigrants continuing to arrive in Sicily, according to its governor, Nello Musumeci, the island has been turned into a kind of concentration camp for squalid contagion hotspots euphemistically called “welcome centers.” A gentleman in the finest Sicilian tradition, Musumeci has locked swords with the central government because the situation is at breaking point. He accuses it of being uncooperative and of trying to label a serious health crisis as a racist issue. He wants all these hotspots closed down and the immigrants sent to better places. Should the government fail to act, which is more than likely, his only alternative will be to go before the courts. In the meantime, these people are living in appalling conditions exposed to risks far greater than the ones they left behind them. The island of Lampedusa is in a similar situation. In desperation, the mayor announced that the whole island would go on a general strike if the government does not take action.

Here, in Florence, in an attempt to help businesses and encourage shopping and eating out, the city council has allowed greater traffic access to the historic center from 4 pm until midnight Monday through Friday and has made about 1,500 low-cost parking spots available until 30th September.

Craving entertainment, I thought I would attend the annual New Generation Festival in Florence. Because of the Covid-19 lockdown, the festival was aptly renamed the ReGeneration Festival. Lasting four days, from August 26 to 29, it was held in the city’s magnificent Boboli Gardens and free to the public. The program included opera, orchestral music, jazz, and classical chamber music for 500 socially distanced spectators each evening. I desperately tried to book a seat to see Rossini's opera La Cenerentola, to open and close the festival. I failed on both counts. I must have been Number 501. My only consolation was to sit out on my terrace in the evening and watch the 1981 La Scala production of it on YouTube. I can only hope I'll have better luck next year...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Photographs include the Arno River on a bright, sunny day; the statue “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” by Giambologna and located in the Loggia della Signoria in Florence; the Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati and located in the Piazza della Signoria; and the statue of “Perseus with the Head of Medusa,” by Benvenuto Cellini and located in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.

 

Game Changer
ATTORNEY GEORGE BOCHETTO CLAIMS MAYOR HAS NO JURISDICTION TO REMOVE THE COLUMBUS STATUE IN PHILADELPHIA
The Columbus Statue at Marconi Plaza was Gifted in Trust
“…it would certainly appear that the City Trusts has the authority…”

 

George Bochetto has done a remarkable job as the pro bono lawyer representing the Friends of Marconi Plaza. He continues an extraordinary legal effort to stop the removal of the Columbus statue by Mayor Jim Kenney in Philadelphia.

Bochetto has done enormous research to make his case. He went back to when the statue was unveiled in 1876 and beyond; more than 150 years ago to a law that officially established the City Trusts in Philadelphia. The attorney, a founding partner of the law firm Bochetto/Lentz, has come away convinced that Mayor Jim Kenny and the respective city arts and history commissions have no jurisdiction in the current matter. Rather, it is the City Trusts, not the mayor or city council, who must maintain the Columbus statue for public viewing. As such, the plywood boards that now hide the statue must be taken down immediately.

In a letter submitted today to Joseph P. Bilson, executive director of City Trusts in Philadelphia, Bochetto stated that the organization comprising some 115 non-profit trusts must immediately take over management of the Columbus statue. That the original intention of those who gave the statue to Philadelphia was for the City Trusts, not the mayor and city council, to oversee and manage the large sculpture. “By way of my new-found knowledge and familiarity with the Statue,” Bochetto writes, “and the documents accompanying its donation, it has come to my attention that the Statue was gifted to the City of Philadelphia in 1876 and left in trust to be publicly displayed.”

Public trusts, also known as “Sundry Trusts,” were first introduced in 1739, some 37 years prior to the Revolutionary War. These non-profits were put in place to ensure the survival of clinics, schools, parades and other endeavors. After the Civil War, a law was passed in Philadelphia detailing the rights and responsibilities of public trusts, renamed as City Trusts.

Bochetto reviewed the original writing of the law from 1869. He writes, “that the City Trusts may unilaterally extend its purview to adopt the (Columbus) Statue and from thereon manage and care for it in accordance with the intentions of the benefactors.”

The Christopher Columbus Monument Association officially gave the statue of Columbus to Philadelphia on October 12, 1876. According to Bochetto, “The intentions…can be easily gleaned from letters and records dating back to the 1800s that have been preserved by the City.”

He highlights a letter dated September 28, 1876 by Nunzio Finelli, president of the Christopher Columbus Monument Association, who invited “the Philadelphia Fairmont Park Commission to join the Statue unveiling ceremony and accept the gift on behalf of the City.”

Preserved for historical research by the city archives are many old letters and other documents. Bochetto reviewed dozens of written correspondences, some of which date back 150 years.

“It would certainly appear that the City Trusts has the authority to extend its governance over the Christopher Columbus Statue at Marconi Plaza and take on the control and management responsibilities of the Statue to ensure the intentions of the benefactors are followed,” Bochetto says in his letter to Bilson. “Accordingly, may I respectfully request the information related to the process involved with expanding the City Trusts’ purview to include the Christopher Columbus Statue at Marconi Plaza.”

With City Trusts in charge of the Columbus Statue for purposes of public viewing, it seems highly unlikely that the statue is to be removed any time soon.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is attorney George Bochetto, the statue of Columbus at Marconi Plaza and what it looks like today boarded up by the city. If you would like to help George Bochetto and Friends of Marconi Plaza in their continuing legal battle to retain the Columbus statue in Philadelphia, please send donations made payable to George Bochetto at 1524 Locust Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102.

 

COLUMBUS IS A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL
Look to Columbus When Following One’s Dreams
“If we stop and truly look at history, we will see that Christopher Columbus is deserving of our gratitude…”

By Frances Uzzi

  “You’ll never make it.” “Don’t bother trying.” “Forget it.”
   These are tough words to hear at any age; but ones we have all heard one time or another in our lives. Perhaps this why from the time we are kids we are taught to believe in the opposite: to persevere, not give up and work to accomplish our goals. One person in history that exemplified these ideals was Christopher Columbus; but unfortunately in today’s world his memory and importance are being diminished. This is why, as a proud Italian American, I felt compelled to write this article.
   All around our country beautiful statues of Christopher Columbus are violently being torn down, as streets and city landmarks are being renamed to remove any “Columbus” identification. If we stop and truly look at history, we will see that Christopher Columbus is deserving of our gratitude, and someone who can serve as a positive example both now and for generations to come. When Christopher Columbus first made his plans to sail West across the Atlantic known in the late 1400s, he was turned down by many people and countries, and no doubt heard some of those “you’ll never make it” messages. He did not give up, however, and eventually set sail on those three famous ships we all know today. These important values of perseverance and hard work are the same we instill and reinforce in our children today. The notion of following our dreams is the very fabric of American life. Just like Columbus, we may encounter bumps along the way; but if we follow through we will come out on the other end.
   Columbus was indeed the first person to discover a sailing route from Europe to the Americas, and this remains one of the great feats for all time. His landing in the Americas was a turning point in history, and one that allowed for a connection between continents and peoples that did not exist before. His expeditions and discoveries led to what is now known as the “Columbian Exchange,” where everything from animals to food was exchanged between the “Old World” of Europe, Africa, and Asia and the “New World” of the Americas. This exchange forever altered the course of history, and nations all around the globe were introduced to new goods, people, and ideas.
   We often hear today of the negative way Columbus and other Europeans treated the native people in the new lands they discovered, and there is no doubt some truth to this. However, we must not rewrite history and negate all that Columbus accomplished. Certain customs and behaviors acceptable in the 1400s and early 1500s we would most certainly not find acceptable today. It is crucial for anyone looking into history and deciding how they view Columbus (or any historical figure) to look at the norms and customs of the time period. Again, just like on our own journey, mistakes can be made, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss everything else we have accomplished.
   As we approach the Italian heritage month of October and the holiday, I look forward, as always, to celebrate Columbus Day in America. I hope this article inspires people towards a greater understanding about the importance of Christopher Columbus so more of the wonderful statues and cities in his honor will continue to stand. I also hope this article serves as a source of pride and reinforcement for all Italian Americans; that we should be proud of our heritage, and happy to celebrate such an important person in history.

Editor’s Note: The writer resides in New Jersey. Pictured is a lithograph made in 1993 by John Duillio titled “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella.” The artwork was a gift from the National Italian American Foundation to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where it can be seen today in Washington, D.C.

 

COOL COP CARS, ALL’ITALIANA
PRIMO Visits the Museum of Italian Police Cars in Rome
“I’m completely transfixed by a very cool Alfa Romeo 1900 police car.”

Text and photos: Jesper Storgaard Jensen








   Shots are fired, bullets rip through the air. The cop car’s siren howls and its hypnotic, swirling strobes flash the only light on this pitch-black night. With a screech of tires on asphalt, the police arrive on the scene. The officers jump out, hollering wildly. Oscar-worthy drama, surely. But it’s just my imagination at play.
   I’m completely transfixed by a very cool Alfa Romeo 1900 police car. No, I’m not in the back of it on the way to the slammer. I’m in Rome's Museo delle Auto della Polizia di Stato (Museum of Italian Police Cars) and gazing upon this 1950s vintage wonder. The shiny black vehicle was highly advanced at the time with bulletproof glass and its spotlight that could be oriented to light up sections of the street. Take a good look, close your eyes, and then step into your own old-fashioned gangster movie.
  "Check out the small iron curtains in front of the tires that blocked the bullets fired by criminals,” police officer Franco Tommaso points out to me. “You can also see that there’s a retractable roof. From here, the officers could pop up and fire off shots during car chases. This Alfa Romeo was used by Italian police forces from 1958 through the 1960s, and it was actually able to reach speeds of up to 180 km/h, (50 mph) which was really something at the time.”
   It’s hard to tear yourself away from this beauty; of which only about 17,000 were produced from 1950 until 1958. The car’s perfect curves are hypnotizing.

Cruising through Italian history
   I am just three kilometres outside of Rome's historic centre in the Tor Marancia neighborhood. From 1959 until 2006, this was the site of Rome’s main fairgrounds. Photographic fairs, cat and dog shows, bridal shows and many other events took place in the large pavilions.
   Most of the area is now abandoned, but a small part has been transformed into the Museum of Italian Police Cars, which opened in 2004. Here an itinerary will guide you through more than a half century of Italian history told through about 60 different police vehicles.
   One of Italy's most famous car brands, Alfa Romeo, is omnipresent since the Alfa Romeo company was the official supplier to the Italian police forces until 2000. On display, you'll find one of the most popular models, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Super 1600 with its characteristic greenish-grey colour. "This Alfa Romeo model was one of the most widely used police cars for decades. It might not seem so intimidating, but criminals at the time were frightened by the sight of one. So much, that they often used the same model car for fleeing. It even has a synchronized gear shift. Porsche later bought the patent for that gear mechanism,” says Tommaso, proudly.
   Modern cars are displayed alongside historic models, the perfect mix that holds visitors’ attention. Right after a present-day Smart police car, you'll be able to swoon over the elegant De Tomaso Deauville, one of only about 240 produced from 1971 to 1988. It was the state car of Sandro Pertini, Italy's president from 1978 until 1985.
   Some of the more fascinating cars in this collection are those that show how much times have changed. An example is the Fiat 618, a minibus used for transporting small groups of police officers. In service in the 1930s and 1940s, the minibus weighed more than two tons and reached a moped-rivaling top speed of just 65 km/h (40 mph). Some models came with holes along the sides, a sort of mobile battlement allowing officers to fire off their rifles from the safe confines of the minibus.
   You’ll be blissfully blindsided by the large number of shiny, reddish-purple cars. In the 1950s, this was the color of choice of Italian police cars. Here you'll find the imposing Jeep Willys. "This jeep was used by the US army during the Second World War,” Tommaso explains. Traditionally drab green, the vehicles received an extreme makeover becoming bright red and a new purpose. “When these vehicles arrived in Italy, they were used in an unusual way. Using the vehicles, the Italian riot police would circle around big crowds until the crowd dispersed. This way, there was no physical contact between police forces and protesters.”
   We shouldn't forget, however, that very often the police move on only two wheels. The museum has an array of police bicycles and motorcycles. One of the finest is the classic Moto Guzzi Falcine 500, first launched in the 1950s and in production for two decades. Reaching a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), it was high tech for the times and was used on Italian highways for two decades.

The birth of a mythical man and his machine
   Police officer Armando Spatafora was nothing short of legendary among his colleagues and those infatuated with Italian police history. Spatafora was known for some spectacular police operations undertaken in his equally legendary Ferrari 250 GT/E police car, the only Ferrari ever used by the Italian police forces.
  "Both Spatafora and his car have become famous among Italian police officers,” says Tommaso, as we approach this iconic car. "Spatafora was extremely passionate about his work. He was also renowned for his courage. When the Ferrari 250 GT/E was assigned to him, both the man and the car became myths. This 1962 Ferrari is the only one of its kind in the world. If you were to sell it, it would go for around 1.5 million euro ($1.7 million),” Tommaso says. By the way, it’s not for sale. And car lovers with a few million or not can see it for the modest price of a museum ticket.
   One of the museum’s walls is decorated with a 1970 quote by Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli: "At a certain point Italy needed a car market, but we certainly did not lack in enthusiasm.” Even though almost 50 years have passed since Agnelli uttered this phrase, enthusiasm for Italian cars is still very much intact and proudly on display at the Museum of Italian Police Cars.

Museo delle Auto della Polizia di Stato
Via dell'Arcadia 20 Rome
Open Monday to Saturday from 9.30 - 18.30
Entrance price: 3 euro
https://www.poliziadistato.it/articolo/un-museo-per-le-auto-della-polizia

Editor’s Note: The museum was temporarily closed due to covid-19 but has now reopened in 2020.

 

 

ROSA  & MEO: A LOVE STORY
The Cappa Family Produces An Award Winning Olive Oil
“Over time, grapes were replaced with additional olive trees…”

By Nicholas A. Chiominto, Jr.

 


  This love story begins in the southern Italian village of Cori, located in the Lepini mountains in the region of Lazio. My Grandfather’s niece, Rosa Moroni met Mariano (Meo) Cappa, fell in love at an early age, married and raised a family.
   Like most Italians in the early 1900’s, Rosa and Mariano were poor. At the time, Mariano worked as a farmhand for a land owner who appreciated Mariano’s positive work ethic. As the landowner grew older, and since he liked Mariano, he offered to sell him seven acres of his land. Being resourceful, and out of necessity, Rosa and Meo developed the land into a farm. They raised some animals; but the main focus was olives, grapes, fruit trees, and a large vegetable garden. This farm helped sustain the Cappa family for many years.
   Over time, grapes were replaced with additional olive trees, bringing the total number from 49 Itrana cultivar trees to 500. Depending on the year and weather, the 500 trees yielded between 2,000 and 3,000 liters of olive oil. The olive oil was distributed between the Moroni and Cappa families for their personal use throughout the year.
   As Rosa and Meo aged, their daughter Giovanna, and grandson Catullo began working on the farm. Eventually, Giovanna and Catullo took over the annual olive harvest and olive oil production. It is backbreaking manual work. I know firsthand because I helped with the olive harvest a couple of times. While it is hard work, watching the olives being pressed into olive oil and tasting the finished product is very rewarding.
   Fast forward to today. While Rosa and Meo are no longer with us, and Giovanna has limited her involvement in the farm, Catullo now has almost complete control over the olive harvest and olive oil production.
   When I mention a love story, it is not only about the love between Rosa and Meo, but the love and passion Catullo has for the land, the olive trees and olive oil production. In honor and memory of his grandparents, Catullo began producing his own olive oil brand called Rosa & Meo. This quality extra virgin olive oil has won numerous awards in competitions throughout Italy. Several articles have been written about Catullo and his extra virgin olive oil including; the Italian food and wine magazine Gambero Rosso’s 2019 Oli D’Italia edition. Rosa & Mio olive oil scored in the 90 to 100-point range.
   Catullo is a small batch producer. He only produces a limited number of bottles each year to sell. The olive oil is sold locally in and around Cori. In addition, through friends in Denmark,      Catullo and his oil were introduced to olive oil buyers and restaurants in Copenhagen where he has developed a cult following. Catullo, a certified olive oil taster and expert, does not produce his olive oil for the money. He does it out of love. His love for Rosa and Meo and his desire to keep their memory alive.

Editor’s Note: You can view how Rosa and Meo produce their olive oil on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/watch/rosaetmeo/

 

 

 

WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE COLUMBUS?
Historic Figures Should Not Be Appraised by the Evolving Code of Ethics of Future Generations
- Monuments and statues are symbolic inspirations for reflection.

By Vincent Arena

The men and women hellbent on the removal of monuments shouldn't be judged in the years to come. Likewise, they themselves should refrain from casting judgment on figures of yesteryears. If anyone is to be branded revolutionaries, rebels, anarchist or political agitators, let the people grasping the iron be an impanelment of their peers, attuned to the vast assortment of the day's ideologies.

What I write today isn't to sway the judgment I call upon, but simply to recite an individual’s perspective. I come from a society where individualism and freedom to voice one's opinion was celebrated. Not a place where the volume of one's word's is meant to outweigh its content and drown out opposition. The First Amendment granted us this fundamental right, and I impel the people to take advantage of it before it's pulled from beneath our feet.

I don’t view our monuments as solely honorific, but multi-purposed. When I had learned of the suffering of past generations, whether it were a byproduct of racial, ethnic, economic or gender inequality, I viewed it with appreciation. I didn’t contemptuously disregard them or question their existence. How could I? It was in those pieces of history that I was able to fully grasp the progress we had made. Our past is what we learn and grow from. To erase it places us at risk of unwittingly repeating it.

A large part of the pride I carry as an Italian American isn’t in the accomplishments of my forebears but in the hardships they have endured and all that was overcome. We have suffered the largest recorded lynching in American history. Dealt with derogatory and debasing stereotypes from the moment the first shiploads of southern Italians arrived stateside. We have felt social injustices and marched for civil rights. We were share croppers and day laborers working amidst harrowing conditions. Yet we persevered to become contributors of the arts, culture and physical structure of our adopted land. The struggle built character. To better understand I’d like to delve deeper into our past to pay further homage to our ancestors.

Our affiliation with the glory of Rome made us feel capable. To this day we stare wide-eyed at the Colosseum. We don't speak of the disenfranchised gladiators and call for an immediate teardown of each and every reminder of the ancient world. Religion, too, has been a notable cause of continuous bloodshed. Though if we were to dwell on the losses we would forget the countless lives those same religious beliefs have saved. When does it all end? When is enough enough? When do we recognize that our history is what created the strength and fortitude that gradually integrated into our DNA. Without remembering our past, our future would have been a plateaued existence.

Monuments and statues are symbolic inspirations for reflection. To denounce an historic figure, for example, such as Christopher Columbus, is an unfair attack on the foundation of this great nation. When five centuries have passed, we are no longer in position to properly gauge or interpret a man’s thoughts or actions, let alone hold him accountable to the opposing standards of today. This age of insecurity, self-hatred and over dramatized cries of victimization is ravaging this country. I believe it is our duty to set an example by letting our voices be heard.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Arena is a freelance writer. The photograph depicts the statue of Christopher Columbus lifted by crane on June 24, 2020 and removed from Wooster Square Park in New Haven, Connecticut. The statue was donated by the United Italian Societies and first erected in 1892, and later recast in bronze in 1955. The city has placed the statue in storage.

 

 

IN DEFENSE OF COLUMBUS
The Writer, a Native of Pittsburgh, Asks, “Where is the Outrage?”
Columbus is worthy of praise and monuments
- “Let us not allow the bad to conquer the good by denying our rightful history.”

By Joseph T. Ferruzza

In light of the recent events in Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky and Massachusetts, the question has to be asked, “Where is the outrage?” The anarchists, insurrectionists, and history revisionists have all desecrated or torn down statues of Christopher Columbus. Instead of constantly hearing the voices of the anarchist and insurrectionist mobs, why is there no competing voices of historical knowledge and reason raised in our hero’s defense? The following message is more relevant now than ever before.

In defense of Christopher Columbus:

The Spreading of Catholicism. Christopher Columbus’ devotion to God and His Church is without question. He was, without a doubt, the driving force behind the rooting of the Roman Catholic Church in the New World.

The Courage of His Convictions. Columbus knew the world was a globe with unfathomable opportunities. This courage to tackle the unknown, against all odds, is comparable to America’s early pioneers and today’s astronauts.

His Steadfastness to Overcome Obstacles. In spite of all odds such as a lack of financing, ridicule, mutiny and persecution, Columbus never wavered in his belief in God and his mission of destiny.

Great Men and Their Flaws. The history of the world is rife with men and women we cite as great and pay homage with statues and monuments. To suggest that the depiction of a historical figure such as Columbus should be removed from public view because of what some believe are his flaws, can only be viewed as an attempt to re-write history. To deny our history is a crime against our fellow men and women and those who follow us.

I believe all good Americans sympathize with the plight of racial injustice. However, we should be very careful to not join forces with those who never lose an opportunity to ride on the backs of the oppressed and move forward with their ultimate goals to bring this country down. We should not to join forces with those who attack our liberty and those who profess the ideologies that have been tossed on the scrap heap of history such as Socialism, Communism and Fascism.

Even one of God’s favorites - King David - one of history’s most celebrated leaders, had very serious flaws that often plague ordinary men. We are all human, after all. Hopefully, our good deeds outweigh the bad. Let us not allow the bad to conquer the good by denying our rightful history.

Editor’s Note: The writer is the former president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Frank Ricco Lodge #731. The photograph shows the Columbus statue in Schenley Park, Pittsburgh. Erected in 1958, the bronze statue and granite pedestal was made by Frank Vittor, an Italian immigrant who sculpted this and other masterful works in the city and elsewhere in the Midwest. Recently, the arts commission of Pittsburgh held a public hearing on the removal of the statue.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
CORONAVIRUS CASES SLIGHTLY RISE IN ITALY
Is Another Lockdown to Come?
- Trains resume to full capacity in Italy
- United States decides not to impose tariffs on Italian wine
- Feast Day of San Lorenzo and Liberation Day in Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the end of the fifteenth week of now partial lockdown in Florence.

There has been an unwelcome increase of cases of contagion in the last week or so and we have been told another lockdown is “inevitable” if this continues. Most of these cases have been provoked by people returning from vacations in places where Covid-19 restrictions are laxer. The Italian Ministry of Health has made testing mandatory for travelers returning to Italy in the last 14 days from Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain.

This week began – yes, you guessed it – with yet another Prime Minister's decree, this time imaginatively called, the August decree. In passing the 115-article decree, the government had to make a budgetary slippage of 25 million euro. In it, the regulations about social distancing, wearing masks in closed space and the prohibition on people assembling, the no-spectators at football matches rule and the continued monitoring of discotheques were confirmed. Rail transport was in chaos for 48 hours when it was announced that trains would resume full capacity travel when this was almost immediately revoked by the Health and Transport Ministers.

Other main provisions provide for an extension of the redundancy fund and a stop to dismissals. This latter provision was criticized because it may cause future social havoc as it appears more welfare than a stimulus measure. Some tax relief and assistance for companies were conceded and yet again, another series of bonuses were provided, if you ever manage to navigate the paperwork required, for things like babysitters, bicycles, restaurants and holidays.

A few days ago, the prime minister and six of his ministers were advised, based on the presentation of numerous complaints from various parts of the country, that they are under investigation for the way they handled the initial stages of the coronavirus emergency. However, the Public Prosecutor's Office has indicated it believes these accusations are unfounded and the case will probably be archived.

Because the constant flow of illegal immigrants continues, Prime Minister Conte finally broke his silence on the subject and stated that Italy could not “tolerate” that these people illegally enter the county, thereby undermining the sacrifices we have made in combating Covid-19, especially when they attempt and often succeed in escaping without undergoing health examinations, as has been occurring. Trouble is, he made no mention of how this non-tolerance policy will be implemented.

Scandal hit the Italian Parliament when a newspaper revealed that five parliamentarians had applied to INPS, the national social security institute, for the 600 euro (later raised to 1,000 euro) a month bonus (another one!) aimed to assist struggling self-employed workers and those with a VAT code during the crisis. Although this was not illegal because the provision had been so badly drafted, it was considered morally and ethically wrong because senators are paid approximately 14,600 euro a month while those in the lower house receive about 13,900 euro. Three of these individuals received payment but their names are still a mystery because INPS uses the excuse that the privacy laws prevent them from disclosing them. What we do know is that two are from the Lega party and one from the 5 Star Movement. Evidence has yet to emerge how many elected representatives at regional and municipal levels have made similar applications. The effect this will have on the constitutional referendum of 20th and 21st September 2020 asking Italians if they wish to decrease the numbers of parliamentarians or not will be interesting.

In Tuscany this week, wine produces heaved a huge collective sigh of relief. Thankfully, the U.S. government has announced it will not impose an additional tariff on Italian wine. This is important because the American market is fundamental for the Tuscan wine industry representing, for example, 35 percent of exports of Brunello di Montalcino and 20 percent of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Here, in Florence, August is the traditional month when many Florentines take their annual summer vacation, but this year because of the pandemic many, like us, opted to stay at home. This meant we were able to enjoy the special events the city offers at this time every year. The first, on 10th August, was the Feast Day of San Lorenzo when, in the evening, we all gazed skywards to watch the Perseids meteor shower of falling stars, called San Lorenzo's tears, and made a wish. But, there was no historic court parade through town nor the usual street party in the San Lorenzo quarter of town near the basilica which is always accompanied by music, dancing, free lasagna and watermelon. Hopefully, next year...

On August 11th, it was the anniversary of the liberation of Florence in 1944 from Nazi and Fascist soldiers who occupied the city during World War II. At dawn on that morning 76 years ago, the Martinella bell called the Florentines out onto the streets to fight and the “battle of Florence” began. It continued until September when the last German troops left the city, opening the way for the Allied forces to advance. The bell rang again this year from the Torre di Arnolfo of Palazzo Vecchio as it does every year, but now in commemoration and celebration.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

ITALIAN CULINARY EDUCATION SUFFERS UNDER CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS
Gruppo Italiano Seeks Ways to Help Italian Chefs and Restaurant Managers of the Future
What can schools do when human interaction - a key part of education - is now banned by government?


Pictured, clockwise, Dr. Joyce Brown, Fabio Parasecoli, Lisa Sasson, Gianfranco Sorrentino, Andrea Sinigaglia and Rick Smilow

Let us salute Gruppo Italiano! The non-profit organization, with a mission to promote authentic Italian food and wine, is trying to a find a way forward in this pandemic desert; but it’s not easy. Restaurateurs face ruin. There are just too many government restrictions to overcome. And for what? To alleviate the danger of a virus with a 99 percent survival rate.

Everyone wants to have fun. Everyone wants to go out. Except today’s government class. Were they ever joyful? More laws, more measures, more decrees, more mandates. Basta!

Gruppo Italiano conceived Italian Table Talks. They used to meet in person. Cocktails were served afterward. They convened a series of talks on the latest issues and trends concerning Italian food and wine. Top figures in the Italian culinary arts share views and opinions. Topics ranged from the love of Italian grains to what defines “authentic” Italian food. Then came March and contagion. The focus changed. One word: Survival. How restaurants and eateries could stay afloat. The worst of government seeks to mitigate the effects of coronavirus. Everyone is adversely affected, including education.

The title for the video linked session, on Monday, August 23, was “Class Dismissed: Reimagining Culinary Institutes and Food Studies.” The event was moderated by Fabio Parasecoli, professor of Food Studies in the Nutrition and Food Studies Department at New York University. Guests included Dr. Joyce Brown, president of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Lisa Sasson, Associate Dean of Global Affairs and Experiential Learning and a clinical professor at New York University’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, Rick Smilow, CEO of the Institute of Culinary Education and, from Italy, Andrea Sinigaglia, general manager of ALMA, The International School of Italian Cuisine.

The current president of Gruppo Italiano, Gianfranco Sorrentino, began the webinar. Managing Partner of Il Gattopardo Group, a conglomerate of Italian restaurants in New York and elsewhere, he opened the session declaring that, “1 billion students worldwide have been affected by Covid-19.” Sorrentino is Neapolitan and, as such, lives for the human touch. The idea of a virtual world is especially frustrating for him and other Italians. He said, “As many students, parents and teachers are discovering, there is a human need for face-to-face interaction. One of the reasons we go to restaurants: To dine and to see other people.”

He turned the meeting over to Fabio Parasecoli to moderate. A unique scholar, Parasecoli seeks to bridge the gap between gastronomy and political science. He published several books on the topic. He conveyed a theme for the webinar. “We don’t know what will happen to school and school programs,” he said. “Culinary schools, now operating, will be different in the future. What kind of skills to teach our students with this disruption in the food system?”

Asked to comment about the state of education was Dr. Joyce Brown, president of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. Although the name signifies an exclusive education on apparel design and clothing, FIT also teaches the fine arts, illustration and technical design. Seeking to manage a university of nearly 8,000 undergraduate students in a time of pandemic is challenging and perplexing. “There has been a confluence of events and a need for quick decision,” she said. “Many people look to institutions for answers. Yet, those answers are not available because the ground has shifted so much since the pandemic.” Dr. Brown admitted to upheaval in the fashion industry prior to coronavirus. “Before the pandemic,” she said, “the retail industry was in trouble. According to polls, 65 percent of American families will spend less on apparel. The luxury market will shrink. We need new models and a different set of expectations.” She is committed to the school’s mission. “In spite of pandemic,” she said, “institutions have to retain focus and respond to the needs of students and industry.”

When asked if the pandemic has affected food and nutrition classes at NYU, Lisa Sasson pivoted. She addressed the recent riots and demonstrations that came about after the death of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. “BLM (Black Lives Matter) has made us aware of critical issues,” she said. “Curriculum will be enhanced to include food advocacy, food justice and food equality. Food is more than just eating; its about taking care of the environment” and other social issues. She said, “Most people suffering Covid have pre-existing conditions,” and we need to focus more on nutrition to help them and others in society build a tolerance to diseases and infections.

Rick Smilow was asked about the morale of students at his culinary institute. He answered, “I have not heard many careers changed for students. Their goals are still in place.” Classes at the culinary institute begin this week. “Most students want to come back,” he said. “We are doing all things higher education is supposed to do. We couldn’t teach cooking online but we can teach restaurant management on line.” As for the spread of the disease, Mr. Smilow said, “We have seen, thus far, zero indication that our students are getting coronavirus in school or bringing it to the school.”

Andrea Sinigaglia joined late in the webinar because of technical difficulties. When coronavirus came to Italy, he said, schools were “forced to close all programs and undergo strict sanitary protocol. Local governments decided what schools could open and what schools could not.” Many students were from outside of Italy. He said, “Foreign students are not coming. All foreign students returned home.”

Parasecoli asked his guests about virtual learning. What are schools doing when human interaction - a key part of education - is now banned by government?

Dr. Brown said that FIT has invested more money in new technology to make education fully remote in the foreseeable future. Lisa Sasson shared her experience in creating a virtual class that took students on a culinary journey through Italy. “Food is a lens to better understand Italy,” she said. “The Mediterranean diet is the focus. Everything had to be interactive. We had two culinary classes structured to feel like an in-person experience. Virtually, the teacher could look at the students’ dishes and provide feedback. We visited Italian farms and wineries in real time. We were able to introduce the owners to students.”

As to whether or not schools can retain a full faculty in a time of pandemic, Dr. Brown said, “We are public and not a tuition model. We are supported by the state and city. We are not sure how the pandemic will impact our budget. Enrollment issues are probably not answerable today. Students have not yet made their financial commitment. Until they pay their actual tuition, there is no way to tell.”

Smilow said, “If we can remain open, we can have classes.” He commended the Payment Protection Plan that provided low interest loans and grants to businesses and non-profits. “PPP was very helpful. One of the few government programs that worked like intended,” he said.

Sorrentino then finished the webinar. He said, “This is about the future of our country and the future of our children.” He originally wanted the discussion to include his two children, ages 11 and 17. They had to learn virtually as did most kids in the country. However, in summertime, he said, “They sleep until 3 p.m.”

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Gruppo Italiano and their upcoming webinars and events at www.gruppo-italiano.com

 

 

Covid Chronicles
PRIME MINISTER CONTE SCORES 209 BILLION FROM THE EU
Yet, Not Immediately; Italy Will Receive Loans and Grants...in 2021!
- Illegal immigrants from Tunisia are rich; woman brings with her a poodle
- Andrea Bocelli disavows Covid-19 restrictions
- Iron wolves in the Piazza Piatti

By Deirdre Pirro



This is the end of the 14th week of now partial lockdown in Florence.

We still need to take care and wear mask. Hotspots are beginning to crop up again in various parts of Italy, especially among young people who insist on meeting in large groups for the so-called weekend “movida.”

There is a wonderful word in Italian: “gongolare”; which means, “to gloat.” It conjures up images, in my mind, of Jack, who jumps out of his box and bounces his way on a spring, beaming with pleasure. That is precisely the impression Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave at the conclusion of the summit of the Council of Europe in Brussels. After five days of hard diplomatic negotiations, the 27 European leaders finally reached a deal on the €750 billion Recovery Fund on July 21. This post-coronavirus emergency fund will give out €390 billion of grants and €360 billion of low-interest loans to EU member states. Italy is one of the biggest beneficiaries.

Italy will, in fact, will receive €208.8 billion: €81.4 billion in grants and €127.4 billion in loans. This is said to be the equivalent to about 28 percent of the total fund. This money, Conte announced, will “change the face of the country.” He basked in the glory of personal success and a sure sinecure for his political survival. Indeed, the result is noteworthy; but it should be remembered that powerful nations like Germany and France have no interest in letting Italy go under. Instead, the opposition parties believe that these funds will arrive too late. The first installment will not come until 2021, when many industries and businesses will have already closed. They claim the fund, which is only money on paper, is really a series of loans and, in the end, a ripoff.

On July 29, the prime minister announced that he had extended the state of emergency for the coronavirus until October 15, 2020. This means he has super powers to happily continue govern by decrees, totally bypassing or even ignoring parliament. The opposition strongly inveighed against this, declaring that Italy is the only country in Europe to prolong the emergency phase. This fell on deaf ears because the government was already busy making over 300 appointments to key positions, strategically placing “friends of friends,” with no discussion before parliament. And they call this democracy!

On a similar tack, it emerged on August 1 that the PM has put a gag order on the release of the meeting’s minutes of his Technical and Scientific Task Force. The inevitable result is a lack of transparency and the question: “what is he trying to hide?”

In the last weeks, the problem of illegal immigrants arriving in small boats and inflatable craft from North Africa, particularly from Tunisia and Algeria, has created a serious emergency. Lampedusa is their first port of call. The small island is at breaking point. In the night of July 31, some 250 people in eight boats landed on its shores. The center, where they are held for health checks and processing, now has over 900 people massed together; when the usual capacity is 250. A never-seen-before scene occurred last week when a small boat arrived from Tunisia carrying a handful of migrants; all were well-dressed and seemingly rich; with one of the women clutching her well-manicured poodle! Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Di Maio wants foreign aid destined for Tunisia to be cut unless it blockades the exodus. The problem is that Tunisia is in a present state of chaos. To add to the confusion, taking what seems a contrary stance within the same government, Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese proposes an aid package. She wants to help Tunisia with economic aid to encourage a halt to departures. The prime minister is silent on the subject.

Recently, the governor of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, has found himself in the eye of the cyclone. A member of the right-wing Lega party, currently in opposition, he is being investigated for fraud. A public procurement related to the supply of lab coats were found and never delivered from the headquarters of Dama, the company owned by Andrea Dini, his brother-in-law; as well as 10 percent by his wife. Of these, 50,000 were supposed to be destined for purchase by the Lombardy region at a higher than market price. Meanwhile, to avoid the accusation of conflict of interests, this has somehow turned into a donation. In his defense before the Regional Council, Fontana, who has refused to resign and who has faced a mammoth task combating the virus in Lombardy, said he knew nothing of the proposed purchase. When he found out, he asked his brother-in-law to make the donation. Since then, it has emerged that Fontana inherited 5 million euro from his mother and has trust accounts left by his parents in the Bahamas. He denies tax evasion. Stay tuned...

Much loved tenor, Andrea Bocelli, has also had his problems this week. He has had to apologize for the comments he made at a conference at the Italian Senate. He appeared to negate the importance of the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 such as lockdown and social distancing. Despite this, according to social media sites, his “misunderstood” remarks have lost him some fans.

One of Tuscany’s most important activities, wine-making, has been badly hit by the pandemic. However, it has just now received important and innovative financial assistance. Massimo Ferragamo, a major producer of Brunello, received a million euro funding from the Bpm Bank for his vineyard in Castiglion del Bosco. The collateral for the loan was the bulk wine aging in the vats in the winery. This is a first for this kind of subsidy in Italy.

Here, in Florence, we are in the grip of a heat wave; but it didn't stop me going to see the prowling 100 wolf statues by the Chinese artist, Liu Ruowang. They sculptures will remain in Piazza Pitti and Pizza SS Annuziata until 2nd November. Promoted by the City of Florence and the Gallerie degli Uffizi, this fierce pack of wolves, each cast in iron and weighing in at 280 kilograms makes you reflect on the delicate balance between nature and humankind in these uncertain times.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

CLAUDIO D’AGOSTINO LOOKS BACK WITH PRIDE ON HIS SCULPTURE OF JOHN LEWIS
The Bronze Bust of the Late Civil Rights Leader and Congressman was Completed in 2005
Located Today in The Cannon Office Building on Capitol Hill
“I was afraid to touch his head…”


The bronze sculpture of John Lewis. The unveiling in 2005 had both Claudio and his mother in attendance with the late congressman.
The sculptor at work producing a clay model of the subject.

  Sculptor and artist Claudio D’Agostino is defined by diversity. He has captured in bronze the rich, powerful and influential. There is a bust he did in the 1990s of Jack Valenti, former confidant and adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson, not to mention one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood and the Italian American community. Valenti served as president for many years of the Motion Picture Association of America and was a principal figure in the National Italian American Foundation. Claudio also created a bust of John D. Spreckels, an obscure figure, but, nevertheless, very important. Spreckels, in essence, made San Diego. He developed what had been a fisherman’s village in the late 1800s into what eventually became California’s second largest city today. Claudio has done a bas relief of Celine Dione, numerous drawings (he’s fond of clowns), a porcelain flower centerpiece for former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, a stunning display for the United States Marine Corps and many more.
   Although a plethora of sculpture and paintings are to his credit, Claudio considers his bronze bust of Representative John Lewis to be his most significant, especially in light of the passing of the congressman on July 17, 2020.
   Lewis remains a hero to many in the civil rights movement. He was the youngest to speak at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Convened at the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the highlight of the event when he made his “I Have a Dream” speech.
   Two years later, Lewis led marchers over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The purpose was to take their complaint of voter disenfranchisement to the state capital, Montgomery. Midway, however, Alabama state troopers and county posssemen used tear gas to blind them, horses to trample them and nightsticks to beat them. Lewis suffered a fractured skull and lost consciousness after getting struck with a club by a state trooper.
   The violence was captured on national television on Sunday, March 7, 1965. Americans watched in horror as one network, ABC, cut into their movie of the week, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” with footage the assault. From then on, the confrontation was termed, “Bloody Sunday.”
   A little more than a decade later, in 1986, Lewis was elected to Congress as representative of Georgia’s fifth district. The Democratic primary is what made news. He ran against Julian Bond, another icon of civil rights. The results were a plurality for Bond and a runoff ensued. The contest surprised many for its divisiveness. Lewis ran ads that suggested Bond had once used cocaine. Most voters in the predominantly black district favored Bond. Yet, the liberal establishment endorsed Lewis. Thanks to minority of white voters, he scored an upset victory over Bond, 52 to 48 percent. The election divided the African American community in Atlanta. Lewis went on to win the primary and general election. He remained in Congress until his death, at age 80, after diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
   In 2004, Claudio saw Lewis on television and was moved by his biography and work in civil rights. He wrote a letter asking to sculpt him. Lewis mailed his reply to Claudio, “Thank you for your kind letter. I would be delighted to have you sculpt a likeness of me.” Although, he had never met Claudio or either of his parents, Lewis closed, “Please say hello to your mother.”
Claudio went to Washington (with his mother) to measure the subject. The dimensions of Lewis’s head, facial features, shoulders and chest were recorded. Back in Palm Springs, Claudio first sculpted the figure in clay for several molds made from wax, plaster and, finally, bronze. The unveiling was made in 2005 at a ceremony inside the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill, where the statue remains today.
   Claudio is especially proud to have captured the likeness of Lewis for posterity. In reference to the late congressman, he said to the Desert Sun, “I think especially now that he’s gone, we need to be reminded (about his work).”
   Claudio was born in Canada and moved to the United States with his parents. He lived in San Diego for a time before relocating to Palm Springs, where he lives and works today. His mother is from Cosenza, Calabria and his father is from Minturno in the Lazio region.
   Claudio learned on his own how to draw, paint and sculpt. He declares on his web site: “Although I have always loved art, I am a self taught artist. I have met other artists and they have inspired me. I had to learn a lot on my own and investing in ones self is a good feeling.”
   Claudio credits Italy for his creative development. Again from his web site: “My first love was drawing and painting, then I was inspired by sculpture when I had opportunities to see the master sculptors of Italy when I was in my teens. Then I knew this was normal and why I was born to create and inspire others as well.”
   Claudio remembers speaking with Lewis about civil rights in the Deep South. The sculptor saw a remnant of a blow Lewis suffered so many decades ago. A faded scar was apparent from a deep gash brought on by a nightstick. Claudio said, “I was afraid to touch his head due to the fact all the ignorant white Alabama state troopers hit him over the head, almost killing him. So, that was the biggest challenge for me.”
   The sculpture of Lewis is nothing short of masterful. Claudio captures the detailed attributes of the subject’s face and upper body. More than that, the statue conveys the inner strength and resolve of Lewis who suffered both physically and emotionally for the rights of the oppressed and destitute. One sees the sensitivity of a figure, a native son of the South, who sought progressive change.
   Caludio hopes to produce several recasts of his sculpture of Lewis for donations to public libraries in Georgia and elsewhere.

Editor’s Note: You can view the portfolio of Claudio D’Agostino at https://claudiodagostino.com/

 

 

Covid Chronicles
Week 14
ITALY SEEKS TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY
Will the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament Keep Their Promises?
- Italy gets ready to commemorate Dante in 2021
- A visit to Lake Iseo
- Lunch with girlfriends in Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the 14th week of a partial lockdown in Florence.

We still need to take care, wear a mask and sometimes gloves as the coronavirus is still out and about, creating new and unexpected hotspots.

On 11th July, two important tourist industry organizations, Confturismo-Confcommercio and Swg released data about how Italians felt about taking their annual summer holidays. The results were not encouraging. A huge 93 percent of people interviewed said they will holiday in Italy and their vacations will be very brief because money is tight. Their preferred regions are Apulia, Tuscany and Sicily. Only seven percent were ready to challenge Covid-19 and go abroad; Austria being their preferred location.

On 13th July, the National Statistics Institute, Istat, released recent data that demonstrated that Italy has registered the lowest birth rate since unification in 1860, an historic finding. There has also been a slight rise in the death rate and in the number of residency cancellations of people who are moving abroad. They are probably pensioners who can receive their Italian pensions tax free in certain places. They are also given tax incentives to settle in some foreign countries. Immigration had decreased (-8.6 percent), while emigration of Italian citizens has increased (+8.1 percent).

On July 16th, the Decreto Rilancio (Relaunch Decree), after the Covid-19 crisis, was passed into law by the Italian Senate with 159 votes in favor and 121 against. This decree, often called the April Decree, has been drawn out in gestation. It sets out a series of urgent impulse measures concerning health, support for work and the economy and social policies connected to coronavirus. The overall budget for the implementation of these measures is 55 billion euro. Between 15th March and 20th May, the government had already put three fiscal packages into place. The fiscal stimulus allowed for significant tax and loan deferrals, liquidity-enhanced measures and loan guarantees. With the Relaunch Decree, the aim is to refinance many prior measures and to widen their scope to formerly excluded businesses. Rules are simplified to provide more money to those in need.

Opposition parties maintain that the prime minister should not simply go on and on talking about how much money they will spend. Rather, he should clearly state when families and business will receive the money. The Viva Italia party externally supports the government. They will not tolerate the waste of a cent of this money, they said. The government will have to simplify Italy's top- heavy bureaucracy and “run, run, run.” Only time will tell.

On the same day, June 16th, another Decree Law, known as the Decreto Semplificazione (Simplification Decree) was passed. It concerns urgent measures for simplification and digital innovation. Its objectives are to ease administrative procedures and facilitate public procurement and construction contracts; to eliminate or speed up bureaucratic procedures and responsibilities; to support and spread the digitalizing of the public administration; and to support the green economy and companies and the environment. I have lived in Italy too long not to have heard these promises many times in the past but this time I want to believe them because they are vital to Italy's recovery.

Here in Florence, as part of the national celebrations for the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, the Uffizi will be loaning Dante-related artworks for the major exhibition, titled, “Dante: The Vision of Art” to be held in Forlì in 2021, from March through July. Something to look forward to.

Another bright spot is that on July 9th I was invited to be a “judge” at a three-day EFLIT (English for Law & International Transactions) conference at Sarnico on the beautiful Lake Iseo. I was initially concerned that health protection measures might not be observed. The location is not that far from Bergamo, a town that has suffered terribly during the pandemic. However, the organizers assured me that all safety measures were taken and social distancing was to enforced and they were. The last morning, we toured the lake by boat and stopped for awhile at Monte Isola, the largest island on a lake in Europe.

On July 16th, for the first time, I broke partial lockdown and met up with four girlfriends to enjoy a wonderful meal of mixed fried fish and chips. We sat in the open air, part of a seafood restaurant close to the market of Sant'Ambrogio in the Santa Croce quarter of Florence. It was a real “homecoming” reunion as we had not seen each other since the beginning of March. I realized how very much I had missed them and how it was so good to be chatting and laughing again as though none of us had passed these last months in solitary confinement. We all felt a homecoming, thinking that the world as we knew it may slowly be returning to normality.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

WE HAVE LOST OUR NOSES
Mascherina in Italy
Masks are worn differently by different people in Rome
“We have all become the Masked Man.”

Text and photos: Jesper Storgaard Jensen, Rome

 

  


    Italy is slowly turning back to normal after a pandemic lockdown that started on March 9 and ended May 20. Eateries – restaurants, trattorias, pizzerias, wine bars, cafes and bars – were totally inactive. Some 700,000 workers were dawdling; without doing absolutely anything. Billions of euro have been lost. An estimated 20-30 percent of all eateries risk not reopening after the lockdown.
    On June 3, foreigners from other European countries were able to visit Italy. We can now cross “the borders” of the regions where we live, i.e. people from Lazio can go to Tuscany, and people from Puglia can go to Basilicata.
    Italy has seen a strange phenomenon which someone has called “inverse discrimination.” The South of Italy has always been considered the “weak part,” when it comes to economical performance. Today, however, several South-Italian regions (and its citizens) are not pleased with how the pandemic was handled in the North. The flamboyant and “hard-hitting” governor of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca, has publicly said: “In this moment we are not interested in receiving people from the north.” He also refused to sign the governmental protocol to regulate the flow of persons between Italy’s 20 regions.
    In Sicily, a region, with low infection figures, is obviously afraid of the “northern invasion.” The Sicilian governor, Nello Musumeci, is of the same opinion as his colleague De Luca, even though he expresses himself in a somewhat more diplomatic way. Sicily now wants to introduce a sort of a “virus passport,” which means imposing serologic tests on visitors that want to go to the island.

Speechless and nose-less

    Two months have passed since the quarantine ended.
    Now, we have our returned back into society. But something has happened. You immediately see it when you walk around on the streets of Rome. We have…lost our noses.
    The face mask has become the ultimate symbol of the coronavirus in Italy. In Lombardy, it is compulsory everywhere you go. In Rome, only in closed spaces, e.g. shops and closed markets. However, in public spaces you’ll still see eight out of 10 people wearing a mask.
    Our new “pandemic fashion item” comes in many different shapes, colors and models. You’ll see the very popular surgical mask that – consciously or unconsciously - expresses solidarity with thousands of nurses and doctors. There are the quirky beak-shaped masks that immediately direct one's thoughts toward the animal world. There are the use-and-throw-away masks that the Italian government has now promised. We can buy them at 50 cents a piece. There are the masks made of colored fabrics that can be washed and used over and over again. Such masks allow the proud wearer to send a variety of social signals - beautiful and chic patterns for the fashion conscious, the Italian colors for the patriotic, Mussolini's face for the nostalgic, etc.
    The new parole is now "show me how you wear your face mask, and I'll tell you who you are" - the mask worn under the chin (the so-called Naples-model!) or on your forehead is worn by the careless. The mask that covers only the mouth but not the nose, is worn by the distracted. The mask that covers most of the face and that is often held into place by a pair of large sunglasses, is worn by the fearful and infectious-scared, and then of course there are the nonchalant and fearless who move out into public space without any face protection.
In this period, you’ll meet friends and acquaintances on the street, and they will wave at you and say “Ciao, I’m Mario, don’t you recognize me?” And I actually don’t, because with all that cloth wrapped around your face, how can I?
    Now, half sentences, important words, facial grimaces, good intentions and the politicians’ growing noses are sadly disappearing under layers of colored cloth. And as I go to the fruit and green market in my neighborhood, I can feel the elastics of my mask tighten on my neck. I have an almost constant feeling of being short of breath. But I’m too scared to take it off. I’m too scared to jeopardize my own health and those of others.
    But, perhaps this new habit is not so bad after all. That’s actually what the well-known writer and journalist, Michele Serra, says in his article “The Masked Man” in the daily la Repubblica:
“I’m sort of getting used to the new mask. Especially the surgical one – the mask that is blue on the outside and white on the inside – which doesn’t annoy me at all. As a matter of fact, I kind of like it. It puts me in a state of composure. I even feel a certain elegance, the elegance of the low profile. My own ‘self’ has had to take a step backwards. My narcissism is staggering, and my street anonymity is gaining new terrain. Everyone is now nobody, a non-face in the crowd. The mystery of identity - which has always been a puzzle to psychoanalysts, philosophers and writers – has won its battle. No one no longer recognizes nobody. We have all become the Masked Man.”

Editor’s Note: Jesper Storgaard Jensen writes for PRIMO on a regular basis. He lives and works in Rome with his wife and children.

 

 

 

Opinion
NEW AUTHORITARIANISM IN AMERICA TARGETS ITALIANS
Italian Americans are Disproportionately Affected by the Mask Mandate in NJ and NY
“Arbitrary and Capricious Use of Power” at the state and local levels
- Is the Irish and Italian rivalry the reason why statues are removed in Philadelphia?

  Right now, Italian Americans are dealing with two crises at once. We are being threatened with erasure in many cities, especially Philadelphia. However, we also are facing the horrible mask mandates in New Jersey and New York. Rather than pretend that they are separate issues, we need to see the common cause of both threats to Italian American civil rights and civil liberties. The common cause is the rise of authoritarianism at the state and local levels.
  I am a political scientist and I know that most citizens do not have any clue what authoritarianism is; so I need to explain a little bit. Authoritarianism is often used as a synonym for dictatorship, even in scholarly literature. However, it is a little broader that that. There is gray area between democracy and dictatorship. Authoritarianism can arise in a democracy with an increase in the arbitrary and capricious use of power by fewer and fewer people. In our Italian American homeland, from Philadelphia to New York and throughout New Jersey, we face growing authoritarianism. Arbitrary and capricious attacks are most evident in the removal of statues important to Italians and statewide mask mandates.
  Mask mandates in the age of the Black Lives Matter will not be enforced upon African Americans trying to protest systemic racism and state violence. Also, African Americans are more likely to refuse to wear a mask. As a result, they will disproportionately break the law but will likely not get arrested. I was in the park on Sunday and 14 black men, not all related to each other, were playing basketball, sweating and had contact with each other. They were violating the New Jersey mandate but in this political climate, they were immune to the law. There is nothing wrong with not arresting anyone. However, to choose which racial or ethnic groups are arrested and not arrested is how we got the Black Lives Matter movement in the first place. It would only be counterproductive to reverse racial privilege right now in the enforcement of this executive order.
  Hence, the New Jersey mask mandate cannot be properly policed. And, if it cannot be properly policed, then it cannot be properly enforced. An executive order that cannot be enforced hurts the rule of law. Authoritarianism, in the guise of the mask mandate, simply will lead to anarchy in New Jersey and New York. Either only good people will obey it and give up their rights, while others remain free, or some groups will be arrested while other groups will be allowed to violate the law.
  As always, white Anglos will be immune to arrest for minor crimes while Latinos and African Americans will benefit from the new privilege. That leaves Italian Americans, Portuguese Americans and Jews who will benefit neither from the old privilege nor the new privilege and will be disproportionately arrested.
   In addition to the lawless “laws” of Governors Cuomo and Murphy, there is Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia. Based on unproven accusations, he removed the Frank Rizzo statue, a bronze sculpture that honored the city’s first Italian American mayor. I do not want to defend Rizzo, but Kenney extricated the statue, not because of social justice, but because of Irish-Italian rivalry. When it comes to the Cristoforo Colombo statue at Marconi Plaza, Kenney seeks to remove that statue not because he is offended by the history but, rather, because an Italian American is being honored above the Irish in Philadelphia.
  Irish Americans, more or less, fully benefit from white privilege, especially when they deemphasize their Catholicism. We Italian Americans do not fully benefit from white privilege. Also, unlike the Irish, our ethnicity is not accepted as legitimate. The Irish have achieved so much largely by creating an under-class. In New York, Boston and Philadelphia, and probably also in Newark, Italians, along with Portuguese and Jews, were that under-class. When things go badly, the Irish land on their feet, but the rest of us get hurt, like in Newark.
  We do not like to talk about the Irish-Italian rivalry, but we have always been second fiddle to them, with brief moments of independence. Pretending to be white has empowered the Irish and if we wish to gain equality to the Irish, we must abandon whiteness and align with our Portuguese, Jewish, Greek and Middle Eastern compatriots. An Irishman thinking himself an authoritarian rules Philadelphia. Just like the Irishman in New Jersey, he is able to lord over Italians because his ethnicity is more privileged than ours and we let him do it. We need to say no to authoritarianism and stop letting the Irish and Anglos “whiten” us.

Editor's Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, and adjunct professor at Middlesex County College is Edison, New Jersey, as well as the President of the Italian American Movement and editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Journal of Politics. The author’s opinion may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

“PLEASE DON’T ERASE OUR HISTORY”
A Plea to California Governor Gavin Newsom
From Velio Bronzini, a 90-Year-Old, Longtime, Italian American Resident of Castro Valley




Pictured are the author’s parents, Guido and Clara Bronzini,
circa 1945, two family photographs with his brother Lorenzo,
and his current photograph.

The following letter was written by Mr. Bronzini on June 21.

To:

The Honorable Governor Gavin Newsom
President of the Senate Toni Atkins
Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon
Assembly Rules Committee Chairman Ken Cooley

California State Capitol
PO Box 94289 Room 204
Sacramento California 95814

As a son of Italian immigrants, I am stunned and appalled that you would even consider removing the statue of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella from the State Capitol Rotunda. Those monuments not only represent the contributions by Italians to California but also to our great country.

The toppling of the statue of the great navigator and explorer, Christopher Columbus, from San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill was driven by a mob mentality. It is an insult and an affront to people of Italian heritage and to the memory of those such as A.P. Giannini who was extremely instrumental in rebuilding San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Whether you agree with it or not, as descendants of Italian immigrants we are entitled to the preservation of our history. The contributions made by Italians to our state and country are immeasurable and should not be diminished.

I have heard the argument that Columbus was a polarizing figure; really ladies and gentlemen of the California legislature, you were not elected for the purpose of, nor do you have the right, to re-write history.

The first recorded celebration of Christopher Columbus in the United States was 1792 and he has been celebrated in San Francisco since 1869. In 1891, eleven Italians were lynched in New Orleans; they were murdered by a mob. It was the largest mass lynching in American history. In that period, Italian Americans were the second largest group to by lynched in this country. The following year, in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation and urged Americans to celebrate, marking the day of October 12, in celebration of Columbus’ landing in the Western Hemisphere. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day as an official U.S. holiday.

Although discrimination and abuse of Italian Americans continued, as a people we have moved forward from the dark days of injustice. The attacks on Christopher Columbus are unfair and obscure the reason why COLUMBUS DAY MATTERS to all Italian Americans. The successes of Italian Americans are being erased by a new wave of bigotry, intolerance and prejudice by a mob mentality in order to re-write history in their own vision.

If some are offended by the Christopher Columbus statues that is no excuse or reason for their destruction and removal: THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. It is important to the Italian American people (and should be to all people of this country) that the statues remain in place and are looked upon as a part of history, whether individuals or certain groups approve of them or not.

The real danger lies in the fact that it will set a dangerous precedent for future movements by any other group. If something is deemed unjust or offends them, they can pressure lawmakers and have it erased from history.

Columbus Day holds a special significance for me. October 12, 1942 was the day that my father and mother became naturalized American citizens. It was also the date that President Roosevelt announced the lifting of restrictions on non-citizen Italian immigrants who, although in this country legally, at the outbreak of WWII were declared to be enemy aliens. The president lifted the restrictions, recognizing the loyalty and contributions made to our country by the Italian people. I ask that you please do not erase our proud heritage.

Sincerely,

Velio Bronzini
Castro Valley, California

Editor’s Note: On July 7, without deliberation, debate, or a vote in the legislature, three presiding members of the California assembly - Toni Atkins, Anthony Rendon, and Ken Cooley - ordered the removal of “Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella.” The marble statue that had been in place inside the state capitol rotunda building since 1883 is no longer there.

 

 

PRIMO’s Picks
THE FIVE GREATEST FIGHTS OF CORNERMAN ANGELO DUNDEE
From Carmen Basilio to George Forman to the “Thrilla in Manilla” to “The Super Fight”
Strategic planning combined with shrewd tactics for Angelo to help his boxers win

In the current edition of PRIMO - First Edition 2020 - we feature a six page article on Angelo Dundee. He is rightly considered one of boxing’s best cornermen. He trained the likes of boxing’s greatest champs such as Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Carmine Basilio, and many more. To read the full story, please order this latest edition of PRIMO at http://www.onlineprimo.com/back_issues.html

In a supplement to the article, we feature here the five greatest boxing matches of cornerman Angelo Dundee. He not only trained his boxers, he was there with them in every fight. He coached and coaxed his men to the final round. Some of the greatest boxing matches of the last 50 years had Angelo Dundee finding a unique edge to victory. Here are five fights that show Angelo and his fighters at their best.

Carmen Basilio v. Sugar Ray Robinson, September 23, 1957, New York, New York. It was after service in the United States Marine Corps in World War II that Basilio sought a career as a boxer. He was amazingly aggressive with quick reflexes that were fine-tuned when Angelo became his trainer. Basilio was welterweight champion when he faced the great Sugar Ray Robinson in Yankee Stadium. Robinson had the advantage going into the fight. He was middleweight champ and was heavier, taller and more experienced than the challenger. Angelo, however, knew, going into the fight, that Basilio could take the best from Robinson. The first rounds were a real battle. Angelo played doctor for much of the fight. Basilio suffered serious cuts above his eyes from Robinson’s jabs. A homemade solution by Angelo treated the lacerations and stopped the bleeding. This gave Basilio time to come back in the middle rounds. He attacked Robinson with combinations to the head and body. The fight was incredible in the number of punches thrown. Neither boxer wanted to cede to the other. Only after the final bell was rung was there a split decision, and a close one at that, for Basilio. Angelo’s fighter was now middleweight champion of the world.

Muhammad Ali v. Joe Frazier, October 1, 1975, Quezon City, Philippines. It was called the “Thrilla in Manilla” and rightly so. The fight remains one of the best in boxing. It was the third and last time Ali met Frazier in the ring. The setting was a crowded, hot and humid stadium in the Philippines. Ali was ahead midway in the fight when he laid back on the ropes. Angelo never liked this tactic, coined the “rope-a-dope” in the press. Ali underestimated Frazier’s speed and was hit repeatedly. He was hurt and in trouble. Then Frazier backed away in the 10th round. Angelo ordered his fighter to attack with consecutive jabs to the eyes. The fight was then to be decided by the trainers in the 14th round. Frazier was almost blind from jabs while Ali was almost dead from exhaustion. Ali wanted Angelo to take off his gloves and call the fight. Meanwhile, Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, was convinced the boxer’s sight was lost if the fight continued. Which side blinked? Angelo refused Ali’s pleas and got his fighter ready for the final round. Meanwhile, Eddie Futch threw in the towel to save Frazier’s eyes. It was Angelo’s man who remained heavyweight champion.

Muhammad Ali v. Earnie Shavers, September 29, 1977, Madison Square Garden, New York, New York. Champions find an edge. Ali was to defend his title against Shavers as broadcasted live on NBC television. The fight was supposed to be an easy win for Ali. Yet, Shavers was in the best shape of his career and had a right hook as hard as granite. He tagged Ali in the second round. The champ tried to make light of the punch by holding on to his opponent and clowning with the audience. Yet, everyone knew Ali was hurt. Such was the fight. Ali forged ahead weekend by the blow. He relied on speed to avoid getting hit and used his long reach to jab Shavers repeatedly. Yet, the challenger connected again with a powder keg right. The crowd was on the edge of their seats when the fight became a brawl. However, Angelo knew all along that his fighter was destined to win. This was the first telecast of a boxing match to show the judges’ scorecards in real time to the audience. Angelo had the television on in Ali’s dressing room. His assistant watched the scores given each round, ran and told the results to Angelo at ringside. Ali was way ahead by the 12th round and, save for a knockout, Shavers could not win. However, Angelo kept the news from his fighter. Thinking he might lose, Ali gave his best performance in the 15th round and won what many consider to be his best fight.

Sugar Ray Leonard v. Marvin Hagler, April 6, 1987, Paradise, Nevada. Leonard had been retired from boxing when he saw Hagler almost lose to John Mugabi. The middleweight champ looked slow and Leonard was convinced he could beat him. He sought a shot at the title and challenged Hagler in what was deemed by the press “The Superfight.” Angelo thought Hagler was especially dangerous. He decided that Leonard could only win by relying on speed and footwork. Much of the action hinged on pre-fight negotiations. Hagler was to make more money from the bout in return for giving Leonard a larger size boxing ring, bigger gloves and 12 rounds instead of 15. Leonard was in excellent shape after Angelo’s strict regimen, that required, in addition to calisthenics and sparring, two hours of tennis a day. Angelo had Leonard constantly on the move in the fight. The wider boxing ring gave the challenger more room to dodge Hagler’s assaults. The fight was an excellent showcase of pugilistic skill with numerous exchanges but no knockouts or knock downs. Leonard was drained at fight’s end but he won a split decision on points. He unseated Hagler to become middleweight champion of the world.

George Foreman v. Michael Moorer, November 5, 1994, Paradise, Nevada. It was 1987 when Foreman returned to boxing 10 years after his retirement. He wanted only to earn enough a money to subsidize a gym he owned in Houston. However, with one knockout after another, he had the makings to once again be champ. He called in Angelo in 1991 to train him after Evander Holyfield agreed to give him a shot at the title. Although the fight was a losing effort for Foreman, the old boxer surprised everyone by going the distance with Holyfield. It was three years later when Foreman got another chance. Michael Moorer had defeated Holyfield for the heavyweight title and agreed to fight Foreman. The bout began one-sided with the 27-year-old Moorer ahead in points. It was the ninth round when Angelo told Foreman he needed a knockout to win. Heavy and hard punches came Moorer’s way. The champ made himself vulnerable after he attacked with a flurry of jabs. Foreman threw a hard right that connected and Moorer went down for the 10 count. At 45, Foreman was the oldest person to become heavyweight champion of the world.

 

 

Editorial
BOYCOTT SAINT PAUL
The Columbus Statue Was Destroyed in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 10
PRIMO asks everyone to boycott the city until these conditions are met:
- Repair the statue
- Restore the statue
- Arrest and prosecute vandals
- Lt. Governor Flanagan apologize

  Nothing is worse than a criminal act, except when it seems a state’s lieutenant governor condones it. This is exactly what happened when Peggy Flanagan, lieutenant governor of Minnesota, all but cheered on vandals in Saint Paul who tore down the statue of Christopher Columbus there on June 10. Members and supporters of the American Indian Movement, an activist group founded in Minneapolis, gathered at the state Capitol, tied a rope around the neck of the bronze figure and pulled down the statue. It is reported that law enforcement were aware in advance the group wanted to destroy the statue but made no arrangements for a barrier or other form of protection. Devoid are any police officers in view attempting to stop the crime.
   Governor Tim Walz vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice at a press conference convened on June 11.
   Since then, however, no arrests have been made. Many videos are available on YouTube and elsewhere to view the criminal act occurring in broad daylight by vandals, one of whom has been identified as Mike Forcia. American Indian Movement took full responsibility for the statue’s destruction and even went so far as to indicate their criminal intentions to law enforcement in advance. And yet…there have been no arrests.
   Although such vandalism remains shocking and unwarranted, it still does not match the incendiary and injudicious remarks of Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. She followed the governor at a press conference a day after the assault. The second highest ranking figure in Minnesota said she would not “shed a tear” for Columbus. She accused the explorer, without foundation, of having sold girls as sex slaves. “There is no honor in the legacy of Christopher Columbus,” she said. In reference to the taking down of the statue, she quipped, “I am not sad to see it gone.”
   The lack of arrests might not be too surprising when the state’s own lieutenant governor says things than many could reasonably interpret as endorsing vandalism and the criminal destruction of property.
   The time has come to make a stand. All Italian Americans and all people who support the rule of law, who cherish history, public art and demand responsible government must take action.
   PRIMO urges Italian Americans and all Americans to boycott Saint Paul, Minnesota.
   The words of the lieutenant governor and the criminal act of vandals are unacceptable. Equally appalling are the lack of arrests. The lieutenant governor presides over Minnesota’s Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board. Questions arise as to whether she will preside fairly over the board and decide without any bias against Italian American interests the art and architectural works for the state Capitol. Considering her remarks about Columbus and the destruction of his bronze rendering, one can reasonably presume that she will not serve Italian Americans equal to others of her state. Her apology to Italian Americans could do much to quell such concerns.
   The Columbus statue was erected in Saint Paul in 1931 as a gift to the people of Minnesota by Italian immigrants and their descendants in the state. Italians had settled in Saint Paul to work as bricklayers and carpenters in the burgeoning construction trade. Many of the landmark buildings in Saint Paul, including the state Capitol, itself, with a dome modeled after Saint Peter’s Basilica and designed by Michelangelo in Rome, was built, in part, by Italian labor. From poor and desperate circumstances in Italy they came to live, work and eventually open a wide range of family businesses in Saint Paul. Italians became proud citizens of their adopted city, state and country.
   In the mid-1920s, members of the Italian Progressive Club in Duluth conceived of a monument dedicated to Columbus. Other Italian American organizations and clubs supported the idea and donations were collected among Italians, numbering then about 10,000 in the state.
   Bigotry and discrimination were experienced by many Italians in Minnesota. Iron Range is a moniker given to a key region of the state where Italians faced considerable persecution. Peter DeCarlo and Mattie Harper wrote in the online newspaper MinnPost in 2008 that “Iron Range officials called southern Italians, ‘inefficient and worthless … fit for but the lowest grades of work in the open-pit mines.’ Whole towns were disqualified from being ‘white’ if too many Southern Europeans lived there. Although Italian-American Minnesotans faced discrimination throughout the state, it was most prominent in the Iron Range region.” The writers continue, “Starting in the 1890s a racial ideology of Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, and Nordic superiority held sway in America and served as the basis for ‘whiteness.’ This ideal of Northern European ancestry excluded many immigrants, including Southern Europeans, from full-fledged participation in American society.”
   With passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, Italians in Minnesota sought to counter a rise in racism and bigotry directed against them and others from Southern Europe. They hoped the Christopher Columbus monument could help them gain greater acceptance in the state. The statue was a token of thanks to the people of Minnesota but also a reminder to them that a person from Italy founded the New World. Carlo Brioschi, an Italian immigrant, was hired as the sculptor to create an exceptional rendering of Columbus. As is true throughout history, a stunning work of art can bring people together in awe and reflection. This is exactly what happened when the statue was unveiled on a cold winter’s day in 1931. On hand for the ceremony were Italian Americans throughout the Midwest, along with the governor of Minnesota and other public officials who made speeches praising Columbus, the statue and the Italian people of the state.
The destruction of the statue of Columbus on June 10 is a renewal of intolerance and bigotry for Italian Americans in Minnesota. A work of sculpture that was intended to heal the pain of persecution was destroyed in broad daylight by their Native American neighbors. The cruel and heartless remarks of the lieutenant governor sends a clear message that Italian Americans are not welcome in Minnesota.
   Saint Paul adjoins Minneapolis as the state’s most populated area. The riots that all but destroyed the Twin Cities will go down as a sad chapter in American history. The death of George Floyd by local police remains tragic and unnecessary. Now is the time for the Twin Cities to rebuild and bring people to the region. We Italian Americans are willing to help and visit the city to spend our money on the many tourist attractions of the area. However, that will not happen if the statue of Columbus is not repaired, restored and put back on its former pedestal. Those that unlawfully destroyed the statue must be brought to justice and an apology from Lieutenant Governor Flanagan must be made to Italian Americans of Minnesota and the country.
   Saint Paul has much to offer visitors. Yet, we Italian Americans, who number 20 million in the country, will boycott the city. We will not tour the many landmarks and famous mansions along Summit Avenue in Saint Paul. We will not visit the Como Zoo and museums of the city. There are many fine hotels and restaurants in Saint Paul but Italian Americans will not patronize them. We will not stay there overnight. We extend the boycott also to the Minnesota Twins and other professional sports teams in the Twin Cities.
   The boycott will continue until the monument and statue of Columbus is repaired, restored and returned to its pedestal in the Minnesota State Capitol where it had been since 1931. We will continue the boycott until those who took down the statue are arrested and prosecuted. We demand that Lieutenant Governor Flanagan apologize for her mean spirited remarks that can reasonably be interpreted as condoning the criminal act of tearing down the statue of Columbus, a proud symbol of the Italian American community in Minnesota and the country.

Editor’s Note: The following link is a video, one of many, of the tearing down of the Columbus statue in St. Paul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9dZZ3Y5_Is. Video footage of the governor’s press conference in Saint Paul is seen here: https://www.fox9.com/video/695794. At five minutes and 30 seconds into the press conference, Lieutenant Governor Flanagan makes her remarks about Columbus and the Columbus statue.

 

 

The Covid Chronicles
TWELFTH WEEK
MONEY FROM MERKEL’S PURSE
Should Italy Take European Union Funds to Pay for Coronavirus?
“I am the one to do the sums,” says Italy’s PM; “A Trap,” says Lega
- Opera instead of fireworks for the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist
- No lines at the Uffizi

By Deirdre Pirro


Pictures: Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany, meets with her
Italian counterpart, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The famous Uffizi
Gallery in Florence had shorter lines and less visitors to Covid-19.

This is the end of the 12th partial lockdown in Florence. We still need to take extra care, wear a mask and gloves as the coronavirus is still lurking out there.

One thing is for certain in Italy, politics is never dull and, during the last week, even less so than usual. Yet again it concerns the soap opera of whether or not Italy should accept the funds for coronavirus-related health system expenses from the the EU's European Stability Mechanism (ESM). On 27th June, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave an interview to La Stampa newspaper. She said "the Recovery Fund cannot solve all the [economic] problems, but without it the problems would be worse. Too high unemployment in a country can have an explosive effect. The dangers to democracy would, at that point, be greater.” She then added, "Italy should think about activating the ESM." For once, the response was not slow in coming. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte replied, "I respect her opinions, but nothing has changed. But I am the one to do the sums, together with the Minister of the Economy and Finance Roberto Gualtieri, the State accountants and the Ministers.” It could, however, be that the PM' s strongman stance is simply a play for time given that he is currently in a difficult situation. Owing his elevation to the role of PM to the Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S), founded by comedian Beppe Grillo and now deceased web strategist Gianroberto Casaleggio, and never having been voted in by the people, Conte is now in a position where the M5S strongly opposes accepting the ESM fund. On the other hand, its coalition party in government, the Partito Democratico (PD), together with its splinter group Italia Viva, led by the former PM and ex-mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, as well as a major opposition party, Berlusconi's Forza Italia, want the funds as quickly as possible. To add confusion to chaos the other two major opposition parties, the Lega and Fratelli d'Italia are also contrary to accepting the money, believing it to be “a trap” and “a not very reliable resource,” witnessed by the fact that, at present, other countries like France, Spain and Portugal have decided not to apply for ESM funds.

On 25th June, students, parents, teachers and teachers' unions demonstrated in 70 squares throughout the country protesting against guidelines for reopening schools in September by the Minister of Education Lucia Azzolina. They claim that these guidelines provide neither resources nor personnel to make them viable.

There is also concern in Mondragone, in the province of Caserta, which has recently become a coronavirus hot spot. From a second screening, another 28 people tested positive, after the initial discovery of 23 cases of contagion mainly among Bulgarians, seasonal workers in agriculture in the area.

Name and blame time has begun in one of three worst coronavirus hit Italian regions, in Reggio Emilia also. The public prosecutor's office there ordered the exhumation and autopsy of the bodies of 18 old people who died in the recent months in a nursing home in Montecchio Emilia. Five people, including the director and other managers, are now under investigation and risk being charged with manslaughter or with the crime of culpable negligence against public health.

On 28th June, President Sergio Mattarella took part in a commemoration of the over 6,000 victims of Covid-19 in Bergamo and surrounding areas. The moving Messa da Requiem of Gaetano Donizetti was performed before invited guests at Bergano's Monumental Cemetery and was transmitted live on TV and on the web.

Here in Florence, the mayor, Dario Nardelli, in an interview to the local press revealed that the loss of revenue coming from tourism caused by the pandemic has brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy. From $200 million in tourist revenue in 2019, this year, it has virtually dwindled to nil. This will escalate when visitors from the United States, Russia, Brazil and Qatar are refused entry after international travel opened up on July 1st. Lack of revenue from American students studying abroad who will, not for the present, be resuming their programs in Florence can only deepen the dire situation. The mayor estimated that about 10,000 apartments available for short time rents, many hotels and restaurant were now empty. The city's coffers were also deprived of about 48.8 million euro of revenue from the local tourist tax on which they strongly depended. He went as far as to say he was ready “to put the city's buildings up as collateral” if only the Italian Constitution allowed cities to get into debt. Unfortunately, it does not; so the mayor of this beautiful town has a serious problem. He has to find a solution to and his political future may depend upon it.

On the brighter note, this week, Florence, together with Turin and Genoa, celebrated the feast day of their patron, Saint John the Baptist. It is a holiday and, in normal times, a Mass is held in the cathedral in the morning followed, in the afternoon, with the final game of historic football in costume in piazza Santa Croce. Later, a rowing competition takes place along the Arno river and, finally, at 10 p.m., a magnificent fireworks display is launched from piazzale Michelangelo, mirroring their lights in the river below. But not so this year. Instead, Florence was illuminated by a light show of its major monuments, the highlight being three streams of light beamed onto the lantern at the top of Brunelleschi's Dome. In the cathedral, Zubin Mehta conducted the orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino opera house while the singer-songwriter, Irene Grandi, performed in the Palazzo Vecchio’s “Salone dei Cinquecento.”

Whilst I am still breaking full lockdown slowly, I took one major step out into the world this last week. Because I believe it will be difficult to see Florence in the future so empty of tourists, I decided I wanted to visit museums and monuments. I had not visited them for years because I hate queues and jostling among the crowds to enjoy them. So my first stop on Sunday morning was the Uffizi Gallery. In contrast with today, in 2019, this art gallery had counted 4,391,895 visitors, an increase of 33.2 percent compared to the year before! I booked my visit and entered without difficulty and on time with no hustle and bustle. Two hours of sheer visual delight awaited me. Next visit this coming weekend will be to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

 

 

GREETING CARDS, ITALIAN STYLE
Artist Kelly Cerami Puts Her Skills to Good Use in Designing a New Line of Italian Themed Greeting Cards, Business Cards and Other Products
“My love for art and my Italian heritage inspire and influence me the most.”


       
           

Chicago based artist Kelly Cerami was interviewed by PRIMO about her new line of Italian themed greeting cards and other products. Here is what she has to say about her work and how Italy inspires her creative designs.

Please tell us your family background in Italy?
 
My famiglia is from Villalba Caltanissetta Sicily. My inlaws are from Palermo.

What led you to produce greeting cards, gift and business cards with Italian themes?

I was not able to find Italian greeting cards in stores. I decided that to put my graphic design skills to use and create a line of Italian greeting cards. I wanted to showcase my love for the Italian art and culture. I have a card for every season and holiday from CIAO to Ti Amo to Buon Compleanno to Buona Befana.

Where did you learn graphic design?

I went to the Art Institute / Dominican University Illinois. I went to school for Fine Art and Graphic Design. My love for art, especially Italian art, started at a young age when I found out that I was good at creating. I have won awards, sold art and even started an Italian Art League – Casa Italia Chicago Art League. However, I am most proud of creating a line greeting cards and other products for the Italian community; that truly needs to be recognized.

What is your approach to graphic design?

My approach is to write ideas down and draw figures; whatever comes to me. Sometimes, ideas just flow, and I need to design my them. Then I decide if I like what I have done.

Who or what has most influenced you the most? 

My love for art and my Italian heritage inspire and influence me the most. Each Italian-inspired design is created out of love for the Italian culture (food, wine and art).

What is your strongest skill and how have you developed it over the years?

One of my strongest is looking at something and knowing if the piece flows. I sometimes drive myself crazy when looking at a piece and deciding if it is evenly spaced or needs a new element.

Editor’s Note: Kelly Cerami has an array of fun and creative Italian themed greeting cards and other products. You can review and purchase her work at https://ceramidesign.com/. To learn more about the Chicago Italian Art League, please log on to http://casaitaliachicago.org?

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial
BOYCOTT RICHMOND
The Columbus Statue Was Destroyed in the City on June 9
PRIMO asks everyone to boycott Richmond tourism until these conditions are met:
- Repair the statue
- Restore the statue
- Arrest and prosecute vandals

 

  With a wave of Christopher Columbus statues and monuments vandalized and removed by a host of municipalities, PRIMO urges all Italian Americans and Americans of all races and ethnicities who appreciate history, public art and the rule of law to make a collective stand.
   Statues that depict Columbus were given as gifts to cities by Italian Americans with the understanding that the recipients were to maintain and protect the artworks. Their destruction in recent weeks is a breach of that trust and a national disgrace. What is worse is that some mayors, members of city councils, governors and other officials have either applauded the destruction or remained silent and, thus, have greeted the vandalism with ambivalence.
   This will not stand.
   Our focus here is on the city of Richmond.
   The statue of Columbus was taken down from its pedestal in Richmond’s Byrd Park on June 9 and was grossly defaced with paint and thrown into a nearby lake. Expression of outrage neither came from Richmond’s mayor Levar Stoney nor most members of the city council. There was no press conference convened to condemn the vandalism. There was no public voice of outrage at the criminal act and no expressed commitment on the part of the mayor, police chief and district attorney to capture and prosecute the perpetrators. There have been no arrests, as of today.
   We presume from the tepid reaction of Richmond’s mayor and other officials that the statue will remain destroyed with little priority, if any, to bringing the offenders to justice.
   Hence, PRIMO calls for a boycott of the city of Richmond.
   We urge all Italian Americans and Americans of all races and ethnicities, who appreciate public art, history and the rule of law not to visit Richmond and that city’s varied tourist attractions and those of the surrounding region.
   Richmond, a city of 210,000 residents, has in recent years seen an increase in violent crime and other social ills after a period of some revitalization. Indeed, the city’s population was declining until a rebound began 20 years ago only to wane in recent years.
   Tourism is vital to Richmond’s economy and generates some 20,000 jobs and $2 billion annually. According to the Visit Richmond web site, “If not for tourism spending, Richmond Region households would pay an additional $585 per year in taxes.” After the coronavirus lockdown, Richmond is understandably anxious to get the city’s economy going again and tourism is a big part of that recovery.
   Now is not the time for Richmond to alienate Italian Americans - some 20 million - and dissuade us from visiting the city.
   Hence, our boycott is aimed at Richmond’s tourism industry.
   The city is near the I-95 interstate. We ask those who are driving this summer to points south, such as Virginia Beach, the Carolinas, Georgia or Florida, to forgo spending night(s) in any hotel, motel or other establishment within the city or an outlining area of 25 miles. Please do not utilize gasoline stations, snack shops or eateries within a 25 mile sphere of Richmond, either while driving south or north on I-95.
   Richmond is a city with many museums dedicated to fine arts, science and history. There is the Old Dominion Railway Museum and a museum on the life of Edgar Allan Poe. There are many historical buildings and landmarks. We ask all not to visit them. Please keep away from all tourist attractions in Richmond. Do not attend any events or conferences scheduled there. Please do not convene a family vacation or reunion anywhere within 25 miles of the city. Please stay away.
   We call for a boycott of Richmond to last until the following conditions are met: 1.) The repair and restoration of the statue of Columbus, 2.) Reinstallation of the Columbus statue in its original location at Byrd Park, 3.) The arrest(s) and prosecution of those who vandalized the statue and their co-conspirators by police and the district attorney. We understand that investigations are not fool proof. Hence, if the two former conditions are met and the third is satisfied by a discernible effort on the part of law enforcement, then the boycott is lifted.
   To allow the destruction of the Columbus statue is to affirm what was, briefly, a sad chapter for Richmond. Ethnocentrism and religious intolerance were the initial reactions by the city’s fathers when the edifice was proposed by the Italian American community there 100 years ago.
   Back then, the city’s small yet close knit Italian American community was led by Frank Realmuto, a barber who raised funds for the statue, hired the sculptor and coordinated the installation. A coalition of city residents that included some members of the Ku Klux Klan successfully lobbied the city to refuse donating land for the statue. Reasons given were that Columbus was a Roman Catholic and a foreigner and, as such, not a worthy figure to stand among edifices paying tribute to Confederate heroes. A compromise was brokered after newspapers from all over the country wrote editorials condemning the decision of the city council. Land near Byrd Park was then set aside for the statue. Ferruccio Legnaioli, an Italian immigrant, designed the structure. A ceremony was held in December 1926 when the statue was finally unveiled. In attendance was Virginia’s governor, the Italian ambassador, the city mayor, members of the city council, and Richmond’s Italian American community. What began as a dark moment became a proud day in Richmond’s history.
   Sad then that the Columbus statue was torn down and destroyed with such hatred by vandals and met with such ambivalence by Richmond’s leaders. The statue is actually a testament to how Richmond was divided but came together in understanding and compromise and a great work of art was erected. To allow the statue of Columbus to remain broken and off its pedestal is to accede to the past spirit of bigotry and religious intolerance of the city. To avoid justice and not arrest and prosecute the vandals that destroyed the statue is a slap in the face of those Italian Americans who sought to thank their city of adoption with a worthy statue of the discoverer of the Americas. For Richmond to do nothing is a clear signal that all Italian Americans are not welcome there.
   The boycott stands until the statue of Columbus is fully restored and the vandals are brought to justice.

 

 

YES TO BOYCOTTS, NO TO QUARANTINES
Imposing a Quarantine on Visitors from Another State is Wrong
What NY, NJ and Connecticut are doing is immoral
“This is just payback…”

By Christopher Binetti

  Do you feel American anymore? I am not sure that I ever felt accepted by most Americans but I feel more like an Italo-Jerseyan than ever before. The nation is falling apart, not just the rule of law, but the very sense of a common cause between the fifty states. I feel strange coming to you, the Italian American people, and proposing two different and seemingly contradictory statements - boycotts are needed but the kind of two-week quarantines being enforced right now at the time of my writing against the states of Texas, Arizona, Florida, and others are wrong.
   You must be scratching your collective heads. He is about to write in favor of boycotts while at the same time refusing to agree to quarantining whole groups of people in his name, you say under your breath. After all, Texas has never accepted us, nor Arizona, and much of Florida still does not accept us.
   At the same time, you will argue that if quarantines against groups of people are wrong, then so must be boycotts. After all, the most logical boycotts would be against whole states, such as Minnesota and Ohio. Is not boycotting a whole state just as bad as quarantining whole groups of people based strictly on state origin?
   Why are we boycotting places? I am not calling for a boycott of Richmond or of Boston. I will not call for a boycott of a 50 percent black, poor city that is run by a bad guy who does not care about his city (Richmond). I will not call for a boycott of Virginia because my Italian American friend and his Italian children (also Chinese American) will be affected by it. Boston can be negotiated with, so I will not call for a boycott upon it (yet). Massachusetts is still home to many of us to safely boycott it right now.
   The places where a boycott makes sense are the city of Columbus, perhaps the state of Ohio, and all of Minnesota. In Columbus, the mayor acted against the laws and constitution of his own state. A boycott will work without hurting anyone. Even the threat of a massive boycott over civil rights, in this pro-civil rights atmosphere, will bow the mayor, who does not have the support of the city council, from what I can tell. The State of Ohio, with its long history of anti-Italian racism is a also a prime target. Moreover, Ohio has Democrats and Republican in the State in abundance, making our boycott strictly non-partisan.
   The boycott of Minnesota is based on the clear legal and constitutional violations by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor, as well as the State Patrol, that stood by while Colombo was lynched in front of a cheering, hateful crowd. We need also to challenge Native American power and privilege, but that is mostly for another article. That said, we will force people to realize that Native Americans are just too powerful in hateful Minnesota. We need to make the civil rights argument against Minnesota.
   So, you can boycott a state or city but can you quarantine a state or city? I think that you cannot. You must have seen the news. Shaun King of the Black Lives Matter Monument wants to smash the Jesus statues in most churches, particularly I think Catholic churches. He views Jesus as a hateful symbol. I cannot let him be right, not this week. As a devout but flawed practicing Catholic who seeks to be a good role model for his nieces, I cannot in good conscience harm my own persecutors through the positive punishment of quarantines.
   In psychology, there are two types of punishments, positive and negative. Positive punishment is lie a quarantine, forcing people to endure suffering as a form of revenge, which is what these quarantines are, not good-faith public health and safety measures. Texas and Florida in particular did this kind of two-week forced quarantine thing to New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, and this is just payback, plain and simple. There is also a partisan element to it, since the three main states (Florida, Arizona, and Texas) affected by this are Republican strongholds or are perceived to be so.
   The other kind of punishment is called negative punishment- the withholding of something rather than the infliction of suffering. Boycotts are negative punishments, while quarantines are positive punishments. A negative punishment for bad behavior in children is no dessert, while the child-equivalent for quarantines is child abuse. Clearly, there is no moral equivalence between boycotts and quarantines when you think of it this way.
   So, we should not punish Texas and Florida (and more incidentally Arizona) through quarantines that are unconstitutional anyway. Government cannot simply lock up an entire state’s people for two weeks without a better, more narrowly-tailored way of separating out real health and safety concerns from red herrings. Also, states are not supposed to be able to interfere with interstate commerce like this. Quarantines are state action and thus are subject to intense civil rights and civil liberties scrutiny under the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions.
   However, boycotts by Italian Americans, not endorsed by the state, are not state actions. I do not believe in state entities boycotting other state entities, pretty much for any reason other than civil war. I do not want the State of New Jersey or municipalities to boycott Texas, which San Francisco (which is a terrible place for Italians to live) actually does. No, state boycotts are morally wrong and unconstitutional and I do not support them.
   Instead, individuals an groups of people, even ethnic groups have the moral and legal right to boycott states and cities, which are really state entities. Frankly, I like boycotting whole states, since under the state and federal constitutions, state governments can overrule pretty much everything that a city does. So, why not hold a state that allows immoral and unconstitutional municipal actions to stand accountable for those actions through entirely peaceful boycotts?
   Boycotts by people against states are just us refusing to help those who hate us. However, quarantines are doing direct harm to our adversaries and this both immoral and unconstitutional, even if we are righteous Democratic heroes and they are benighted Republican scoundrels. To politicize public safety and health measures and to use them too broadly just to harm one’s adversaries, one’s supposed fellow Americans is unworthy of us all.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion as expressed in the article may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

 

120 artists have created 99 murals that have a total length of 1,260 metres, second only to the Berlin Wall. The Art Mile, inaugurated in May last year, in the Roman district of Torraccia, is an explosion of beauty and an example of how public spaces can be turned into surprising works of art. PRIMO Magazine went to visit an unknown Roman area which is way out of the city’s centre, and definitely way out of the ordinary.

THE ART MILE IN ROME
A Sound Barrier of Suburban Beauty
Torraccia - the city’s poorest district now has art and purpose

Text and photos: JesperStorgaard Jensen


In today's Rome - tormented by what seems to be an unstoppable decay - it is particularly pleasing to celebrate the one-year-anniversary of a project that tries to bring the city closer to new forms of beauty, the regeneration of abandoned areas together with the aggregation of communities around art.
   This is exactly what happened in May last year, when n extraordinary art project, The Mile Art, was inaugurated in the presence of Rome’s Mayor, Virginia Raggi. The display is located in the Torraccia and San Basilio district, in the northeastern part of the Italian capital, close to the city’s huge ring road. The promoter is the cultural association Arte e Città a Colori (Art and Colorful Cities). PRIMO went to talk to its president, Francesco Galvano, to find out more about this project.
   On arrival in Torraccia, a neighborhood built at the end of the 1980s, the importance of having created a work so full of light and life becomes abundantly clear. This suburban neighborhood really seems to be on the edge of reality, with rows of anonymous public housing and many social problems. But now it has an attraction that draws both Roman and non-Roman visitors.
   I approach the beginning of the area. Here, there is a sign with the words - "Welcome to the Art Mile - 99 murals and 120 artists for an Open Air Museum" – that welcomes me, together with Francesco Galvano.
   The impact leaves you incredulous. The panels are about 13 feet hight (four meters) and nine feet wide (2.7 meters). There are about a hundred of them, divided into different sections. In all, they measure 4,133 feet (1,260 meters). "After the Berlin Wall, which surpasses the Art Mile by just 132 feet (40 meters), this is Europe's longest work of art,” Francesco tells me, understandably proud.

Apparently a mission impossible
As we start our walk, Francesco recounts, "The idea of this project came to me about three years ago, when some local people asked me: ‘why don't we try to use the noise barrier to do a street art project?’ The anti-noise barrier was placed at the end of the Torraccia district to cushion the hubbub of traffic from the ring road,” Francesco explains.
   "The idea was good, but it really seemed like a mission impossible. Our association works to find large spaces where intervention is required, to change the appearance of a neighborhood, obviously to make it more beautiful and civilized. I knew, therefore, more or less what needed to be done, and right from the start I knew that there were so many things that needed to be sorted out,” he says.  
   It’s hard to disagree with him when you take a look around. Many years ago, in the 1930s, San Basilio was one of the first villages to be born, when many families in the center of Rome were forcibly moved to the suburbs to make room for the construction of new central roads. The former well-known urban planner, Paolo Berdini, called the new new development "distant suburbs,” while writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini was much less diplomatic, defining San Basilio simply "a concentration camp for Rome’s poor people.”
  "With a small group of locals and with the fundamental support of the so-called Retake Group Torraccia (Retake is a non-profit organization in Rome that works on various regeneration projects, ed.), we began to clean up the whole area. The grass was growing wild and was quite high. Then we had to send away shady characters who were dealing drugs. It was only a year later, when the area had been suitably cleared, that we were able to start the core project,” explains Francesco.
   Today the lawn is nicely manicured, the plants are pruned, the benches have been painted and young trees stand side by side with the older ones. Together with Francesco I move on as I contemplate the many artworks. You really need to pause every 10 steps or so to take in all the detail from each individual piece of work. One of the first murals depicts Don Luigi De Liegro, founder of Caritas (Italian organization of emergency aid, ed.), who died in 1997, accompanied by the words "Love and share.” He is followed by Little Red Riding Hood who hugs a frightened wolf, two teenagers on the beach saying "I like you,” the judges Borsellino and Falcone, who were killed by the mafia and Peppino Impastato, who met the same fate. It is indeed a colorful experience, full of meaning and important civil and social values.
  "You will surely see many well-known personalities, painted to highlight some of the themes covered throughout the work: Here we pay tribute to nature and the environment, we defend the most socially marginalized classes and we also say no to violence against women.”

A choral work
The project was brought about from a choral work: 120 artists were involved - some well-known street artists, together with artists that are totally unknown to the general public, as well as local youngsters. Even foreign artists have participated, e.g. from Venezuela, United States and the Philippines.
   Everyone worked without receiving any remuneration. The materials were paid for with crowdfunding which the local people organized.
   The murals are full of human and pedagogical messages: Two stylized children are accompanied by the phrase "Don't compare children to each other, you can't compare the sun and the moon, they shine when it's the right time.”
   In front of all this beauty I immediately feel concerned. How do you protect yourself from the notorious Roman writers, those who are signaling their passage with often vandalistic tendencies?
   “Well, before starting the project we identified the signatures of the local writers, and we contacted them in order to involve them in the project. And they accepted happily. In doing so we motivated them to safeguard the murals. I hope it will work,” says Francesco.
   To understand the stories behind each of the 99 murals you could easily spend an entire day in Torraccia. I ask Francesco about some artworks, including one that depicts a teenage boy standing among the stones, with the sea behind him.
    "Among the murals there is one in particular with quite a special story,” Francesco says. “This is the case of Federico, a boy who died of fulminant meningitis earlier this year. He was 15 years old. His mother had asked me to dedicate a mural to him and of course we wanted to fulfill her wish. The artist is called foko 127. He is a policeman who is an artist in his spare time. Look ... he also quoted a small part of an Eros Ramozzoti-song, ‘From the Other Part of the Infinite,’ which Federico liked very much. Her mother told me that since this mural has been there, she no longer goes to the cemetery. She prefers to come here, to be with her son.”
   I take a good look at that image which is accompanied by Ramazzotti's words: "Nothing has passed, nothing is over, you have only slipped into the other side, to the infinity, we’ll meet again, where the horizon meets the open sea".
   Francesco Galvano is rightly aware of how aesthetics have embraced a powerful symbolism in the Art Mile. Yet he doesn't rest on his laurels. "We have a new project in the pipeline," he adds, "that is, to put a plaque under each work, with the artist's name and a brief explanation of the meaning of the work itself. Having this information would enrich the mural itself. Then my dream is to organize guided tours. Only this way will it be possible to fully enjoy this amazing work.”
   Another plan for the future is to create periodic cultural events in this area. It used to be "a concentration camp for the poor", but today, instead, it seems like a small corner of Switzerland, where every color tells a story of its own.

Editor's Note: Arte e Città a Colori - www.facebook.com/artecittacolori/

 

The Covid Chronicles
ELEVENTH WEEK
LOTS OF TALK BUT LITTLE ACTION
Prime Minister Conte Holds a Summit at the Villa Doria Pamphili
- Enjoying Florentine cafe while wearing a mask and gloves

By Deirdre Pirro

 


Villa Doria Pamphili

This is the end of the eleventh and beginning of the twelfth week of now partial lockdown in Florence.

I am a little later in presenting my chronicle this week as I have been waiting to report more fully on Italian Prime Minister Conte's latest brain child. He calls it the "estates general on the economy,” a nine day summit that began on June 13th and aims to map out Italy's economic recovery from Covid-19.

Staged at Rome's magnificent Villa Doria Pamphili, the gathering convened with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressing the audience on conference call. She assured, "Europe will be by Italy's side because it needs a strong Italy.” Other leaders from international organizations such as the OECD, IMF, ECB, Harvard and MIT were expected to speak, together with government ministers and local experts on the economy and society. The summit is not, however, open to the public. City mayors were not invited or were journalists except for a select few. Opposition parties (Forza Italia, the Lega and Fratelli d'Italia) refused to attend believing that such important questions should be debated in parliament.

The prediction is that the “estates general” will rest on nine main pillars, which were already widely known before the event ever started. These include the digital revolution, infrastructure, the green economy, industry 4.0, supply chains, simplification and reform of the public administration, the health system, justice administration and research. It's hard not to wonder how many struggling factory owners and small businesses could have been helped from the money spent on this extravaganza. There are some 400,000 workers in Italy who are still waiting for the promised payments from the State redundancy fund and an equal number of workers who have not yet registered.

More mystifying than ever is that on June 8th, Vittorio Colao, chair of the government's much trumpeted Task Force presented his long-awaited “report” entitled “Initiative for the Relaunch of Italy 2020-2022.” Fifty pages long, the communique contains a little over 100 proposals for Italy's recovery. These are divided into six chapters: Companies and Employment; Infrastructure and the Environment; Tourism, Art and Culture; Public Administration; Education, Research and Skills; Individuals and Families. He suggests measures will take up to 12 mouths to implement.

Following the release of the Task Force report, the prime minister informed us that "it is an important contribution, but it is not political.” In other words, it would be politicians to relaunch the country. Then why bother with a Task Force in the first place? Furthermore, it makes the Estates General look as though they are trying reinvent a wheel that has already been invented and paid for profusely. Added to this, no other European country has engaged in such a spectacle. Instead, like Germany and France, they have reacted swiftly and made concrete efforts to solve their economic problems. Meanwhile, Italy has spent well over a week in an ivory tower just talking, talking, nothing but talking.

The other major event in this week concerns high school kids in their final year. On June 17th, they began their exams for graduation. Already disadvantaged after being home schooled since the end of February 2020, students will not take a written exam but, instead, face only an hour of oral questions. The interrogating commission will be made up of teachers from the students' school and not an external commission as before. The system of evaluation will be based on overall performance during their five years of high school.

Here in Florence, I am still breaking full lockdown very timidly. The weather has not helped as we have had a very rainy introduction to summer. The wet days are predicted to last in central Italy for at least another week or so. Maybe it's a good thing as the water will wash the virus off the streets. I did, however, manage a morning coffee with a friend I had not seen since March. Masked and gloved, we met at a cafe nearby the market where we noticed that most cafes along the street placed their distanced tables on the curbside as customers want to sit in the open air.

Under my apartment, the small playground has reopened with social distancing still the rule; as it is easy to see an almost impossible task for mothers to keep their toddlers from running about and hugging and kissing their playmates, despite their mini-masks. Strangely, I had become used to the absolute silence over these last weeks and I now miss it.

Magazines articles have appeared in Italy explaining that, after these months of home working and lockdown, many women say they have put on weight because of reduced physical exercise and have become used to wearing more “comfortable” clothes. Fashion houses are, therefore, now working on collections that will feature this new looser-fitting but still elegant styles. It made me think of when women freed themselves of those cumbersome crinolines! So I, for one, can't wait to renew my wardrobe...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

 

 

 

Opinion
A CALL FOR ACTION
Italian Americans Must March, Boycott, Sue and Demand Equal Protection Under the Law
“We have a right not to be erased.”

By Christopher Binetti

  Four statues of the first immigrant to the Americas, Cristoforo Colombo, were attacked and other statues depicting him have been removed by local governments.
   Only in Miami, a Latino-majority city, were Columbo statues spared. That is because the Latino mayor and mostly Latino police force respects Colombo or at least understands what he means to so many Latino and Italian Americans. Attacking Colombo is xenophobic, racist, and Italophobic, as well as Hispanophobic. After all, he worked for Spain and without him, there would be no Latinos.
   Black Lives Matter (BLM) is now the predominant civil rights movement in America. Some of the movement’s supporters who are rightly angry at systemic racism in America and police brutality have resorted to violence. They have taken their frustrations out on Italian symbols and public works of art.
   The governor of Minnesota called the lynching and take-down of the Colombo statue there as “civil disobedience.” No, it is not. This was rioting, plain and simple. Italians should boycott and march in protest against Minnesota until we get our statute back, an apology, arrests and prosecutions for those who vandalized the artwork.
   “Italian Lives Matter” should not be a banned phrase, but I guarantee you that GoFundMe will ban it, so will Twitter, Facebook and perhaps YouTube. No one cares about Italian lives. Even Italian American politicians such as Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts, will routinely harm the Italian American community to impress suburban white progressives.
   We will be erased if we do not protest, march, sue, and boycott. Philadelphia has begun erasing us. The Boston mayor says that he will not repair or replace the decapitated Colombo statue there or aggressively prosecute rioters. Richmond’s government is equally bigoted against Italians. Our cultural symbols are protected under civil rights and hate crime laws and we will ensure that these laws are followed, including legal action against rioters, the cops that did not stop the assault, mayors, governors, etc…
   Italians are not white but letting white progressives call us white has allowed them to stereotype us, ridicule us, take away our representation, make us poorer and less elite, and now erase us. I am a liberal Democrat but I will not play for the white progressives any longer. Native American activists say they no longer wish to be peaceful. Italian American will not follow their wrongheaded call. Instead, our civil rights activists will be peaceful and we will not allow our cultural property destroyed. That means suing, peacefully marching, organizing voters and boycotting offending jurisdictions.
   It is time for Italians to finally receive equality and civil rights in this country. Many Italians will not march due to threats to their lives and property. This is not just about property or cultural symbols. Italians have never successfully marched for our civil rights and so we have never fully earned them. In order to march, we must feel safe. We feel unsafe because our lives do not matter to most politicians outside Miami and New York City.
   We have a right not to be erased. We have a right to march safely. We have a right to have our cultural heroes represented. We are not like the pro-Confederate people, whom we condemn. Colombo was not a monster. The lies against him are simply that - lies. Many Latinos and Italians know the truth - that he was a flawed hero, like someone out of “Game of Thrones.” Italian lives are threatened because we know that no one cares about us and behind our back, bigotry and stereotyping comes out of white progressive mouths all of the time.
   So, when I say that Italian Lives Matter, it is because no one ever stands up for us. We are not even recognized as the persecuted minority that we are. It is time for us to not be afraid to march for our civil rights and protect our heroes, like Cristoforo Colombo.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion as expressed in the article may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

 

ITALIAN VINTNERS ARE READY FOR AN END TO COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
Webinar Panel Organized by Gruppo Italiano Featured Notable Figures in Italian and California Wines
No matter the crisis, Italian winemakers remain optimistic





Pictured: Gianfranco Sorrentino, Lamberto Frescobaldi, Peter Mondavi, Jr.,
Gino Colangelo, Nunzio Castaldo and Camilla Massimago

How have Italian and Italian American vintners been affected by the coronavirus lockdown? What can be done to adapt and still succeed in a time of pandemic?

These were key questions posed and answered at the recent webinar event organized by Gruppo Italiano, a non-profit organization in the United States that fosters an appreciation for Italian food and beverage through promotion and education.

Moderator for the webinar event was Gino Colangelo, principal at Colangelo & Partners, a food and beverage marketing company with offices in New York and San Francisco. This was part of the Italian Table Talks series presented by Gruppo Italiano with yesterday’s panel discussion titled “Has Covid-19 Uncorked a New World for Wines?”

The event was convened through videoconferencing and Mr. Colangelo was joined by some of the most notable figures in Italian and California wines. There was Lamberto Frescobaldi of the Frescobaldi winery of Tuscany who represented large vineyards as did Peter Mondavi, Jr., in California, co-proprietor of Charles Krug Winery, the oldest winery in Napa Valley. Nunzio Castaldo, president of Panebianco, LLC, a wine distribution company based in New York and New Jersey, was on hand with his perspective along with Camilla Massimago of Massimago Wines, a centuries old family vineyard in Verona, Italy. Two other participants were mainstays of New York such as Gianfranco Sorrentino, owner of Mozzarella & Vino, a restaurant serving fine Italian food on West 54 Street and William F. Dahill, an attorney and a partner at Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller LLP, with an office on Park Avenue.

Mr. Sorrentino began the event with a general introduction on how coronavirus severely curbed the activity of restaurants and eateries and unique challenges faced by the wine industry. Mr. Colangelo took over the discussion from there to claim that restrictions imposed by local and state governments had facilitated the use of digital media for wine makers. “Direct communication to customers has been accelerated by Covid,” said Mr. Colangelo. “Digital cannot entirely replace in-person sales and contacts, but it will be an increasing mode of communication in the years to come.”

Mr. Colangelo offered a silver lining approach to the current pandemic when he spoke. Finding opportunities in what otherwise might be a catastrophic crisis was picked up by the other participants and became the overriding theme of the webinar. He pointed out that “in 2019, there was a slight decline in wine sales of about one percent. In 2020, the trend is up and sales are up even with the onset of Covid.” He conveyed the latest industry reports where online wine sales surged by a staggering 234 percent and price categories of $25+ a bottle saw a marked increase in consumption. “The challenge,” he said, “was to ensure that Italian imports make up a significant part of this increase.”

Mr. Frescobaldi then spoke from his home in Tuscany and confirmed the serious consequences of coronavirus in Italy. “This is a grave challenge,” he said. “The crisis of Covid-19 is totally new for us. We’ve never seen anything like it.” Italy enjoys a diverse economy with tourism a key sector. Some 65 million people from all over the world visits Italy each year, spread out over 12 months. Italy’s nationwide lockdown began on March 9 and was only lifted in an initial phase on May 4. For almost two months, no one was allowed to enter Italy. The important tourism trade “was zero in those months,” said Mr. Frescobaldi and “posed a huge economic loss for Italy.” Nevertheless, he “sees the glass half full” and appreciates new egalitarian efforts to bring more children to the Italian countryside and break free from the confines of Covid-19.

Peter Mondavi, Jr. was asked to give his perspective on how coronavirus affected wineries in his region of California. “In Napa Valley, wineries accompany restaurants and the hospitality business,” he said. “All that has been shut down because of Covid-19. Now comes the re-opening process and that will be slow and take some time.” Founded in 1861 by its namesake, an immigrant from Prussia, Charles Krug is the oldest winery in Napa Valley. Mr. Mondavi’s family purchased Charles Krug in 1943. A diagram of the Mondavi family tree was shared in webinar with branches throughout California’s wine region and a family legacy synonymous with Napa Valley. “We had no background in wine-making,” he said about his grandparents Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, who emigrated from Italy’s Le Marche region to first settle in Minnesota only to pick up and move to California. His grandfather shipped wine grapes to customers to make wine in their homes during prohibition. Although an agricultural business steeped in tradition, Mr. Mondavi has utilized the latest technology to keep sales coming at a time of pandemic. “Our virtual and phone based sales efforts have been ramped up,” he said. “We have expanded sales efforts to include more online deliveries.” Maintaining an edge in the digital age relies on new ideas and concepts. “We try different ways to market our wines,” he said. “We recently convened a virtual family cooking class from our own kitchen and further engage our customers through virtual tastings.” Mr. Mondavi reflects on the impact of Covid-19 as one of many obstacles faced by his family over the years. “After four generations, we understand how to cope with challenging times and overcome adversity through perseverance.”

How to get wine from the producer to the customer was on the mind of Nunzio Castaldo when he was given the chance to speak. President of Panebianco, LLC, Mr. Castaldo has been a lead figure in promoting and selling Italian wines to liquor stores, restaurants, taverns and wine shops throughout New York and New Jersey. He looks forward to the lifting of restrictions when “millions go back to restaurants and people can drink a bottle of wine and enjoy a fine meal.” He spoke for many in his enthusiasm to break away from the confines of lockdown. “Life is coming back,” he said. “I can’t wait to go to my barber or share a coffee outside with a friend.” Mr. Castaldo expressed optimism in strong numbers from Texas, Florida and Georgia and other states that have already lifted restrictions. People are ready to socialize. “I read a survey, recently, that after lockdown, people will visit family, friends and then go to restaurants,” he said. “We can take advantage of the new momentum and sell our wines in a ripe market.” Mr. Castaldo made the analogy to the aftereffects of war when the damage is assessed and the time for rebuilding has come. He reminded the panel of what was most important. “Passion,” he said. “We have to remain passionate for what we do. Without passion we have nothing.”

Camilla Massimago spoke from Verona at her family’s winery. In Massimago Wines, she represented the small family owned producer, a key demographic in Italy’s wine industry. She echoed the sentiment of utilizing the latest technology to keep sales going. “We have to learn a new skill,” she said. “We have to entertain and share our knowledge with customers.” In order to keep in contact with buyers, old and new, communication by computer was constant. “We relied on digital and virtual tastings,” Miss Massimago said. “We entered many homes, some very far away.” She admitted that conditions are “never ideal” and adaptation is vital. Connections with customers must always be strong. “Wine is about relationships,” she said. “The customer must recognize the face behind the wine.” The pervasive silver lining was how “we save money from wholesale,” all but defunct during pandemic restrictions, “and invest the savings in promotion.”

Not just wine was discussed in the webinar. Attorney William Dahill was on hand to help businesses, large and small, survive coronavirus. His initial focus was on the Payment Protection Plan (PPP), voted in the United States Congress and signed by President Trump to provide guaranteed loans to businesses. Congress recently extended the time frame to use the money, he said, from eight to 24 weeks and he went on to remind the audience that “loans are still available.” Administrative requirements for PPP loans were extensive and some small businesses had difficulties in fulfilling the requirements. Hence, Mr. Dahill announced a new alternative to PPP at the state level. He conveyed the New York Forward Loan Fund, a $100 million trove enacted by the state legislature to help small businesses “adversely affected by Covid-19. However, these are not forgivable loans as in PPP. The New York loans have to paid back within 5 years.” To be eligible, a business must not have already received money from PPP and must have 20 or fewer employees. Mr. Dahill had more good news for the panel. Not just the state, but New York City has also come to the aid of small businesses. The focus is on commercial leases. A new law was passed in the city to absolve a guarantor from personal liability when his business defaults on a commercial lease due to Covid 19. “That guarantee is no longer enforceable,” Mr. Dahill said.

The panel finished with a brief question-and-answer period for the press, colleagues and members in the wine and restaurant business. Gianfranco Sorrentino, owner of Mozzarella & Vino, had the last word. In light of the lifting of restrictions and a return to going out, he said, “Nothing can substitute the pleasure of being in restaurant, ordering a fine meal and drinking a great wine with family and friends.”

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Gruppo Italiano and their upcoming webinars and events at www.gruppo-italiano.com

 

 

BASTA TO RIOTS
All Forms of Violence Must Be Condemned
Why Italian Americans Don’t Riot

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

   The riots sweeping across the country, from Minneapolis to Denver and beyond, were caused in part by the murder of George Floyd by four cops.
However, if four black cops had murdered an Italian, would Italian Americans riot?
    No, because the media and political elites do not encourage our worst tendencies the way they do a small minority of the black community. Colin Kaepernick, raised by two white parents and half-white himself (his biological mother was Italian American), called for more riots after the first night of riots in Minneapolis. The Denver riots broke out after Kaepernick incited them. Marc Lamont-Hill, professor of media studies at Temple University, called the riots a rebellion, a common radical word choice. Both Professor Lamont-Hill and Mr. Kaepernick used the internet to incite riots, a federal offense.
   Black nationalism is not new. It was behind the Detroit riot and more importantly in my community, the Newark riots of 1967. Black nationalists attacked and killed Italian and Portuguese Americans, little better off than themselves, and brutalized and murdered cops based on a lie. They made up a cause to riot, proving that black nationalists need no excuse to riot. Newark was seized from Italians and Portuguese Americans and is ruled by a son of one of the original black nationalist riot-leaders today.
   New Jersey has never recovered from the Newark riots. The Newark government recognizes the riots as a “good thing,” established by this current mayor. The Italian side about the riots is never written down or portrayed in film. In fact, the Sopranos movie is coming out which will blame the Italians, when they were some of the victims. Rioters are glorified as long as they are from marginalized communities. There are many people who support the LGBT Stonewall Riots of 1969, as well as the Newark Riots of 1967, the 2015 Baltimore riots, etc. No one supports right wing violence, like that of Charlottesville; and yet the chairman of the Democratic Part Tom Perez did not condemn the current riots in an email that I received as a loyal Democrat. No progress will be made as long as Tom Perez does not condemn these riots.
    The media often will claim the riots are protests, rebellions and uprisings. When people attack cops, however, or when buildings are burned down, that’s a riot. When businesses are destroyed, that’s a riot. When people attack the state to achieve through violent means what is unreasonable to expect from democracy. That’s a riot.
    The media and my party are emboldening the rioters. Italians suffer terribly from discrimination but we don’t riot. We shouldn’t riot. No one should riot. When Twitter put a warning label on Trump’s tweet against the riots, it chose to privilege Kaepernick’s criminal tweet inciting violence. No one on the Left, least of all our standard-bearer, Joe Biden, is condemning the riots. If Biden does not condemn the riots, he will lose in November. There is no defense for what is now happening.
    It is time for the Democrats to condemn riots, whether black nationalist ones or LGBT-related ones. Stonewall needs to be condemned for the violence that it was. Oppression does not justify violence. We must not privilege left-wing violence. I say this as a leftist.
    George Floyd was murdered by four cops. He did not deserve that. The police officers involved deserve to be punished. And the rioters need to be punished. There needs to be criminal sanctions against people like Kaepernick and others who incite or participate in mass lawlessness.
    The media does not fix racial inequities and institutional racism, it profits from them. George Floyd’s family did not want the riots and begged for them to stop, but the media fanned the flames because the media cannot be held accountable for incitement. At least Lamont-Hill and Kaepernick can and should be prosecuted. However, there are four cops who need to be prosecuted much more severely. We need justice but as we Italians, victims of the Newark riots can attest, riots are not justice. Riots are never justice.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion as expressed in the article does not necessarily reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

The Covid Chronicles
EIGHTH & NINTH WEEK - PHASE 1 & 2 IMPLEMENTED
LOCKDOWN ENDS IN FLORENCE AND ELSEWHERE IN ITALY
Small Businesses Have Difficulty Complying with New Social Distancing Decrees
- Not all of Italy’s regions are on board. Campania will not comply.
- Shops, restaurants, espresso cafes, hairdressers, beauty parlors, and beach facilities can open
- Church services can resume
- More immigrants are needed, says central government

By Deirdre Pirro

With 3.5 million people infected and over 92,000 dead from Covid-19 in America, it would seem the virus has not yet peaked. Take extra special care, wear a mask and gloves and, if possible, STAY AT HOME.

Here in Italy, on May 16th, 2020, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, with an air of bestowing concessions, announced in the umpteenth press conference the latest easing of more Phase II lockdown restrictions. Mind you the decree was supposed to be published at the end of April, but came out a mere 48 hours before many small businesses could open on May 18th. Unfortunately, without guidelines, they hadn't been told HOW they were to open. They were still awaiting precise instructions about obligatory social distancing and other vital safety measures to implement. Some 1,000 restaurant owners in Florence took to the streets to protest. What is more, the decree makes heavy reading, being well over 400 pages long! It is now estimated that four out of ten business will probably never reopen. For example, a small restaurant can only serve a maximum of four tables, according to the new distancing rules. The owner’s costs will far outweigh any benefits. I guess this just goes to show you what more than 400 paid consultants can do when they put their minds to it!

On the morning of May 17th, an agreement was reached between the central government and Italy’s regions. Leeway is given to regional authorities to decide the time frame and the places where the new relaxed measures can be applied. Only Piedmont and Lombardy, because of their contagion rates, and Campania have not signed the agreement. The governor of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca, has accused the government of trying to pass the buck and lay responsibility for any worsening of the situation at their door.

The government was hit by even further flak when it suggested issuing temporary residence permits for 6 months to about 600,000 immigrants who were illegally in the country after their residence permits had expired after October 31, 2019. At the end of six months, these could be converted into permanent residency if the immigrants could demonstrate they had an employment contracts within the agricultural, pastoral, domestic service or carer sectors. Rumors are rife that some are willing to pay up to 12,000 euro to procure a false contract. Add to this, a national newspaper reported that, since the beginning of 2020, there has been a 900 percent increase in the influx of illegal immigrants compared to 2018 and 2019. These include about 300 percent that come from the Balkans, who enter the country through Slovenia with the city of Trieste becoming the new Lampedusa. Moreover, it is reported than over 24,000 Italians would be willing to work in the fields to harvest crops. Therefore, hostility towards this government proposal is strong.

The opposition believes there are too many rules that the government can never apply and too many promises that it will never keep. Industry, businesses and workers complain that promised financial assistance and unemployment benefits are yet to materialize. On this basis, Forza Italia, Fratelli d'Italia and the Lega parties are organizing demonstrations in piazzas on Republic Day, June 2nd.

Nonetheless, happily, after May 18th in Tuscany, we no longer have to carry self-certification to explain why we are out and about. We can't yet travel to another region or overseas unless for proven emergencies. We can, however, use second homes and see friends. All businesses including shops, restaurants, coffee shops, hairdressers, beauty parlors, and beach facilities can open; religious services can also be held based on certain restriction. On May 25th, gyms, swimming pools and sports centers will reopen. On June 3rd, we should finally be able to travel between regions and in Europe. Cinemas and theaters should open their doors again on June 15th. The idea of reviving “drive-in” movies is circulating and, although never very popular in Italy in the past, it might be a new sign of the times.

For many, the new relaxation of lockdown has brought a sense of euphoria, although many, especially older people, are wary. For them, it is still wait and see time. They have already been in isolation for so long that another couple of weeks means nothing. A friend calls it “cabin fever” when you are snug in your surroundings and have become unwilling to lose the security of those four walls. Fortunately, good things happen within those walls that make your day. These include taking virtual tours of your favorite cities and museums or watching opera or ballet in streaming from La Scala or simply playing a game of scopa napoletana with your husband.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

QUO VADIS COVID!
A poem about coronavirus
- In English and Italian

By Gerardo Perrotta

You came stealthily and locked us up!
Many breaths you took away!
Remember that 19 belongs to St. Joseph
Even if in Naples it’s a laugh
Your opus is not an opera
Enough laughing Pagliaccio
The comedy is ending
Puccini’s trembling stars
Will shine once again
as you fall at the foot of the archangel
on top of Hadrian’s tomb
Your hour has come,
At dawn I am beginning to hear Pavarotti
Vincero`!

Sei venuto di nascosto e ci hai rinchiusi!
Molti respiri hai portato via!
Ricordati pero` che il 19 e` di san Giuseppe
Anche se a Napoli e` la risata
Il tuo opus non e` un opera
Basta col ridere Pagliaccio
La commedia sta per finire
le stelle tremanti di Puccini
Brilleranno ancora una volta
mentre cadi ai piedi dell'arcangelo
in cima alla tomba di Adriano
La tua ora è arrivata
All'alba comincio a sentire Pavarotti
Vincero`

Editor’s Note: Mr. Perrotta is originally from Paola, Calabria. He is retired from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.



 

THE FAUCI PHENOMENON
How Dr. Anthony Fauci Became The Most Powerful Person in the United States
Should we be ruled by scientists?
Is Dr. Fauci to blame for states mishandling coronavirus?

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

   If you have been following my series of similarly named articles, then you probably know what I am doing here. I have been criticizing the overly powerful actors during the coronavirus crisis, particularly those who are ethnically Italian, both in America and in the homeland. My first article criticized the Italian prime minister. My second article criticized some Italian American governors. Today, my subject is Dr. Anthony Fauci.
   I am a political scientist and as such, I am setting my own personal opinion about Dr. Fauci largely aside. In my professional opinion, there is a lot to criticize when it comes to the phenomenon of Dr. Fauci but little to criticize in Dr. Fauci’s personal character. He represents a worrisome trend but that does not make him a bad person. This article thus has two, seemingly contradictory goals, to attack the Fauci phenomenon while simultaneously defend Dr. Fauci as the real human person that he is.
   Even as a professional political scientist, I must first acknowledge the ideological perspective through which I see my subject. I am what is called in political science a left liberal, rather than the now-more common progressive, which is found through out academia. Left liberalism is based on the notion that everyone is essentially equal and of equal value and that we need to praise and blame people based on their objective actions rather than their demographic categories. In progressivism, who you are demographically is considered much more important than what you do or what you represent. In left liberalism which used to be the ideology of the left until the last ten years, the opposite is the case.
   As a result of this ideological lens, I cede the fact that Dr. Fauci is a trailblazer. He is the first Italian American medical professional to be declared by the media and politicians as the most important person in the country. The media and politicians usually diminish and marginalize Italian Americans and our culture and now they love one of us. He even is proudly Italian and has an unmistakably Italian surname. If I were a progressive, I would refuse to criticize anything near Dr. Fauci based on the mere fact that right now he is opening doors all across the country for Italian Americans, especially Italian American men.
However, as a left liberal, I cannot count the fact that Dr. Fauci is helping our Italian American community in a huge way. As a political scientist, I have two things to analyze: Whether the Fauci phenomenon is good or bad for America and does he deserve blame or praise for his actions? I will answer each question in turn.
   Dr. Fauci is deemed infallible by the media and most politicians. To question him, we are told, is political suicide. He has the authority that the medieval Catholic Church wanted but never had in the Middle Ages. Whatever Dr. Fauci recommends quickly becomes law. He wins every argument with the president. He has effectively taken power from the vice president in the national commission on coronavirus. He appears to have the kind of political and social power that a humble scientist could only dream of in most eras.
   Much of the resentment in the dark recesses of the country against Dr. Fauci is the idea that he has absolute or nearly absolute power over our political institutions. He appears to have exactly this. When he recommended that Americans never shake hands with each other, the media essentially said that the matter was settled. However, Dr. Fauci only appears to have real power. He is on an advisory committee that he does not head. He has no elected office and is not a member of the cabinet. He runs a department of the National Institutes of Health and is not even in charge of the very powerful Centers for Disease Control. He relies on his popularity and apparent power on the acquiesce and support of the media and politicians. If he recommended tomorrow that abortions be cancelled for the next four months due to coronavirus, he would lose all of his apparent power, as the Democratic Party, progressive politicians, and the media would turn on him. In other words, he really has no actual power of his own.
   The politicians, not the scientists, deserve the vast majority of the blame here. The scientists do not know how to rule us. I tried to write an article for a mainstream site once saying that and it got shot down. The idea is that the scientists should rule us. Yet, this crisis shows that they do not really rule us even when we claim that they and not politicians make the decisions because the politicians choose their pet scientists and doctors carefully.
   We have too much faith in science and too little faith in the cornerstones of Western civilization that made modern science possible, i.e., politics and religion However, most scientists and doctors, despite their flaws, are just trying to muddle through this crisis like the rest of us. Science is not a moral art, it is amoral - it is good or evil based on how we humans use it. Ultimately, politics is how we morally govern our country and when we empower the wrong politicians, they will use their power to misuse science. Ultimately, it is politicians and political scientists who know how to rule us, not natural scientists and doctors.
   Thus, Dr. Fauci and his scientists are not to blame for the consequences of their actions, since they know not what they are doing. The political restrictions that they are used to justify will likely not go away anytime soon, even after the worst of the crisis has passed. There will be deaths caused directly by their recommendations. Many will suffer because of their recommendations. However, it is foolish to blame Dr. Fauci and his colleagues for any of this.
   Do you think that Governor Raimondo or Governor Cuomo would be stopped for doing their agendas just because the scientific community disagreed with them? They have ways to coerce the medical and scientific communities. The CDC was against face masks, saying that they were harmful until the politicians supported the CDC with praise and money. The CDC then changed its position to conform with what its main supporters wanted. This is not bribery, but group think. Group think happens and we should not blame scientists for engaging in it.
   The politicians have the power, the political agendas, the bad motives, and the means to carry out their goals. The scientists may have provided them the opportunity but even this is doubtful. The political restrictions are a political problem and we should blame our political leadership, especially our elected leaders, rather than the scientific and medical community.
   Dr. Fauci represents a wider phenomenon, the ‘‘rule by experts’’ that progressives and frankly many true left liberals like so much. I would prefer political scientists be the experts ruling here but again, political scientists have been totally shut out of the conversation. The “rule of experts’’ is a myth here when governors are really ruling. The president might have less power because of the experts but that is largely because the media is opposed to him having power.
   Rather than blaming Dr. Fauci, when he seems to be of good character personally, we need to attack the phenomenon that the media and politicians have built around him. We can blame the media, which is driving the groupthink here. If there is one thing that this whole phenomenon makes clear is that the media needs more ideological diversity. Frankly, it could use more religious people and Italians also, but that is for another article. We need a federal law, as well state laws, that not only outlaws ideological discrimination like we do religious, ethnic, gender, disability, and racial discrimination, but also promotes ideological diversity like we do in gender and race. It is a compelling state interest to have an ideologically diverse elite media, particularly since right now, the progressive media can win political battles for the Democratic Party, my party, when its actions are no different than the Republican Party’s actions that are condemned by the media. We have a media ideological diversity problem. We have a media-political industrial complex. We need to end the partisan and ideological stranglehold that progressive Democrats have on the media or else our political institutions will no longer be truly democratic. None of this is the fault of the real Dr. Fauci, but it does explain the Fauci phenomenon.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion as expressed in the article does not necessarily reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND CORONAVIRUS
A New Age in Worship Ushered in by Contagion
- Pope Francis Walks Alone in Rome
- An Entire Convent Infected
- Italian Priests Get Creative in Reaching Parishioners

By Jesper Storgaard Jensen – Photos: PR Vatican State





Some photographs claim their access to history as symbols; symbols of our time, symbols of change and symbols of a moment that heralds new times coming, new ways of living. One such photograph is the one of Pope Francis on March 15 as he walked through one of Rome's usually busiest streets, Via del Corso, surrounded only by an assistant and a few bodyguards. In the background, an empty Piazza Venezia and on the right-hand side of the photograph you’ll spot a lonely cyclist, who was probably quite surprised to suddenly meet the head of the Vatican State in the middle of Rome's tormented heart.
   Pope Francis was heading to the Church of San Marcello to make a prayer to the Virgin Mary. It is here where the "miraculous crucifix” is located. In 1522 the large cross was carried through the streets of Rome in the hope that it would put an end to the plague that ravaged the city.
    This is not the only photo of Pope Francis that has travelled around the world in this period. Also the photo where the pope is presenting a prayer at St. Peter's, all by himself in front of an empty square, has a good chance of being elected "Photo of the Year.”
   The coronavirus has been tough on Italy. As these lines are written, almost 30,000 Italians have died as a result of the virus, and experts estimate that this figure will reach between 32,000-34,000 in the next months.

The infected nuns
In the Italian daily la Repubblica, Italian author Alessandro Baricco has written that "humanity currently finds itself in a difficult balance between the old world and a new world that we do not yet know.”
    Since Baricco's statement, a month has passed. And now we know that an important keyword will be co-existence. We will have to coexist with the virus, at least until a vaccine is found. This means compulsory use of face masks, social distancing and, on the whole, a way of life that will be very different from what we used to know. Italy has been so badly affected that the herd immunity strategy, launched more or less wholeheartedly in some countries, would have been completely unthinkable here.
   The virus has infected all parts of society, and the Italian press is full of stories and articles that also deal with the Catholic Church in times of virus. This was the case, for example, when some time ago you could read an incredible story about a convent of nuns in the outskirts of Rome affected by coronavirus.
    Near the town of Grottaferrata, south of Rome, you’ll find the convent of Le Figlie di San Camillo. A total of 60 nuns live in this peaceful monastery. But recently it was virus-struck. One of the nuns had been in Northern Italy, in Cremona, which had been a "red zone" due to a large number of virus-infected. She brought the contagion with her back to Rome and subsequently infected a number of her fellow sisters, initially 40 and, later on, the remaining 20. A nunnery with all 60 nuns tested positive for coronavirus! Quite incredible! The nuns then chose to isolate themselves in their rooms, and are now out of danger.

The digital church
During the quarantine period, the vast majority of Italy's churches have been closed, and in the few churches that actually remained open, no religious acts took place. This means that the Church has had to find new ways to assist the parishioners. So, during the quarantine the popular TV2000-channel has frequently broadcasted religious services. This is technically easy, and all dangers of infection are of course reduced.
  When need is at its highest point, as we all know, our fantasy is often considerable. This truth was recently confirmed, when la Repubblica published an article with the headline "The Digital Church". The "digital" was a reference to a modern use of social media carried out by the priest Don Corbari from the small Lombard town of Robbiano di Giussano. When his church was closed to ecclesiastical acts, he got a very special idea. He soon found out that it was quite boring to arrange masses in streaming in a completely empty church. So he asked all his parishioners to send him a photo of themselves - a selfie or photo where they were with their family members.
   This idea was very well received, and in the days that followed Don Corbari received an incredible amount of photos from his congregation. They were all put up in long rows onto the church’s benches. So now he no longer feels lonely, when he starts his sermon on the digital platform Telegram.
   Also the church of San Gabriele dell'Addolorata, in Rome's Tuscolana district, has chosen untraditional ways to stay in touch with the congregation. On the roof of the church, the priests have now placed an altar, and occasionally they broadcast services in streaming, under the open sky.
   On the whole, Italy has seen fanciful examples of how Catholic priests are able to keep in touch with their parishioners, despite the Corona crisis. It has, of course, been appreciated by Pope Francis, who said: “The pastors of the Church have proved to be exceptionally creative. In many different ways, they try to reach out for their parishioners so that they do not feel abandoned during this difficult time.”
    The churches have not yet been reopened, but the plan it that this will happen on May 24.

More than 100 died
Seven people from the Vatican State have been diagnosed with coronavirus. Fortunately a small number. Unfortunately the situation is much worse "out in the field", where many Catholic priests have often moved around in vulnerable positions. This applies, for example, to Francesco Nisoli, age 71, from Cremona, who had been a Catholic missionary in Brazil for 30 years and who recently died from Covid-19. Fausto Resmini, 67, was a prison priest in Como and died alongside many others. In fact, since the beginning of the corona crisis, a total of 105 priests, nuns and church assistants have lost their lives due to infection.   
  In his recent Easter prayers Pope Francis recalled these painful sacrifices with the words: “I deeply regret these deaths. We can consider these people like saints living next door to us.”
  Coronavirus has had many side effects during this period. One of these is that an era has now ended for the well-known Catholic daily L'Osservatore Romano, which has so far been published in a daily edition of 12,000 copies. The newspaper saw the light of day on July 6, 1849, and is therefore one of Italy's oldest publications. But ... coronavirus p ut an end to the physical existence of the paper. On March 26 this year, the newspaper appeared for the last time in the newspaper stands - 171 years after its founding. Today, there are simply too few buyers of the newspaper, and in the future the newspaper can exclusively be read digitally.

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ITALY IS THE HERO IN “SANTIAGO, ITALIA”
The Documentary by Nanni Moretti Goes Back to the 1973 Coup in Chile
How the Italian Embassy Gave Safe Refuge to Marxist Radicals
- PRIMO Review

Nanni Moretti continues to ride a wave of praise among the best and brightest in Italian cinema. The producer, director and actor has a portfolio of quality films to his credit, such as “The Son’s Room” in 2001, “We Have a Pope” in 2011 and “Mia Madre” in 2015.

Not just a maker of feature length films, Moretti is also a documentarian. Admittedly left-leaning in politics, he strikes a balance in his films for mass viewership. His latest is a riveting tour de force in South American intrigue and political violence titled “Santiago, Italia.”

Made in 2018, “Santiago, Italia” is must-see cinema for anyone interested in socialist or Marxist ideology and the historic interplay between Italy and South America. The documentary considers the aftermath of the coup d'état in Chile in 1973 and the role Italy played in rescuing young revolutionaries opposed to the military overthrow of that country’s duly elected government.

The film begins with a stunning view of Santiago. The snow capped Andes in the distance frames a bustling city of some 5 million people. Chile’s capital symbolizes a model for free market prosperity in South America. Indeed, as this century began, the county Colombia modeled her resurgence on what happened in Chile 30 years prior. It was in 1975 when Milton Friedman and other economists from the University of Chicago were in Chile at the request of the dictator General Augosto Pinochet. The old socialist structure was scrapped for low taxes, minimal regulations and a tight money supply. Chile’s economy boomed and the country eventually made a peaceful transition in 1990 from a military junta into one of the most stable democracies in the world today.

Filmmaker Moretti makes no mention of the positive transformation that occurred under the years of Pinochet from 1973 to 1990. Rather, the general is seen in the film as a symbol of right wing oppression and violence. On September 11, 1973, Pinochet ordered Chile’s army and air force to all but destroy Palacio de La Moneda, the country’s presidential palace and cabinet building. The neoclassical structure was designed in 1784 by Italian architect Joaquín Toesca and is to Chile what the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building is to America. Black and white archival footage shows the building in flames after an aerial assault by fighter jets. The scene is a stunning reminder of just how brutal was the coup d'état in Chile. The event shocked much of the world with a serious rebuke by many countries of United States foreign policy. American support for the overthrow came with a host of clandestine actions by the Central Intelligence Agency, not to mention training and tactics by American military advisers.

Part of the story in “Santiago, Italia” is the rise of Salvador Allende, a physician and member of the Chilean parliament who became the first Marxist elected to the presidency of a country in Latin America. He remains an enigmatic figure who was mentored in political ideology by Juan De Marchi, an immigrant from Turin who was a shoemaker in Chile and sought to lead an anarchist revolution there. Allende won the presidency in 1970 with a plurality vote of just 36 percent. He took a hard and uncompromising approach to nationalize industries, fix prices and expand government. Inflation, long lines at the grocery store and national strikes became symbolic of the country’s woes. Most objective observers consider such economic reforms a travesty, yet Moretti’s focus is on the nobility of Allende’s effort.

“Santiago, Italia” is replete with contemporary interviews of gray haired men and women who in 1973 were young committed Marxists. They were Allende’s most loyal and ardent supporters and look back fondly on those years of hope and confidence. Enthusiasm turns to fear when they recall how the army took control of the capital. Allende, still in the presidential palace, refused to cede power. After troops stormed the building, he was found dead from an apparent suicide.

The testimony of those who survived the coup remains moving and insightful. Many of them today are successful writers, teachers and artists in Italy. They were young radicals then and were rounded up by soldiers and police in Santiago. The city’s soccer stadium became a mass prison for interrogation and torture. The political apparatus of socialists, Marxists and anarchists in Chile was destroyed by the military.

On the run from authorities, many young radicals took refuge in the Italian embassy in Santiago. They scaled the large concrete wall to land in the garden and pool side of the Palladian estate. The Italian government was most generous with sanctuary for Chilean discontents. They were given safe passage to Italy and settled in Emilia-Romagna for the Communist party there to give them money, shelter and jobs.

“Santiago, Italia” is an extraordinary film that captures the complexities of refugees and how Italy helped those at the wrong end of history. The virtues of Italy are extolled by those saved in the crisis. One woman in the film compared her home country of Chile to an abusive father while Italy was the mother who gave her security and comfort. As time passed, she and others became more Italian than Chilean. They married Italians and their children were born and raised in Italy.

Moretti is a wise filmmaker who understands the emotional appeal of survivors. Feelings of sympathy for those persecuted and a revulsion of violent repression is what ultimately keeps our attention in the film.

“Santiago, Italia” is an excellent documentary with its single flaw being the embracement of political propaganda. No doubt the filmmaker is a supporter of the ideological principles espoused by Allende. A difference must be noted in the endgame between Chile and Italy. What Allende and his supporters sought was not a socialist democracy as accomplished in Italy and elsewhere in Europe after World War II. Instead, they yearned for a system that was wholly Stalinist as what arose in Cuba and the Soviet Union. Had they succeeded, Chile would no doubt have undergone many dark years of poverty and repression. Would they have been any less tyrannical than the military junta they fled? If the tide was reversed, would Nanni Morretti tell a story with such vigor and skill for refugees that espoused the virtues of Friedrich Hayek, instead of Karl Marx? These are questions we are glad are not be answered.

Editor’s Note: “Santiago, Italia” joins a host of other films from Italy and elsewhere as previewed and promoted at Lincoln Center in New York. To find out more, please log on to the virtual cinema page at https://www.filmlinc.org.

 

The Covid Chronicles
SEVENTH WEEK OF LOCKDOWN IN FLORENCE
Financial Worries Gave Way to Spring Optimism and Italian Patriotism
- Mobsters Get House Arrest in Lieu of Jail for Fear of Contagion
- The Return of the Ducat

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the seventh week of lockdown in Florence.

We are devastated for you in America with the terrible toll this pandemic is taking. Do take extra special care and STAY AT HOME.

Everyday new and often conflicting statements are issued about what the Technical Scientific Task force, chaired by an international, London-based manager, Vittorio Calao, finally recommends. Clarity is certainly required. There is a great sense of anticipation in the air, a little like children waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. The problem is that there are also experts who tell us we shouldn't expect too many gifts. Instead, we should be very careful about rushing out of lockdown; because, if it is too soon we may find ourselves back where we started with contagion and even re-contagion happening all over again – and worse.

Once more, the regional governors have indicated that they will interpret the new recovery measures the way they see fit for the needs of their citizens. The Association of Mayors has also added its voice indicating they too wish to have a say in the matter, particularly with regard to opening local construction sites and getting the public transport systems in their cities back in full operation. The bottom line seems that many areas of the country will recuperate economically at different speeds.

The pundits predict what will probably happen is that the already heavily indebted southern EU Member States, like us, will be required to guarantee loans to be taken out by the European Commission which will then be extended to them, guess what, as loans. We'll have to wait and see.

Controversy arose and indignation was voiced by much of the judiciary, the police and victims' families when the 60-year-old financial boss of the Casalesi clan, Pasquale Zagaria, was released on house arrest. This was because the hospital in Sassari, where he was being treated, while in jail could no longer do so as it was to be used exclusively for Covid-19 patients and he risked contagion. This was followed, again on health grounds, by house arrest for the convicted murderer Francesco La Rocca, nicknamed “U zu Cicciu,” boss and founder, in the 1970s of the Caltagirone clan and a friend of Totò Riina and Bernardo Provenzano. Opponents argue other solutions within the prison system could have been found and that these decisions offend the memory of those who died in the fight against organized crime. A review by the Justice Department has been promised and there is relief to know that the don of Catania's Cosa Nostra, Nitto Santapaola, despite his 81 years of age, will remain in jail, in a separate cell, under what is known as the 41bis disciplinary regime.

On a lighter note, to help those within its community struggling to make ends meet, the small municipality of Castellino del Befino in the province of Campobasso has taken to printing ducats. One ducat is worth a euro and there are notes of 5, 10, 20 and 50 ducats. They are to be used in the town for food shopping.

In Florence, life in lockdown progresses much as usual, except that the spring weather is improving which makes it harder and harder to stay cooped up and fuels the growing desire to escape. But, even if should we venture out, we have to wear a mask. Hopefully, by the end of May, we may be given a serological test that reveals the IgG antibodies indicating whether we have had the virus or not. The Italian branch of the US pharmaceutical company, Abbott, will distribute 4 million of these tests throughout the country and states it is able to analyze up to 200 tests an hour in its various laboratories.

One important event occurred on April 25th. The lone figure and dignified of the President of the Republic, Sergio Matterella, wearing a mask, placed a wreath at the Vittoriano, the monument housing the tomb of the unknown soldier (fondly known by many as “the wedding cake” because of its distinctive architecture), on the 75th anniversary of Liberation Day. This is the symbolic date chosen each year to honor the popular rebellion followed by the retreat of Nazi German soldiers and the Fascists of the Republic of Salò from Turin and Milan, a vital step in bringing World War II to an end in Italy. Unable to attend the usual celebrations, we were asked to stand on our balconies or at our windows and sing “Bella Ciao” which I and many others did, some waving flags in their hands. One man in my street played the trumpet. It was very emotional. In his address to the nation the President told us, “We are all called upon to make a contribution in order to resume our lives again after the pandemic. Together, we can make it.” And, I for one, believe him.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre.

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

LIFE WITH A WOLFDOG
“Other dogs I owned listened because they were motivated by food. Arya is motivated by the bond we had built through trust and love.”
- PRIMO INTERVIEW -
AUTHOR MARCANGELO L. BENEVENGA
His New Children’s Book, “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” Tells The Story of a Czechoslovakian Vlcak and Her Owner

Your children's book "Is That a Wolf or Dog?" is about a boy name Marc and his new dog, Arya, a rare breed Czechoslovakian Vlcak. Most people have never heard of this breed.

Originally bred as a military dog, The Czechoslovakian Vlcak is a result of breeding German Shepherds with Carpathian wolves back in the 1950s. They are also known as the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog in the UK and Canada. Despite their name, these dogs are a fully recognized dog breed and not wolfdog hybrids.  

Although a work of fiction, your new book is based on your real life experiences. Did you own a Czechoslovakian Vlcak? If so, what was it like?

Everything that happened in the book is based on my last two years with Arya. The only difference is that I am in my early 30s, when in the book I wrote it is from a 14-year-old perspective. Arya really did escape from me when I brought her to visit my mom on the second day I had her! Living with a dog like Arya is very challenging yet rewarding at the same time. Vlcaks can be difficult to train because they usually tire quickly of the same activity and are highly intelligent. Other dogs I owned listened because they were motivated by food. Arya is motivated by the bond we had built through trust and love. 

A key scene in the book takes place in Venice and Florence. You are, of course, Italian. Where is your family originally from in Italy?

Although I have been to Italy dozens of times, I never saw the Czechoslovakian Vlcak there. The first time I saw the dog was two years ago in Venice in front of the San Barnaba church made famous by “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” My parents are from the Campania region, my father from Palomonte and my mother from Colliano. 

You mention in the book that wolfdogs are not considered acceptable dog breeds, with the exception of the Czechoslovakian Vlcak. Why is that? What makes the Czechoslovakian Vlcak different than other “wolfdog” breeds and more acceptable for breeding and keeping as a pet?

It isn't so much that wolfdogs aren't acceptable breeds, but that certain laws do not permit wolfdog hybrid ownership. For instance, in California, wolfdog mixes are legal. A wolfdog hybrid could have varying percentages of wolf blood in it from 10% to 50% or higher. These dogs require experienced owners and appropriate enclosures. The dogs are clever escape artist and owners will need high fences. The Czechoslovakian Vlcak, despite its' name, is a registered and papered dog breed. Despite their look, they are an actual dog breed and much of the wolf has been bred out of them from generations ago. Contrast this to a wolf hybrid, where the mother could be a wolf and the father a husky. Arya comes from generations of Czechoslovakian Vlcaks with set breed standards and characteristics. 

Arya poses significant challenges for Marc in "Is It a Wolf or Dog?" Her breed is more difficult to train than other dogs. What does it take to train a Czechoslovakian Vlcak?

To train Arya requires a lot of patience and perseverance. Luckily, I am stubborn by nature and undaunted by challenges...but I am not patient! Arya forced me to learn patience and appreciate the little things in life. I spent a good year working on Arya's recall whereas other dogs would learn it in months. Arya and I first had to establish a trusting relationship. 

What practical applications are there for a Czechoslovakian Vlcak? No doubt she makes a good guard dog. But are there any other uses besides being a great pet?

They are good at destroying things you love! Joking aside, the dog has amazing stamina. Some of them do make good guard dogs, while others are total scaredy cats. Since the breed is so versatile, they can be employed to do numerous tasks. In Italy these dogs are sometimes used in search and rescue! They can also be used for tracking, agility, hunting, and more! I know of a pair of dogs in Italy that are trained to sniff out truffles! 

In your book, you mention Czechoslovakian Vlcaks are as common in Italy as are Labrador Retrievers here. Why is the dog so popular in Italy? Do you see this breed becoming popular in the United States and Canada?

I think people just love the look of the dog and how they are so family oriented. They imprint on an individual or family and that becomes their pack. Italians are very family oriented, so it is a natural fit. There are over 13,000 of these dogs in Italy. In the United States there are a couple of hundred. The Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America is an amazing resource for those interested in the breed. They arrange meet and greets throughout the states. In Canada, there are less than 10 dogs of which I personally know. There are about 5 others within an hour of us. 

What is next for you on the horizon? Do you have another book to be published? How about any projects tapping into your love of dogs and the Czechoslovakian Vlcak? 

Arya and I appeared in a Netflix documentary series that highlights the relationship between dogs and humans that will be released in the later half of 2020. I am currently working on my second children's book and a comic book series all featuring the further adventures of Arya and me! 

Editor’s Note: You can purchase “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” by visiting the author’s web site at https://www.wolfordog.com. You can learn more about the Czechoslovakian Vlkak by visiting the website for the Czechoslovakian Vlkak Club of America at https://czechoslovakianvlcak.org.

 

 

MEET THE CZECHOSLOVAKIAN VLCAK
A New Children’s Book Acclaims an Obscure Dog Breed Popular in Italy
“Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” is Aptly Titled by Author Marcangelo L. Benevenga
- PRIMO Review

Big Red. Old Yeller. Rin Tin Tin. Lassie.
   These are the names of the most famous dogs from literature, cinema and television. Now add to the mix, Arya, a new kind of canine protagonist from Marcangelo L. Benevenga’s heartwarming children’s book “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?”
   As the title suggests and as reinforced by the outstanding cover illustration and others in the inside pages by Andrea Alemanno, Arya is unlike most pet dogs. She is a Czechoslovakian Vlcak, a relatively new breed with a unique background as explained in the book. The author writes: “Back in Czechoslovakia around 1955, a Carpathian wolf was bred with a German Shepherd and the offspring resulted in the breed. The dog was intended to have the strength and stamina of a wolf, and the trainability of a German Shepherd. They were known to be fiercely loyal and affectionate, and to love the outdoors.”
   Mr. Benevenga became the proud owner of a Czechoslovakian Vlcak while in his 30s. He is today an active member of the Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America and has appeared in documentaries and other television programs touting the breed. He decided to put his experiences training and rearing a Czechoslovakian Vlcak in a children’s book. Hence, “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” tells the story, not of a dog owner who is a grown man, but, rather, a 14-year-old boy named Marc who lives with his family in Canada. A canine enthusiast if there ever was one, Marc loved “how dogs greeted him with their tails wagging happily and their sloppy, wet kisses. He also loved the fierce look of wolves, their golden eyes, and the sweet music they made when they howled in the night.”
   Marc asks if it is possible to own a wolf and is immediately told “No” by his parents. Nevertheless, while on a family trip to Italy, he sees in Venice, Rome and elsewhere people walking what look to be wolves. He is told by one owner that the animal is an established canine breed named the Czechoslovakian Vlcak. Marc then sets a goal for himself to acquire the dog when his family returns to Canada.
   After working in his father’s Italian restaurant washing dishes and other chores, Marc has saved enough money to purchase a Czechoslovakian Vlcak pup from a breeder in Italy. The dog arrives and is named Arya, based on a character from Marc’s favorite book, “A Game of Thrones.”
   At first gleeful about owning a rare mixed breed of dog and wolf, Marc is soon beset with an array of problems. Arya is as clever as a German Shepherd but as unpredictable as a Carpathian wolf. She seems to possess the best and worst of her respective breeds. The dog tears up furniture and playthings. She escapes from her leash and makeshift kennel and Marc has to run after her in the park. Although the dog wreaks havoc in and outside the home, Marc is committed to keeping and training Arya. The author writes, “Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs do not train or communicate like regular dogs. They form a bond developed by love and loyalty. Marc was once told that Arya would never be a ‘normal’ dog, and she definitely isn’t. Normal is overrated! As much as Marc wanted a dog that would be friendly and greet everyone on sight, he got one that needed time to get to know someone.”
   What happens next is a dose of humility for Mark. He understands his limits and must find help in caring for Arya. He is not unlike other main characters from the great stories of the past about dogs and animals. The troublesome pet and young owner must learn from each other.
   “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” is the kind of story we use to cherish on Sunday nights watching Disney on ABC television. The lessons of life come in the way of wholesome adventures with unique dogs and animals as important characters. Such are the tales we still love today.
   Marcangelo Benevenga is commended for giving us a story that further introduces us to the unique breed of the Czechoslovakian Vlcak. “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” is a most enjoyable and enlightening book for children of all ages.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” by visiting the author’s web site at https://www.wolfordog.com and Amazon.com.

 

The Covid Chronicles
SIXTH WEEK OF LOCKDOWN IN FLORENCE
Political Forces Remain Divided In How Best To Move Forward
- As Government Promised, Masks Arrived…But They are Poorly Made
- A strange bird in the yard. Is that an omen?

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the sixth week of lockdown in Florence.

America has now experienced greater loss of life than Italy and, sadly, it is first on this sad global death roll so please take extra special care and STAY AT HOME.

This last week the Italian government took steps to begin Phase II of the recovery aimed at slowly putting the economy on an even keel. The goal is to prevent industries and businesses in Italy from losing their slots in the global marketplace to other countries that have been less affected by this coronavirus. In what turned out to be a controversial press conference given by Prime Minister Conte on 10 April, 2020 we were told that lockdown was to be extended until 3 May, on the advice of his hefty squad of consultants. However, from 14 April, the new Ministerial decree would permit book and stationary shops and clothing stores for children to open as well as some activities related to forestry. If these initial measures are able to kickstart the economy of a country on its knees it would surprise me and others.

Apart from this, the major reason that this press conference caused an uproar was that Conte openly attacked two of the members of the opposition, naming names, during a public interest announcement and at a time when Italy needs maximum unity and collaboration among her political forces. He contended he was simply countering fake news that were circulating but, whether this was true or not, this was not the place to do it.

His comments were linked to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) regarding the financial rescue tool that the powerful northern countries in Europe are in favor of using to help bail out their suffering southern neighbors. Instead, the prime minister and the 5 Star Movement political party who sponsored his rise to power call for the issue of Eurobonds, to share debt across the eurozone, arguing that use of the ESM would come with onerous conditions that could paralyze them with debt. Instead, the EU has come up with a “light” ESM package in with they would allow Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese and Greeks to borrow. In Italy's case, some 36 billion euro from the ESM could come with no conditions attached except that the funds be directly used for coronavirus-related expenditures. Applying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” approach, Spain and Portugal appear willing to accept this proposal. Also, in recent statements two authoritative figures, former prime ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi, from opposite sides of the political spectrum, agree. Even the leader of the Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, partner of the 5 Star Movement in the ruling coalition is in accord; likewise, the Confindustria, the Italian Industrial Federation. It looks like the prime minister will have to find a compromise or else back down.

Meanwhile, the Regional authorities have interpreted these new recovery measures in varied ways, interpreted according to what they see as local priorities. However, a recent, disturbing ingredient has been introduced into this power-sharing mix. After an alarming number of Covid-19 deaths of the elderly in many nursing homes throughout Italy, magistrates and the caribinieri are now investigating and looking for where any blame may be laid or responsibility attributed.

This last week, here at home, the surgical masks we must wear outdoors arrived, as promised. Volunteers from the civil protection organization left three paper bags in our letter box, one for each of us. Trouble is each bag only contained two masks made of flimsy material and for mono-use only. So, it seems we can now go out – at least twice! Aren't we lucky?

Yesterday morning, as I was about to put the Bialetti on the stove to make my first cup of coffee, I looked out of my kitchen window and saw something. It was a flash of color and a strange shape sitting on a branch of the big pine tree in a courtyard nearby. I couldn't see it clearly so I went to get my husband's binoculars to take a better look. It was a bird. The kind I had never seen before. It was larger than a pigeon, orange in color with dark, zebra-striped wing and tail feathers, a pointed crest and a long, narrow beak. Fascinated, I found our book on European birds and discovered it was a Eurasian hoopoe, called such because of its oop-oop-oop call. This made me think about the capacity of nature to survive and regenerate. Since we have been in lockdown, there is hardly anyone out on the streets. There are very few cars on the road and the noise and pollution in town have almost disappeared. The birds are coming back. Let's hope it's a good omen for the future.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

 

DRACONIAN MEASURES BY GOVERNORS RAIMONDO, CUOMO AND DESANTIS ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Perpetuating Autocratic Stigma of Italian Americans
- Forcing quarantine on visitors to Rhode Island

By Dr. Christopher Binetti



Governor Gina Raimondo has authorized state police and the national guard to detain
and enforce a quarantine upon visitors to her state, Rhode Island.


Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Ronald DeSantis of Florida.

In my last article, I talked about what I viewed to be a failure of Italian leadership in the homeland. To me, every problem facing Italian people, American or otherwise, is connected to every other problem facing Italian people. The problem of leadership is a big one for our people. It is no less a challenge in America than it is in Italy. However, the contours of the problem are different.
    A major theme that you will find in my writings on Italian Americans, if you are unfortunate enough to read all of my rants on the subject, is that Italian Americans lose out when they do not identify strongly with one another as Italian Americans. When Italian Americans play at being white people, we lose. When we perform for elite suburban hipsters and pretend that we do not have a distinct culture of our own we lose. Most importantly, when we pretend that Italian Americans do not need to secure more power for ourselves, we lose.
    In the future, I will explore a lot of what I just mentioned, but today, I simply want to talk about Italian American leadership. Right now, during the coronavirus crisis, Italian American political leaders, particularly governors, are front and center like we have not seen in a while. Sure, the Speaker of the House is an Italian American, but the media does not emphasize that aspect about Nancy Pelosi, except when they want to depict her as a stereotypical Italian grandmother.
    During the coronavirus crisis, governors have taken power like we have not seen in our lifetimes. Many of these governors are not Italian and there is no real correlation between autocratic behavior and being Italian. However, there is also no real correlation between organized criminal behavior and being Italian and yet the media and entertainment have most Americans believing that Italian Americans have the market cornered on organized crime or that most of our families owe their status due to organized crime.
    So, I am worried that Americans will see the power-hungry behavior of a few Italian American governors and come to the wrong conclusion that Italians are naturally anti-democratic. I myself am worried that my last article implied this. Italy is right now marching away from democracy and it has some indicators for an increased tendency to do so, but it also is the birthplace of many of our ideals about a republican form of government and of checks and balances on power. It is the home of both the Roman Republic, the model for America’s political ideals and its antithesis, the Roman Empire. Italian culture has as much, if not more, pro-democratic indicators in the long run as it has the opposite.
    Yet, most Americans are ignorant of Italians and Italian American culture. That topic could be and will be a topic on its own in the future, but for now, it is sufficient to say that if we do not call out the bad apples in our own community and promote positive Italian American leadership as an alternative, our whole community will lose the opportunity to lead in America due to the stereotype of the autocratic Italian.
    Governors Ronald DeSantis, Andrew Cuomo, and Gina Raimondo all have abused power in the name of public health and safety during the coronavirus crisis, but in different ways and to different degrees. They are all of Italian ancestry and thus I call them all Italian Americans. Governor DeSantis, of Florida, is a Republican and Governor Raimondo, of Rhode Island, is a Democrat, but their actions are similar. While each party will attack the other as more autocratic, I think that party is a relatively insignificant factor here. Both governors have ordered people from states other than their own, but not their own citizens, be forced to quarantine themselves under the sanction of the state for two weeks, regardless of the chances of being infected. Governor DeSantis, from what I can gather, has not enforced his quarantine order with the same vigor, but I believe it to be at least somewhat mandatory and focused only on states such as New York and New Jersey. It is ironic that an Italian American governor would disproportionately target Italian Americans since New York and New Jersey are states with huge Italian populations. The governor actually could end up subjecting Italian Americans to what is legally called disparate impact discrimination, against federal and state laws.
    Governor Cuomo of New York, has not taken this tactic, but is requiring everyone within 6 feet of a person in public to wear a mask or facial covering or suffer the wrath of the state’s police powers. This is not as invasive or discriminatory as DeSantis or Raimondo’s actions, but it does essentially violate the idea of civil liberties in public. Governor Cuomo is also being inconsistent in that he supports a radical notion of bodily autonomy in all other areas of the law.
    However, the greatest threat to future Italian American leadership comes from Governor Raimondo. She has used the state police and the National Guard in an extremely aggressive way compared to DeSantis and Cuomo. She originally only quarantined New Yorkers, but now any non-Rhode Islander will be quarantined simply for visiting her state, with no due process, while Rhode Islanders do not have to do so. There is no constitutional basis for what Raimondo is doing and she is being much more aggressive in her policy than DeSantis.
    Raimondo has not gone as far as Cuomo when its comes to her own citizens. Cuomo has mandated that even if it may kill you, you have to wear a mask anywhere within 6 feet of another person. This will hurt many people and the mainstream media and the ACLU does not care. On an objective level, Cuomo’s actions are more likely to cause actual deaths or force people to become agoraphobic and malnourished at home
    However, subjectively, most people view Raimondo’s actions as worse. Most civil libertarians, for example, believe that losing your basic rights in an emergency is much less worrying that for some people to lose their rights and not others. Although I am a proud liberal and civil libertarian, this is not actually my view; I am more worried by the deprivation of rights more than the discrimination, but both are very bad.
    Raimondo, unlike Cuomo, does not demand much of her own citizens. For example, citizens of Rhode Island do not have to even wear masks or facial coverings in grocery stores, which is a pretty sensible restriction. In other words, the governor does not restrict the civil liberties of the citizens. However, she totally eviscerates the civil liberties of non-Rhode Islanders. She eliminates the rule of law and adopts a xenophobic stance. If you are from abroad, i.e. not Rhode Island, you are, by what passes as law in Rhode Island, declared a threat. You must be self-quarantined for two weeks after you enter Rhode Island to stay there. However, a citizen or resident of Rhode Island does not have to self-quarantine for two weeks after returning from the same place as that ‘‘outsider.”
In other words, some American citizens are being treated better than others, which is the definition of privilege. Raimondo swears that privilege is bad but created it as a matter of law based on state origin. There is no way this is constitutional. Her actions are deeply discriminatory and arbitrary.
    Governor Raimondo is a major threat to Italian American power and leadership because she will help the Italophobes limit our opportunities with her arbitrary and capricious behavior. She has no medical basis for her policy, and it exempts the voters with power over her without cause. Her behavior must be condemned by Italian Americans and challenged in court. I also believe that Governor Cuomo’s actions, as dangerous to the liberty and lives of people, despite being less subjectively outrageous, should also be challenged in court.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The author’s opinion as expressed in the article does not necessarily reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.

 

 

Going around Rome these days is like taking a walk through history. Many things in Italy have changed during coronavirus, and many will change when the country reopens around May 3rd. Thanks to PRIMO’s editor I had an incredible chance to photograph an empty and surreal Rome, as I had never seen before.


“A BEAUTIFUL NIGHTMARE”
A Walk Through Deserted Rome
In Lockdown, The Streets of the Eternal City Suggest Abandonment
- PRIMO Exclusive

Text and photos: Jesper Storgaard Jensen




Devoid of tourist crowds is the Roman Pantheon and devoid of Catholic worshipers is St. Peter's Basilica.



The author's neighborhood in Rome is Prati, with its treelined street.


A place of frequent political rallies and demonstrations - Piazza del Popolo - is eerily silent.


Walking your dog is the only outdoor activity allowed in Rome today.


No people in sight along the Via Condotti and the Spanish Steps.




The Trevi Fountain and Roman Colosseum.


The streets in my Roman neighborhood, Prati, are mostly silent.
    Only in the morning do people briefly leave their homes to go shopping for food or buy a newspaper. By early afternoon, everything fades out. People disappear. All cars are parked. Shop shutters are down everywhere. No smell of coffee from the bars, no laughter in the streets.
    In the afternoon, I usually take a stroll, just to get some fresh air. I always bring a paper with me, which gives me an alibi to go out. Police and carabinieri start to circle around in the afternoon and check on people. So I strive for a natural walk. I must admit, in spite of my youthful nonchalant strolling style, I do actually feel a small sting of guilt. We are not supposed to move too much around in the public space.
    I'm walking on my own. And I suddenly notice that in my neighborhood's prickly-knit network of small streets and roads, new horizons are emerging. I can see to the end of all the streets. There are no cars or buses or cyclists that block my view. There is no traffic. I stop and gaze in the middle of the long Viale Angelico, and, surprisingly, I manage to see a mile further towards Piazza Risorgimento.
   I pass some other people. They walk around me in a large arc. I am not offended. I do the same myself. There is no eye contact. They wear a mask to cover much of their faces. Eye contact is an unconscious desire to connect with a person whose path you are crossing. In these times, we seek no connection. We must not have contact. Social distancing is the new password. We turn our eyes down and let our feet “do the talking”.

Rome’s loneliness
We are inside a piece of history. This is what you keep hearing in Italy. And I do think this is correct. The impact of the corona crisis will be so huge in Italy, that the subject will be on everyone’s lips for years to come.
   Each week a new chapter in this piece of history is written. One of these chapters is about “Rome’s loneliness”. The emptiness of the city. Facebook and various papers have published impression photos. So I thought to myself, as a photographer: “When will I ever be able to see Rome like this again?”
   When I leave my home with my camera, I also bring my passport, my press ID, a letter from PRIMO’s editor and my so-called self-declaration that I’m going around for a photo assignment.
   After having crossed the Tiber from Prati I approach the first major piazza, Piazza del Popolo. This is a popular venue for political protests. Some years ago my wife and I went to a demonstration here. There were so many people in attendance that it was practically impossible to move. Today it’s empty. Totally empty. I see only one other person - a woman crossing the piazza. She is carrying a bag in her hand and dragging her shadow along.
   From here I start to walk along Via del Babuino, which is totally deserted. All shutters are locked, and the only person I see is a signora walking her dog. And … speaking about dogs, in the first period of our quarantine, many dog jokes were passed around on social media, like, “Sorry, could someone lend me a dog? I would like to take a stroll without getting arrested.”
   In front of the Spanish Steps I have my first encounter with the municipal police. I approach three officers to explain who I am and why I’m round and about. They check my documents and tell me: “Have them ready as you move on, because in every single piazza, our colleagues will ask for your ID.”
   The Spanish Steps hit me right in the eye. It’s simply impressive, and also a bit scary. There’s not a single person on the 136 steps. It’s simply as it must have been, when it was inaugurated in 1725. Nude marble, nude architecture. There is loud splashing water from the famous Bernini-fountain below the steps. There are absolutely no distractions from people creating sounds or things to look at. I’m alone with this architectonic masterpiece.

Wasted beauty
Via Condotti, Rome’s most exclusive street, is closed down. I head towards the Pantheon. And also here I find the same situation of abandonment. There is only a small police car in front of one of Rome’s most famous churches. That day this complete loneliness makes it look even more majestic than it usually does.
   The same situation I find some moments later on Piazza Navona. Only two other people are present: A father and his little son crossing the street. The lack of people changes the look of the piazza. There now is an extra dimension; of something grandiosa.
   I get this strange feeling that the city has returned to its origins, when all these architectonic masterpieces were built hundreds of years ago. Today, all that beauty and all that magnificence seems totally wasted, with no one to admire them, without any possibility of transmitting their immortality.
I must say that walking around in Rome in this state gives me a feeling of history. Yes, I know … it’s a piece of sad and worrying history if you go beyond the beauty, beyond the spell and allurement of an empty city. In the 23 years I’ve been living in Rome, I’ve never seen it like this.
   What comes next, after the reopening of the Italian society will, unfortunately, be an economic disaster. The latest survey from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that Italy is among the countries that will experience the biggest economic setback with a state debt bound to rise to 143 percent of GDP.
My negative thoughts are blown away when I arrive at the Trevi Fountain. It’s definitely impressive. I have my work space at Rome’s International Press Center, not far from city’s most famous fountain. Almost every day there is such an incredible hustle and bustle in front of the fountain with tourists from all over the world. But not today. There is only a couple of bored police officers. This is incredible. It’s almost like being part of a strange dream. I’m alone, in front of the world’s most famous fountain where Swedish actress Anita Ekberg called out for Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”: “Marcello, come here!” And of course, Marcello took off his shoes and socks and went out into the fountain.
   That was in 1960, but today, 60 years later, I actually have the feeling of being part of a film. A strange and surreal and incredible movie with a script that no one would have ever imagined just two months ago.
   Some 20 minutes later I can ascertain the Colosseum. The large structure is deserted. In order to get a good shot, I climb a small hilltop next to Rome’s most famous monument. Also here I’m being called out by two police officers. “Sorry, but we thought that you were a tourist.”
   They are kind but resolute. We speak for a couple of minutes and I explain my whereabouts. We agree that today there are probably no tourists, whatsoever, in Rome.
   After a few minutes I reach the nearby Circo Massimo. I used to live close by and jogged here. Usually at Circo Massimo, that has a length of 656 yards and a width of 153 yards, you’ll see people running, walking, listening to music, kissing each other, eating sandwiches, reading books and the daily newspaper. Today, I see only two other people - a father and his young son on a bike.
   I check out the distance counter on my mobile phone. I’ve been walking for about five hours, and it measures something like 17 km, (10 miles). I still have some way to go before I’ll reach my home.
   After Rome’s most popular neighborhood, Trastevere, I arrive at the beginning of Via delle Conciliazioni, the large alley that brings me towards the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.
   Two police officers are walking back and forth with their hands behind their backs. I sit down in the middle of the road. It’s no problem because there’s no traffic. I want to get an unusual shot, a shot from a new angle of a monument that embraces history, architecture and religion. The thousand cobblestones are leading my eyes towards St. Peter’s, and I think to myself that today I’ve had material for many stories to tell my future grandchildren.
   Back home – after 19 kilometers (11 miles) of walking – I send a couple of photographs to a friend. He immediately writes me back: “Wow, those photos are really so … what can I say … beautiful. Well, I mean … it’s just like a beautiful nightmare.”

Editor's Note: Jesper Storgaard Jensen is a special features writer for PRIMO. His articles can be read in each edition of PRIMO. Jesper also convenes tours of Rome. His web site is http://www.mysecretrome.eu/

 

 

The Covid Chronicles
FIFTH WEEK OF LOCKDOWN IN FLORENCE
Covid-19 Cases Decline as Anxiety Grows in Italy
Writer finds a new career…as amateur marriage counselor

By Deirdre Pirro

The situation in America has become very serious since I last posted so please take care and STAY AT HOME.

This last week in Italy has seen a slowly diminishing rate in contagion and hospitalization from the coronavirus, although the number of daily deaths is still more or less the same. What has changed is the growing concern within the country about the future, after Covid-19. This has prodded the government into talking about Phase II, the recovery phase, when economic life swings back into action. The government has taken steps to pass, what are called, “Save-Italy” measures to give some financial assistance to struggling small and medium sized industries, freelance workers, and many families in difficulty. How these will work in practice without becoming bogged down by bureaucracy and controversy remains to be seen.

At European Union level, there is still on-going conflict between the Members States on how best to overcome the recession Covid-19 will leave in its wake. Backed by Spain, and (initially) France, and seven other eurozone countries, Italy has called for the urgent issue of Eurobonds, shared debt security instruments. Other countries, notably Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland strongly oppose the idea and favor using something called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Italy and its Eurobond allies say more loans will heighten their already crippling debt burden. In other words, to you and me, this boils down to the old saying that there is no such thing as a free (or, in this case, solidarity) lunch. However, the EU should think very carefully about what it will do as it may finish up burning its own bridges.

Closer to home, this year in Naples, it is unlikely that, on May 2, the procession from the cathedral to the Basilica of Santa Chiara for the miracle of the blood of Saint Gennaro will take place, an event that not even World War II managed to halt. Officials say that this is to prevent people assembling in the streets and that the ceremony may symbolically be carried out behind closed doors in the Basilica. Italy needs all the help it can get.

In Tuscany, like in Lombardy, we are all now required to wear surgical masks when we go out. The Regional Governor has promised each household free masks and we will not be fined for not wearing them until every municipality has distributed its quota. Throughout the country, from the onset of the crisis, masks have become a focal point of dissatisfaction. There have never been enough of them and, despite many factories, including famous fashion houses, converting their operations into manufacturing them as well as the arrival of shipments from places like China, there may never be enough. What is worse is that so far there is no national policy about who, when and where masks must be worn, so chaos reigns.

Here at home, fruit and vegetables from our local market have now nearly doubled in price. This is because very few agricultural laborers are working in the fields harvesting produce. Rightly so, they too are afraid of this pandemic.

Otherwise, to my surprise, I find myself in another new role, that of amateur marriage counselor. Friends who have been married for years (and not only the wives) frequently telephone me to grumble about their spouses. One friend, a classic golf “widow”, telephoned yesterday and confessed that she had told her husband when they married that it was “for better and for worse, but never for lunch”. Closed up together on lockdown all day, they bicker frequently while he is longing to be out on the green and she is pining for her lunches with the “girls”.

These counseling calls did, however, make me reflect on those dramatic cases where domestic violence may be involved. In fact, figures show that domestic abuse has risen worldwide during the pandemic, prompting the United Nations to call on governments to put mechanisms in place to safeguard women and children in such circumstances. In Florence, a mobile phone app called YouPol managed by the police has been beefed up and used to report domestic violence.

With the spring weather beginning, my gastronomic desires are concentrated on dreaming about a double ball, artisan-made chocolate and pistachio ice cream from the best ice cream parlor (having tried them all) in Santa Croce. Come join me when life is back to normal...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.

 

NEW DRESS PAYS TRIBUTE TO MILAN
One of Fashion's Most Important Cities is Decimated by Coronavirus
Designer Kelly A. Calhoun Hopes Her Dress Will Bring Greater Awareness to Milan

Kelly A. Calhoun was a high fashion runway model for some time before she decided to branch out and create a new clothing label with her mother. She is a proponent of Slow Fashion, in the same vein of Slow Food, where social and environmental concerns are incorporated in the creative and production phase.

“Following the Golden rule,” she says. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is why our logo is Gold.”

“The Duomo di Milano A-line Mini Dress is the first item released to the public from our very first collection,” says Kelly. “I was honestly not planning on releasing anything just yet, but after witnessing the state of the world, right now, with COVID-19, I wanted to use my voice within the fashion industry to let people know that I have Italy’s back, and that Milan has my full support. It is my hope that this will start a behavior contagion, globally speaking, of true collaboration in the industry that I so dearly love. I have always respected Milan as a fashion hub and I always will. I cannot wait to travel to Milan and do a proper photoshoot with this dress in front of the cathedral. I have had a generous outpouring of support from the industry in Italy and already have collaborations in the works with local fashion blogger Daniela Barbarossa and fashion photographer Giorgio Marcias.”

“When I heard of the Andrea Bocelli concert happening at the cathedral on Easter Sunday, my intuition told me that now was the time to share with the public this dress coupled with my dreams of a more ethical system of business.”

“I say to Italia, we are with you! This too shall pass. It is only the beginning of Slow Fashion and learning how to treat each other better while dressing well at the same time.”

Editor’s Note: Kelly A. Calhoun can be reached by email at kkcalhou@gmail.com. Her web site is https://kellycalhoun.weebly.com.

 

 

COVID-19 VACCINE IS A RACE AGAINST TIME
IRBM Helped Develop the Ebola Virus Vaccine and Now Seeks One for Covid-19
How long will it take?

Text: Jesper Storgaard Jensen – Photos: PR from IRBM

 


Researchers at IRBM are led by CEO Matteo Liguori

Certain work environments require such a high degree of cleanliness and sterility that careful dressing is required. At IRBM - an Italian company that is avant-garde in the field of developing new vaccines - the word "careful" is clearly a polite understatement.
    “Our researchers currently working on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, must change clothes, remove any makeup and all their jewelry. They wear three safety suits, two pairs of gloves and three different types of headgear. Then they must go through three different security chambers and eventually they have to enter a digital security code. Only then will they gain access to the laboratory,” explains IRBM’s CEO, Matteo Liguori.
    I am in an industrial area outside a small town, Pomezia, 40 km. (25 miles) south of Rome. Italian press - both the dailies and several TV stations – often file reports from this small town, though it has neither attractive beaches nor famous sights. The reason is found in a question that is being asked more and more frequently, in virus-ravaged Italy: When can we expect a vaccine against Covid-19?

Table tennis with Oxford
“IRBM was started in 2010 from a US pharmaceutical company that was located here,” explains Matteo Liguori. “Today we have 250 employees, of which 200 are research teams. We specialize in developing vaccines and products for the pharmaceutical industry. And then it is important to mention that we have a year-long collaboration with the Jenner Institute, which is a part of the University of Oxford, and which has also specialized in the development of vaccines.”
    Liguori takes me on a short walk of the premises. However, there is not much to see. The hallways are characterized by being clinically clean. There are no decorative objects or plants, and through large windows you can see the administrative staff in front of their computer screens. The laboratories are located at the other end of the building and hermetically closed to people coming from the outside.
    If the Italian press, in these times of Covid-19, frequently focuses on IRBM, it’s simply due to the fact that the company has a know-how on vaccine development that is on an absolute avant-garde level - both in Italy and worldwide. This was seen already five or six years ago when IRBM, as the first Italian company - and one of the first worldwide - developed a vaccine against the dreadful Ebola virus.
    “The Ebola vaccine was developed in collaboration with the Jenner Institute,” Liguori tells me. “Our collaboration with Jenner is a bit like a table tennis match. We exchange information on an ongoing basis. In these days we have conference calls with Jenner several times a week.”
    Some years ago IRBM set up an independent expert group called Advent. It was the one that developed the Ebola vaccine, and it is the same group that is now on the trail of a possible vaccine for the corona virus. The group consists of 20 young scientists from around the world, including Italy, Spain, USA, France, UK and several South American countries. IRBM receives applications from all over the world, and only the most capable researchers with a thorough knowledge in the fields of celleluar and molecular research can get admitted to the Advent group.
    “Most of our researchers have experience from other labs around the world. In the IRBM interview process applicants speak to five or six of our key figures before we are able to welcome them as a new member of the Advent group,” says Liguori.

First mice, then men
After the Ebola virus flared up in certain African countries, IRBM quickly began research to find a vaccine. As a matter of fact, the company was one of the first in the world to showcase a test tube containing the "magic vaccine.”
    “It took about three years to develop the Ebola vaccine,” says Liguori. “Back then, however, there were some other issues at stake compared to the virus situation we are facing today. The affected African countries in particular were Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. So Ebola did not spread worldwide, as we see with Covid-19 today. Therefore, it was necessary to carry out part of the research in precisely these three countries. This made research and development both slow and somewhat complicated.”
    What is the situation today, as we sit here, regarding the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus?
    “Well, this is really one of the most frequently asked questions right now. And unfortunately, some erroneous information has been seen, both in the press and on social media. For the same reason, a few weeks ago, the WHO issued a press release stating that the organization clearly indicates that a new vaccine must go through an institutionalized test procedure that lasts for at least 18 months before any new vaccine can be released.”
    And at what point is IRBM in that procedure?
    “Our experience - both with Ebola and in general - means that we are already on an advanced stage in our research. In this period, we almost work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We expect to have a thousand vaccine doses for testing ready around June this year. This means that the experimentation period - which as I said will last for at least 18 months - can initiate around June/July. The first phase will be to experiment with mice and study their reactions. Later, the vaccine must be tested on humans. Right now we are only in April, and we really do not know how the infection will develop globally in the coming months. So, if the world situation deteriorates drastically, one might imagine that the period of 18 months could be shortened. But it requires a number of permits from both national and international health authorities,” Liguori explains.
    Both Matteo Liguori and the Advent group researchers are aware of the great interest that is in their work.
    “But it only seems to be an extra stimulation. It is clear that other research groups will be able to find a vaccine too, and I actually hope so. It will be the best for everyone. Especially when you consider the big problems – in both health and finance - that Covid-19 has already created in a very short time. Finding a vaccine is like a race against time. Being able to raise the test tube as the first laboratory in the world to showcase a new vaccine will, of course, give you incredible prestige. So I dare say that the world will probably see a vaccine that will be created in record time. But it does take some time, after all. We humans are used to getting everything we point at right away. But this is not the case with pharmaceutical products. Certain types of medicines for particular diseases have been developed over a period of 15-20 years of research. The testing period is extremely important. This is when the safety and the efficiency of the product must be tested, and that requires time,” Matteo Liguori concludes.

Editor’s Note: A member of the Italian press, Jesper Storgaard Jensen was able to tour the IRBM laboratories and filed this report from his home while in lockdown in Italy. To learn more about IRBM, please visit their web site at https://www.irbm.com.

 

WE REALLY NEED TO TALK ABOUT ITALY
What The Lockdown Says about Italian Politics
Was the national quarantine really done for Italians or, rather, to protect Northern Europeans?

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

Italy is treated ambiguously in American pop culture.
   There are many debilitating stereotypes of Italians and Italian Americans. Cultural appropriation of Italians and Italian Americans by others is common.     Although, we are marginalized, we are treated as if we are not marginalized. Yes, we are white; but we are not white enough to be mainstream like the Irish and are considered too white to be a subject of cultural protection like white Cubans or Lebanese.
   Politically, Italy is often viewed in the middle. While not a developing country, she has long been viewed as not quite in the developed world either. Italy has historically been compared to Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey. In other words, she is too peripheral to be in the center of the developed world but too much in the core to be viewed as truly developing.
   This leads to a strange combination of attitudes towards Italy. Italy is expected to meet Northern European demands, but we also have assumptions that Italians will not really meet them. Much of the increased resentment of the EU in Italy comes from Northern European countries like France and Germany taking advantage of Southern European countries like Spain and Italy. Also, the strict demands on the finances and economies of countries like Italy and Spain have led to massive reversals in human development and prosperity.
   Most people who write on Italy in English are not ethnically Italian and yet we are expected to take them as more objective than me telling you about Latin America. This is a racialized view of the world that obscures the great differences between Northern and Southern Europe. While Italy has major internal regional differences, even Northern Italy is not Northern Europe and the cultural, ethnic, and historical differences between Northern and Southern Europe should be taken seriously by international observers.
   Much of the coverage is backwards. The international media views Prime Minister Conte as an apostle of modernity and civilization trying to force Italians to obey law and order and the will of the EU. I see Prime Minister Conte as the villain, as the man who is ruining Italy. His martial law, which is euphemistically called a lockdown in English (it is ‘’il blocco’’ in Italian and actually means blockade in English), is often praised as good for Italy and Italians. Now that Coronavirus deaths are finally going down, after weeks of going up (even after martial law was imposed), he is getting credit for his authoritarian tactics.
In sum, Northern Europe wanted martial law in Italy, got it, and is going to try to reward Conte for doing it. Martial law has hurt Italy’s economy but may have ultimately helped the economies of wealthier Northern European countries. Martial law, while not keeping Italians safe, may have kept Northern Europeans safe. The international community and the EU does not care about Italians but about Northern Europe.
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