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       Second edition 2020 is printed and mailed. On the cover: Federico Fellini. 
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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

 

 

 

RADIO LIVING LEGEND, DICK BIONDI
A New Film, to be Released in 2021
The Story of Chicago’s Best Loved and America’s Number One Radio Disc Jockey
“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.”

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: Pictured are some of the famous and important contributors to political science from Italy and Greece: St. Tommaso d’Aquino, Aristotle, Francesco Guicciardini and Niccolo Machiavelli. 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.

 

 

 

 

Almost like a war, the coronavirus pandemic has created unusual eyewitness accounts and stories that go far beyond the ordinary. Some of these experiences have been recounted by the Italian priest Don Mario Carminati to PRIMO Magazine.

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?”

Text: Jesper Storgaard Jensen – Photos: Private photos.

 

  “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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITALIANS THAT OUGHT TO BE DEPICTED ON U.S. POSTAGE STAMPS
Many Famous and Noteworthy Italians Are Worthy of Consideration
Here are nine new candidates that should be chosen by the U.S. Postal Service for future stamps
“There are unfortunately no U.S. stamps that celebrate Leonardo da Vinci…”

By Gerardo Perrotta

 



Because October is Italian American Heritage month and National Stamp collecting (Philately) month, it’s an opportunity to draw attention on how these events complement each other, promote each other’s mission, augment the historical narrative for Italians in America and embellish the national cultural mosaic depicted on stamps.

Every October, since 1981, stamp clubs throughout the country honor a tradition of curiosity expressed through stamp collections organized in countless creative ways that encourage life-long learning. Likewise, since October 1989, by special presidential and congressional proclamation, Italian Americans celebrate Heritage Month by highlighting the Italianicity of contemporary culture in America and the roots that gave rise to it. Prior to 1989, a number of events occurred around Columbus Day throughout the country to commemorate the discovery of the western hemisphere and the valuable contributions Italian immigrants and Italian Americans have made since their arrival and settlement in this country.

So by intertwining the two occurrences, a festive ribbon made of new Italian themed postage stamps will display and adorn the enduring relevancy of Italians in America. Currently, about 150 US stamps illustrate the Italianicity of America. And while there is a significant philatelic representation of Italian art, artists and notables such as Dante, Saint Francis of Assisi, Garibaldi and Columbus, there are many more that can enrich and enhance the celebratory nature of the month of October for philately and Italianicity.

Here are nine new candidates that should be considered for U.S. postage stamps.

From a current geopolitical perspective, Marco Polo and Niccolo` Machiavelli deserve a stamp for their respective relevant roles in the birth of America.

Marco Polo’s account of his travels in China as described in “Il Milione” sparked exploratory interest for the orient which ultimately led to the discovery of America. Christopher Columbus had a copy of “Il Milione ” on board of his first journey directed to go east by going west. Sino American relations dominate daily discourse through cultural exchanges, trade deals, human rights, industry, and coronavirus and continue to fascinate us just as they did Marco Polo and his family.

Scholars consider Niccolo` Machiavelli the father of modern political science. Some contend that the founding fathers of the US, especially John Adams (aware of Machiavelli’s writings), argued for and adopted a government with separation of powers because they appreciated the real and present danger of the reality politics Machiavelli described in the Prince. They recognized the antidote to despotic leaders by forming a government by the people as espoused in the Discourses on Livy, another major writing of Machiavelli. The positive and negative aspects of the today’s political climate coupled with the factious public discourse reinforce the use of the term Machiavellian to characterize the negative reputation attributed to him (and to some modern leaders) for advancing the maxim “better to be feared than be loved, if you cannot be both” at least with regards to governance.

Next consider these giants of science.

The recent emission of the 2018 STEM forever stamp series to promote the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics missed a golden opportunity to highlight the scientific accomplishments of DaVinci, Galileo, Galvani and Volta, among the best to exemplify the spirit of the STEM stamp series. The 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death pointed to a noticeable gap in American philately. There are unfortunately no U.S. stamps that celebrate Leonardo da Vinci either the persona or any of the many great fields of study he pursued with scientific and artistic passion, none whatsoever. In 2019, Great Britain issued a comprehensive array of Leonardo’s interests: anatomy, architecture, botany, cartography, engineering, geology, music, painting and sculpture. Missing in the Brritish issue is Leonardo’s genius for stagecraft, a master in producing plays and pageants for the Duke of Milan. The US could join the rest of the philatelic world in recognizing the “genius of the renaissance” in countless ways.

Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawkins credit Galileo Galilei as the father of modern science. A postage stamp for this renowned Italian mathematician, astronomer and physicist could display a vast array of any of his famous scientific observations. First to use the telescope to peer skyward, his curiosity and accurate methods of recording nudged future scientists to keep probing and ultimately led to the exploration of outer space. When President Kennedy posed the challenge to land a man on the moon, scientists relied on the initial lunar mappings by Galileo. NASA’s appropriately named Galileo Space Mission completed in 2003 and Apollo 15 Commander David Scott’s demonstration of Galileo’s experiment of falling bodies in the lunar environment continue to accrue celestial data bearing the imprint of the scientist’s many correct observations.

Luigi Galvani ‘s experiments with frog legs pioneered interest in electricity leading to the voltaic pile and more recently opened up a wide field of research in neuroscience and bioengineering. His legacy survives to this day in our language with the word “galvanize” not just for its metallurgical and general physics sense but also to mean invigorate, arouse, goad etc. Other terms such as Galvanic cell, Galvani potential, galvanic corrosion, galvanometer, galvanization, and Galvanic skin response are more common in the scientific and industrial lexicon.

Alessandro Volta’s voltaic pile invention is at the root of much modern global advancement. The battery accelerated the industrial revolution and continues to play a major role in the innovative use of stored energy. Industrial and societal demand for sustainable and renewable energy has focused efforts on increasing the storage capacity of batteries with applications in electrical vehicles and energy generated/ captured by photovoltaic cells from solar or wind turbines sources. While the term volt refers to a unit of electrical potential, it is in recognition of Alessandro Volta’s contribution to science. A stamp commemorating the achievements of Galvani and Volta might be appropriate for the green energy movement.

On the Social service spectrum consider Maria Montessori and Mother Cabrini as champions of ingenious and proactive resourcefulness to address the needs of others.

Dr. Maria Montessori was the first woman to graduate in Medicine from the University in Rome and trained as a pediatric and psychiatric physician. She dedicated her professional life to innovative educational methods that fostered children’s natural learning abilities. Her methods started in Rome Casa dei Bambini and reached the world in short time making the name Montessori synonymous with modern methods of education. About 4500 Montessori schools in the US have adopted this self-directed method of education. Dr. Montessori visited the United States in 1913 and 1915. During the 1915 visit, she attended the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco where she gained world attention promoting understanding of her novel pedagogy. A stamp depicting independent learning based on individual initiative in a setting conducive to learning would be an appropriate tribute to the famous doctor.

Mother Cabrini is the first American citizen to be canonized a saint. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini came to the United States in 1889, starting in New York to serve the growing Italian immigrant population. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and established schools and hospitals across the nation. Her work among Italian immigrants especially the poor remains to this day a model of selfless service and care for the rights of workers and other social justice issues still hotly debated today. More importantly she is a model of how non-English speaking immigrants transition from immigrant to fully integrated citizen. She became a naturalized US citizen in 1909. In a recent survey, New Yorkers chose Mother Cabrini as the exceptional woman they wanted honored by a statue. When Mayor DeBlasio did not select her for this honor, Governor Andrew Cuomo overruled the mayor and promised to fund and build a statue and place it in Battery Park facing the Statue of Liberty. A stamp honoring Mother Cabrini would promote the power of women in overcoming great odds to achieve even greater outcomes for the good of many.

To conclude this philatelic Octoberfest all’italiana with some music, consider Giuseppe Verdi’s “Va pensiero” from Nabucco as one soundtrack for stamps and Italians. This much beloved opera with its renowned chorus had its debut in 1842 soon after stamps as we know them today took flight from England. “Go thoughts on golden wings” printed on paper or some future digital stamp would be a fitting acknowledgment of how stamps facilitate the transfer and exchange of thoughts everywhere with a sonorous artistic flare.

To be Italian and a stamp lover in October is a special treat. The contributions originating from these famous Italians offer a plethora of material to infuse the hobby of stamp collecting with very contemporary themes. The Italian Heritage Month would enjoy additional relevant celebratory history of a people and a culture that enriches America and the world.

Editor’s Note: Readers interested in promoting these suggested stamps can write to: Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee c/o Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service, 1753 North Lynn St., Suite 5013, Arlington, VA 22209-6432. Pictured are stamps from other countries that depict famous Italians, although these same Italians are not depicted here on U.S. postage stamps. Marco Polo appears on a stamp from Monaco, Dr. Maria Montessori is shown on a stamp from India, Giuseppe Verdi has his likeness on a stamp from Moldova and Mother Cabrini appears on a stamp from Vatican City. Why can’t these same figures be depicted on U.S. postage stamps?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

TONI CARROLL - DIVA OF ST. LOUIS
The Copacabana and Latin Quarter Lady
International Singer and Actress from New York; Also Oil Wildcatter
Sinatra said, “Hey, I hear you’re from St. Louis. Volpi Salami (of St. Louis) is my favorite.”

by Joseph DeGregorio


In my 10th year of doing tours in the Italian neighborhood of St. Louis called the “Hill” after retiring as a federal agent protecting classified programs 10 years earlier, I got a call that forever changed my historical perspective of my hood.

“I am Toni Carroll calling from New York. I am a singer and dancer, grew up on the Hill, and desire to take a private tour with my husband Philip.” After agreeing, Toni started advising me of all the particular stops she insisted on making, all the while I’m thinking, “Just who does this lady think she is, some kinda Diva?” And that’s exactly what she turned out to be! After discussions with older Hill locals it turns out very few knew just how successful worldwide this lady had become versus the well-known commodities of Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola who grew up literally a half block from her.

When you think of this Copacabana singer and dancer, a Latin Quarter showgirl, a Diva with many national and international playdate credits, a movie actress, successful book writer, and a million-record selling album to boot, you’d think of Toni Carroll as a talented, gorgeous, ambitious and successful entertainer. So, adding the Title of oil drilling company president would seem almost incredulous. But it’s true.

She was born in the 1930’s a twin, Lorraine Iadreschi in a typical “shotgun” house on the Hill’s westside. Like Yogi and Joe (surprising to many southern heritage Italian-Americans outside of St. Louis) their Italian linage was Lombard from small towns north of Milan, in Toni’s case, Turbigo. Unlike Yogi and Joe, Toni, (who once had an impromptu reunion with them on the “Tonight Show”) would experience her Lombard roots in a very personal way albeit via a family tragedy. When she was two, her father died after falling ill trudging through a snowstorm. Soon penniless, her desperate mother sent Toni and twin brother Lawrence off to Turbigo to live with her parents until she could recover financially. They returned to St. Louis six years later almost as new immigrants, for Italian had become their first language. It was at a public grade school filled with American children of different ethnicities, that Toni experienced prejudice and teasing, especially since she spoke English with a heavy accent.

A neighbor Gertrude Merlo (Yogi would always try to steal her homework and call it his own), taught her accent less English lifting her spirits while her mother, herself always singing around the house, noticed Toni’s imitative vocal talents and thus enrolled her in solfeggio (vocal exercise) lessons. Eventually Toni enrolled in the Kroeger School of Music. Besides years of singing for family, friends and at school recitals, Toni in her later teen years became an aficionado of the New York show business and nightclub scene, reading voraciously on the subject. This fixation eventually focused on the famous Copacabana Club and Latin Quarter, run by Lou Walters, the journalism legend Barbara Walters’ father. (Barbara and Toni remain good friends through today) The Copa can be compared to television’s “American Idol,” a place for launching careers. It’s where Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin, Danny Thomas and many others made their New York debuts. Armed with a scrapbook filled with Copacabana/Latin Quarter articles, glamor shots and a lot of bravado, Toni left the safety net of her Italian neighborhood and headed for The Big Apple. With easily recognizable singing talent and model like looks, she was soon hired by Lou Walters, no doubt aided by a fellow St. Louisan and mentor, Copa choreographer Doug Coudy.

Frequent Copa entertainer headliner Frank Sinatra once said, “The Copacabana is like New Year’s Eve every night.” Upon meeting Toni for the first of many times at the Copa and elsewhere, Sinatra said, “Hey, I hear you’re from St. Louis. Volpi Salami (of St. Louis) is my favorite.” It was during this period and the ensuing decades that her successes and unique experiences began to pile up.

Under MGM Records Toni recorded five albums in English, Spanish and Italian, with her most successful a million selling gem titled, “Toni Carroll Singing the Hits of the Roaring ‘20’s.” Toni eventually became a headliner and singing star in gigs throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and even in Russia during the Cold War era where, at a time of rare cultural exchange, she was the first American pop singer to entertain at the Moscow Art Theater.

And just when you think my Diva had done it all, in the 1960’ she entered the oil exploration business, with gusto! Toni was doing a gig in St. Claire, Michigan where she met two oil drilling fans who were delighted to teach this beautiful and very interested Diva the business. After setting up the Canadian based, “Blackfoot Oil, Positive Mental Attitude Company”- BOOM! - (literally), her company drills five successful wells using mainly her intuition and meditation as the diviner. My personal Diva became a wealthy oil baroness, a darling of the industry, and of course a frequent “headliner” of industry newsletters and conferences. Go figure.

Did I mention she become popular with the psychic phenomenon crowd due to her oil finding prowess and she once owned a cruise ship? That’s a whole another story so feel free to read the books, articles and U-Tube stories that abound on the internet. Or you can always wait for the movie about her life to debut.

Toni’s numerous books include “Legs Galore,” individual stories and pictures of Copa and Latin Quarter ladies, and “Copacabana Sexcapades and other Stories” (yes, a very catchy title) that features a history of the Copacabana and interviews with over a hundred Copa alumni Stars including (I’ll list some Italian-Americans), Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, Frank Costello (yes, the mobster did invest in the Copa) and Perry Como. Toni has spearheaded many a Copa alumni gathering.

Toni and her husband Philip Tierman (himself and accomplished dental professor and famous specialized dental surgeon for legendary jazz and other horn musicians) have visited the Hill several times since 2014, making new friends and memories. My tour narrative now always includes her fabulous life. Deservedly, most Hill residents now recognize her as another acclaimed persona from this storied neighborhood.

And just what is this classy Showgirl/Singer/Actress/Author/Business woman doing these days when most of her peers have long since retired from public view? She’s producing exercise videos (while singing nonetheless), writing screen plays and is in the middle of marketing to movie producers a screen play about an already successful female entertainer who becomes an equally successful oil “Wildcatter.” (that’s my Diva!)

Until recently she and Philip were very active members of NYC’s historic Friar’s Club. They both continue to produce informative video presentations for a local educational station that caters to challenged students. (I once did a gig on her show about Yogi Berra’s early years in St. Louis) And what is a typical day for Diva Toni Carroll? Up at 8am, meditation, running on the treadmill OUTSIDE on her balcony no matter the weather, lunch with family or Copa/Latin Quarter alumni, sometimes with Barbara Walters, plus refining and marketing her screen plays. Her advice to all on maintaining success, mental acuity and longevity? “Have a (continuing) zest for life, stay creative, sing Italian songs out loud (yes, really), and just keep moving!” True to her Italian roots my dynamic Diva concludes by asking us to remember, “The spirits of our departed Italian family and friends are looking down at us and smiling and Dio e’ sempre con noi”.

Editor’s note: St. Louis Hill native Joe DeGregorio has conducted Hill historical and culinary tours for over thirteen years. Stlspecialitytours.com, joe.dehillboy@gmail.com. There are several sites for Toni Carroll, just type in her name.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

ITALIAN CHARITIES OF AMERICA  OFFERS CLASSES THIS FALL

Italian Charities of America will offer a new interactive online learning program; Italian & Italian American Studies.

This 2020 Fall season the Italian Charities of America will be offering a two-part series that can be taken together or separately depending on a person’s interest; each series will consist of six classes and the full program will be a total of 12 classes. Students will be expected to complete light reading assignments before each class meeting and participate in weekly class discussions. These courses will be held on Zoom on Thursdays from 7:00pm to 9:00pm (EST).

Building the Italian State, Italian National Identity & Italian Diasporic Ethnicity Course
 6 classes from Oct. 8th, 2020 to Nov. 12th, 2020
 
This course will discuss the construction of the Italian National State and the experience of nationhood as key to understanding how Italians grew to see themselves on the Italian Peninsula and abroad. This course will focus especially on the diverse backgrounds that form today’s Italian and Italian diasporic communities. This course will ultimately allow students to critically explore how a dominant national Italian identity was created, diffused, and solidified while also serving as a unifying prism through which Italians in Italy and abroad may communicate and connect.

Week 1: From City States and Kingdoms to a Nation
Week 2: Il Brigantaggio and the creation of “The Southern Question"
Week 3: Emigration, Migration, and the Creation of Little Italies throughout the World
Week 4: The Fascist State and Ethnic Italians Abroad
Week 5: The Postwar Economic Boom and the Decline of Little Italies
Week 6: Italian Nationhood and the Italian Diaspora Today
 
The Hardships of Early Italian Immigrants & the Italian-American Experience Course
6 classes from Nov. 19, 2020 to Jan. 14th, 2021

This course will focus on the Italian-American experience in the late 19th century and the early-mid 20th century. At the turn of the 19th century, Italians took part in mass migration and millions journeyed to the U.S. Due to these large numbers, Italians faced discrimination and endured many hardships in America. It would take decades for Italians to be fully accepted within American society. In each lecture, there will be different topics discussed. Highlighting some rather dark moments in history, such as the 1891 lynching of Italians in New Orleans, the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, the Red Scare, city living and working conditions, the Labor Movement, and WWII Internment Camps. This course will also tackle how Italian-Americans overcame many obstacles and contributed to American society.

Week 1: Italian-American Hardships and Contributions to Louisiana
Week 2: Italian-American Experience in Urban Cities
Week 3: Italian-American Involvement and Impact in the U.S. Labor Movement
Week 4: Anti-Italianism and the Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti
Week 5: Italian-Americans Struggles during WWII
Week 6: Italian-Americans become “White”

The registration fee for the complete 12 classes is $365 or one part of the series of your choice is $200. When registering for the course please indicate your choice; The full Italian & Italian American Studies Course (12 classes), Building the Italian State, Identity & Ethnicity (6 classes) or The Hardships of Early Italian Immigration (6 classes). Please call 718-478-3100 or email us at italiancharitiesofamerica@gmail.com for more information.

 

 

 

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
He Proposes His Home State of New Jersey Lead the Way and Establish “Mediterranean” to Better Define and Serve Italian Americans and Similar Ethnic Groups

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.

 

 

 

The mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori, has been in the frontline during Italy’s coronavirus crisis. At first, he underestimated the threat from the virus, and when the corona really broke loose, he had a hard time explaining to both his fellow citizens and the Rome politicians how serious the situation actually was. "I have never experienced death at such a close range,” he says.

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

 

 

 

 

 

NYC FILM FESTIVAL ITALIAN ENTRIES
The 58 Annual New York Film Festival Begins September 17 and Ends October 11
Italian and Italian American Filmmakers Are Represented with Five Films

 

The 58th annual New York Film Festival kicks off September 17 with an array of new feature films and documentaries from around the world. A host of countries are represented, from the United States to Taiwan and everywhere in between. Italy has two films that will be shown, along with three new features from Italian American filmmakers. In the past, most films were shown inside Lincoln Center and nearby movie theaters and other venues in Midtown Manhattan. Because of Covid-19, however, festival organizers have had to reimagine how people can see this year’s films. Screenings will be virtual with filmgoers streaming the film of their choice direct from the festival web site. Another option is to see some of the films on massive screens at makeshift drive-in theaters in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The dates of the festival will be from September 17 through October 11. A key sponsor is Campari.

The following films are offered by Italians and Italian Americans.

NOTTURNO
Gianfranco Rosi is a filmmaker synonymous with Italian documentaries. His last film was the Oscar-nominated documentary “Fire at Sea,” presented at the New York Film Festival four years ago, winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Rosi returns with an immersive work of nonfiction. Shot over the course of three years along the borders of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, and Lebanon, “Notturno” (Nocturne) is a nighttime ramble through a region of the world rocked and shattered by catastrophe and violence. With spellbinding visual compositions and heartrending attention paid to the plight of those who have been living through the rise of ISIS in the vacuum created by the U.S. invasion and withdrawal by Presidents Bush and Obama, Rosi leads the viewer through a play rehearsal in a psychiatric ward; on the quiet journeys of snipers, soldiers, and fishermen; and to a classroom where children relate harrowing testimonies of atrocities they’ve witnessed. In these border worlds, people go about their lives while constantly haunted by a pervasive existential threat; Rosi’s extraordinary film is a reminder that people carry on, every day, even under the darkest circumstances. Showtime is Tuesday, October 6 8:00 PM.

THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS
This engaging and beautifully filmed documentary immerses the viewer in the forests of Northern Italy, where dogs, accompanied by their elderly, often irascible human owners, scraping by on modest means, seek the precious white Alba truffle. Among the most coveted delicacies in the culinary world, this pricey fungus only makes its way to the plates of wealthy restaurant patrons thanks to the olfactory skills of these heroic canines. A depiction of both a ritualistic, outmoded way of life and the wild economic disparity of a situation that can lead to acts of greed and cruelty, “The Truffle Hunters” is revelatory, earthy, and altogether humane. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Showtime is Monday, October 5, 8 PM.

ON THE ROCKS
The latest from Sofia Coppola. Approaching 40 and plagued by writer’s block, New York author and married mother-of-two Laura (Rashida Jones) has become suspicious that her career-driven husband (Marlon Wayans) may be having an affair with a coworker. When her caddish, bon vivant father (Bill Murray) drops back into her life, he encourages her growing speculation, and the two embark on a mission to uncover the truth, which reignites Laura’s alternating adoration and resentment of the older man who taught her everything—for better and for worse. Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola returns with a lighthearted but poignantly personal comedy about aging, marriage, and the tenuous bond between parents and grown children, set in a finely observed Manhattan dream world. An Apple/A24 release. Tuesday, September 22, 8 PM.

HER SOCIALIST SMILE
A documentary by John Gianvito. For nearly two decades, John Gianvito has been carving out a unique space in American cinema with passion projects of expansive shape and political ambition, including “The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein,” a documentary-fiction inquiry into the human toll of the Gulf War. In his new film, Gianvito meditates on a particular moment in early 20th century history: when Helen Keller began speaking out passionately on behalf of progressive causes. Beginning in 1913, when, at age 32, Keller gave her first public talk before a general audience, “Her Socialist Smile” is constructed of onscreen text taken from Keller’s speeches, impressionistic images of nature, and newly recorded voiceover by poet Carolyn Forché. The film is a rousing reminder that Keller’s undaunted activism for labor rights, pacifism, and women’s suffrage was philosophically inseparable from her battles for the rights of the disabled. Showtimes, Monday, September 21 thru Saturday, September 26, 2020.

SLOW MACHINE
The thriller genre is exploded and reassembled in Joe DeNardo and Paul Felten’s funny and alluring work on paranoia, surveillance, and performance. Featuring an intriguingly eclectic cast (including the experimental theater performers Stephanie Hayes and Scott Shepherd, the musician Eleanor Friedberger, and Chloë Sevigny), “Slow Machine” follows an actress (Hayes) whose intimate relationship with a shadowy NYPD-affiliated operative ends abruptly and disastrously, leading her to hide out in a country house otherwise occupied by a band preparing their new record. But la vie bohemienne proves almost as anxious and tense as life in the city… Deftly lensed in 16mm and unfurling as a digressive, tantalizingly off-kilter mystery, “Slow Machine” is a fascinating work pitched at the intersection of American independent cinema and the avant-garde theater of Richard Foreman and the Wooster Group. Showtime is Thursday, October 8, 8PM.

Editor’s Note: The above photographs depict scenes in order of the listed films. For more information on this year’s festival, please log on to https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2020/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Full of surprises and well-organized, this museum will rev the motors of car lovers. Few know about Rome's Museum of Italian Police Cars, but it’s a fascinating way to step inside Italy’s police and motoring history. PRIMO Magazine didn’t even have to commit a crime to check out the wheels of Italy’s finest.

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

 

 

 

 

HOSPITALITY JUSTICE WARRIOR
Chef Vincent Tropepe: Advocate and Italian American
- Fighting coronavirus restrictions for restaurants in NYC
- Aggressively cross-examining city inspectors

By Vanessa Altamaura

 



When I decided to write this article, I wanted to highlight a very specific culinary professional. After a long search, I found the person to profile. He is like a perfectly executed dish at a Michelin restaurant. He has worked in top tier New York City restaurants such as the 21 Club, The Rainbow Room, SD26 and Mr. K’s, to name a few. His long list of celebrity clientele includes Luciano Pavarotti, Muhammad Ali, Billy Crystal and four U.S. presidents, two of which he served aboard Air Force One. He is also a multi-certified chef and gold medalist. To strike the balance of what I was looking for I wanted a culinary professional who knew about the business end of the industry. He is also a restaurant business advocate, representing restaurants throughout New York City. He is considered a premier expert on restaurant and food regulations. As if all of this wasn’t enough, he is also a published author with a 21016 release titled, “In My Whites: A Matter of Culinary Perspective” that sold over 29,000 copies. He toured the country making 54 appearances in only 17 weeks.“Who is he?” He’s Chef Vincent Tropepe from New York City.

Chef Tropepe’s strong Italian roots come from Naples and Calabria. He was raised in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York. His influences include the matriarchs of his family such as his mother, grandmother, aunts and great aunts. Tropepe was always drawn to the kitchen. “I could have become anything, really,” he says. “I was an excellent student, but I became a chef because I associated food and dinners with people being in high spirits.”

The restaurant industry has become increasingly co-mingled with politics. Back in 2013, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg adapted, from California, the Letter Grading system for city restaurants. Tropepe’s cell phone started “ringing off the hook.” He had already done a lot of consulting in California and was familiar with the process that began there. He was soon going to city tribunal offices at the request of restaurant owners.

“There has always been, from the very beginning, inconsistencies with the way city inspectors and investigators inspect restaurants,” Tropepe said. “It is a biased and broken system and the city chooses not to fix it. Most things in life, either personally or professionally, comes down to money. These inspections continue to be done incorrectly because when a docket number is issued they are prima facie cases. The cities don’t want to fix them because they bring in a lot of money.”

Tropepe is a no-nonsense Brooklyn boy inside and outside the kitchen. He is in total control like a conductor of an orchestra. His presence is immediately felt when he walks in to a room. He is known for asking tough questions that nobody wants to answer on the record. He is ruthless in his cross examination and is aggressive in the pursuit of justice for the hospitality industry. Many inspectors refuse to appear without counsel when Tropepe chooses to cross-examine them. Sometimes, they do not appear at all, in light of the chef’s persistence.

Many issues have plagued the hospitality industry; worse among them, by far, is COVID-19. The pandemic has paralyzed the restaurant industry. Social distancing has been mandated to slow the spread of the virus. With restaurants having been forced to close at the start of the virus, Tropepe points out that no rental relief was put in place for businesses. “Carefully watching,” Tropepe is waiting to hear if the city is going to assist with rental relief.

“I give Secretary Mnuchin a lot of credit for his work on the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) to assist small businesses and I think the secretary is a good guy, but this system did not help everyone,” Tropepe said. “Being realistic, I know that when money is issued from the Small Business Administration, it will come with a long list of eligibility requirements. And with dealing and distributing hundreds of millions of dollars it should, but we have to understand that many businesses, prior to the pandemic, were in fine shape until now.”

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is lobbying for The Restaurant Act, asking the government for $120 Billion to be given to restaurants. “That is fantastic,” said Tropepe, “but that too I’m sure will come with prerequisites. Here’s the million dollar question, What happens to the businesses who were doing great before all this and for whatever reason are not eligible for any assistance?”

And in fact Tropepe is right, there is no universal relief. It’s the reason why he authored the Restaurant Rental Relief proposal sent to his city and state government in New York. “The reason why this is a great proposal is that it helps everyone and it is not asking for any money from the government,” Tropepe said. His approach is simple: As restaurant occupancy goes up, the percentage of rent relief goes down. At the time of this article, New York City is in Stage Four of reopening, but still no occupancy is being allowed indoors. Tropepe’s proposal calls for a 50 percent rent reduction with 25 percent occupancy. Lease holders can get a 35 percent deduction from their rent and so on. When occupancy is back to full capacity leaseholders will have to pay the agreed upon rent in their lease. “If we are reopening in phases, as it should be, elected officials need to take into consideration the impact this has on businesses, especially the restaurant industry were we do not make three hundred percent profit on a steak,” Tropepe said.

Some states are seeing dramatic spikes in coronavirus infections. This may cause a reinstatement of stay-at-home orders as their state’s health care system and hospitals get overwhelmed. In an effort to offer relief to restaurants, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) allowed nearly 7,000 restaurants to serve food outdoors on sidewalks and in the street; the length of the store front and the depth of one car. Many small business owners immediately registered and started building structures, according to the codes set forth by the DOT. Some spent thousands of dollars to use this lifeline to save their businesses. A few owners went as far as to hire professional contractors to build the street seating structures to code. After the DOT released these regulations and people spent money, in some cases money they did not have, the DOT then changed some of the regulations. When the DOT sent out inspectors, restaurants were threatened with closures. Some received fines and others a 24 hour notice to fix the structures according to code. Once again, Chef Tropepe was on it! After speaking to restaurant owners and getting many calls, Tropepe did some further digging and it did not take long to realize this issue is a wide spread problem. His office released a statement on what is going on. A letter of correspondence was immediately issued and sent certified mail to DOT Commissioner Maria Theres Domgiuez and Polly Trottenberg’s office, as well as to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and members of the New York City Council.

“It is my experience in speaking to many politicians throughout the years, that they are not educated on the challenges of different industries,” Tropepe said. “This does not make them bad people or even bad leaders, it just makes them unaware. It needs to be understood that a one-size fits all approach to legislation does not work. I often say that the restaurant business is not like any other industry…and that’s because it’s not. It takes a certain breed to work 18 hours a day, go home smelling like shrimp at 4 a.m., just to do it all over again. Representing restaurants was something I fell into, not something I premeditated on doing. I can tell you what kept me doing it…the blatant corruption I saw from inspectors, supervisors and judges. That’s why I took on more and more cases to make sure that restaurants received the justice they deserved.”

As I researched restaurant closures and street seating regulations, this is not solely a New York City issue – this is a national issue. Many mayors have reached out to Tropepe’s team to discuss proposals he set forth to assist the industry at large. Being the premier authority on the subject, Tropepe said, “If they want me to go there I will be on a plane.”

Writing this particular piece has been very rewarding for me professionally and personally. I reviewed so many chefs and their business advocacy and none of them focused on hospitality justice like Chef Vincent Tropepe. Tropepe’s desire for justice stems back from his early years. The entire industry is in debt to people like Chef Tropepe, but his body of work is far more substantial then others that I saw. I am willing to go on the line and call Chef Tropepe The Godfather of Hospitality Justice.

 

 

 

 

 

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR AND POET ANNA CITRINO
“A Space Between” Conveys the Saga of a Calabrian Family in San Francisco…by Way of Poetry
San Francisco was a far different place in the early 1900s
The Bay of Naples as Inspiration

You dedicate "A Space Between" to your husband. Tell us about where in Italy he is from and also your ethnic background. Are you Italian?

My husband, Michael Citrino, was born in San Mateo, California, in the San Francisco Bay area and grew up in San Carlos. His father’s parents were from Italy. His father’s mother was from San Lucido on Calabria’s western coast, and his grandfather was born in Amantea, slightly south of San Lucido. The immigrant story is a huge part of America’s story. Though my connection to Italian heritage is through my husband’s family, writing A Space Between helped me to understand more of my husband’s Italian heritage and history, as well as to better understand some of America’s history. In writing the book and delving into the specific situations, occupations and events, I gained a greater understanding of the larger story of Italian Americans—what it was like in Italy before Italian immigrants left and the complicated experiences and events after they arrived, many things my husband wasn’t aware of himself, though he is an Italian American.

”A Space Between" begins with the Italian immigrant experience from Calabria to San Francisco. You spent many years traveling and working overseas as an English teacher. How did your work and travel experience prepare you for this book.

I wrote the first poem in response to a piece of music, “Faure’s Après un rêve.” Listening to the solo reminded me of when my husband and I sat one evening, looking out across Naples Bay as a boat pulled across the horizon into the sunset. The scene made me think of how it would have felt for his grandparents departing Italy, leaving behind family members and everything they knew. What an enormous risk it was to leave. Their decision changed not only their lives but the future of all their descendants. From that point on, their lives were lived in the space between two worlds–the one they were born into, and the one they adopted in the United States.

While abroad, I felt simultaneously at home and a stranger. Living in another culture is a wonderful way to gain insight into other people’s felt experience of the world—other ways of thinking, living, and being. I loved learning about cultures in the various places where I lived. I enjoyed exploring each country. Nevertheless, I was guest. I understood I was an outsider. I feel this way now, although the United States is my home country. I had lived outside America for over two and a half decades, and so I now sense a life in a space between worlds. The many cultures where I lived are now a part of me. This simultaneous sense of belonging and yet not belonging helped me to enter into the emotional space of imagining what it might feel like to be a newcomer to America. I could imagine being a person who didn’t understand the language or understanding the culture. That takes time to acquire. While writing the book I found myself often translating experiences I encountered into what my characters might have felt or thought.

I’ve traveled to various regions in Italy numerous times. I visited the towns where my husband’s grandparents lived. We once stayed in a bed and breakfast that was on the same street in San Lucido where his grandmother once lived. Walking through Italian villages, noticing the textures and colors, the geography and plants of the area, the sounds, the layout of cities, talking with and observing people were all helpful in creating the feeling and tone of the narrative.

Writing takes time and the process is engaging. Having taught, read, and commented on other people’s writing for years as an English teacher gave me an understanding of narrative structure and poetry. What also proved helpful was having a few readers willing to read what I wrote and give me feedback, similar to what I asked my students to do over my years of teaching.

”A Space Between" is a unique work. This is an epic tale of Italians in America. Yet, your choice of prose is poetry. Why poetry?

Poetry and essays are the two forms I write in, so it felt natural for me to write the book in poetic form. When I first began writing poems, I didn’t know I would be telling a longer narrative reaching across time. I was simply following my interest in stepping inside the characters’ experiences. I wanted to understand various perspectives and wrote the pieces in different characters’ voices. I knew it would be challenging to create a voice of someone from a different time, a different culture and little to no formal education. I very much wanted to be sensitive to the culture, showing respect, and worked to present things as realistically as I could. Recognizing my voice wouldn’t be the actual voice of my characters, I aimed to write what the characters in the poems might have felt, thought or wanted to have said regarding their experiences if they were to speak about them. From reading, I learned immigrants of the time from southern Italy tended to be private and keep things within the family. Telling their personal feelings and stories to the public would have been unlikely, and the personal stories and feelings would probably not have been shared or written down. I felt deeply drawn to telling the story of everyday people because they were representative of many people’s family stories. Many of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Italian immigrants from the last century long to hear their ancestors’ story, and it deserves to be remembered.

Poetry is a condensed language requiring specific and precise word choices in carefully chosen order to convey a message with impact. A poet chooses to tell only the essential moments, bringing together a constellation of images and sounds into a distilled language so that everything is purposeful. The broad swaths of history can be focused into essentials and key moments that tell the bigger story to carry emotional impact.

You really capture the Italian immigrant experience in San Francisco. At the turn of the century, this was a city far different than its high-tech modern reputation today. Tell us a little about the city then and how well or badly Italian immigrants were treated. 

Italian immigrants in California were productive people. People today recognize names like Jacuzzi, Gallo, Ghirardelli, and Amadeo Giannini; names of Italian immigrants who started industries in California. Italians in San Francisco didn’t have the same level of challenges as people faced on the East Coast. The Spanish had previously colonized the area, setting up missions along the coast. There was already a Catholic presence in the area and greater acceptance and understanding of Italians and others who came from Catholic countries. Much of the racism in California at the time was directed more toward Asians. This being said, southern Italians were seen as different from northern Italians, and while there was a Sicilian immigrant community in California, the majority of Italian immigrants to California were from Italy’s north. They spoke different dialects from each other.

There were very few Italians in California before the time of the gold rush in California. Because those that arrived experienced discrimination, they found it more profitable and beneficial to create businesses. As the Italian population in San Francisco increased, Italians were perceived more as a threat. Labor unions generally didn’t accept Italians and they were seen as taking away jobs from others and were viewed as strike breakers. Newspaper reports pitted Northern Italians against Southern Italians. They painted a picture of Southern Italians as superstitious and less civilized. Because Italians would work for low pay, there was less prejudice against them if they left San Francisco and moved to smaller towns elsewhere in California to start new businesses.

San Francisco had Italian newspapers and opera and dance companies. Italian immigrants played an important role in several industries such as fishing, lumber, agriculture and those industries dependent on agriculture such as the canning. In 1909, the Del Monte company was the largest vegetable canning facility in the world.

During WWII, 90 Italian American Californians were put in internment camps. 10,000 people of Italian ancestry were forcefully relocated and 50,000 in California were required to register as an “enemy alien.” They had to get their registration booklet stamped every week. Enemy aliens weren’t allowed to travel more than five miles from their homes and were required to observe a curfew. Because the government kept information about “enemy aliens” classified, only fairly recently have people learned how people of Italian descent were treated during WWII.

How did this book change you? How do you feel about the Italian experience after writing "A Space Between." 

The history of Italian Americans is absolutely engaging. I wanted to understand as best I could what it was like to be the particular Italian immigrants who are the characters in A Space Between and worked to find the words to best name their experiences. In searching to find, sense, hear, visualize and name the moments that defined and embodied the world the grandparents loved and left, as well as the new world they found, an entire world opened to me that was previously hidden. Whole histories were unveiled that I never knew before. The lives of our ancestors are the seeds of our own lives. Rising from the loam, the choice they made is the perfume of life now lived as a result the journey they took.

Writing the book opened my eyes to see parts of the American story I was previously minimally aware of, the effects of prohibition, government corruption in early California history, why Italians left their home country, reasons why the family was so important, how they were treated as an inferior group of people, the numerous and ongoing significant contributions they made to American culture. Their story both inspires and humbles me.

What's next on your agenda. Do you plan to continue writing sagas in poetic verse?

My husband and I were serious scuba divers for two and a half decades. I’m currently working on a poetry manuscript about scuba diving. Also, I’ve had in mind for some time to write a story in poetry inspired by my great aunt who was born in the late 1800s. She worked as a laundress, could rope a cow, and outlived five husbands. I want to connect her story to the lore associated with the topaz birthstone, and to step inside the time period in order to see how she might have perceived the world. I’m looking forward to the new insights that writing will unfold.

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about the author and purchase her book “A Space Between” at https://annacitrino.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.

 

 

 

In Italy the face mask has become the ultimate symbol of the covid-19 crisis. Everyone wears them, and they come in almost all sorts of shapes, colors and models. They are able to launch social messages, even by the way we wear them. PRIMO Magazine has looked into this new phenomenon.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO READ THIS SUMMER?
TRY THESE 10 BOOKS
REVIEWED IN OUR FIRST EDITION 2020
From romance to westerns, Italian American authors cover it all

“The Arnolfini Art Mysteries,” by Rich DiSilvio; published by DV Books, available at Amazon.com

   The private eye is a reliable character who always entertains readers. A complex mystery is solved with an array of fiends, villains and intriguing characters. Leave it to Rich DiSilvio to add to this literary tradition with an original twist. Instead of murders and kidnappings, DiSilvio gives us art forgeries, fakes and stolen relics. The detective for hire is Armand Arnolfini, once a professional soccer player from Italy, who now roams the world solving art crimes for dealers, gallery owners and museum curators.
    “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries” is a joy to read for anyone who loves art, history and the hard boiled detective genre. The author knows his subject well. Not only a commercial artist who created album covers for rock star Alice Cooper, Rich is also a well-renowned historian with “The Winds of Time,” an ambitious work he wrote on the fullness of history.
    “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries” is a collection of short stories about Arnolfini the detective. The first is titled “The Phantom Forger” set in New York in the late 1970s. A manager of the Cloister Museum in the Bronx discovers his newest acquisition, “The Virgin Annunciate” by Antonello da Messina, is a fake. Arnolfini quickly discovers that underneath the famous painting is an abstract work. He then uncovers other Renaissance paintings forged in the same manner. What follows is a journey of clues and a confrontation with the culprit.
    Arnolfini approaches each case with an intrinsic understanding of suspects. A love of art is the common denominator. His reflection on one malefactor is not without sympathy: “His mission of gaining financial compensation was not borne out of self-interest or greed, but rather a philanthropic endeavor to right the injustice of an often cruel and imperfect world, a world that often overshadowed or even trampled over many with extraordinary talent…”
    Carnegie Hall is the setting in “The Russian Link” when Silvio Riccadella’s “Tchaikovsky Memorial” is stolen. None other than John Lennon and Yoko Ono are involved in another story when Arnolfini is called to find a strange and esoteric creation in “The Yoko, Oh No! Mystery.” Other cases take our detective to Bridgeport, Connecticut and The Barnum Museum in “The P.T. Barnum Mystery” and to Hartford and the Mark Twain House and Museum in “The Mark Twain Mystery.” The final story, “The Ghent Mystery” is indicative of art’s international market when Arnolfini travels to Belgium for a special case.
    What’s not to love about “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries”? Art, music, history and mystery all come together to make this a book to be enjoyed by all. No bookshelf should be left without it.

“A Space Between,” by Anna Citrino; published by Bordighera Press, available at www.annacitrino.com

   “A Space Between” is a profound yet uncommon work.
    An epic tale of an Italian immigrant family from Calabria is conveyed though poems that bring life to the thoughts and perspectives of main characters. What might have otherwise been a historical novel is more emotional, more unique and, yes, more rewarding by way of poetry.
    Anna Citrino, originally from San Diego, spent much of her adult life teaching English in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait and the United Kingdom. With a master’s degree in English from Middlebury College in Vermont, she has put to good use her expertise and passion for poetry. “A Space Between” is an astounding book, as dedicated to her husband, “For Michael Citrino, and for those who left their homes.”
    The book begins in San Lucido, Calabria when a tragedy befalls the young married couple, Luisa and Gaetano. The only way out of poverty and the sting of loss is migration to the United States. It is the turn of the 20th century when Gaetano leaves Italy, finds work as a barber and saves enough money for Luisa’s passage. She pushes away any anxiety about the future in a poem that reads, “Fear is a part of life, but I choose to ignore it. So many men had left Calabria before Gaetano and I married. He could’ve chosen another woman, but he and his family chose me. I can stand on my own but I still want him. I am going.”
    Life in the United States is promising. The couple welcomes their five children as San Francisco rises from the rubble of the great earthquake and the ashes of the fire that followed. Although a city equated with high-tech and modern living, today, San Francisco was then a bastion of old style corruption and vice. Gaetano’s poem about the injustice of bribe payments to the city’s Irish political machine follows: “Every healthy man suffers. Food, family, home. I am not asking more than this for the work I do. I’m a barber. I know what to cut and where. Let me have what’s mine.”
    After the family suffers another tragedy, Luisa is forced to work in the nearby Del Monte cannery. “Wheels roll. Machines rattle. The whirl of fruit spills out onto the belt. Searching, separating, I sort through each round raw weight that grew in a faraway sunny field, as if the tumbled fruit could speak.”
    “A Space Between” has much to offer readers. What makes it so much more compelling than an academic retelling of the past is Citrino’s poetry. The words flow to capture a multidimensional world beyond the scope of history. “A Space Between” is an awesome book, one that transports readers to the space and time of their ancestors like never before.

“Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure,” by Andrew Cotto; published by Black Rose Writing, available at Amazon.com

   “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” is the extraordinary new novel by Andrew Cotto. The book should be required reading for anyone who laments America’s descent towards political correctness and a manic lifestyle. A supporting character in the book, Bill Guion, an expatriate living in Tuscany, sums up well the frenzied spirit of the United States. “The Americans I encounter here are so obvious in their pacing, their need to do everything and know everything, right here and right now,” he says. “God, I used to give tours in Rome, but I just couldn’t continue, despite the good pay, the great pay, really, because it was non-stop, with their dog-eared tour books and endless questions and people constantly on my heels, rushing not walking, practically tearing at the city with their eyes and their feet and their need to photograph everything and buy everything. It was too much. Too much to bear.”
    Jacoby Pines is the main character who comes to Italy after his fiancée Claire, a freelance writer, gains an assignment to write about eateries in the country. Once a successful public relations executive in New York, Jacoby is shunned from his profession because of political correctness. As the author writes, he “realized a text message he’d intended for a coworker had been sent to his entire team, including his new boss, who was the subject of a barb that in a rational world would be considered inappropriate and maybe unfortunate, but - in a hyper-sensitized, outraged America - destroyed his career and reputation.”
    Claire pursues a story in Umbria while Jacoby stays behind in the old Tuscan village of Antella. With Bill, they together investigate the identity of a person in an old photograph. The picture, taken many years ago in Tuscany, once belonged to Jacoby’s deceased mother. His inquiry leads to remote villas and eccentric inhabitants in Florence and elsewhere.
Fine food, exquisite wines and great art awaits our protagonist. The closer he gets to solving the mystery, the more he feels at home in Italy. In one scene, “Bill removed his hands from Jacoby’s shoulders, realizing he had been shaking him a bit during his rant. ‘But you, my boy...are right in time here among the Italians. Happy to follow the road to where it takes you, not asking damn questions every step along the way.’”
    “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” is a delight in so many ways, from thoughtful disclosures of the Tuscan hills to sumptuous descriptions of Italian food, to enlightening commentary about modern times. The book is a must-read for anyone who yearns for adventure as only Italy can deliver it: Knee-deep in the good life.

“Orienta…She is the Dance,” written by Orienta Badia, edited by Patricia Badia-Johnson, published by Dorrance Publishing, available at Amazon.com

   For every name that shines bright on Broadway or in Hollywood are those that did not make it. They came close to stardom. Very close. However, they fell short, not for their lack of talent, but because of bad timing, poor management and many personal adversities.
    Such is the case of Orienta Badia. She was 17 years old when she became a professional dancer and part of a Latin dance group that performed in the country’s top theaters and nightclubs. The money she made helped her family during the darkest days of the Great Depression. Orienta’s light shined bright but dimmed fast. She was still a teen when she married and faced many setbacks, including two divorces and two of her five children who had medical difficulties. She gave up dancing and any chance of stardom for something more practical. She became a police matron and ensured the care and sustenance of her children.
    Art remains forever in a person. In retirement, Orienta embraced her creative side again, this time as a writer. She penned a novel, poems, and many essays. After Orienta’s passing at 87, daughter Patricia compiled her work for a heartfelt anthology titled “Orienta…She is the Dance.”
    What goes on behind the scenes in show business is the source for an intriguing novel, that makes up much of the book, titled “Rina.” Here is a work of fiction based on Orienta’s life as a professional dancer through the eyes of Rina Bianco. The girl aspires to be a star as she is cheated and molested by her manager, Rob Dailey, and her parents, immigrants from Abruzzo, all but disown her. Orienta conveyed a depth of language to compliment her fluid prose. Her talent for writing was equal to her dancing and that says a lot.
    In “Rina,” the mystique of stardom is conveyed in a key scene. Dance director Barry Clark explains what a performer must do. “You see, Rina, I think you have potential. You are one of those people with rare quality, something special, something indefinable…I admit that one of the reasons that you can’t do a top-notch job on your performance and you cannot do your best if you aren’t in top form; physically and psychologically.”
    After its dramatic conclusion, “Rina” gives way to poems and shorter works by the author that convey a unique perspective on life. A consistent theme is a deep love for her family. She pays tribute to her children and, Patricia, among them, does the same for her mother in “Orienta…She is the Dance.” The book is one to be read, cherished and remembered.

“A Bronx Cop’s Tale,” by Detective Frank Starnella, Ret. (NYPD), with Ann Bumbak, A Dynamic Police Training Publication, available at www.dynamicpolicetraining.com

   It’s hard to say whether “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” is more like “Dragnet” or “Adam-12.” The television programs that reigned on NBC in prime time through the 1960s and 1970s depicted detectives, Joe Friday and Frank Gannon, in “Dragnet” and uniformed officers, Pete Malloy and Jim Reed, in “Adam-12”. Detective Frank Starnella could have been cast in both programs since he was an investigator and patrol officer for the New York City police department from 1981 to 1994. He conveys his crime fighting exploits and experiences in his exciting and insightful memoirs, “A Bronx Cop’s Tale.”
    Crime writing conveys the entirety of the human condition from depravity to heroics. “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” follows the template as pioneered by Jack Webb, actor, writer, director and producer of television’s “Dragnet” and “Adam-12.” Detective Starnella gives us the true-life tales of New York law enforcement as he lived them. They are real, factual and told in a straight forward manner. The cases speak for themselves. He writes in the book’s introduction: “Whether you are a police officer or someone with an interest in police work, I would like to share my story with you in the hope that you may find something interesting or valuable in it.”
    Some 81 police officers were killed in the line of duty while the author was employed in the NYPD. The book is replete with many life threatening cases and events. While a rookie, he confronted an armed robber. “The suspect placed one foot out of the car and then paused again. I still had my service revolver pointed at him. My partners then came around to the driver’s side as backup. Suddenly, in a split second, the encounter escalated. The suspect quickly reached into his waistband where he had a loaded .38 caliber revolver.” The next seconds depended on his training and the brave support of his fellow officers to apprehend the suspect without injuries or fatalities.
    “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” is set in New York’s northernmost borough. Detective Starnella is a true son of the Bronx. He served as a police officer where he was raised and realized his true calling. His parochial school was across the street from a police station. He writes: “My heart was inside the precinct across the street, not in the classroom. I learned what I was meant to do.”
    “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” is a gem of a book that will excite and enlighten readers. The book is a heartfelt tribute to law enforcement and the dynamic Bronx borough of New York. “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” is excellent.

“Christmas in Venice,” by Joanne Fisher, published by Joanne’s Books, available at Amazon.com

   It is impossible not to enjoy reading “Christmas in Venice,” a beautifully written new book by Joanne Fisher. The author’s underlying message is undisputed: Venice is the most romantic city, ever.
    Joanne Fisher is no stranger to writing romantic fiction. Her novels convey the dreams of all women where a modern day prince is found in the most splendid settings. “Christmas in Venice” does not disappoint as all the enchanting beauty of Venice is on full and tantalizing display.
    “Christmas in Venice” begins as Tiffany Washington makes her trek from America to Venice to take over the reigns of an old glassworks business there. From the moment of her arrival, she falls prey to the city’s timeless charm and sees, “Venice a thriving, living creature but frozen in time like an antique clock that had stopped ticking.”
    Tiffany is dedicated to making her business thrive. Yet, things get off to a shaky start when she is confronted by the city’s labyrinth of regulations. Inspectors visit the shop prior to opening day with permits to be completed and stamps and fees to be paid. The author conveys Tiffany’s feelings when, “At that moment, she hoped that she would make enough money to pay the City of Venice for the very dear property she would be owning one day. Between one tax and another fee, she felt like she would have to hand over everything she made to the City of Venice. She simply nodded.”
    As Tiffany immerses herself in glassmaking, she is visited each morning, with espressos in hand, by Massimo Bussetto, owner of a nearby cafe. Handsome, friendly and possessing a unique charm inherited from his noble blood, Massimo is a good match for Tiffany’s natural American beauty. The two begin a courtship that takes them to all reaches of this majestic city. In one scene, “As they strolled along the Grand Canal, the breeze was strong enough to rock the gondolas back and forth while making ripples in the water…Venice was just enchanting in the evening as it was in the day. Tiffany never got tired of it.”
    What would a romance novel be without an interloper or two to mess things up. Enter Massimo’s mother Celia, who we learn is just like all Venetian mothers to “live up to their blue blood standards and fully expect their children to do the same…” Will the romance survive as differences in class and culture take hold?
    Joanne Fisher has given us a delightful new book in “Christmas in Venice.” As the title suggests, this book is a Christmas gift to be enjoyed all year long.

“Breaking from the Enemy,” by J.R. Sharp, published by Kohlerbooks, available at Amazon.com

   “Breaking from the Enemy” is unique among novels about World War II because it takes place in Italy, not France. Most fictional accounts focus on fighting after D-day when France was a countrywide battleground. Yet, Italy was an equally hard fought setting with hostilities that lasted until war in Europe was officially over.
    J.R. Sharp has given us a valiant retelling of Italy’s war in “Breaking from the Enemy.” The book is a tribute to his grandfather Gino Cartelli and great-uncle Chester Zucchet and their experiences in World War II. Indeed, the main character in the book is named after his grandfather. The novel begins with young Gino Cartelli recovering from wounds fighting in Ethiopia. Mussolini took the African country with hopes of becoming a major colonial power. Ethiopian resistance was especially lethal and many Italian soldiers were killed and injured. Not suitable for combat, Gino serves as an electrician for the army in Rome under Nazi control. A northerner from Pordenone, he is a bit of an outsider in Italy’s capital until he makes friends with Giacomo, another wounded soldier, who is also from the North.
    The author focuses much attention on Gino, Giacomo and the Italian resistance. A conflict is set when character Herman Schmidt is introduced. A wounded hero in a tank battle in Belgium, he now serves as a major in the German Getstapo. Schmidt is sent to Rome to rebuild the Italian army after its disastrous defeat in Greece. While there, he assists Italian fascists in their battle against partisans.
    J.R. Sharp is the ideal person to write such an entertaining and suspenseful novel. A former commander in the U.S. Navy, Sharp knows well military protocol and the ways of battle. He conveys unique facts and figures about Italy’s wartime experiences. The interplay of characters, plot twists and turns in “Breaking from the Enemy” is real and intense.
    What makes the novel special is Sharp’s veteran status. Although he served in a different theater of war; in a different time and place, he comes to the story with considerable empathy. He knows well the mystique of the soldier; how he carries on after being wounded physically and emotionally. Warriors become shadows of their former selves as years of conflict continue. What pushes them onward is the essence of their souls and where they stand in the battle between right and wrong.
    “Breaking from the Enemy” is a tribute to all people who suffered the ravages of war in Italy and everywhere. The book is awesome!

“The Relentless Italian,” by Sarina Rose, Rostek Publishing, available at Amazon.com

    Italian men are the most romantic.
    This is one of many lessons learned by the protagonist, Sophie Carreri, in the entertaining and fulfilling new novel by Sarina Rose titled “The Relentless Italian.”
    Sophie is a senior at St. Joseph College in New Jersey when the story begins in 1964. She yearns to be a veterinarian as cultural changes take shape in the country. Enter Tony Andriosi, a good looking and well-dressed Italian who wins Sophie’s heart. We get a sense of their idyllic romance when the author writes: “The rose and purple sunset faded into a shimmering dark blue sky as the ferry motored over the smooth bay waters. The senior class was in a dreamy mood. Couples lined along the rail, arms around each other looking at the stars. Singles huddled together in small groups. Some dance music drifted over the loud speakers. Tony put his arms around my waist and took me to an open area to dance. Other couples joined us. I looked over his shoulder.”
    “The Relentless Italian” is divided into chapters as told through the eyes of Sophie and Tony. Not just a perspective of female and male but one that is American and Italian shapes the conflict to come.
    Tony is not like the other boys at school. As noted by Sophie’s Italian mother observing the couple, “‘You sat too close to him in the car. He’s a too short for you, too Italian. Why you not meet an American? Some man more like you. Besides, you know, he has…er…he has…a…you know…man feelings.’”
    Although a professional singer back in Italy, Tony comes to America for a college degree. He professes true love for Sophie when their romance gets serious and they are faced with a new dilemma. Tony must return to Italy to record a new album while Sophie will attend veterinary school at Cornell University in upstate New York. As Sophie mused in one scene, “Nice, falling for a guy who lived in two countries, traveled back and forth, and already in charge of my heart. I would go out with him, but I would have to wear a protective led coat over my heart and an iron chastity belt.”
    Tony returns to Italy where fame and female fans await. Meanwhile, Sophie faces a secret crisis. Will their love survive years separated by an ocean?
    “The Relentless Italian” might seem a quaint return to a different time and place. Yet, the hopes, fears and struggles of Sophie, Tony, their families and friends, are the same as those faced by us today. Generations are no different from one another when love is at play. Such is the ultimate lesson learned by the young characters - and all of us - in “The Relentless Italian.” A beautiful book.

“Six Rode Home,” by Michael Dante, published by Bear Manor Media, available at Amazon.com

   Michael Dante is no stranger to Westerns. The actor possesses the natural good looks and athleticism to always be tall in the saddle. He starred in television shows such as “Daniel Boone,” “Custer,” “The Big Valley,” and in feature length films such as “Apache Rifles,” “Arizona Raiders,” and the role and film that made him a living legend - “Winterhawk.”
    In addition to acting, Dante is also a writer with screenplays and novellas to his credit. His chosen genre, of course, is the Western. His latest is the highly entertaining and absorbing novella, “Six Rode Home.”
    Dante is not unlike other Italians who embrace Confederate soldiers as main characters. Look no further than Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci, two pioneers of the Spaghetti Western, who preferred hero bounty hunters as Southern renegades and veterans. The romanticism and charm of the South attracts Italians. The rugged environs of the Wild West appeal to our collective sense of adventure.
    “Six Rode Home” begins as the Civil War ends with men returning home. They are six hardened warriors: Cole, Big Black, Trotter, Pender, Jubal and Simpson. They seek the wild hinterlands beyond Tennessee. Some remain bitter at war’s end. Trotter captures the dark mood when he says, “I still got a war going inside my gut…tell me how to stop it…Four years of putting my life on the line and what do I have to show for it? I got no home, no money, nothing!”
    One half of the group, led by Cole, seeks to become ranchers and the other, led by Trotter, become outlaws. Big Black is a former slave who is Cole’s adopted brother. They make a formidable team against corruption and greed back home. Some men in the county got rich selling weapons to the North. Things come to head when a local Indian tribe is threatened by the land hungry ranchers. “Six Rode Home” is the kind of story that made America the envy of the world. Westerns are universally famous. The genre appeals to people’s natural sense of right and wrong. The battle between good and evil is set upon rugged plains, majestic hills and awesome mountains. The hero is noble but not afraid to use his gun to the win the fight.
    “Six Rode Home” is an engaging novella from beginning to end. Dante gives us characters that are approachable, definable and likable. The land, the story, the heroes and villains move us. “Six Rode Home” is a Western at its best. This is a wonderful book to be read by anyone and everyone who loves the majestic spirit of Americana.

“Bloodline: A Historical Novel,” by Anthony Thomas DiSimone, Archway Publishing, available at Amazon.com

   Anthony Thomas DiSimone gives us a story in “Bloodline” that is as historically thorough and enthralling as what might have come from the books written by the late James Michener.
“Bloodline” takes us from 1860s Sicily to 1970s America. In a little over 500 pages, the author is able to cover this unique epoch in an interplay of fictional characters with historical figures ranging from Giuseppe Garibaldi and Antonio Meucci to Robert F. Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa.
    “Bloodline” begins in the village of Corleone in Sicily at the time of Italy’s Risorgimento. The Scalise family are the last of the old feudal lords who control much of the area with their property, wealth and power. A crisis ensues after Bettina Castellucci, the 17-year-old mentally challenged daughter of a poor yet proud family in town, finds herself pregnant. When Enrico Scalise, son of the Don, is accused of being the father, both families must work together to censure the scandal. They conceive a plan that enlists the support of the Roman Catholic Church and a network of clans and townsfolk to retain the status of both families. This is a running theme throughout the novel: How cooperation and conflict will emerge, succeed and fail between families representing different classes and subcultures in both Sicily and America.
    “Bloodline” is a multi-dimensional work that covers the varying decades of history. The author’s focus is on the Sicilian mindset and the unwritten rules of lasting power. In one scene, the Merendinos become a powerful family in Sicily “by maintaining alliances to purchase not only olives but other locally produced products.” By helping other family owned businesses, the Merendinos “took care of their flock in more than a biblical sense. They were patrons in the social as well as economic sense, as well as general mediators and benevolent protectors.”
    Mr. DiSimone has a lot of love for both Sicily and America and it shows. The writer is at his most insightful when he describes what Sicily symbolized to those who once lived there. He writes: “They were indeed people of that place, that earth, but more than that, there was a sense of ownership to this land, these towns, and the cities…When the soil did not produce, some felt as if it was a personal insult from this terra amaro (bitter earth).”
    “Bloodline” is an awesome book that conveys the entirety of Italian America. The characters, settings and events, many of them from real history, makes this an extraordinary book to read and remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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
- Measures to help the economy could take a year to implement
- The playgrounds are open
- 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

 

 

Opinion
WHY I THINK CONSERVATIVES ARE NOT BETTER FOR ITALIAN AMERICANS
The Author Considers The Ideology of the Right More Damaging to Italian Americans
Neither Conservatism or Progressivism is Preferable. Seeking a Third Way

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

  I have been writing the We Need To Talk About series and some urgent op-eds about the progressive left lately. I fear that my work so far here has given the wrong impression that I am right-wing. I am actually a left-liberal Democrat. I hope to one day explain what that means, but suffice it for now that I am a leftist, but not very “woke”.
   I think that the conservatives have done plenty of bad things to Italians.
   Leftists did not lynch Italians in 1891. Leftists did not write op-eds, including in the then conservative New York Times, supporting the lynching of Italians.   Leftists did not basically eliminate Italian immigration for about 40 years from the early 1920’s to 1964. Leftists did not pressure to give up our language, our culture, sometimes our ethnicity. No, the conservatives of America did.
   The right-wing has been anti-Italian and anti-Catholic for a long time. The anti-Catholic Know Nothings (the American Party) was right-wing. The Klan, anti-Catholic and anti-Italian amongst hating most other people, was right-wing. The right-wing has long been mean to Italians. Most great Italian politicians have been either Democrats or left-leaning Republican, back when there used to be such a thing. There have been very view right-wing Italian politicians historically.
The few that exist have never used vowel-last names. Ron DeSantis is openly Italian but his last name does imply some ethnic ambiguity. Rick Santorum purposefully uses a Latin (old-school Latin name) name to be “less ethnic” and has condemned Italian American identity repeatedly.
   There really are no right-wing proud Italian politicians except for Rudy Giuliani, who was not right-wing in the 1990’s.
   The right-wing condemns identity politics, no matter how mild or legitimate. Conservativism has no place for Italian Americans. Neither does progressivism. But, luckily, there is plenty of room in terms of ideology in-between. Italian American identity politics is more than just being proud of being Italian. It is about ensuring the survival of the Italian American community as a distinct people. We cannot do that by relying on conservatives.
   Christopher Columbus, conservatives call him. He has often been viewed as a white hero, because conservatives could not accept his Italian or Roman Catholicism identity. Now, progressives hate “Columbus.” We should stop calling him that. His birth name was Cristoforo Colombo and he was an Italian explorer, the first Italian American, in the broad sense. He was not a white hero or a white supremacist. He was not even white, but an Italian, considered beneath the dignity of the Spaniards, who are considered minorities in the US today, and far below the dignity of the French and Germans. In fact, the main opponent of Colombo was a Spanish priest who scapegoated the “inferior” Italian rather than blame the Spanish Empire for its sins. That priest, now a progressive hero, was actually quite conservative.
   From Colombo to the lynchings and race riots against Italians to the movement to anglicize us against our collective will, conservativism was part of it all. Honestly, the U.S. Census is still treating us “non-Hispanic white” as the result of conservative activism, policies and bureaucrats. True, we finally got the blank line allowing us to list our “ancestry” on the 2020 Census, but I know that we might have gotten more if it were not for conservatives.
   We need to get recognition as an ethnic minority, in the EEO definition, in the U.S. Census, under state law, et cetera. We are not operating under 400 years of racial oppression like African Americans. We are operating under more than 500 years of racial oppression. Both types of oppression come largely from conservative forces. Now, of course the oppression of Italians is minimal compared to that of African Americans, but it goes just as deeply in order of history. We were kept out of America for most of its history. We need to confront that kind of racism and by pretending to be white to please conservatives, we just anger African Americans and make progressives view us as “the enemy”.
   Look, we are certainly more privileged compared to African Americans and dark-skinned Latinos but we are on par with “white” Latinos and Middle Easterners, as well as less privileged than true white people. We are on the same side as other minorities and to me, justice lies on the left side of history. To be quippy, the right side of history is the left side of history. That means that we Italians are kindred spirits to the peaceful, respectful parts of the protest movement for racial justice for African Americans. We must be opposed to the conservative forces of racism and the equally pernicious progressive forces of racism (the rioters).
   In sum, we need to be viewed by the state and federal governments as an ethnic minority. That makes us on the left side of things. That said, I seem to annoy both sides of the polarized political world.

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.

 

 

GOFUNDME SITE SEEKS TO DECAPITATE THE COLUMBUS MONUMENT
Group Proposes Bounty for Anyone Who Destroys the Statue in Columbus Circle in Manhattan
- Italian Americans need to organize now
- A call to march to save the monument
- Engage now: contact NYPD crimestoppers to report criminal threat to the monument

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

Everyone is angry right now.
   However, only some people have the right to march in the streets. In New Jersey and New York strict political restrictions exist. If you are from a disfavored interest group, you can get arrested in New York or New Jersey for exercising your First Amendment rights. If you protest against police brutality, for instance, or Climate Change, you can march freely and if you riot, you will get released without bail in New York City due to criminal justice reforms.
   I wish that Italian Americans had the same leeway to protest bigotry and discrimination against us. We cannot legally gather in groups of 26 or more without the risk of arrest in New Jersey or New York City. Governors decreed laws and now that they find cause that they agree with, they have unconstitutionally given some groups the right to violate the political restrictions that bind ordinary people, especially Italian Americans and Roman Catholics.
   The mainstream media thinks me mad for even writing about such double standards. It speaks with one voice and that voice does not have a New Jersey accent. The mainstream media wants to oppress us. It gives Pulitzer Prizes to God-haters like Christopher Hitchens for attacking God, while applauding the state-sanctioned oppression of Roman Catholics and, yes, Italians as well.
   I am mad for a good reason. The Columbus Monument in the center of Columbus Circle in Manhattan, the heart and soul of both Italian and Roman Catholic America, has been threatened with decapitation, to the applause of the mainstream media. Right now, GoFundMe is allowing an antifa-like group to raise money for thugs to behead the Columbus statue. The group proposes a bounty to anyone who destroys the statue. This is a state historical landmark. It is an irreplaceable treasure. Destroying or defacing it is illegal and a hate crime under federal and state law. However, GoFundMe, which has a strong anti-hate speech policy and has been tough on pro-lifers and other disfavored groups, is by its silence, endorsing the beheading of our beloved statue.
   I have been told my whole life to shut up about civil rights violations and abuses against Italian Americans and Roman Catholics. Just let it go. Nobody cares. Civil rights are not for you. That is the stuff that I have been dealing with for a long time. African Americans and Native Americans deserve to be most served by civil rights campaigns, as they are the worst victims of civil rights abuses and violations. Dark-skinned Latinos are next in deserving attention for civil rights campaigns. But lighter-skinned Latinos, Middle Easterners, Jews, South Asians, East Asians, Italian Americans, Mediterraneans and Roman Catholics all serve equal attention on the third rung of civil rights activism.
   We need to defend the Columbus Monument through peaceful methods. First of all, we must be prepared to be arrested or dispersed by the police for marching. We must convene a group demonstration in New York City near Columbus Circle to protect our beloved statue and against racism of all forms. We must be vigilant to keep the white nationalist creeps away from our beloved statue.
   We must march in defense of our civil right as Italian Americans and Roman Catholics, but, also, we should march in the defense of all people’s civil rights. We need to get angry and get organized to defend the Columbus Monument peacefully, even if the state, the media, and other civil rights protesters think us racists. We are not racists! Italian Americans were the second-most lynched ethnic group after African Americans. We still do not have an official federal heritage month. We still are not considered an official minority group, which is vital to our civil rights. We are still stereotyped more than all other ethnic groups. As practicing Roman Catholics, we suffer unjust laws recently passed in New Jersey and New York to keep us in our place.
   I am liberal. I believe in civil rights for everyone, civil liberties for everyone and social justice for all.
   I call on all Italian Americans to protest for our civil rights and become the Italian American Movement. We must send a message now that we want the police to protect and keep the Columbus Statue intact and to tell politicians that we will vote against them if they allow it to be defaced or destroyed. We should all be contacting NYPD’s CrimeStoppers to report what is going on regarding the GoFundMe site and the threat against the Columbus Monument.

Editor’s Note: You can access the NYPD crimes stopper’s site here and inform them about the GoFundMe group seeking to destroy the Columbus Monument at Columbus Circle here.

The Go Fund Me site that calls for the destruction of the Christopher Columbus statue is here. You can reference the site in your complaint.

Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, political theorist, and adjunct professor at Middlesex County College at Edison, New Jersey. He is the President and Founder of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights activist 501c3 that fights against discrimination and for the legal recognition of Italian Americans as a protected minority group. He strongly supports both the peaceful protesters for the memory of George Floyd and the police, especially the NYPD. He can be reached at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu.

 

 

 

 

BASTA TO RIOTS
All Forms of Violence Must Be Condemned
Why Italian Americans Don’t Riot
- Those who incite riots should be arrested and prosecuted
- The warped legacy of the 1967 Newarks riots
- "The Sopranos" (film) blames the Italians

By Christopher Binetti




The aftermath of riots in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., where
a number of Italian owned and Italian named stores were among many damaged.

   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.

 

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ANDREW COTTO
The Author’s New Novel “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” Tells The Story of a Man Fired from His Job Who Finds New Life in Tuscany
Is it better to live in Italy or America?

What begins as a mystery to find the identity of a person in an old photograph soon leads the main character, Jacoby Pines, to consider leaving the U.S. and live in Italy in “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure.” We spoke to the author about why so many Americans are increasingly opting to become expatriates in Italy.

Although set in Italy, "Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure" covers many contemporary topics and issues faced by Americans today. Indeed, main character Jacoby Pines is a victim of the PC culture. He is shunned from the public relations field after he tweeted something he meant as a joke but people found culturally offensive. Has America today become too hypersensitive for people to live and work?

I don't think America is too hypersensitive to live and work, but contemporary times, both professional and personal, are definitely complicated by many traits of modern culture. It's jarring to think how easily one can become "cancelled" after a single mistake or even misinterpretation. 

Indeed, Jacoby Pines is a fascinating character. He travels to Italy with his girlfriend Claire, a freelance writer, and finds himself at home there. This is an increasingly common phenomenon: People with little or no connection to the peninsula find Italy far more appealing America and decide to live there. What is about Italy that Jacoby and others find so much better than America?

The appeal of Italy to Jacoby is the way of life. There are plenty of Americans, like Claire, who love the fast-pace of American life; but there are also those who seek a more antiquated existence. Jacoby surely falls into that category. It's the ability to immerse in all that Italy has to offer without having to kill yourself in the process. Jacoby is overwhelmed by how accessible a high quality of life is, and there's reference in the book to the point that only the rich in America have access to the finer things. I'm not talking mansions and sports cars, second homes and the like; I just mean high quality food, wine, natural beauty, art, culture, etc.

“Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” is an outstanding novel set in contemporary Tuscany. Is your family from this region of Italy? If not, where in Italy is your family from?

My mother's side of the family is from Sicily, and my father's side is from Piemonte. That said, I consider myself an unofficial Tuscan because I lived there for a year and have visited many times. I love it like a second home. I do plan on living there again someday and visiting as often as possible in the meantime. That said, I love the whole peninsula and aim to visit every region (so far, I've been to half). My new fascination is Le Marche. 

"Cucina Tipica" is a novel that shows Italy as not this old, antiquated land, but rather a vibrant and creative place that a lot of young Americans find appealing. Is this the way you see Italy?

I see Italy as both creative and vibrant but also antiquated, though I don't mean antiquated in a pejorative sense. It's the blend of these attributes, modern and antiquated, which makes it so special. There's so much creativity, but also an appreciation of pacing and old-world ethos. 

What's next for you? A new novel? Screenplay? Do you have another creative work that is set in Italy?

I have a novel, Black Irish Blues, coming out this fall. It's the sequel to my second novel, Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery, that was also translated into Italian last year (simply titled: Brooklyn Mystery). I'm currently working on a sequel to Cucina Tipica called Cucina Romana, and I hope to see it published in  the spring of 2021, if only for a reason to go to Italy to promote. I'm also working very hard on finding someone to buy the film rights to Cucina Tipica. If your readers know anyone, have them reach out to me. I think Stanley Tucci would be the perfect person to make it into a film...Call me, Stanley!

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Andrew Cotto’s new novel “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. Andrew’s web site is https://andrewcotto.com/

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Italy is one of the countries most affected by coronavirus. The quarantine in Italy lasted for almost two months with many streets from north to south completely deserted. The first step in a cautious reopening took place on May 4. The disease struck all Italian sectors, especially the Roman Catholic Church. PRIMO Magazine reports from Rome.

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.

If you like what you read here, then you will love our print edition. Subscribe to PRIMO here

 

 

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.

 

 

 

We Really Need to Talk about Italian American Leadership

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


A bucket is tied to a rope and dropped down for the delivery man.
The writer’s son Piero does his daily exercise on the balcony as
neighbors sunbathe on their roof.

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


Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte

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.
   Italians have become subjugated in their own country by Prime Minister Conte’s essentially authoritarian regime and the EU. They want to free themselves of him and increasingly free themselves of the EU. While leaving the EU entirely like Britain did is very cathartic and could certainly stop Conte from consolidating his power, it is the wrong answer.
   The EU is deeply corrupt and flawed in some ways, but the fundamental concept of a non-military loose politically union that helps economic and security concerns in Europe is still valid. Italy should not leave the EU entirely unless given absolutely no choice. That time has not come and hopefully never will.
The main anti-EU politician in Italy, Salvini, is not just hated by the international business community and the EU elites who wish to make Italy a province in a federal Europe. Salvini is a bad actor. He was marginalized by Conte for the wrong reasons, to please the international business community, the EU, and to secure power for himself. He is a racist, xenophobe and he is no less authoritarian than Conte.
   The solution is not to leave the EU or give Salvini the absolute power that he craves. However, the international community is dead wrong about Conte. His actions have created the riots, looting, and unrest in Southern Italy. He has lost Northern Italy for a generation. Many will never forgive the excesses of martial law. He will try to rule as the favored governor of the European elites and the international business community, but that is exactly the wrong way to win Italians over.
   No one who writes in English about Italy ever explains the history of Italy. Italy has long been dominated or threatened by three forces- France, Germany, and the Italian central government. The Coronavirus crisis has revealed these forces as threats to Italy’s sense of self and democracy. Of course, people are mad at the EU and of course they are mad at Conte for politically exploiting this situation to cause unnecessary damage to regional autonomy, to consolidate his own quasi-dictatorial power, and to oppress the people with unnecessary martial law.
   However, hatred is never the solution. Riots are never the solution. Just as the Newark riots in New Jersey were evil and unjustified, so too are riots and looting in Southern Italy. Coronavirus did not cause the economic devastation, the Eurozone did. Coronavirus did not cause the rioting, Conte’s power grab and imposition of martial law did that. Coronavirus did not essentially end Italian democracy. Again, Conte, with the EU, did.
   Conte needs to be held accountable for his actions, either removal as prime minister if his actions were legal or imprisoned if they were not. Italy needs to be made into a federation, where it is clearly illegal to block people from moving from town to town within their own region without the region’s concurrence. There must be a clear legal justification for all martial law-like impositions in the future in case of emergencies.
   The EU also needs to learn that Italian sovereignty comes first. While Salvini’s racism and xenophobia must be condemned and rejected, he is right that Italy needs to take power back from the supranational elites in Brussels. While the EU is correct to impose restrictions on Italian national sovereignty in some areas, the time has come for Italy to leave the Eurozone, but not the EU itself.
   In sum, Italy has many problems. Coronavirus brought them to the surface and perhaps made them worse, but it did not cause them. Conte is a threat to Italy’s prosperity, safety and security and he needs to be replaced by someone who will create a sovereign, federal Italy strongly aligned with other Southern European countries and rejects racism, xenophobia and Salvini. It is time to put both Salvini and Conte in political quarantine.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, and 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.

 

 

 

 

OF NONNA  AND COVID-19
My Grandmother Lived Through the Spanish Flu of 1918
What I Learned from Her

Alfonso Guerriero

   A few days ago, my brother-in-law sent me a text and news report about a convoy of military trucks ordered to collect the remains of the coronavirus victims in Bergamo, Italy. The city is one of the hardest hit in the global pandemic. Cadavers were dumped into a mass grave to prevent the disease from spreading. I am certain the government’s decision was difficult, especially in a country noted for mourning loved ones.  
   The article reminded me of a parallel story about my maternal grandmother, Giuseppina Zaccaria. She was born in Sant’Angelo a Scala circa 1902 and survived the Spanish influenza in 1918. Her oldest sister Filomena, a young and beautiful blue-eyed girl, however, was not as fortunate and died in her arms. My grandmother told me that her sister’s lifeless body was carried in a horse drawn wagon and dumped in to a mass grave. The family never had a chance to properly bury her beloved sister.
   The 1918 influenza devastated Italy much the way the 2020 coronavirus is now. My grandmother’s tragedy was over a hundred years ago. I find myself remembering her while I and others confront the 2020 pandemic in New York. Here is America’s epicenter where hundreds die daily. 
   New York is is where I was born and raised, where my wife and I work and where we raise our daughters. In one big swoop the vibrant energy is sucked-out. There is a new soundscape here that is noticeably off key, accompanied by a very different sidewalk scene and lifestyle. Pedestrians and straphangers on buses and trains are covered in white or black surgical masks; some with the highly coveted N-95s, as well as in blue or lavender colored latex gloves to protect their hands from the disease. My wife and I, like the rest of the world, are working from home. We are educators who are doing our best to be on call for our students via remote learning while juggling our responsibilities as parents and maintaining a life of normalcy for our daughters.
   The shelter-in-place decision in New York, like most of the country, followed the advice of many medical experts predicting the worst is yet to come. So many hospitals will be unable to maintain the onslaught of patients. Those with pre-existing medical conditions are most susceptible to the virus will likely be whisked into the ER.  The strain on hospitals is predicted to be so enormous that the Jacob Javits Center is now transformed into a 1,200 bed emergency hospital and in Central Park a field hospital was erected to serve impending patients expected to arrive in the days ahead.
   New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo convenes daily briefings like modern day fireside chats. As one reporter from the New York Times, remarked, “It’s no wonder that watching Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings can make some people crave Chianti and meatballs….the governor of New York evokes the feeling of a big Italian family dinner table.”   
   The importance of family returns in a times like these. Family is the pillar of our existence. The contagion forces many of us to press reset and reevaluate our lives. I call or text my cousins in Italy more regularly now. I ask my mother more in-depth questions about my grandmother. I check in with my own children about what they are feeling.
   The coronavirus has abruptly entered our lives like a spiteful guest who has crashed our party filled with gaiety. The U.S. economy was strong and many of us were removed from the challenges that confront the rest of the world. At the same time, my grandmother’s story of courage and perseverance has awoken in me my own self-pity during this outbreak.
   After living through the 1918 pandemic in Italy and ravages of World War I, she arrived in America in 1920, unable to read or write in her native language. Almost a decade later, she and my grandfather married and raised three daughters on a modest income only to survive the Great Depression and World War II. And yet I never heard my grandmother complain.
   So, then, why am I complaining?
   I have electronic devices to communicate with the outside world via text, audio and video. I can buy food and have it delivered to my home and added to my stockpile. My wife and children remain safe and out of harm's way. And, I am getting paid and have medical insurance while many others have been laid off and struggle to pay the mortgage or rent.  
   Furthermore, we have running water and electricity and as long as no one interrupts those essentials, we will be just fine. Yes, of course this global pandemic created an inconvenience from my regular routine but compared to my grandmother’s life and the horrible experiences of so many first responders right now, I have no reason to complain. 

 

 

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR MARCO RAFALÀ
His New Novel “How Fires End” Explores the Dark Hidden Past of a Sicilian-American Family in Middletown, Connecticut in the 1980s
Is it good to keep family secrets?



Marco Rafalà is a new established voice of the 1980s generation. “How Fires End” is set in Marco’s hometown of Middletown, Connecticut. The story is told through the eyes of David Vassallo, a high school student who lives with his father Salvatore, a widower employed at the local factory. A secret about Salvator comes to light and new questions arise as to how David's two uncles were killed in Sicily many years ago. The more David investigates the more things unravel and the past returns with vendettas and recriminations. PRIMO interviewed Marco about his new novel and his experience growing up in a Sicilian-American family in Connecticut.

"How Fires End," is an amazing story set in your hometown of Middletown, Connecticut in 1986. Tell us what led you to write this novel?

The novel is loosely influenced by family history and the folklore of Melilli, Sicily, as told to me by my father. Despite all the pain and hardships there, his hometown of Melilli seemed like a wonderful place, almost magical to me. I was fascinated with this village my father loved and missed so dearly. Somewhere there, in Melilli, was a way into understanding him. I went to Melilli with my father for the first time in 2001—and I don’t think I ever would have written the book if we hadn’t made that trip. Being in Melilli—walking those winding streets, wandering through the almond orchard he tended as a boy with his father, seeing the graves of two young cousins killed during the war while playing with an unexploded shell—I understood why my father’s stories stuck with me and what they meant to me. The Italian journalist, Luigi Barzini once said: “Sicily is notoriously an astoundingly improbable island where outlandish and terrifying things happen every day, everywhere, to everyone as a matter of course, the kind of things novelists elsewhere have to invent with great labor and waste of time.” I started writing about Sicily and the Sicilian immigrants living in Middletown, Connecticut, after that trip.

A family secret is at the heart of "How Fires End." Although American culture - then and now - pushes the idea of total self expression, Italians, and especially Sicilians, are much more private when it comes to family matters. What is at the roots of this "omerta" - this vow of secrecy, among Italians, and most notably, Sicilians, when it comes to family?

A lot of the tension among the characters in my novel comes from the things they cannot say to each other—which is related to the Sicilian idea of omertà, the code of silence. And, looking back, I can see how those silences between the characters drove the novel’s creation and structure. The decision to have multiple perspectives grew organically out of this. The characters’ relationships are deeply shaped not only by the traumas they carry but, maybe more importantly, by their inability to talk about and process that trauma. That’s partly because, in that time and culture—and still for many men today—you don't talk about your feelings. You certainly do not see a therapist. Mental health just isn't something men talk enough about, if at all. At the root of this stubborn silence is a cultural idea of what masculinity is supposed to look like—and it's an idea that can hold people, men and women both, hostage. The notion that men shouldn't ask for help, that it's a sign of weakness, like all of machismo, is a poison. If you’re carrying and hiding the weight of trauma for decades, how are you supposed to have relationships? How are you supposed to express love? To me, it’s very much part of my immigrant family experience: men who only know how to express anger and fear.

The other part of this, of course, is the history of the people of Sicily and how they dealt with decades of brutal foreign rule. In that sense, this code of silence among families was a tool of self-preservation and protection. It is probably best encapsulated in the Sicilian proverb, "He who is deaf, blind and silent will live a hundred years in peace." Of course, years later, the Mafia would use omertà as a way to maintain authority within their own ranks and among the general populace.

Although Middletown consists of families of Sicilian immigrants, not everyone is equal or treated the same. Your novel sheds light on an overlooked yet underlying conflict among people from Italy; not just the region from where you came, but also your province, and more pointedly the village, may breed mistrust and enmity with each other. Please comment.

At my "hometown" book launch in Middletown, Connecticut, I was joined by a brilliant Italian American writer, Juliet Grames, whose debut novel, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, also came out in 2019. Grames' family is from Calabria, and her novel is inspired by the story of her grandmother's life, from a small Calabrian village all the way to Connecticut. In our presentation at the event, I jokingly told her that my father had warned me to watch out for the Calabrese because "they are hard headed." Then she recounted her father had warned her about Sicilians. There is so much mistrust. And yet, in the end, we were both from southern Italy—regions where hardship was a way of life, and still is for many. And when you got down to it, reading both our books, there were more similarities than differences in the challenges our parents and grandparents live through. For example, limited access to education, rampant poverty, little control over your destiny, and often devastating machismo. 

But such distrust of outsiders is also a parallel to how strong and connected a village or province may be, through family, through culture, through surviving trauma together. In How Fires End, the character Vincenzo, a former Italian soldier from Rome, plays an interesting role as an outsider. While Vincenzo is eventually adopted into the Sicilian family at the heart of the book, it's in no small part because the family was already rejected by their community. When their own family was broken, they created a new one, which meant breaking down some of the stereotypes and boundaries they otherwise might fall back on.

"How Fires End" is indicative of its time, set in the 1980s. Cinema, rock music and other aspects of pop culture celebrated horror, perhaps more than any other decade. Hence, your novel - although not horror - nevertheless, still contains a horror feel to it. Was this intentional or just part of the influential mystique of the 1980s?

It was not intentional, though especially in the section of the book that takes place in 1980s Connecticut, I strove to capture the feeling of the era. I came of age myself in the 1980s, and I experienced it through two often opposing perspectives: as an American teenager and as the son of a strict, traditional Sicilian father. Needless to say, that was not easy for either one of us. In the novel, I wanted to capture these competing dynamics—and one way to do that was to let the teenage character of David begin to slowly step into a broader American world beyond his Sicilian family. But he's still constrained by his father's rules. Since David can't immerse himself in American culture, he brings those influences inside himself. This affects how he—and thereby the reader—perceives the world around him. There is also a sense of something ominous yet mysterious that pervades David's narrative: the long-simmering animosity between his family and another Sicilian immigrant family, a horror so deep that no one will speak of it. And that secret stalks David, almost like an apparition.

What's next for you? A new novel? Screenplay? You are a Game Writer, also. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new novel that came out of a line of dialogue in How Fires End. In Melilli, Sicily, during the Second World War, an Italian soldier is urging a local family to flee the fighting. But the father refuses, explaining: “Soldiers came to our village last week. We prayed for help, and you know what happened? An American fell from the sky, pulled out of the clouds by the saint.” This line was inspired by a story my father told me about a family in Melilli who helped hide an American paratrooper during the war. And so now I’m exploring where it takes me.

Because most of my game writing work is for licensed properties like Star Trek, for example, I'm bound by non-disclosure agreements and can't discuss them. However, I can say that I had the pleasure of contributing to an Italian role-playing game called Lex Arcana designed by one of my favorite game designers, Francesco Nepitello. The game, in Italian and English, will be released later this year from Quality Games.
 
Editor’s Note: Marco Rafalà has won rave reviews for his novel “How Fires End.” You can purchase this novel at Amazon.com by visiting the seller’s web site here.

 

 

 

 

 

FOURTH WEEK OF LOCKDOWN IN FLORENCE
Complaints Grow In Italy’s North for Bearing Brunt of Coronavirus Outbreak
Writer Misses Sciocco Tuscan Bread

By Deirdre Pirro






The Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery are devoid of crowds while a view from the author's window in Florence shows only
her geranium blooms as active.



Fears are growing here and for the situation developing daily in the United States and our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

In the last week or so, there have been continuing rumblings in the press and other media about dissatisfaction at both national and European levels of the handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Italy's opposition Center-Right parties have complained that too many decisions are made by Ministerial decree by the Center-Left coalition without proper democratic consultation with them. There is also tension between the central government and the regional governors (mainly of the Center-Right) in the worst hit areas of Northern Italy. They say they have had to bear the brunt of dealing with an unprecedented situation without, in their view, sufficient co-ordination or coherency from Rome. An example of this is that in these few weeks, the forms that we have to fill out and carry with us to justify why we have left our homes (to go to the supermarket or to the doctor or to take out the garbage) has already been changed FIVE times. This prompted a friend of mine to quip that perhaps Italy is trying to beat the virus by confusing it with overly complex bureaucracy.

However, it is at the European level that most discontent is being voiced. As people realize that, when this is all over, they may be faced with a recession that (pessimistically) could be as bad, if not worse, than the Great Depression of last century, they are looking to the European Union for guidance and financial assistance. At present, it appears, at least to the man-in-the-street, that little of either is forthcoming. Some predict that if the EU fails to become pro-active in these circumstances, it may be ringing its own death knell.

There is also considerable concern within the country that the virus will take hold in the South of Italy which, until now, has only been moderately affected. But, on two occasions, once when the schools were shut down and again when the non-essential factories were closed, many people living and working in the North who were originally from the South flooded back home. No one knows how many of them were asymptomatic carriers of the virus. Furthermore, it is no secret that many places in the South do not have the hospitals or apparatus or materials to combat an epidemic. They will need help.

On the domestic front, I continue to try and remain organized with set tasks to perform each day and our delivery routines continue, except now the pharmacy has now been added to the list and delivers our medications to the door. I have also acquired one unexpected new skill. I have become a barber, called into action by my husband whose hair was growing long and unruly. Quite unprepared for the task, I watched several clips on YouTube and convinced myself I could do it. And I did and became more and more empowered as I clipped away with the sharp scissors. He now has a VERY short back and sides haircut. Based on Pietro's judgement of my handy work, his barber shouldn't worry as his post-coronavirus job is still quite safe.

I am still dreaming of my “fritto intelligente” but have added another item to my wish list, I long for a huge loaf of freshly baked, crusty Tuscan “sciocco” (unsalted) bread from the corner bakery as soon as it opens its doors again. It's another little bit of culinary heaven.

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.

 

ART SLEUTH ARNOLFINI
An Exciting New Work of Fiction by Multi-Award Winning Author Rich DiSilvio Explores The World of Art Crimes
From art forgeries to stolen relics - the man to call is Armand Arnolfini, private investigator
- PRIMO Interviews the Author



Multi-Award winning author Rich DiSilvio does it all. He is an artist, a historian and a writer. Why not put all his passions into one new and original project? He does so with the “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries.” This is a new twist on America’s long literary tradition of mystery fiction. Instead of solving murders or finding lost loved ones, Armand Arnolfini is a private investigator who is hired to solves art crime mysteries. PRIMO interviewed Rich about his new and original work of mystery fiction.

What inspired you to write "The Arnolfini Art Mysteries"?

The protagonist, Armand Arnolfini, first appeared in two introductory tales in my award-winning book Short Stories II. Readers responded with great enthusiasm, which prompted me to write more art-crime cases for Armand to solve, hence this book. But the initial conception was based on two primary considerations: first, my desire to create an Italian protagonist who was clever and witty. The long-held stereotype of the Italian Mafioso gangster or as dimwitted imbeciles in TV shows, like Jersey Shore, was something that demanded a response. Granted, I don’t claim such Italians didn’t, or don’t, exist, and freedom of speech does entitle writers to produce these programs and characters to be exploited. However, where is the counterbalance? There are very few shows with Italian heroes. Even Columbo, who was a great detective, was portrayed as a disheveled rag-a-muffin who drove a broken-down bomb of a car. Hence, the world needed an Italian P.I. with class, some savvy and lots of smarts. It needed Armand Arnolfini. The second motive was that art has been a part of my life since childhood, even being one of my career professions, having created art and new media projects for TV shows and music legends. So, it was only natural that a private eye solving art-related crimes was a picture-perfect fit. Okay, pun intended!

"The Arnolfini Art Mysteries" contains six wonderful short stories with the protagonist Armand Arnolfini. He's a private investigator consistent with others in America's literary and pop culture past, i.e., Sam Spade, Mike Hammer and James Rockford, to name a few. What makes Arnolfini unique compared to other fictional private investigators?

Armand is unique in that his past contains the unusual aspect that he was born in Italy and was a professional fútbol player for AC Milan. Armand then moved to the USA and became an FBI agent, but tried to create their Art Crimes division, which was non-existent back in the 1970s, which is sadly based on truth. Little attention was given to art crimes in America, as the greatest task force to combat such crimes was, and is, in Italy.  Most European nations likewise give less attention to this field. People worldwide don’t realize that well over 25,000 works of art are missing, so politicians don’t press the issue to spend taxpayer dollars to combat art-crimes. But if the public knew, they’d change their minds, because the dollar amounts are astronomical. Luckily, we have Armand uniquely combating these rarely publicized crimes. Anyhow, due to the FBI’s lack of interest during the 1970s, Armand went out on his own in the 1980s, and is now a private investigator, specializing in art crimes, something his famous fictional peers never did. This brings great works of fine art to the public, and enlightens them to these visual treasures. And Armand’s soccer talents do sometimes come in handy, especially when he needs to subdue hostile criminals with a good kick or two.

Art history is at the center of "The Arnolfini Art Mysteries." A theme in the book is how a specific genre or style may not have been founded or created by an artist touted by art critics and historians. Please comment.

As a child, drawn to the arts, I had read many books on various artists and was enamored by say Rembrandt, whom the art critics touted as the master of chiaroscuro, light and darkness. Rembrandt’s art is indeed magnificent and bathed in darkness with usually only a single light source. However, he was not the creator of such a novel technique. At that time, the works of Caravaggio were given far less attention, to the point that I saw only one of his paintings in an art book. However, Caravaggio’s works not only preceded Rembrandt’s, but also inspired Rembrandt, who received astronomical acclaim while his brilliant predecessor languished in the shadows. The good news is, the initially ignorant or biased art critics finally saw the light, the brilliant light in Caravaggio’s unique and pioneering works. As such, they finally came around to realizing the immense talent and influence by Caravaggio, not only on Rembrandt but almost the entire Baroque era of artists. Thus, Caravaggio rose out of the shadows into the light. His acclaim and the prices of his artwork have skyrocketed since then, as the truth had finally prevailed.

Armand Arnolfini, the private investigator, solves one case after hearing a musical composition by Liszt. Not just an expert in art, he also is an expert on music. What is the connection you aim to show between music and art in "The Arnolfini Art Mysteries"?

Here again, I draw on personal experiences to show the connection between apparently different areas of learning and how one can inform or advance the other. The mental ability to think creatively demands that we not pigeonhole our thoughts to a single subject. Connecting the dots is the most crucial trait that all great innovators throughout history possessed. No creative thinker works in a vacuum, and whether it’s reading books on different topics, watching TV shows, or even listening to different styles of music, broadening one’s horizons makes for a much more fertile environment to spawn new ideas. Hence, that being just one of Armand Arnolfini’s admirable abilities as he deduces mysterious cases.

Characters, both heroic and villainous, are present in "The Arnolfini Art Mysteries." They share one thing in common: A love of art. What do you want to convey to readers about the people who create, manage, buy and sell art?

Fine art has taken a back seat in modern times, mainly due to all the visual forms of media we have today, and mainly the art form of film. Animation is unquestionably exciting and captivating, even addictive. Meanwhile, a static piece of artwork has a hard time competing with animated films. However, many works of great art have subliminal themes that force the viewer to try to decipher. We today have become lazy, as film producers lay everything out for us to see on screen. Meanwhile, some works of fine art force people to think for themselves, a talent that is sadly waning, just as most people today would rather watch a TV show than read a book, which takes effort. But, the effort is often worth it. And I hope readers will enjoy Armand as he discusses and examines these works in great detail, revealing intriguing things they might not have seen previously.  As for the art, or deceptive art, of buying and selling art, I feel the public should be made ware that more paintings hanging in art museums today are forgeries than they would have ever imagined. This revelation had only become apparent to me over the past ten years, and I try to incorporate that into the novel.

With Book 1 there are six stories and Book 2 contains five more. You provide plenty of material. The question begs: Are art crimes that pervasive in real life?

Yes, many real world forgers have been uncovered or arrested, while many older works have been determined not to be originals in museums. Art crime is a very big business. Whether a forger is selling their work as an original by a famous master, which can yield millions of dollars for a single transaction, or a lesser-known artist for thousands, the rewards are tremendous. Even stealing famous artwork to sell on the black-market can be profitable, but sadly most of those transactions entail these great works being held hostage in private collections, thereby also stealing from the public the enjoyment of seeing them. Additionally, attributing a piece of art from a protege to their master can make a $400 painting jump up to 4 million dollars, such as Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi, the highest price ever paid for a work of art. This painting still has detractors saying it’s not an original Da Vinci. Yet the subjective and faulty world of assessing art still exists, and whether Leonardo’s Jesus is original or a fake remains. Therefore, art is unquestionably fascinating and intriguing and can be extremely lucrative, even if a fake. How no author has created an art-crimes private eye until now is the real question. But now we have Armand Arnolfini. Thanks for this interview, and to all potential readers… I hope you’ll enjoy his unique adventures!

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Rich DiSilvio’s extraordinary new book, “The Arnolfini Art Series,” by logging on here: Amazon.com.

 

 

 

LOCKDOWN - ITALIAN STYLE
Deirdre Pirro, Writer and Translator for PRIMO Shares Her Experience in Florence During the Coronavirus Crisis

By Deirdre Pirro

 
The author in her home in Florence, where next door is a school playground devoid of
children in Italy's coronavirus lockdown.

This is the third week of lockdown in Florence. I call it “house arrest.” Yet, it is for a crime I have not committed. Others call it a war; but against an invisible, insidious enemy which, at the present moment, we seem to be losing. With this in mind, I thought I would write a few suggestions that might help those in the United States who are now facing a similar lockdown here in Italy.

Pietro, my husband, and I now appear to belong to a category of potential patients called the “anziani” (old people) who, when the chips are down and there are not enough ventilators for everyone may be considered dispensable. That is because a high percentage of over 60 year olds, usually with other pathologies, have died of COVID-19 in Italy.

Health officials in Italy have told young parents to keep children away from their grandparents. Children have a high recovery rate but, nevertheless, if infected, endanger the elderly. Prepare your own children psychologically to spend extended time with other children when schools close. Some parents may not be used to spending so much enforced time with their children. They will need to invent ways to entertain the kids.

Here, thank goodness, Piero, our son, is our link to the outside world. He shops at the supermarket for us (only 5 people allowed in at a time) and takes care of all the other things that involve venturing outside the house. On returning home, he leaves his shoes outside the front door, changes his clothes and washes his hands.

Initially, on Day 1 of lockdown, I was elated to think that finally, I could have some time at home to do all the things I had been putting off for a century. With this in mind, I began tidying up my desk. I was extremely pleased with myself when I finished the job. Trouble was, it only took a couple of hours, and then what?

As the days have passed, I find it strange that I have become very lethargic and don't seem to want to do anything, not even write that best selling book! The telephone has become my best friend and I find that I am telephoning or I am being telephoned by people I haven't seen or heard of for years. It's a positive.

Things to do:

STAY AT HOME
1. Buy a good mask and a store of disposable rubber gloves
2. Stock the pantry with dry goods like pasta, rice, tinned products, etc.
3. Stock the freezer
4. Make sure you have plenty of books, DVDs (films and music), Netflix, etc., to help pass the time
5. Dust off your board games and set up the card table
6. Take out old photo albums to look at or watch you old home movies, it's fun to reminisce
7. Try to have something to do that will occupy your time manually as psychologists here say that doing something with your hands is relaxing for the brain. When I watch TV at night, I knit scarves, at which I am hopeless, but it soothes me and I will give them to the homeless when this is all over. If you can paint or draw that would be even better.

Things not to do:
1) Do not compulsively watch the TV news
2) Do not compulsively check online sites to look at the number of deaths
3) Do not let concern turn into anxiety.

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.

 

 

#LORESTOACASA - I'LL STAY AT HOME
It was around mid-February when I heard about the coronavirus for the first time in Italy. Today, a month later, the whole country is in a state of emergency, and here in Rome, where I live, everyone seems to be infected by a downfall mood.

Text and Photographs by Jesper Storgaard Jensen



Face masks are sold out and people now cover their faces with scarves, despite the fact that the
temperature in Rome is 60 degrees. Andrea, the owner of my neighborhood newsstand, welcomes his
customers with rubber gloves and face mask. All newspaper sales now take place outside the newsstand.



In front of most of the city's pharmacies there are now long queues. People are admitted one at a time,
and sometimes there are guards at the pharmacy entrance. A morning jogger runs through Rome's central
streets where traffic has now ceased.



Bar Canova at Piazza del Popolo was once the favorite cafe of director Federico Fellini. These days you
can see just a handful of people at the cafe. Well, actually no longer, because Bar Canova is now closed.





The Spanish Steps usually host a veritable throng of people. These days, however, tourists can be counted
on no more than two hands. Usually there is a chaotic tourist situation in front of the Trevi Fountain. In these
days, there are plenty of room to throw a coin in the Fountain.


   A few days ago I bought a copy of “la Repubblica,” Italy’s largest daily newspaper. I couldn’t help but get a lump in my throat. The headline was written with giant letters: “Dear Italy, these are dark times, but we will get through the difficulties together".
   In these days it’s really difficult to recognize the Italy where I – Danish journalist and photographer – have now lived for more than 22 years. The Italians’ joy of life, their usually good mood and their typical vivid hand gestures while speaking have been replaced by dismay, anxiety and a social behavior that has changed drastically and practically overnight. Cheek kissing and embraces have now been replaced by a new way of greetings, in which elbows are poked against each other to avoid the physical contact that authorities now strongly discourage.
   Most streets in Rome are now deserted. The Trevi Fountain, which I often pass, is only a shadow of itself. Usually, it’s quite difficult to move ahead in front of the fountain due to the massive crowds of tourists. These days, it looks like a huge splashing marble poltergeist without capacity to evoke any interest whatsoever. Rome’s subway in these days - where the rush hour often resembles Bombay-like situations - is now driving around with ghostly and almost completely empty trains.
   Only supermarkets, mini-markets, pharmacies and newspaper stands remain open. All cinemas, theaters, swimming pools and gyms are closed, and now – after the latest governmental decree – all restaurants and eateries. When I open my living room window, just out of Rome’s center, in the evening, the only thing I hear is a strange and surreal silence. No cars, no people, nothing. Just silence.
   The Italians’ – and my – social life have gone completely black. Even my little cozy yoga team, where we are just four stiff-backed people, has shut down. Now we only walk in the streets if we have a specific objective, and if I have to move from one place to another for work reasons I need to carry a printed document – the so-called self-certificate. If I don’t the police might give me a fine of 206 euro.
   Rome’s big parks, e.g. Villa Borghese in the center of the city, have been closed; so people choose other places to do their afternoon walk, e.g. along the Tiber. But also here police forces have started making controls. We are all supposed to stay at home, and if you leave your home together with another person, you have to remember to keep the distance of at least one meter.
   People are scared and as with a snap of the fingers this anxiety has caused us all to change our social behavior. Saturday night when my wife and I were having dinner with friends in our neighborhood (but today, as these lines are written, you no longer have dinner with friends). After our initial elbow-greetings we immediately reminded one another about the importance of coughing in the elbow and keeping some distance. It was said with a laugh and a smile, but I still felt an underlying seriousness. My friend Simone, who is a theater instructor, soon became quite serious: “I spoke to a theater manager yesterday. He was crying on the phone. The closure of his theater could have disastrous consequences. After all, we know nothing about how long this situation will last. I myself had to cancel five performances in the coming weeks”.
   The next day I meet an acquaintance, Maurizio, in the street. He is worried. Coronavirus has been detected at his daughter's school. A parent of one of his daughter's classmates who was infected went to a Roman hospital for care. The school is reluctant to give information about the state of the infected person’s family due to strict Italian privacy laws. “You know my wife has had cancer. Her immune system is still weak and we need to take extra care. This means that for a while my daughter cannot be with her classmates,” he says.
   All Italian schools are now closed until April 3. My own children, 12 and 16 years old, have suddenly been given four weeks of freedom. Now we parents need to be creative. The families’ young people must be activated and at the same time informed about proper social behavior. We are only at the beginning of a rather long “home isolation journey” that might very well last for another 3-4 weeks. But first and foremost, they must do homework they now receive electronically. My son, who is a freshman in high school, is mostly annoyed: “We don’t know yet which electronic platform we should use to deliver assignments to the different teachers. It's a bit of a mess". The family's youngest, Sara, is especially worried and has to be convinced to go out. She prefers to stay a casa, safe and sound.
   My wife and I try to have a relaxed attitude towards our children, but they have long recognized the seriousness of the situation. An invisible danger seems to be hiding everywhere.
   This new reality has something unreal, surreal, and absurd about it, as if all of us were part of a sci-fi movie whose plot has been invented by a half-crazed director.

News from the trench
Reading Italian newspapers these days is a bit like reading the latest bulletins from trench war.
   On social media, Facebook in particular, there seems to be an invisible competition among the various media about who is able to bring most coronavirus-related news. New figures about the infected, about the dead, about various side effects and about the updated coronavirus situation are published all day long.
   We - my wife and I - have told my Italian parents in-law, who live in Rome and who both are over eighty, to stay at home and only to go out to do shopping of food and groceries. Instead, we have now arranged a daily video call so they can still have contact with their great amore, their grandchildren. Work appointments and any kind of business are going down the drain in this period. In the near future, I should have been to the Italian city of Pesaro to work as interpreter, but this was of course cancelled. And also my four lectures - for Danish high school classes on a study trip to Rome - about Italian politics, economics and society have also been cancelled.
   New “social phenomena” are emerging. Face masks are sold out everywhere, so when outside their homes many people move around wearing a scarf that covers both the mouth and nose. And that’s despite a pleasant spring heat in Rome these days. There are long lines in front of the supermarkets, where people are now being let in one at the time. Sometimes you have to wait for more than one hour to get in. In front of a pharmacy in my neighborhood, Prati, you see a hundred-meter-long line. Half the people in the queue wear face masks. An impatient signora complains loudly and security in front of the pharmacy try to calm her.
   For quite some days, newspapers have been reporting that the already fragile Italian growth this year is expected to worsen by at least 0.5% of GDP. And this year's Italian budget deficit is now predicted to come dangerously close to the EU's maximum limit of -3%. These are disastrous macroeconomic figures. I think to myself that all this - this weird virus situation, this surrealistic infection scenario - will require blood, sweat and tears. It will lead to an anxious grinding of teeth, family tragedies and divorces. It will lead to company closures, declarations of bankruptcy and horrifying red numbers on the bottom line. When the virus eventually will have gone or been tamed, what will be left here in Italy – and probably also elsewhere – is a disastrous economic situation for thousands and thousands of people.
   And who knows, maybe what we see these days is just the beginning? Press allegations have it that the curve of virus infections is supposed to peak around 25-28 March. The big fear, right now, is that the infection will start to spread from North Italy towards major cities like Rome and Naples.
   So maybe we will soon see the same disastrous phenomena here in Rome as one sees in Northern Italy, where many hospitals, so resource-depleted, that doctors are forced to make the terrible choice between virus patients to save and virus patients to be given a lower priority, which often means “to be sacrificed.”
Newly infected from day to day are still around 3,000, and the number of deceased persons rise to about 300 per day.
   Both my wife and I now work at home. We are following strict orders introduced by the Italian authorities with a new hashtag #iorestoacasa (I stay home). In an English language neologism we call it smart work, and if you manage to practice this option - working at home – you’ll automatically score a couple of points on the social image barometer.
   The well-known Italian writer Fulvio Abbate was interviewed by me weeks ago at a cafe in Rome's Monteverde neighborhood. Now I follow him on Instagram, where he posts doomsday prophecies; halfway cynical and halfway humorous: “The authorities are not saying what we all know so well: the virus is on its way to Rome. Save yourself who can and good luck to all of you. To you that are bound to succumb and to you that will eventually manage to survive."

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/

 

 

 

 

PRIMO ANNOUNCEMENT
Truby Chiaviello, Publisher & Editor of PRIMO Magazine, Appointed to the Board of Directors of The Sicilian Project
The Sicilian Project’s mission is to teach English to all children in Sicily


It is with pleasure that PRIMO Magazine announces Publisher and Editor Truby Chiaviello has been appointed to serve on the board of directors of The Sicilian Project. The term of his service began in January 2020.
   The Sicilian Project is a 501-C3 tax exempt organization that raises money from people throughout the United States to fund academic grants issued in Sicily. The organization’s objective is to train Sicilian students, from elementary through high school, to read, write and think in English.
   The Sicilian Project began in 2011 as an idea Massachusetts attorney Alfred Zappala had during one of his many visits to Sicily. He saw that children there could not compete in a global market without English language skills. Since then, The Sicilian Project has maintained an active all volunteer board of directors and volunteer teachers to conduct classes in Sicily. The Sicilian Project established a strong working relationship with the Babilonia School in Taormina to provide grants and use their staff and facilities. English language summer camps are ongoing in Aci Bonaccorsi, Valverde, Augusta and Palermo. The plan is to begin new camps in other locations of the region such as Messina.
   “I am honored to serve on the board of directors of The Sicilian Project,” says Mr. Chiaviello. “I have been an admirer of the organization since its inception nine years ago. Alfred Zappala and his team have made incredible strides helping Sicilian children and young adults learn English. More than just an organization, The Sicilian Project is a serious change agent for Italy’s future. To be a part of The Sicilian Project is to be a part of history in the making and I am very honored to serve on the organization’s board of directors.”
   To learn more about The Sicilian Project and how you can help, please log on to www.TheSicilianProject.com. To contact Truby Chiaviello, please call 202-363-3741 or email potompub@aol.com. To learn more about PRIMO Magazine log on to www.onlineprimo.com.

 

 

 

“THE TWO POPES”
Now Playing on Netflix - A Meeting between Popes Benedict and Francis
Starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce
PRIMO Review

By Truby Chiaviello



“The Two Popes,” starring Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis, presents a conundrum for Roman Catholic viewers.
   The most pious and informed among the faithful will want to tune in to see how the last two inheritors of the throne of Saint Peter interacted with each other in the Palazzo Apostolico di Castel Gandolfo near Lake Albano. Yet, this same group will know that no such meeting ever took place. Hence, the question: Should we or shouldn’t we watch?
   I took the plunge and viewed “The Two Popes” on Netflix. I knew full well what I was getting into: The onslaught of clichés in the film were relentless. Contrived and banal scenes were too many to count. The distortion of Catholic theology was minimal but still grossly apparent in the film. Yet, the filmmakers got all the costumes and customs correct, not to mention an impressive set design, much of it done at Cinecitta studios in Rome. The Sistine Chapel is shown with total authenticity as are other landmarks such as the Palazzo Apostolico in Northern Italy and other locations inside and outside the Vatican.
   The film opens with the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. The next scene jumps eight years ahead to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio receives a call from the Vatican requesting him to meet with the pope at his summer residence in Lake Albano. He arrives in Italy, not knowing the reason for the meeting. He and the pope stroll manicured gardens to discuss the current state of affairs and the future of the Church. Here, the filmmakers give way to the narrative stereotypes: Pope Benedict is the old, rigid conservative while Cardinal Bergoglio is the friendly, open-minded liberal. In truth, both men are considerably enlightened and share key attributes. They taught at universities in their home countries and were greatly influenced by Romano Guardino, a priest and philosophy professor from Verona who pioneered changes in Catholic liturgy. Both popes have Italian backgrounds. Pope Francis’ family is originally from Italy’s Piemonte region and Pope Benedict’s mother migrated to Germany from Tyrol in Northeastern Italy.
   Pope Benedict is particularly undervalued and misrepresented in the film. He is depicted much like a medieval prelate; out of step and out of bounds in the modern world. In truth, Pope Benedict remains today one of the best educated priests in the world. For years, he was a professor of philosophy and theology in Munich and a key adviser to German bishops. He was a fervent supporter of church reforms initiated under Pope John XXIII and later carried out by Pope Paul VI in the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). Indeed, there is little more that the Church can do in the area of reform. The liturgy, the magisterium and the Mass ceremony changed drastically thanks to Vatican II.
   Most disturbing is how the film implies that Pope Benedict was, at best, neglectful in purging priests accused of child abuse crimes and misdeeds. In fact, the opposite is the case. While prefect at the Vatican, then Cardinal Ratzinger spearheaded investigations of priests under suspicion and expelled many. He continued the effort while pope when he verified abuse allegations that led to the removal of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in Washington, D.C.
   As the film progresses, Pope Benedict announces his intention to resign and endorses Cardinal Bergoglio as his replacement. Little reason is given for his abrupt decision. Pope Benedict’s retirement remains cloaked in mystery. The move was basically unprecedented, with the last pope to abdicate, Gregory XII, in 1415. The official claim was that Pope Benedict was too old at 86 to continue the intense regimen at the Vatican. Hopkins portrays Benedict as just that - old and frail. Some Vatican observers, however, claim that the pope’s undoing was his zeal to uncover perpetrators of child sexual and physical abuse. He did not resign voluntarily but was rather pushed out by rivals who sought to cover up crimes.
   Cardinal Bergoglio was outside the Vatican and the first from the New World when he was elected and took the name Pope Francis. He was also the first among the Jesuit order of priests to rise to the papacy. The film recounts his days as Jesuit provincial superior in Buenos Aires in the early 1970s when Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship. Many Jesuits were arrested and some were killed during what was later termed the “Dirty Wars.” Then Father Bergoglio was criticized for not doing enough to save priests and lay ministers from punishment and persecution. However, his focus was on preserving all priests under his care. His outreach efforts and eventual negotiations with military officers helped retain the Jesuit order in Argentina.
   Named archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1992, Bergoglio sought to bring greater awareness to the plight of the poor in his home country and elsewhere in South America. One scene shows a speech he made about poverty paired with a montage of walls in different parts of the Spanish speaking world. Manmade obstructions separate the poor from the more affluent of society; no doubt, a critique by the filmmakers of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico.
   “The Two Popes” is a film to be heralded for its technical and artistic achievements in set design and costumes. Of the two actors, Pryce provides the better portrayal as Pope Francis. He conveys the charm and approachability that makes Pope Francis one of the most popular figures in the world today. Meanwhile, Hopkins meanders and mumbles his way through the film as a befuddled and gruff Pope Benedict. “The Two Popes” had the potential to be a stellar work of cinema to explore the inner workings of the Vatican. Yet, too many clichés, a gross revision of history and too many misrepresentations of Catholic theology undoes the production. “The Two Popes” is currently shown on Netflix.

Editor’s Note: Truby Chiaviello is the publisher and editor of PRIMO Magazine.

 

 

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR JOSEPH ORAZI
His New Book “L’America” Follows The Paths of Three Italian Immigrants at the Turn of the 20th Century
- Main Characters Come from Naples, Calabria and Sicily
Did one group of Italian immigrants have it easier than the other?



Joseph Orazi is no stranger to the dreams and struggles of Italian immigrants. In 2005, he was the screenwriter and associate producer for a riveting documentary on the internment of Italians in World War II titled “Prisoners Among Us.” Changing gears from writing for film to writing a new novel, Mr. Orazi conveys the struggles of three immigrants from different regions of Southern Italy in “L’America.” PRIMO gave the book a most positive review. We interviewed the author about his new novel and the Italian immigrant experience.

Your new novel "L'America" is a fictional account of Italian immigrants. What new insight about Italian immigration will readers gain after reading your book?

It is my hope that readers will learn the true story of immigration, when huge numbers flocked to our shores. Between the late 1800s and the early 1900s, millions of Italians, Irish, Germans, Slavs, etc made their way to America. While my story centers on Italians, it is actually the story of us all, no matter the country of origin. As far as Italians are concerned, we’re a pretty proud bunch, so many of the struggles to make it here were not spoken. We had to pry them out of first generation folks. So it was my intention to mine those stories of immigration, assimilation and the largely unknown events leading up to WWII. History has been neglected, I think. It’s important for younger generations to learn what it took for their ancestors to enable them to live the lives they do. I’m biased, but I think we owe it to them.
 
You dedicate "L'America" to your ancestors, i.e., Fuscas, the Fusias, LaChimias, Funaros and Orazis. Can you tell us a little about them?


The Fuscas, Fusias, La Chimias and Funaros were my mother’s side of the family, from Calabria. The Fusca name was the original. When my grandfather came to America, they got it right on Ellis Island. But when his brothers and sisters came over, immigration read the name wrong. The “c” had an accent above it. So they thought it was an “i.” So most of my family call themselves Fusias. It’s always fun to argue about it at family reunions. The Orazis were my father’s side from Ascoli Piceno.
 
"L'America" follows the harrowing journey to America of several characters from different parts of Southern Italy. They have different backgrounds and circumstances but they all have one thing in common: They want to leave Italy. Tell us a little about what made Italy so unattractive for people to leave at the turn of the century.

In the 1800s, the Italian peninsula was made up of many different states. It was decided that it was in Italy’s best interest to unify into a single kingdom of Italy…and also one of Sicily. The country was racked with civil wars. Lands were redistributed. The Mezziogiorno (the area south of Rome) was devastated in particular. Poverty was rampant. It’s estimated that about 10% of the population decided that the only way to feed their families was to seek employment elsewhere. America became their beacon to a better life.
 
We have Sicilians, Calabrese, and Neapolitans making their way in the New World. Did one group of Southern Italians have it easier in America than another?


There really were no differences in the assimilation experiences of Italians. All found it very difficult. Some were more successful than others in acquainting themselves of new language and cultures. Some returned home. Many stayed and sent for their wives and children later.
 
What's next for you after this novel? You have done some exceptional work in film, most notably as the screenplay writer and associate producer for the award winning documentary "Prisoners Among Us." Do you plan to purse filmmaking or novel writing in the future?


I am currently working on Book Two of this two book series. It picks up the families’ stories in 1928 and follows them to 1946. I have written a treatment for a TV miniseries based on the books. I think it’s time for our story to be told. We don’t just off people and own pizza joints. So I’d like to write the scripts for that project.

Editor’s Note: Joseph Orazi gives us a captivating and well-written new novel in “L’America.” You can purchase the book at Amazon.com. As an author and screenplay writer who focuses on the plights of Italian immigrants, Mr. Orazi can share his in-depth knowledge and experience with Italian American organizations. To inquire about his availability to be a speaker at your next event, please contact him at josephorazi@gmail.com.

 

SEMO'S GHOST
Finding The Gravesite of My Great Grandfather
Was a Strange Marking in a Photograph a Sign from the Afterlife?

By Al Vaccaro

   My great grandfather, Semo Gambero, died in 1917, and was buried near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Many of our relatives (now living around the Pittsburgh and Cleveland areas) had never visited Semo's grave, who was the first family member to immigrate to the United States from Calabria, Italy, in the late 1800's. Some of the older family members, however, remembered the name of the cemetery where Grandfather, Semo, was buried, in Anita, Pennsylvania.
   One sunny Sunday in October of 1996, three vans, loaded with relatives went to seek out Semo's final rising place. Several hours after the departure from Pittsburgh, we located the Adrian-Anita R.C. Cemetery.  
Spreading out and searching for a half hour or so, we finally found Semo's gravesite. Although nearly 80 years had weathered the tombstone, all the information on it was clearly readable. With my Kodak camera, I (as well as other family members) snapped dozens of pictures, at various angles, usually with most to the family members surrounding the gravesite. One picture, however, I snapped after all the family had moved away from the gravesite. I wanted a picture of only the tombstone. When the roll of film was developed, this mysterious picture was one of the 36 returned to me. When I showed it to the employees of the local Ritz Camera Center, they had no explanation for the "white wisp" that appeared at the gravesite. It was the ONLY picture on that roll of film, or any of the hundreds of pictures that I had taken with that camera, that had this mysterious white mark on it. A puzzle to one and all who viewed it.
Was our Grandfather disturbed by our presence? Was Semo thanking us for finally visiting him after so many years? Was he asking to be reburied next to his wife in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, nearly one hundred miles away? (Semo is the ONLY relative buried in that location.)  
     Whatever the logical explanation for this unique picture is, the family members who made the trip to Anita that day to visit the grave of our family patriarch, all have their own beliefs about the significance of that unique, and treasured photograph. Many years ago, I entered that picture in a Kodak photograph contest and it won an award. They returned the original (enlarged) photograph to me, beautifully wood mounted and framed, and entitled, at my suggestion, "Grandfather's Return." It hangs on a wall in my house and it will be passed on to my children, and grandchildren, for many years to come....I hope.    

 

NEWEST BOOK REVIEWS FROM PRIMO:
8 BOOKS FEATURED IN OUR THIRD EDITION
From Mob Attorney to Movie Mayhem

“Last of the Gladiators,” by James M. LaRossa, Jr.; Published by Bancroft Press, available at www.amazon.com
   You can’t help but like James M. LaRossa. He was one of New York’s top attorneys who defended Paul Castellano, reputed boss of the Gambino crime family. LaRossa was a lawyer’s lawyer and we mean that literally. He once defended two probate judges and got their cases dropped at the investigation phase. This is one of many exciting, humorous and insightful tales that his son James, Jr., conveys to readers in “Last of the Gladiators: A Memoir of Love, Redemption, and the Mob.”
   After serving his country, a Marine Corps officer in the Korean War, LaRossa attended and graduated from Fordham Law School. After some years as a federal prosecutor, he went into business for himself and defended New York’s most notorious suspects in some of the most famous criminal trials of the previous century. If the law had its sights on you, then LaRossa was your man to ensure an impassioned defense and a fair trial. Once a judge asked LaRossa why he defended the likes of mobsters and known criminals. As LaRossa, Jr., writes in the book, his father replied, “Yes, I could do without some of my clients…” He then told the judge how he was clerking at a law firm when one of the managing partners “let me know, without saying it, that the firm wasn’t hiring Italian-Americans, so don’t even bother applying after finishing school…Thinking back, that guy did me a big favor. He pissed me off and made me what I am today.”
   James, Jr., says his father’s deep seated anger at government overreach was why he fought so hard for his clients. LaRossa once described himself as last of the gladiators, hence the book’s title. Never known as a deal maker, he rarely brokered a plea bargain. He made it known when hired that he was to take the case all the way to court and all the way to a jury verdict. LaRossa was the first lawyer who ran up against RICO, in 1979, the all-reaching federal statute aimed at taking down the mob. He was an innovator among defense attorneys when he hired private investigators to turn the tables on prosecutors and investigate their witnesses and informants.
   “Last of the Gladiators” is an incredibly entertaining book. Not just do we read about LaRossa, but we also read about his son and author James, Jr., who recounts his exploits as a successful entrepreneur with bipolar disorder. Touching is how he helped his father to extend his life after diagnosed with emphysema.
   “Last of the Gladiators” provides an insider’s view of law and order in America. The stakes are high for the accused. James M. LaRossa was there for the defense. His son’s impressive tribute is one not to forget by anyone who reads this remarkable book.

“L’America,” by Joseph M. Orazi, available at Amazon.com
   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.

“How Fires End,” by Marco Rafalà; Published by Little A, New York, available at Amazon.com
   No other era but the 1980s could work as a setting for Marco Rafalà’s intense yet heartfelt novel “How Fires End.” The decade contained all the necessary elements to bring his story to life. The Greatest Generation were still young enough at middle age to take on past demons with physical and emotional violence. This was a time when the Italian neighborhood remained fresh and unified before mass gentrification.
   “How Fires End” takes place in Middletown, Connecticut in 1986. The New England town hosts a large section of Sicilians from the hillside village of Melilli. The story is told through the eyes of David Vassallo, a high school student who lives with his father Salvatore, a widower employed as a machinist at the local factory. All is well until David gets into a fight with a neighborhood bully. Salvatore comes to the rescue only to exchange harsh words with the other boy’s father. The man mentions something about Salvatore’s past that puzzles David. The boy sets out to learn more. He is told that Salvatore’s twin brothers in Sicily were killed after they accidentally detonated an unexploded mortar shell. Some of the townsfolk think his family is cursed. They were all but shunned in Sicily when Salvatore befriended Vincenzo, a fascist, in order to escape Sicily. Vincenzo now owns an eatery in town and is a friend of the family’s. The more David investigates the more things unravel. The past returns with a burst of vendettas and recriminations that are all played out in a climactic ending.
   “How Fires End” is a phenomenal novel by Marco. His style of writing fits well with the main character. He uses language that is concise, specific and reinforces the clear thinking of David. The author is no doubt a child extraordinaire of the 1980s. The atmosphere of the novel conveys undertones of horror, so pervasive in that era’s pop culture. A visit to a dormitory basement at a nearby college is reminiscent of what John Carpenter might have directed. Marco writes, “My old D&D games were coming alive. We were a company of adventurers in search of secrets long forgotten in a maze of shifting walls and hidden treasures. We passed metal doors, some locked and some with broken locks - rooms with bare bulbs casting long shadows across discarded telephones and furniture…”
   “How Fires End” reminds us of the generation gap, almost unheard of nowadays as the Internet and social media breaks down barriers between age groups. This is a quintessential Italian American tale that excites us for what more may come from an author who is bound to be an established literary voice of the ’80s generation. “How Fires End” is excellent!

“Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” by Stephanie Longo; published by Arcadia Publishing, available at www.stephanielongo.net

   Stephanie Longo has rightly earned the reputation as a foremost expert in Pennsylvania Italians. Author of several books, she provided a mastery of historical accounts and records in the outstanding “Italians of Lackawanna County.” Another book, just as good, if not better, is her “Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
   Stephanie writes, “Statewide, roughly 784 people in Pennsylvania in 1870 were born in Italy. In 1900, this number had risen to 484,207…” Today, Pennsylvania and Northeastern Pennsylvania, in particular, contain one of the highest concentrations of Italians in the country. Stephanie reminds us that many Italians came to work the coal mines and railroads and settled in large numbers in Scranton, Pittston, Dunmore, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Carbondale.
Stephanie has lived much of her life in Lackawanna County. This and adjacent Luzerne County make up Northeastern Pennsylvania. She dedicates the book to her grandparents Joseph and Anna Mascaro Longo “as true examples of what it means to be Italian-American in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
   Stephanie’s research is truly exemplary. Her inventory of historical photographs bring special visual context to her writing. There are pictures of the small cramped hovels people lived in Campania, Calabria and Sicily. They remind us of the dire circumstances that Italians sought to escape from when coming to America.
   Stephanie shares several stories of how Italians were sometimes persecuted in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Once, a priest at an Italian parish received an anonymous letter that threatened to dynamite the church unless all Italians left the area.
   Fascinating anecdotes, historical records and insightful commentary make up “Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania.” Stephanie loves the human side of history and it shows. So many photographs come with mini stories. One black and white photograph “taken in 1924 in San Cataldo, Sicily…shows Vincent Palermo and his wife” and family. “The Palermos left Italy to escape fascism, but were refused entry at Ellis Island because Anna had vision problems. Instead of returning to Italy, however, they entered the United States through Canada. The Palermos went to Throop upon arrival, but later moved to Dunmore, where they sold produce.” She goes on to say they had three more children after they settled in America.
   “Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania” is another marvelous book by Stephanie Longo. She is a writer who reinforces the pride we all have in our Italian American roots. What an outstanding book!

“Put it on the Windowsill,” by Marcia Brennan, Ph.D.; Published by Dark River, Bennion Kearny Ltd., available at www.bennionkearny.com
   Marcia Brennan begins her enlightening and engaging book with the Virgin Mary. Her Irish great-aunt once said “if she wanted good weather for a particular occasion, she should place a statue of the Virgin Mary on the windowsill, facing outward, and say a prayer.” Her mother did just that and sure enough there were clear blue skies the next day.
   “Put It On The Windowsill” contains many such mystical and religious elements to coincide with family history and anecdotes of Marcia’s early life in Connecticut. Her maiden name is Gagliardi and she grew up in a mixed Italian and Irish family. Her paternal grandparents were immigrants from Avellino while the Irish side of her family had long settled in New England and were well-established members of society. What the two families share, of course, is their Roman Catholic faith.
   Marcia devotes the last quarter of her book to religious relics, the blessings of statues and the invoking of saints. She writes with affection about a statuette indicative of her father’s love for woodworking. His “sculpture depicts Saint Joseph not as an older man and father, but as a young carpenter. The figure wears a work apron, and he holds a saw in his right hand and a tool chest in his left.”
   Marcia is quick to admit that Italian families are unique in their obsession for good food. She includes a host of family recipes throughout the book such as spinach pie, Italian white cookies and Christmas candy. She remembers fondly the house she grew up in; where not only her family but also her father’s mother, Nannie, and the family of her aunt’s lived in the same nieghborhood, just one block away from each other.
   The author was inspired to write about her family after some years working at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. She is a professional writer who interviews patients and inscribes their stories in handmade paper journals given to them and their families for reminiscence and reflection. As she looks back on her life in Connecticut, she considers how life has changed from one generation to the other. “Even though many of the worlds I write about no longer exist, this book is both a cultural heritage document and study in living presences.”
   “Put It On The Windowsill” is an impassioned memoir by an Italian American woman who cherishes more each day the connections of her Italian family. Hers is a beautiful story for all of us at Christmastime and for all days of the year.

“The Ghosts of the Garfagnana,” by Paul Salsini, available at www.amazon.com

   After finishing the last of Paul Salsini’s six-volume “A Tuscan Series,” readers might have felt a bit lost. For years, they were immersed in the lives of Ezio and Donna, Paolo and Lucia, Dino and Sofia—not to mention the handsome Father Lorenzo and the former nun Anna. Now those stories have ended.
Readers, however, can look forward to another book. While Salsini may have left those characters behind, he sets new stories in Tuscany, the land of his roots. This time, he has chosen the little-known area, the Garfagnana, a gorgeous section in northwest Tuscany.
   Not yet overtaken by hordes of tourists, Garfagnana is marked by high mountains, vast landscapes, rippling streams and tiny villages, some of them abandoned. This part of Tuscany is mysterious, even eerie. This is where it is said the devil built a bridge in the Middle Ages (well, of course he did), where a mountain is said to house a witches’ coven, where strange voices are heard in an underground cavern and where spirits still dwell in an underwater “ghost” village long abandoned by residents.
   Salsini decided that Garfagnana called for some supernatural stories. And so, just out, is “The Ghosts of the Garfagnana: Seven Strange Stories from Haunted Tuscany.” The stories are interconnected, but span centuries, from the medieval to the present. There’s one about a young monk, murdered by another, who doesn’t seem to want to leave the monastery. Another about a soldier who returns from “the other side.” And one about a statue that moves and cures people: “Slowly, the hands of the statue, which had been clasped together, separated. The arms stretched out, as if comforting the crowd. The smile on the saint’s lips grew wider. The organ music and the choir’s hymn grew louder.”
   In another story, a crystal ball helps lead Italian partisans to a big victory in World War II. And in another, a village that has slept for 100 years comes back to life with some amazing happenings.
   The final story is about a young theater major who attempts to disprove the legend of ghosts in theaters. Everyone has heard of the caution “Break a leg” as a sign of good luck, but what about the ghost lights that superstitious actors throughout the world place in the rear of stages? Or of the people who are certain that spirits inhabit well-known theaters (the Belasco in New York, the Theater Royal Drury Lane in London, etc.)?
   The reader will quickly find that although the tales may be strange, they are not scary. They might even be called, like one of the ghosts, “friendly.” “The Ghosts of the Garfagnana: Seven Strange Stories from Haunted Tuscany” can be purchased on www.amazon.com.

“The Devil of Saint Gabriel,” by Joanne Fisher, available at Amazon.com

   “The Devil of Saint Gabriel” is the latest novel from Joanne Fisher. And, thus far, her best. The novel contains all the elements of a top crime thriller.
Readers will get an idea of what awaits them just by reading the author’s dedication “to all the Catholic priests who give of themselves day after day, night after night, year after year, asking nothing in return.”
   Hence, the setting is the parish of Saint Gabriel Catholic Church in Mississippi. Father Nicholas Jones, originally from South Africa, leads the tight-nit flock. One parishioner, Tammy, volunteers at the Jefferson Correctional Center, a women’s prison across the border in Louisiana. There, she leads Bible studies and prayer services. The novel begins with a ministry meeting of potential converts behind bars. Past crimes range from manslaughter to narcotics. Tammy’s knowledge of Scripture and her graceful spirit wins over the women, many of whom come from evangelical backgrounds. She mentors one inmate, Lucy, who shows promise of conversion and does particularly well at Bible study and learning the faith. When released from prison, she moves in with Tammy and “registers for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at Saint Gabriel.” Trouble begins after Lucy faces prejudice from other parishioners because of her criminal past. She finds solace and support from Father Nicholas and the two grow closer.
   Joanne develops characters by slowly divulging their inner demons through dialogue. We don’t know their true intentions until the end. Lucy is both sympathetic and complex. She is kind and gentle and at other times selfish and manipulative. She is both the victim and victimizer and we are not sure until the end about her motivations. The same can be said of Father Nicholas. He seems the dutiful priest, sincere and upstanding, while at other times, he is equivocal and naive.
   “The Devil of Saint Gabriel” moves in various directions as more characters are introduced. The people of the parish come from different backgrounds. How they cope with what looks to be a scandal involving Father Nicholas leads to several intriguing twists and a shocking ending.
   “The Devil of Saint Gabriel” is an important book in light of recent Church scandals. Joanne is commended for writing a book about the faith in a fair and knowledgeable light. There are many challenges facing priests today as they manage the faithful. The struggle is to strike a balance between saving souls and saving oneself. 

“Italian Horror Cinema: The Most Influential Horror Films from Italy,” by Truby Chiaviello, available at www.onlineprimo.com
   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 and 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 decades ago.
   “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. The slasher sub-genre, the found footage theme and the fusion of science fiction with horror all began in Italy. 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 flaws, these films are to be understood and appreciated...” The book comes with an array of fascinating stories and anecdotes for such films as 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.

 

 

 

REMEMBERING DANNY AIELLO
The Actor, Who Appeared in Over 75 Films, Passed Away on December 12
Director of the 2010 Film “Stiffs,” Starring Aiello, Shares His Story about The Actor

By Frank Ciota

When we were in pre-production for our film “Stiffs”, in which Danny Aiello was the lead, someone got luxury box tickets and a limo to a Patriots night game. Danny didn’t want to go. It was January and it was freezing cold. But he went because the whole thing was arranged by someone who was helping us out with the film.

So we’re in the luxury box, everyone is smoking cigars and taking pictures with Danny. He’s being unbelievably gracious but you can tell there were places he’d rather be. Out of nowhere the guy who arranged the whole thing runs over chomping on a huge cigar and says Patriots' owner Bob Kraft “heard you were here Danny and wants to meet you." Danny says something like “thank you, but now now, maybe later." The guy insists.

Two minutes later we’re standing outside Bob Kraft’s luxury box. The guy who arranged it is ten feet away talking to one of the security guards standing outside the door to the box. He’s pointing back at Danny. After a minute the security guard slips into Bob Kraft’s box. The guy who arranged it turns and gives a huge smile and thumbs up.

Five minutes go by...then ten...it’s freezing cold...Danny’s getting all fidgety. Fifteen minutes. The guy who arranged everything is asking Dany all kinds of questions. Twenty minutes. Finally, a half hour later the security guard comes over to Danny and very ceremoniously announces, ”Mr. Kraft will see you now."

Here’s where the record player screeches to a halt. Without missing a beat Danny says, “no he won’t” and then grabs me by the arm and we turn and start walking away.

After a few steps and under his breath Danny says to me with the smile of a ten-year-old, “look back, is the guy watching us?” I am laughing so hard I can barely walk and now so is Danny. As we’re walking away he turns to me and says as only he could “Frankie Baby! We just made a big noise kid!”

That was Danny in a nutshell. The scrappy kid who fought his way through everything, always with integrity and humility and dignity, to be one of the most beloved and respected actors of his generation. One of the last times I spoke with him he had just read a script my brother Joe had written entitled “Cassino in Ischia” about an American action star who goes to Italy to make an avant-garde European film with an Italian director. When we spoke on the phone he said, “Frankie I love it. Tell your brother Joey Danny loves it. It’s funny. It’s poignant. It’s beautiful.”

Then he did the Danny thing, which chokes me up, especially now as I’m writing this. “I miss you and love you kid. Just know Danny loves you.” In a world of make-believe, Danny Aiello was the real deal. I miss him already. He was truly the best.

Editor’s Note: Frank Ciota is the director of “Stiffs,” a 2010 film that starred Danny Aiello. Teaming up with his brother Joseph, who authors screenplays, Ciota makes films about Italy and the Italian American experience. “Ciao America” was another film he made in 2002. He and his brother Joe are now developing a new film to be shot in Italy and titled “Cassino in Ischia.” The promo of the film follows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycK4wNZEg8o&t=194s

 

DR. ORAZIO TANELLI, POET AND ITALIAN-AMERICAN WRITER PASSES
A PRIMO Tribute

By Anthony Cece

Dr. Orazio Tanelli passed away on Thursday, October 3, 2019 at his home in Verona, NJ after a short illness. Born in the town of Macchia Valfortore in the Province of Campobasso, Italy on March 10, 1936 he studied at the Liceo Torquato Tasso in Salerno where he completed his classical studies and then studied at “La Universita’ della Sapienza” in Rome where he obtained a doctorate degree in philosophy. In fact, the late Aldo Moro was his professor. He served in the military in Trieste from 1957-1959 and then emigrated to the US on December 7, 1961 settling in Bloomfield. He lived in Newark until moving to Verona in 1972 where he remained until his death. He returned to his town to marry Franca Di Iorio on December 15, 1962 spending fifty -six years of marriage. The couple returned to the US along with their one month old son, Nicola in October, 1963.

Dr. Tanelli continued his studies by earning a bachelors degree in French at Upsala College, East Orange and subsequently a masters degree in French and a certification in Spanish at Seton Hall University, South Orange. He then pursued for his masters and doctorate degree in Italian at Rutgers University, New Brunswick having taught Latin, Italian, French and Spanish within secondary schools and universities; such as, Montclair State, William Paterson in Wayne and Ramapo College in Mahwah. It’s estimated he had taught 40,000 students during his tenure.

Besides his passion for the language and literature that he professed, he was a prolific writer of essays and poems recognized internationally from many of his colleagues in Italy. Just to name a few of his essays, he wrote Miti Classici nella Divina Commedia (1991), Mito e realta’ nella poesia e nella narrativa di Sabino D’Acunto (1981), Macchia Valfortore, Storia e Leggenda (Vol.I, 2003, Vol.II, 2004) and Il Fusionismo di Ivo David (2005). Essayists and poets alike in Italy also acclaimed his literary works; such as, Guerino D’Alessandro, La poesia di Orazio Tanelli (1985), Vincenzo Rossi, Orazio Tanelli (Poesia ed esegesi, 2005) and the documentary, Il Monaco di Macchia (2007) that attracted renown acclaim.

While many essays were published, there were also his poems; such as, Poesie Molisane (1981), Canti dell’ Esule (1984), Canti del Ritorno (1986), Canti del Sud (1987) and Canti d’Oltreoceano (1994).

He was also a dedicated journalist. Upon arriving in the US, he collaborated with the former Il Progresso Italo-Americano (the current America Oggi) for several years as well as vice-director of the publication, “La Follia” of New York founded by Michele Sisca. He founded in 1990, “Il Ponte Italo-Americano’’, a publication that focused on Italian literature, history, art, music, culture, profiles and social events taking place within the Italian community both in the US and abroad that terminated in 2017. From 1995-1999, Dr. Tanelli and the staff of the magazine held annual banquets that awarded individuals from the community in various sectors like business, law, medicine, literature, poetry, music, art, religion and entrepreneurship along with the “Miss Ponte Pageant”that attracted younger Italo-Americans alike. The magazine was also recognized by Il Messagero di Sant’Antonio di Padova, Italy for many years. He received “La Medaglia d’Oro” by the late President of the Italian Republic, l’On. Francesco Cossiga.

Among his hobbies, he was a gardener enthusiast tending to his vegetable garden with fine detail.

He was also an accordionist who enjoyed playing and singing Italian songs at cultural events; such as the Federation of Italian-American Societies of NJ in which he was a member of for many years in addition to the various Italian organizations and societies where he performed like Holy Face Monastery in Clifton, Holy Family Church, Nutley and St. Joseph’s Church in East Orange after religious functions and cultural events like la Societa’ San Vito Aquilonese of Aquilonia (AV) in Montclair, la Societa’ San Francesco di Paola of Pescopagano (PZ) in East Orange and the Casa Colombo Civic Association of Millburn, NJ. He participated in the Columbus Day Parade, NYC by the Hon. Justice Dominic Massaro.

Dr. Tanelli is survived by his wife, Franca Maria Di Iorio; his son, Pasquale and daughter-in-law, Maryann; his daughter-in-law, Beth Tanelli; his five grandchildren, Nicole, Domenick, Salvatore, Matthew and Isabella Tanelli. He also leaves his sister-in-law, Eva Tanelli along with his nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother, Mario Tanelli and his first son, Nicola Tanelli. In addition he will be remembered by his colleagues and friends such as Anthony Cece, assistant editor of Il Ponte Italo-Americano, Carmela Cohen, graphic artist, collaborators, Mara Corfini, Ivo David, Francesco Tolone, Igino Sellitto, Mattia Cipriano, Rosanna Imbriano, Dr. Roberto Rizzo, Vittorio Pinto, Giuseppe Torcivia and Vincent Marino. The funeral was held from the Prout Funeral Home in Verona followed by a mass celebrated at Our Lady of the Lake, Verona. Entombment concluded at Hollywood Memorial Park,Union.

May his memory and poetry live on throughout the ages and his music play among the heavens above.

 

 

“NO SAFE SPACES”
The New Documentary Has Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager Teaming Up to Confront Tyranny on Today’s College Campuses
PRIMO Was at the Film’s Premiere in Washington
- Our Review

By Samer Chiaviello

 



You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Your posts on Facebook, Twitter, and social media will be saved to shame you. Anything you say that we don’t like will be used to shut you up. You cannot be funny. You cannot think differently. You can’t challenge us. There is no debate.

   This harrowing warning is the underlying rhetoric of what is said to come from America’s colleges and universities in the new shockumentary, “No Safe Spaces.” The film tells a cautionary tale of how our salient freedom of speech is under attack by leftist thuggery on today’s college campuses.
    “No Safe Spaces” stars Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager, two veteran radio talk show hosts and political commentators. They serve as our dynamic duo; guiding us through the discourse maze of today’s status quo and radical left.
    Carolla relays his upbringing about how he grew up in a poor household, with a mother unwilling to give up her welfare benefits. His story is that of overcoming hardship through comedy. He found refuge in his opinions when he created a podcast to express his politics in a lighthearted manner. Prager’s upbringing is much different that Carolla’s. His family is Jewish Orthodox and he graduated from Brooklyn College and went on to study international relations at Columbia University. He suffered ideological persecution when he pursued Prager University; a name given to his short, well-produced videos about politics and culture. Now with over a hundred of his videos banned from YouTube, Prager is engaged in a lawsuit to get his videos back on this widely viewed platform.
Together, Carolla and Prager tour the country interviewing and seeking insight about freedom of speech from esteemed political commentators such as David Rubin, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz and comedian Tim Allen.
    “No Safe Spaces” is a documentary that paints a graphic picture of the current state of colleges and universities in America. The film’s title refers to rooms and other enclaves where students go to avoid people of different political opinions. Once a haven for the free exchange of ideas, colleges and universities are now islands of social justice and political correctness; increasingly ruled by students rather than faculty and administrators. The film contains many scenes of angry students partaking in unconventional (and extremely violent) protests to uphold leftist values of their accredited institutions. Debate, reason, and - more importantly - simple communication are absent. The diversity of thought through the use of free speech is punished with glass breaking, chair throwing and  other forms of destruction.
    Perhaps the most captivating and eye opening part of the documentary is the story of Bret Weinstein, former professor of biology at The Evergreen State College. He describes himself as liberal leaning and, yet, was a victim of leftist protests. He utilized his freedom of speech to pen a letter to the college administration regarding the Day of Absence; a decades old political correct “holiday” celebrated by the college. On this day, minority faculty and students do not attend class to remind others of their contributions. In 2017, however, a change was proffered where white faculty and students were urged to leave campus while only minorities remained. Weinstein expressed his distaste for the change, calling it “an act of oppression” by the students. Protests followed and Weinstein was verbally assaulted and he and his wife were threatened with bodily harm. The college president refused to contain the protests with police intervention. Weinstein resigned, sued the college and received a settlement of some $500,000.
    The call to action in this documentary is one that cannot be ignored. “No Safe Spaces,” is perhaps the most visually stunning documentary released in a long while and serves as a premonition of what is soon to come. It is a must-see for all Americans who value their first amendment rights, and who still believe in the predominant principles of the foundation of America.

At The Premiere of "No Safe Spaces"

   It was a full house at the premiere of “No Safe Spaces,” as almost 500 people attended the film’s first showing on Wednesday, November 20, at the Uptown Theater on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.
    A mainstay of Washington’s Cleveland Park neighborhood, the Uptown contains one large screen, balcony seating and a grand chandelier for a trip back in time.
    Absent from the premiere was the film’s star Adam Carolla. However, Dennis Prager was present, as well as the film’s producer Mark Joseph, producer and director Justin Folk, writer John Sullivan and special guests Greg Lukianoff, founder of FIRE (Foundation of Individual Rights in Education) and Karith Foster, a comedian who was featured in the film.
    Most in attendance at the premiere are involved in various conservative causes and have, themselves, faced persecution on today’s college campuses. “No Safe Spaces” conveyed what many here have been warning about for years: That institutions of learning are increasingly less tolerant of conservative political viewpoints and are outright confrontational towards political minorities. Heads nodded in unison as the film showed one scene after the other of conservative speech banned and right-leaning dissenters bullied.
    It was Dennis Prager who captured the mood of the audience and the ultimate meaning of the film when he said, “This isn’t a documentary about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about the importance of freedom of speech; something that everyone can get behind.”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about “No Safe Spaces,” log on to https://www.facebook.com/NoSafeSpacesMovie/

 

 

THEY CALL HIM “CAPTAIN LAST”
Italy’s New Hero is Sergio De Caprio of the Carabiniere
By Elisa Rossi

  

Sergio De Caprio is Italy’s most famous Carabiniere officer.
    He rose to international fame in 1993 when he arrested Toto Riina, the boss of bosses of the Italian mafia. Riina had resisted capture for 24 years before De Caprio and his team of crackpot investigators tracked him down.
De Caprio had the rank of Captain then and took on the task to find Riina by organizing a team of special investigators, named CRIMOR; or as De Caprio dubbed them, “the beggars.”
    Today, De Caprio holds the rank of colonel in Italy’s Carabiniere. Several books have been written about him with the headlined nickname “Ultimo” or in English “Last”, alleging to the fact that De Caprio was the last of the Carabiniere to get Riina. There is “Ultimo. Il capitano che arrestò Totò Riina,” (Last. The captain who arrested Toto Riina) by Maurizio Torrealta and in May 2019 Pino Corrias’ “Stop the Captain Last!”
    A quote from Corrias’ book: “How is it possible that, in all those years (23!), nobody got the king of the Corleonesi, when Last, with his team, has managed in just a short time (6 months!)? And immediately a poisonous rumor spread all over the capture of Riina, as if it were a kind of the result of secret arrangement […]”
    Italian television broadcasted “Ultimo” in 2004, a made-for-TV film that starred actor Raoul Bova as Sergio De Caprio, amplifying enormously the myth of the hero.
    De Caprio tried to remain humble as more accolades came his way. On his mind was personal safety. He was aware that too many honors are trouble. Threats came from bad guys and envy from good guys.
    Now, after more than 25 years since Totò Riina was arrested, De Caprio has found himself a wanted man. At least, that’s what he believes. He hides his face behind a ski mask to achieve invisibility. He sees himself a man condemned to a life of the hunted animal; danger lurks everywhere.
De Caprio is Italy’s new hero. He is “Captain Last” a man sworn to defend the values of Italy.
    Pino Corrias writes in his book: “He was found guilty of faking the capture of Riina, encouraging agreement between Bernardo Provenzano and carabinieri: in exchange for a truce. He was found guilty of not searching Riina’s house, giving time for mafiosi to hide Riina’s papers. He was found guilty of participating in the negotiation State-Mafia that had ensured the survival of Corleonesi clan after the massacres. (Judge Falcone, murdered in 23 May 1922 and Judge Borsellino, murdered in 19 July 1992) He was found guilty of having an investigative team in his image and likeness, guilty of being too independent from military hierarchies and from the Prosecutor State. He was found guilty of being an arm of government for Henry John Woodcock, the State’s attorney ‘who intercepeted half of Italy’ with reckless inquiries. He was found guilty of causing some problems for businesses of Finmeccanica and consequently for Italy, during the investigation that generated the arrest of its chief. He was found guilty of attacking party political of Lega, Roberto Maroni, Matteo Salvini, hurting Lega thorough the arrest of Francesco Belsito, the party treasurer. Guilty of being too intrusive in investigations. He was found guilty of attacking the World of Cooperatives, when he decided to investigate the Cpl Concordia and when he arrested the president of Cpl, acquitted by the court of Naples, convicted by the court of Modena. He was found guilty of plotting against Matteo Renzi. He was found guilty of being an unruly, exalted and subversive carabiniere.”
    De Caprio says: “If you arrest gypsies and junkies, there’s no problem. You don’t have to do anything else otherwise you are a threat to the lobbies and the troubles begin. But what really hurts me most of all was the reprisal against my soldiers. It was happened after Riina. They did the same thing 20 years later.”
    Colonel De Caprio’s own book “Fight anti-crime Intelligence and activity” remains a needed reference for those who will be fighters against crime and corruption. They will have the privilege of continuing a fight that doesn’t have to end.
    For the Italian people who supported him, protests arose against the State for not protecting Captain Last. His security detail was temporarily removed and he was at risk of assassination. Ordinary people who expressed their support do so through peaceful demonstrations. Thanks were given, not only for him, but also for those who choose to sacrifice their lives throughout law enforcement. A police escort was reinstated last month.
    Why did he call himself Ultimo? Towards the end of my article he says: “I called myself Last because I grew up in a world where everyone wished to be the first. I didn’t like it when people sat at the first desk in school just to shine. And I don’t like people who continue to do so during in our lifetime.”

Editor’s Note: UPDATE - On February 22, it was reported that Colonel Sergio De Caprio, of Italy's Carabinieri, was finally awarded a police escort after months of pleading with the Italian government. The security detail will begin immediately in light of continuous threats to his life. Sergio De Caprio has begun an organization Italy dedicated to the principles of justice and sound government. His web site is www.volontaricapitanoultimo.it

 

NUNZIO VAYANA
The Italian American Artist is Sadly Overlooked in America Today
Nunzio Saved Mark Twain’s House in Connecticut
By Dennis Barone

 





    What we know and what we can say about what we know depends on the sources available to us. The art and life of Nunzio Vayana (1878-1960) inspires research – if only the materials could be located. Born in Castelvetrano, Italy, Vayana came to Hartford, Connecticut as a young man. He had a long American career as art entrepreneur, essayist, gallery-director, photographer, and teacher as well as painter. In the latter endeavor, his early education in Italy at the Macchiaioli School prepared him well for the sort of Impressionism in vogue throughout New England in the early 20th century. A painting by Vayana called “Landscape with Two Boats” has a sketch-like quality, loose brushstrokes, framing that focuses the eye, and a color-sense that a viewer could say echoes the Macchiaioli style -- or could this painting that the artist exhibited at the Ogunquit (Maine) Art Center reveal the controlling hand of Connecticut Impressionism, especially with a Protestant church steeple that looks so Congregational near its center.
    Vayana never moved from the approach to art he learned when he was young to a more Modernist style. But he did change his political views. When he arrived in Hartford he had a reputation as an anarchist. The Hartford Courant reported in 1910 that Vayana led a group that disrupted services at the Hartford Italian Baptist Church and that had invited Luigi Galleani, the well-known anarchist, to speak in Hartford. Yet, ten years later Vayana encouraged all the Italians of Connecticut to vote Republican. At the end of World War I and again in the midst of World War II, Vayana worked on an innovative theory regarding camouflage and therefore expressed mainstream patriotism in his adopted land. In 1960, his funeral service took place at the Baptist Church in Ogunquit, Maine.
    After his first quarter century in America, Vayana split his time between Ogunquit, Maine and Palm Beach, Florida. He exhibited his paintings in Hartford and remained a respected artist long after he moved from the city. In 1940, Courant art critic Theodore H. Parker in a review of Vayana’s work said: “Mr. Vayana is a consistent painter. Throughout this present exhibition [in Hartford] as throughout his career generally, he has been straightly academic in both means and ends, setting down nature as authentically as the canons of composition allow, and adding to or subtracting from the scene only to intensify the mood or atmosphere inherit in it.”
    Thirteen years earlier, Courant writer and editor, H. Viggo Andersen called Vayana a “versatile and gifted artist.”
    Vayana boasted in the Courant in 1927 that “Connecticut artists represent one of the largest and best contributions to the world of art.” Although he advocated for his fellow Connecticut artists, he did not forget his native Italy. In 1921, he secured a blessing from Pope Benedict for the Catholics of Hartford. His Sicilian father and his two sisters were with him in Rome for this Papal audience. In 1914 during an exhibition of his work at the Italian National Club in New York, opera singers Enrico Caruso and Gina Viafora bought his work. Caruso, as the Courant reported, purchased “a large picture of a sunset, which was painted in Glastonbury.”
    Although each year thousands of tourists visit the Mark Twain House in Hartford, few, if any, know that Vayana saved the house from destruction and none are told so on the tour. The Courant reported in May, 1929, “It was about ten years ago that an artist, Nunzio Vayana, since removed from Hartford, conceived the purchase and preservation of the home.” Vayana hosted fund-raising events, served on a board that also included the governor of Connecticut and former United States president William Howard Taft, and made a life-size bust of Mark Twain (wrapped in American flag bunting) that stood in front of the Twain house in 1920.
    The Mark Twain House has no information regarding Vayana in its archives. The Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum library provides nothing on Vayana. The Ogunquit Museum of American Art has no information and Louise Tragard’s study of Ogunquit art, A Century of Color, devotes one page to Nunzio Vayana. Vayana died in 1960, but his Ogunquit Art Center continued until 1984. The Palm Beach Historical Society has nothing about this artist who founded the Palm Beach Art Center. I find all of this very curious, if not mysterious. Why did Vayana have such a presence the Hartford Courant, but seems to have such a scant trace in archives?
    The only material related to Vayana in the extensive Day archive at the Stow Center in Hartford is a brief 1917 exhibition brochure for the Society of Connecticut Painters, Nunzio Vayana, secretary. A brief mission statement reads in part: “The aim of this Society is primarily to promote exhibitions of works by artists of Connecticut and to create as much interest as possible among art lovers, collectors and buyers of modern paintings and sculptures.” Whatever interest the group drummed-up in 1917, at least for Vayana, seems to have dissipated after a century’s lapse. And yet this Sicilian born artist is certainly a figure deserving of our interest.

 

 

 

 

 

ITALIAN AMERICAN MEDAL OF HONOR WINNERS
Models of Valor and Heroism In Six Different Wars
Veterans Day 2019

The Medal of Honor began in the Civil War to distinguish heroic acts in battle, first for the U.S. Navy and then for the Army and later the Air Force. Three different medals have been created for the three major branches of the armed forces. Acts of valor by Marine and Coast Guard are given the Medal of Honor, designed for the Navy.

Recipients of the Medal of Honor are mostly nominated by their superior officers and the award is validated up the chain of command. Sometimes, a member of Congress will nominate a person to receive the medal. The Medal of Honor is usually awarded by the president at a White House ceremony. However, occasions may arise where a general or admiral will present the medal at the recipient’s home town or other location. Since half the medals are given posthumously, the recipient’s next of kin will receive the award.

Although many Italian Americans have been given the Medal of Honor, we highlight six as representative of the major wars fought the last 160 years.

Luigi Palma di Cesnola - Civil War
Originally from Italy’s Piemonte region, Luigi Palma di Cesnola came to the United States after a distinguished military career in both Italy and the United Kingdom. He was a colonel in the 4th New York Cavalry Regiment in the Civil War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for combat action in the Battle of Aldie in 1863.

Michael Valente - World War I
Born in Cassino, in central Italy, Michael Valente immigrated with his family to the United States. In 1917, he joined the Army and served in the 107th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division. He served in France when the allies attacked the Hindenburg Line. German machine gunners were decimating American, French and British troops. Valente volunteered for a two-man mission to get close and destroy the enemy position. He killed five Germans and captured 21 in a trench. Ten years later he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Hoover.

Anthony Peter Damato - World War II
Born in 1922 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, Anthony Peter Damato was working as a truck driver when World War II began. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and saw action early in North Africa. He and other Marines took the port of Arzew, Algeria by boarding and capturing enemy vessels anchored there. In 1944, he was in the South Pacific serving with Marines fighting in the Marshall Islands. On the night of February 20, he sacrificed himself by laying on a live grenade to absorb the explosion. The Medal of Honor was given to his mother by Marine Corps Brigadier General M.C. Gregory inside the high school he once attended.

Joseph Vittori - Korean War
It was for the Battle of the Punchbowl that Joseph Vittori was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was working on his father’s farm in Beverly, Massachusetts when he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves. He was called into action in Korea in 1950. The Battle of the Punchbowl occurred after peace talks failed in early 1951. An enemy counterattack pushed back Marines in one of the hills of central Korea. Vittori volunteered as a machine gunner to stop the Korean and Chinese assault. He was killed in action, but not before allowing Marines to regroup, fight back and win the battle. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1951 by President Truman.

Vincent R. Capodanno - Vietnam War
A Catholic priest from Staten Island, Vincent R. Capodanno enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a chaplain. He served with the Third Battalion, 5th Marines in 1967 in the Que Son Vally in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese Army made a surprise attack that year to wreak heavy casualties. Under heavy fire, Father Capodanno quickly went to his injured and dying comrades to give them needed medical aid and the last rites. Repeatedly shot, he did not sway from duty and went to save two Marines near enemy fire. Father Capodanno was killed in the battle and awarded the Medal of Honor in 1968. His cause of canonization began in 2002 and he was named Servant of God in 2006.

Salvatore Giunta - War in Afghanistan
Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Salvatore Giunta enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2003. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 after he completed basic training. In 2007, Afghan insurgents attacked a position held by the U.S. Army. Giunta went to rescue a fallen comrade and saw that the position of attack could overtake him and his comrades. Giunta knew from basic training that he immediately had to go on the offensive to stop an “L” formation enemy assault. He moved forward under heavy fire to rescue an American soldier and killed an Afghan fighter to stop the attack. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in 2010.

We salute America’s veterans, of Italian and all nationalities, on this Veterans Day. God bless America!

 

 

 

 

SISTERS IN LIBERTY
New Exhibit Compares The Statue of Liberty with “Liberty of Poetry”
Was the Florentine Statue The Model for The Statue of Liberty?

On Tuesday, October 16th, at the Consulate General of Italy in New York, a press conference convened for the “Sisters in Liberty,” an exhibit by the Opera di Santa Croce displayed at the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration in New York, from October 18, 2019 to April 26, 2020.

Central to the exhibit is the reproduction of the statue “Liberty of Poetry,” by Pio Fedi, the titular “sister” of “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” by Frédéric Bartholdi, in New York harbor. Both statues, representing the search for freedom, are similar in stance and details. Thanks to the partnership with Kent State University, the statue in Florence has been subjected to an accurate 3D scanning for a perfect reproduction at the exhibition.

“Sisters in Liberty,” is curated by Giuseppe De Micheli and Paola Vojnovic (Opera di Santa Croce) and by Ann and David Wilkins (Duquesne University Program of Rome).

The project’s partners are: National Park Service / Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, Kent State University, US Consulate in Florence, Consulate General of Italy in New York, Garibaldi Meucci Museum, and The Union League Legacy Foundation.

Pio Fedi was an Italian sculptor who lived from 1816 to 1892. Located in Florence are works by him such as “Rape of Polyxena” and the Monument to General Manfredo Fanti. Inside the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence is the Memorial to Giovan Battista Nicolini, a hero of the Risorgimento, where standing is Fedi’s statue “The Liberty of Poetry.” The similarities between this and the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric Bartholdi are quite significant. Fedi completed his work in 1877 with drawings and a smaller model completed in 1872. Bartholdi began preliminary drawings and collecting funds for the Statue of Liberty in 1876. Bartholdi fought beside Giuseppe Garibaldi in the Franco-Prussian War and was in Italy at the time Fedi completed his scaled model accompanied by a public display of sketches of the eventual work. Above are photographs of both statues. Was “The Liberty of Poetry” the model for The Statue of Liberty? You decide.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the coming exhibit on “The Liberty of Poetry,” please log on to https://consnewyork.esteri.it

 

NEW BOOK BY DISABILITY ACTIVIST NADINA LASPINA DETAILS THE STRUGGLES OF THE DISABLED
Nadina LaSpina Was Born and Raised in Riposte, Sicily
“Such a Pretty Girl” Tells The Harrowing True-Life Story of a Person Afflicted with Polio
- PRIMO Interview



You write in "Such a Pretty Girl," how the comments and negative, sorrowful stares of the people of your village of Riposte had a serious impact on you. Tell us about it.

“Such a pretty girl,” was always followed by “what a shame!” Those words were always said with such sorrow, anguish. As a little girl, I couldn’t understand why people were so sad when they looked at me. I thought it was my being pretty that made people sad. Usually, my mother would start crying. I hated to see her cry. I knew it was because of me that she cried. I actually thought it would have been better if I were ugly.

What I remember most about my childhood is the pity, the oppressive religious atmosphere in the little town, my mother carrying me to the church and the convent across the street, where I went to school, and handing me over to the nuns, who carried me to the classroom and around the convent—with that refrain always following me “Che pecan! What a shame! Che croce! What a cross you have to bear.

The message I got so early in my life was that I had no future to look forward to. One of the nuns even told me straight out that I would never be happy. A girl’s future, then, meant marriage and children. Beauty was a commodity that would land a girl a good husband. But that wasn’t true for me, since, being disabled (cinch – crippled), I would never marry and have children. So, I couldn’t imagine what would become of me.

People don’t realize how harmful pity can be. Pity is dehumanizing. It always makes those of us who are the objects of pity feel we are “other,” we are “less than,” we are no good the way we are.

Your true life story in "Such a Pretty Girl" is harrowing but very hopeful and positive. It is also very enlightening. So many things you write about center on the daily struggles of a person, such as yourself, afflicted with polio. Hence, what are the greatest misconceptions people have of the disabled?

One of the misconceptions is that we are afflicted by our disabilities. It is true that some conditions may cause physical pain. For me, the physical pain came from the torture of surgery after surgery. It came from the struggle to walk no matter how difficult it was for me, because I was made to believe walking is better, more normal, than using a wheelchair—though I always loved using a wheelchair. Later physical pain came because of post-polio syndrome; I still experience post-polio symptoms but I have gotten used to that now. Dealing with loss—especially true for those who acquire a disability later in life—can also be emotionally painful. However, most of us learn to live with our disabilities—they become a part of who we are.

After all, disability is a normal part of the human conditions. All who live long enough will experience disability.

What I’d like people to understand is that is not so much our disabilities that make us suffer. What makes us suffer is being denied the services and supports we need, being excluded by lack of access, being discriminated against, being locked up in institutions, being seen in stereotypical ways—as helpless and pathetic, or as bitter and revengeful, as inferior and defective, as in need of “cures,” and “better off dead” when no “cures” are available. What makes us suffer is being feared and shunned by all those who fear their own vulnerability and mortality.

Here goes a vital question: Is it better today for the disabled than it was in the 1950s and 60s. Have we made progress? How does Italy and the United States compare with other in this respect?

It is definitely better today. It has taken half a century of struggle to bring about some positive change. The progress didn’t come easily. Though a lot remains to be done, today, disabled people have more access, more opportunities, and therefore are much more visible. We are out there; you may even see us represented positively in the media. Back then, the only images of disability came from the telethons, which portrayed us as objects of pity. The message of the telethons was: “Give money to thank God your children are not like these poor unfortunate ones.” How do you think that made us feel? I never would have imagined, back then, a wheelchair user on a Broadway show, much less winning a Tony—like young talented Ali Stroker recently did. Seeing Ali Stroker get that Tony can make disabled kids today dream big. In the 50’s and 60s, we were never encouraged to dream big, or to dream at all.

How does the US compare to Italy? I used to travel to Italy regularly and, especially in the 80s and early 90s, I was very involved it the disability movement there. I have not been to Italy in 10 years, mainly because I didn’t want to leave my husband, Danny, who had primary-progressive multiple sclerosis, and needed me to oversee his care. Speaking from what I observed when I was in Italy, and what I hear from friends now, Italy is behind the US when it comes to different forms of access. Pity—in Italian, pietism, is even more difficult to eradicate there. However, disabled people have it better when it comes to health care and benefits.

I’ll give you as an example from my life (and my book). My husband and I did not get married for 20 years. Because of his MS, he needed what is commonly known as “long term care.” Most people are not aware that the only program that pays for long term care is Medicaid. But you have to be poor to be eligible for Medicaid. Ironically, Danny’s wife had divorced him, taking their house and their children, so his income was low enough for Medicaid. I, on the other hand, was able to attend to my own personal care, and did not need the type of assistance Danny needed, so I was never on Medicaid. I taught college, I was not rich, but I had savings, and owned my own apartment. If we had gotten married, my income and resources would have been counted as his, making him ineligible for Medicaid. He would have lost the vital care he needed.

In Italy, all have access to health care; it doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor. In the US, we have a segmented system made up of private insurance (mostly employer-provided), and different government programs. In Italy, benefits are based on disability. In the US, benefits are based on inability to work, and on income and resources.

Danny and I finally did get married, when he became disabled enough to qualify for a much more limited home health program under Medicare (which is non means-tested). I had to spend a lot of my savings to pay for the additional hours of care he needed. My husband passed away last March, and I miss him terribly. He was an incredible activist and the most loving man in the world.

You write proudly and enthusiastically about various groups you joined to lead societal change for the disabled. How important was it for you get involved in social activism? Should others get involved?

The disability rights movement saved my life. My best friend, Audrey, who was also disabled, had listened and believed those messages of doom that came from all around us—our lives were seen as tragedies, our futures held no promise of happiness, because of our disabilities, we weren’t considered “real” women, we would never know love. Tragically, she committed suicide.

After her suicide, I fell into a deep depression. Looking for a lifeline, I turned to some disabled friends. I found out that something new was happening—meetings and protests. I had read in the papers about a young woman, Judy Heumann, who sued the Board of Education (1970) after being denied a license to teach, because she used a wheelchair. She had founded the organization Disabled In Action (DIA). I met her, joined that organization, and discovered how empowering organizing and fighting back together as one could be.

Disabled In Action is still active and I’m still part of it. Later I joined ADAPT, a grassroots group that focuses on freeing people from nursing homes and other institutions and securing home-based services. Danny’s biggest fear was ending up in a nursing home. I’m grateful I was able to keep him with me at home until the end. ADAPT makes excellent use of civil disobedience. I’ve been arrested with ADAPT countless times. Some people think the changes they see are there because this is a great country and the government is good to disabled people. Not true at all; we had to fight very hard for everything.

Social activism gave my life purpose. I would like younger people to get involved. We have some young people doing good work online, rather than joining us in the streets. I don’t care how they do it, as long they keep the fight going. We can also use non-disabled allies.

What does society still need to do to improve living conditions and access for the disabled? What are the big issues?

A lot remains to be done. An example regarding basic wheelchair access—in New York City, where I live, while buses have been wheelchair accessible since the 80s, our subway system is a nightmare. We’ve been fighting a long battle, in the courts and in the streets, and I’m afraid it will go on for a long time still. Some people think of access mainly as wheelchair access, but there are all types of access for people with all types of disabilities. I’m outraged when I attend an important event and there is no ASL interpreter, or when people have no idea what I’m talking about when I mention web access for people who are blind.

I think equal access to health care is a very big issue. I’d like to see health care be a right and I’d like to see long-term services and supports be a right. Disabled people and elderly people who need assistance with personal care should not have to impoverish themselves. People should also not have to fear ending up in nursing homes and other institutions. There is a bipartisan bill in the House and in the Senate that would ensure that, no matter what form our health care may take in the future, no one will be institutionalized against their will. It’s called the Disability Integration Act, and I urge everyone to support it.

I would also like to see the disability movement join forces with other groups fighting against injustice, because disability intersects with all other groups and because I believe our struggles are interconnected. I’ve always believed in Martin Luther King’s words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

You had wonderful Sicilian parents? Tell us about them.

I realize now what a lucky child I was. I grew up surrounded by so much love—my parents’ love for each other and for me, my grandparents’ love… The town’s people’s pity, the sorrowful sighs, Che pecan, che croce, the nun’s ominous presage were counterbalanced by my mother’s kisses and her laughter, my father carrying me on his shoulder sand calling me gioia, my grandmother’s tomato sauce, the cherries my grandfather didn’t sell so he could save them just for me, the cinnamon smell of my aunt’s freshly baked cookies.

My father’s obsession with finding a cure for me was also an expression of his love for me. He wanted me to know that he would do everything possible and even the impossible for me. The quest for a cure caused me pain. What I heard and feared growing up was that, unless I could be cured, I had no future. I wished my father could fix me himself like he fixed everything around the house, so I could be the daughter he wanted. In the US, In various hospitals I was tortured in the quest for the ever elusive cure. Over and over again, I felt I disappointed my father by not being cured. But I never for a moment doubted my father’s love. I knew how proud he was of me. So, at a certain point I let go of those feelings of failure.

My parents were always there for me. I knew I could always go home and be loved, cherished and well fed.

I am grateful I could be with both when they passed away. I wanted to care for them as they had always cared for me. My father went first, in 1996. Like the good Sicilian wife she’d always been, my mother followed him the year after, in 1997. “Tuo padre mi vole” she said.

You are a scholar of Italian language and culture. Although you traveled and toured Italy many times over the years, it took several decades before you returned to Sicily. Are you now at peace with Sicily? How do you feel about your homeland, today?

I went back to Sicily, to Riposte, in 2010. I tell of that trip in the last chapter of the book. Mine was not just a trip back to a place but a trip back in time. I was finally ready and I felt I needed to make peace not just with my hometown but with the painful memories of my childhood. I’m happy and grateful that I succeeded. I was able to find the good memories that had been buried under the bad ones. I was able to appreciate the great beauty of the place of my birth.

In the book I try to equate my disability pride with the my father’s pride in being Sicilian—pride that comes from pain and struggle, pride that’s the necessary response to having been made to feel you are not as good as others, having been taught to be ashamed of who you are. So in that last chapter, I talk to the ghost of my father and say, “Yes, Papà, you win. I am proud that I come from here.”

Today, indeed, I am a proud Sicilian. Because I no longer have to worry about my dear husband, I hope to travel a little while I still have the strength. I plan to go to Sicily next year.

Congratulations on writing such an incredible story that will inspire many people. Do you have other book(s) you plan to write? What's next on your agenda?

I didn’t set out to write a book. I just found myself writing about my life, now and then, with no particular purpose in mind. Since, apart from having to teach, I was always fighting to bring about some urgently needed change—more access, freeing people from nursing homes, getting laws passed, helping people get vital services—writing about my life almost seemed like self-indulgence. But I kept writing, whenever I had the time; so, apparently, I felt the need to tell my story—which is probably a need we all have. The more I wrote, the more I loved writing. So when this book was finished, I just kept writing. I have almost completed a novel, which I hope to have published. I am now retired from teaching. I will continue to fight for disability justice, and I will also continue to write.

Editor’s Note: Nadina LaSpina’s web site at http://www.nadinalaspina.com

 

 

 

 

 

ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
Italian Restaurant for Sale with Properties Included
River Grove, Illinois Location - 15 Years Good Will

A family owned Italian restaurant is for sale with inclusion of business and real estate. Real estate can be separated from the business valuation but ownership prefers a complete sale package. They have a fifteen (15) year successful history in the River Grove area near Chicago.

Revenue figures available but a non-disclosure agreement would need to be executed prior to any particular information being given. The owner is in his upper 60's and looking to retire.

Asking price is $1,350,000 for the turn-key business and real estate; which consists of two (2) adjacent buildings, each 2,500 square feet - with one having a 1,400 square foot second floor work/office space. Both buildings, combined, seat 90 customers total, two (2) separate kitchens (one currently handles ONLY gluten free food), a free standing bar area, handicap washrooms, a pick-up counter, plus a 900 square foot garden (with a beautiful water feature) dining area which seats 50 customers; great for private parties for any sort of celebration.

15 years of good will... strong consistent loyal return customer base..plus a growing new customer base.

Contact Tony at 847-630-6500 and email at cornerstonex2@aol.com.

 

ROBERT AGNOLI, POET AND WRITER FROM NEW YORK, ORGANIZES “AN ITALIAN AMERICAN TOWN HALL - SPEAKING OUT: RESPECT IS A TWO-WAY STREET”
The Town Hall event will be held in the Columbus Citizen’s Club’s Oak Room at 8 East 69th Street in Manhattan on Thursday evening, October 24, 2019 from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. 



Robert Agnoli is an active member of the Italian American Writers Association and the Lt. Joseph Petrofina Lodge, Orders Sons of Italy in America. He is the author of a book of original poems entitled “Edge City, The Chronicles of Bobby A, Un Italian in the USA.” The book is published by Archway Publishing; www.archwaypublishing.com. Bobby’s email address is rdiangelica@aol.com. PRIMO spoke with Bobby about the coming Italian American Town Hall event in New York.

Bobby, tell us about your background and where is your family from in Italy?

My family came from Valle di Cadore; northwest of Venice “Il Cadore” - the same valley as Cortina D’Ampezzo. My father arrived at Ellis Island after WWI and my mother came to America at age four. My parents met in Clifton, New Jersey – in the late 1930’s at an aunt’s house within a small Northern Italian Community (Cadorini). My mother’s sister married a Sicilian man and lived in Westfield. Growing up in New Jersey, my first cousins were Sicilian. My father’s family were essentially all in Cadore, Italy. I spent five months there when I was nine years old and, afterward, visited several times while growing up. I also visited there on a motorcycle trip while stationed as a medic in Orleans, France, with the U.S. Army in the mid-sixties.

The Italian American Consciousness Town Hall Meeting takes place on October 24. What inspired and led you to organize this event?

There is a lack of recognition of the broad spectrum of contributions Italian Americans have made to America. My interaction with third and fourth generation Italian Americans who conceive of “Italians” as their grandfathers. Occurrences, such as, Carnegie Hall, presenting a major production covering the impact of immigrants on America and no mention is made of arguably, the largest of immigrant groups – Italians. The vilification of Columbus by applying 21st century thinking to 15th century behavior; all the while ignoring native American habits when dealing with rival or subordinate groups.

What is the goal of the town hall meeting?

The goal is to raise consciousness of American Society to Italian assimilation. We want to project a clearer understanding of cultural clashes and societal evolution over time. Who are we? “What simmers in that stew”. “How do we move forward?”
 
What do you see as key issues facing today's Italian Americans?
 

Recognizing our Italian identity in America and recognizing how Italian Americans come from a proud and productive role in American history. We need to project this identity upon the larger American society.

You have a line-up of speakers: Tell us about the topics to be discussed.

Presentation of immigration/assimilation in public square – Projecting who we are! Discuss how we talk about it -- Evolution and Columbus -- move forward. Assert our identity – Historical and Current – Italian American.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to attend this Town Hall event, please contact Bobby Agnoli at rdiangelica@aol.com.

 

NATIONAL ITALIAN AMERICAN FOUNDATION (NIAF) CELEBRATES COLUMBUS DAY IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Monday, October 14, 2019 Was a Beautiful Sunny Day That Greeted Celebrants at Columbus Plaza





NIAF convened an enthusiastic and tasteful celebration of Christopher Columbus in the District of Columbia, on October 14 - Columbus Day.

The location of the ceremony was Columbus Plaza, a wonderfully executed memorial to Christopher Columbus, found in front of Union Station, just a short walk from the United States Capitol building.

Featured at the event was the “President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band, the United States Joint Armed Forces Honor Guard, and the Knights of Columbus Color Corps with historical flags of the United States. Read aloud were the Presidential and Mayoral Columbus Day Proclamations. Present for the event were Diplomatic Corps from the Embassies of Italy, Spain and the Bahamas.

Wreath presentations were made by the embassies, fraternal, civic and patriotic societies attending the event. Pictured for one wreath laying is NIAF’s Vice Chair of Cultural Affairs Anita McBride and Italy’s Ambassador to the United States, Armando Varricchio. This year’s winner of the Christopher Columbus National Youth Essay Contest was Margaret Hartigan, pictured with Vice Chair of Cultural Affairs Anita McBride and Colleen Hogan of Children of the American Revolution. This contest is sponsored by NIAF and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and Children of the American Revolution. Participants were from grades 9 through 12.

Happy Columbus Day!

Editor’s Note: The web site for NIAF is www.niaf.org


“INTERVENTION”: A BRONX GEM BY ANTON EVANGELISTA
The Film Conveys the Complexities of Italian Customs and Catholic Faith
Shot Primarily on Location in The Bronx
- PRIMO Review

Anton Evangelista is a Bronx native at home with his talents.

A filmmaker with a number of awards to his credit, Evangelista seeks to cover the Bronx in most of his films, be they either documentaries or works of fiction. There is “Il Signor Jackson,” the real-life account of an African-American male who learned to speak Italian while growing up in the borough. There is “Piccirilli and Me,” a documentary about the famous family of Tuscan sculptors who had a studio near where the filmmaker once lived. And then there is the 2004 feature length film by Evangelista set in the Bronx, titled “Intervention.”

Independent filmmakers, such as Evangelista, have it tough. An admirable film such as “Intervention” won accolades at a number of film festivals but most distributors were unresponsive. This is a shame. “Intervention” is a superlative film that contains a reaffirming message of family, faith and the necessities of tolerance. The acting is excellent. The story, compelling and heartwarming. The direction is extraordinary: Evangelista captured the setting of 1968 Bronx with minimal funds and resources.

“Intervention” is a film about a young married couple, Paul and Susan Lo Medica, who live in the Bronx at a time when credit cards were a luxury and folks had to live within their means. Paul, played by Joseph DeVito, overextends himself. He takes out his wife, played by Carla Fulco, to a fancy restaurant and buys her an expensive anniversary present. Left with little in the bank, his financial woes come with the additional burden of his 1-A draft status and likelihood of soon fighting in the Vietnam War.

Paul’s parents have different reactions to his troubles. His mother Luisa, played by Terri Gatto, conveys sympathy and reassurance while serving her son hearty Italian food. Paul is no stranger to the parents’ dinner table while his wife works the evening shift at the main post office. In daytime, Paul toils making bread and cookies with his father Frank at the family owned bakery. There, he hears nothing but criticism from the Lo Medico patriarch, as played by James Morricone. An old school task master, Frank lambasts Paul for his absence of discipline and bad judgment. He doubts the staying power of his son’s marriage since Susan, half Irish, lacks the full attributes to be a good Italian wife. Also, her previous marriage remains a stigma and taints the ideal of marital purity.

Paul seeks financial help elsewhere. He joins in on the criminal schemes of his cousin, Bobby Fratelli, played by Evangelista. We see the comradeship of the two and their unwillingness to let go youthful impulses. Bobby conceives a caper that should alleviate Paul’s financial woes. However, the misdeed goes awry and Paul is in trouble with the law. Such a predicament might turn out differently except for Paul’s Italian heritage. The film’s suspenseful ending comes with the weight of family traditions and religious beliefs bearing down hard on the main character.

“Intervention” is a film we used to see more often in America. A night out at the movies was not always limited to blue screen special effects and photoshopped super heroes. Rare are the films about everyday people trying to cope with the struggles of fate. Evangelista takes us on a tour of the Bronx with help from set designer Patricia Napolitano and cinematographer Rob Haley. Their eyes for detail gives us a deep view of history. The cars, clothes and mannerisms of the characters are right out of 1968. Although touted as a time of social unrest and cultural change, most people lived according to their faith and ethnic customs. The Bronx was a showcase then, and now, of small businesses, churches and tight nit families.

Evangelista is to be commended for shooting so many scenes in the Bronx, a borough forgotten by most filmmakers. Indeed, several scenes in “Intervention” take place at Our Lady of Lourdes grotto, a beautiful yet overlooked religious landmark at Saint Lucy’s Roman Catholic Church, in the Allerton section of the Bronx. One scene has Paul gathering holy water there under the watchful eye of his grandmother, played by Josephine Berretta. Remember when films had characters inside churches or at shrines and other holy sites? Or, how about scenes with grandparents who are wise and worldly, rather than bumbling and deficient? It’s been a long time and that’s why “Intervention” is to be cherished as a marvelous film to be watched by the entire family. We look forward to more films by Anton Evangelista.

Editor’s Note: Keep up to date with the latest film projects from Anton Evangelista at https://www.facebook.com/anton.evangelista.1

 

 

 

 

 

10TH ANNUAL BLAUVELT SONS OF ITALY ITALIAN FEAST & CARNIVAL
Tappan, New York, September 12-15, 2019
Four Day Festival offers something for every Member of the Family







The Rockland Lodge 2176 of the Sons of Italy will host the 10th Annual Blauvelt Sons of Italy Italian Feast and Carnival at Tappan Masonic Park Fair Grounds September 12th through the 15th. The popular event draws thousands of people from around the tri-state area during the spectacular four-day celebration of all things Italian and has been recognized as the biggest event in Rockland County. Parking is free, and admission is $5.00 for adults and free for kids under 12.

“The Sons of Italy Rockland Lodge 2176 Italian Feast has become one of the most anticipated events in the tri-state area. Our Lodge brothers and volunteers spend hundreds of hours before and during the feast to ensure that everyone has a great time whether they are on the rides, shopping, eating or enjoying the amazing entertainment line-up every year. We encourage everyone to come out this year and enjoy our little slice of Italy!” stated Jerry Verdicchio, president of the Rockland Lodge 2176.

FOOD
The Feast features an amazing array of Italian food, everything from sausage and peppers to brick oven pizza made right on site, to a huge variety of pasta dishes and Italian desserts and pastries including zeppoles, cannoli’s, sfogliatella and Italian ices. Beer and wine are available each day.

RIDES AND GAMES
The carnival area has rides and games for all ages including fishing and ring toss type games for the younger ones to more challenging games of skill for older attendees. Thrill seekers will also find more exciting rides at the Italian Feast. Carnival bracelets which offer a discount are available Thursday. For adults over 21, the Italian Feast features a casino with tables for blackjack and poker as well as wheels of chance.

SHOPPING
Numerous vendors will be on site selling everything from jewelry and home goods to hand-made artwork and Italian-themed clothing and souvenirs.

NATIONAL AND LOCAL ENTERTAINMENT
The four-day Festival is a showcase of live entertainment. The schedule changes right up until the week of the Feast and updates can be found on the Sons of Italy Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/BlauveltSons/

The Entertainment Director and Emcee for the 4-day festival will be local actor and director Paul Borghese for the 10th year in a row. Paul has appeared in movies and tv shows such as Law & Order: SVU, HBO’s 61* as Yogi Berra, The Family, and will appear in the upcoming Martin Scorsese movie ‘The Irishman.’ In addition, Paul has directed ‘Back in the Day’ starring Alec Baldwin & ‘Once upon a time in Brooklyn’ among many other feature films. He is also a long-time member of the Blauvelt Sons of Italy’s Rockland Lodge 2176.

The live entertainment will include numerous performances over the four days, here is sampling with many more to be announced:

• Country Singer LAUREN MASCITTI - back by popular demand all the way from Nashville
• The KICKSTART CHARLIE band
• JOE D’URso & STONE CARAVAN
• Italian Accordionist RICHARD PITI
• The #1 voted SINATRA vocal impersonator STEVEN MAGLIO back by popular demand
• The JENNA ESPOSITO BAND
• The LOUIS VANARIA BAND
• AL SAPIENZA & DEBORAH RENNARD
• The VANESSA RACCI band

HOURS, TICKETS AND LODGING
The 10th Annual Blauvelt Sons of Italy Italian Feast & Carnival will take place at Tappan Masonic Park Fair Grounds, 89 Western Highway in Tappan, NY, September 12th through the 15th. Hours for the festival are Thursday 5pm – 11pm, Friday 5pm – midnight, Saturday Noon – midnight and Sunday will begin with an outdoor mass at 10:30am and the Festival will be open from noon until 9pm.

MORE ABOUT THE ROCKLAND LODGE 2176
The Rockland Lodge 2176 Order of The Sons of Italy was established in 1966 with the goal of enhancing the image of people of Italian descent and has grown into one of the most active organizations in Rockland County. The group, with members from Rockland and Bergen County, donates funds to a variety of non-profits from the proceeds of the Italian Feast and provides scholarships to students throughout the year. Follow up dates on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/blauveltsons 

 

 

 

CHURCH OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI IN MANHATTAN CELEBRATES 175 YEARS
The Franciscans Took Control of The Church Under The Leadership of Father Pamfilo da Magliano
The Church Hosts the Oldest Continuous Breadline in the United States






The spirit of Saint Francis is alive and well at the parish that bears his name: Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.
    Located at 135-139 31st Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues in Midtown Manhattan, Church of Saint Francis of Assisi this year celebrates its 175th anniversary.
    What began from dissension is today a multi-faceted and innovative parish.
    The story begins at Saint John the Baptist. A parish formed in 1840 by German immigrants was censured by the Vatican. Disputes arose between members of the church’s board of trustees and its pastor Zachary Kunze. A Franciscan friar from Hungary, Kunze realized the best way to quell dissension was to start an entirely new parish and separate himself from Saint John the Baptist. New York’s bishop John McCloskey gave Father Kunze permission to begin Saint Francis of Assisi, just around the block from Saint John the Baptist’s, where an open lot along 31st Street awaited the cornerstone for the new church in 1844.
    Church of Saint Francis of Assisi began as a modest structure to be eventually rebuilt in 1892 in the Gothic Revival style we see today. The church comes with a decorative topped steeple, narrow windows and moulded coverings. The tan brick facade and brown trim stands out among the bland warehouses of the Garment District and the sleek shops and restaurants of nearby Koreatown. The church’s interior contains beautiful mosaics, murals and statuary. A memorial exists of damaged steel beams taken from the destroyed Twin Towers. They pay tribute to parish priest Mychal Judge, who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. A chaplain in the New York City fire department, Father Judge was killed when the Twin Towers collapsed. His funeral Mass at the church was attended by former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady, turned U.S. Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Downstairs is a chapel that features a large Italian presepe depicting the Nativity. Outside is an alleyway shrine to Saint Anthony.
    The Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) have managed the church since 1861. They officially adopted the parish under the leadership of Father Pamfilo da Magliano. He was born Giovanni Paulo Pietrobattista in 1824 in the village of Magliano de’ Marsi, in Italy’s Abruzzo region. Ordained a priest in 1846, he taught philosophy and theology at the monastery of Saint Bernadine in Sienna. He learned English at the Irish School of Saint Isidore in Rome and came to the United States in 1855 to grow the Franciscan order. He helped begin Saint Bonaventure University in Allegheny, New York and served as its first president. He was later named Custos, leader of the Franciscan order in the United States, and took control of two parishes in New York: Saint Anthony of Padua, located in Greenwich Village and Saint Francis of Assisi, in Midtown. Father Pamfilo began a school at Saint Francis administered by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegheny, an order of nuns he founded.
    Church of Saint Francis of Assisi was a parish that experienced many changes. By 1920, the predominantly German, Hungarian, recent Italian and Greek working families were replaced by a transient population. To meet the changing demographics, the church initiated several innovations that were later adopted by other parishes throughout the country. Saint Francis was the first to offer a Night Workers Mass, convened at Midnight to serve Catholics who were working night shifts in the neighborhood. The church was also the first in the United States to offer a 12 noon Mass for traveling salesmen staying at hotels and tradesmen employed in nearby theaters and printing plants.
    The church is most famous for hosting the oldest continuous breadline in the United Staes. It began in 1930 and, since then, has served some 12 million cups of coffee, 18 million sandwiches and 12 million slices of cake. Franciscans Bread for the Poor is a subset of the Franciscan Order that administers the breadline. Each day at 7 a.m. priests and staff are out front giving food to needy New Yorkers.
    A year of tribute and commemoration for the church’s 175th anniversary will end this fall at the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th. A special Feast Day Mass is scheduled to be officiated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. To learn more about Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Manhattan log on to https://stfrancisnyc.org/celebrate175/

 

 

 

 

THREE ITALIAN DIRECTORS
At The Open Roads Italian Film Festival in New York
PRIMO Interviews Directors Edoardo De Angelis, Claudio Giovannesi, and Ciro D’Emilio

 

Open Roads Italian film festival is held once a year at Lincoln Center and organized by Films at Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecitta. The event is an opportunity for Italian directors to premiere their new films to the public, participate in Q&A sessions, and allow their films to generate the publicity they deserve. PRIMO Magazine had the opportunity to interview three Italian filmmakers who participated in the event. They are Edoardo De Angelis, director of “The Vice of Hope”; Claudio Giovannesi, director of “Piranhas”; and Ciro D’Emilio, director of “If Life Gives You Lemons.” To learn about this year's Open Roads film festival, log on to https://www.filmlinc.org/festivals/open-roads-new-italian-cinema/

 

 

THE BASILICA OF THE NATIONAL SHRINE OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
PRIMO’s Original Video Highlights the Italian and Italian American Contributions Made to America’s Largest Church

 

 

 

 

BOTTOM OF THE 9TH
Film Opens July 19 and Stars Joe Manganiello
PRIMO Review


Do you want to see a baseball game in New York? Then try Staten Island, instead of the Bronx or Queens.
    We learn this in the entertaining and very inspiring film “Bottom of the Ninth,” which opens in theaters across the country July 19.
A key setting is Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Staten Island, arguably one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. Consider the views: the Hudson River is beyond center field with sights of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Jersey City, or the Statue of Liberty - take your pick!
     Staten Island makes for a wonderful night of baseball in addition to the Bronx where the New York Yankees play or Queens where the New York Mets play. This is the home of the short season A minor league ball club, Staten Island Yankees. Players can move up to Major League Baseball and the monumental New York Yankees…if they have the right stuff. That’s the premise of “Bottom of the Ninth,” except there is a twist, the player, Sonny Stano, portrayed by the exceptional Joe Manganiello, is an ex-convict and likely past his prime at 38 years old. Can he make a comeback? The odds are against him.
    The film begins with Sonny's release from Sing Sing prison after serving a 20 year sentence for second degree murder. The punishment seems overly harsh, but Sonny has to make due. While in prison, his mother died and he returns to an empty apartment. The only signs of life are tea cups recently washed and dried on a dish rack in the kitchen. What can you say about Manganiello except he is an extraordinary actor. He captures the silent destitution of the character in every scene. Most touching is when he roams the empty home with his baseball trophies on display. The actor is a natural for the working class hero and inherits the baton from the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and James Gandolfini.
    Manganiello is originally from Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he played high school football in an area of the country famous for nurturing athletic talent. Many professional football and baseball players come from Western Pennsylvania and Manganiello might have been one of them had he not torn a knee ligament returning a kickoff in a game. Now, a veteran actor, he has the physique and athleticism to play the lead role in this and any action-oriented film. At the outset, “Bottom of the Ninth” reminds us that crime doesn’t pay. The script by Robert Bruzio captures the un-enviable life of the ex convict. Sonny has to meet with his snarky parole officer, played by Denis O’Hare, and take a job, and its many indignities, working for an obnoxious and insensitive boss at a local fish market. His former girlfriend, Angela Ramirez, played by the exotic and beautiful Sofia Vergara, seeks a reconnection but Sonny, at first, is reluctant. With almost nothing in the way of resources or skills, considering his prime years were spent in prison, he is fearful of returning to a life of crime and going back to prison.
    Sonny’s former baseball coach played by Michael Rispoli offers a possible alternative. He sees Sonny one night and offers him a job as an assistant coach for the Staten Island Empires, a minor league club, under the mantle of the New York Yankees. Sonny declines the offer saying he has grown up and he is passed baseball. “There is no growing up in baseball,” says Coach Harris. Knowing his one true talent, Sonny relents and gets back into the game. At first, he is tasked to watch over and discipline a cocky rookie. Then, after batting a few balls at practice, he becomes a player. The conflict arises as to whether or not he can get back what he lost in prison. He was once the best in high school but now may not have what it takes to make it in the big leagues. What holds him back is the past and the guilt he feels at taking another man’s life.
    “Bottom of the Ninth” has a lot to offer audiences. Every scene is well-acted by key players with the inclusion of the wonderful Burt Young, who plays another team coach, and Vincent Pastore as the friendly bartender at a local tavern. Director Raymond De Felitta has done a commendable job in balancing the film. He is a down-to-earth auteur who delivers the true emotional impact of a scene rather than forcing mood and sentiment onto an audience. He also shows New York at her best. The streets are clean and the sidewalks are well-kept. Every shot at the ballpark is covetable. Games are played while in the background are ships and tankers making their way through New York harbor.
    What’s most refreshing about “Bottom of the Ninth” is its overriding message. The film runs counter to the incessant narrative of today’s politicians, schools and media, that a person has to forgo his or her natural born talent for years of academic instruction and a 9-5 job not to their liking. You are only as good as what you were born to do, says the film. Not a bad lesson to learn in a night at the movies.

 

FROM THEME PARKS TO TAKEOVERS OF THE VATICAN
THESE BOOKS COVER IT ALL
As Featured in PRIMO’s Second Edition 2019 - Eight Books Reviewed

“FREEDOMLAND U.S.A., The Definitive History,” by Michael R. Virgintino; Published by Theme Park Press; Available at Amazon.com and www.themeparkpress.com.
   Once, New Yorkers could spend a whole day at a theme park that rivaled the great Disneyland in California.
Freedomland U.S.A. was an 85 acre extravaganza of American history themed attractions in the Bronx. Those who visited as children and young adults still remember the experience. Now, Michael R. Virgintino, journalist, historian and Bronx native, pens the full story in “Freedomland U.S.A. - A Definitive History,” an engrossing tribute to an amazing theme park.
   Freedomland U.S.A. was the brainchild of C.V. Wood, an engineer who helped develop Disneyland. Better known as “Woody,” he was a new type of entertainment entrepreneur, more scientist than showman. He went out on his own after a squabble with Walt Disney and built several new theme parks, most notably Freedomland U.S.A.
   Opening day at Freedomland U.S.A. was a spectacle few New Yorkers forgot. Virgintino writes: “On June 19, 1960, New Yorkers were introduced to a unique theme park...Freedomland U.S.A. incorporated American history into family entertainment. More than 60,000 people passed through the gates...experienced cowboy shootouts, train robberies, and the burning of Chicago.”
   They also experienced top line entertainment from Italian Americans such as Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, and Bobby Rydell, just to name a few. Freedomland U.S.A. began in 1960 but closed for good in 1964. Many thought the reason for its quick demise was intense competition from the 1964 World’s Fair in nearby Queens. As Virgintino explains, Freedomland U.S.A. was doomed from the start. The park, unknown to Woody and the public, was meant to be a brief venture. Its purpose was to be a “placeholder” on what was virtually swampland in the Bronx so that Co-Op City could be built without regulatory obstacles.
   Virgintino delves into all aspects of Freedomland U.S.A. Most touching is when park employees, many of whom are Italian Americans from New York, share heartfelt recollections. What could be better than a job making kids happy? That’s exactly the sentiment of a tug boat captain who transported children in the park’s man-made Great Lakes, rather than moving barges in the Hudson River.
   Michael Virgintino is praised for writing an incredible book about a time and place to be always remembered. “Freedomland U.S.A” is as much a joy to read as it was to visit the park so many years ago.

“Southampton Summers,” by Albert Marra; Published by New Dominion Press; Available at www.newdominionpress.com and Amazon.com. Review by Gabriela Christie Toletti, Ph.D.
   “Southampton Summers” is a book about the American dream at its best. The book is fun and poignant. It makes you smile, and it also makes you yearn for simpler times long gone. The book is authored by Dr. Albert Marra (primary author) and members of three generations of the extended Marra-Maffei-Saracino family and tells stories about six decades of summers in Southampton, Long Island. These three branches of the same extended family left their Italian homeland early in the 20th century and therefore share a common heritage.
   Three bungalows were built by the Marra-Maffei-Saracino families in Southampton a few blocks from a small rocky beach. One of the contributors, the late Gilbert Maffei, beautifully encapsulates what these three bungalows meant: “You know, for a family that came to this country with virtually nothing, I think that the three bungalows represented a tremendous achievement; it was a great success. . . It was a dream many immigrants have, but few could ever achieve. But our family did it, somehow, they did it.”
   The book is also about adapting and assimilating to America without compromising or losing the most meaningful elements of Italian heritage. The stories are informative too because through these stories we learn about Italian traditions, typical foods, and rituals. In fact, I think the compilation should include the following warning: “This book my cause intense Italian food cravings.”
   Dr. Marra has the skill and gift of telling stories in a way that we can all relate to regardless of where we are from. As I was reading the book, I was picturing Southampton, while images of my childhood summers with my parents in faraway Uruguay were also resurfacing. The reader can make these connections because the stories are about family values that transcend time and place. Frank Marra (100-year-old father of the primary author and a book contributor) beautifully describes his memories of Southampton this way: “It was like having a big family reunion every day we spent there.” May we all be so fortunate when we reminisce about our past!
   The stories transport you to the past and make you reflect about the future. The book reminds us of what’s important in life and constitutes a call to continue to value and cherish family life and quality time with loved ones. “Southampton Summers” appeals to Italian Americans in a very special way, but the book also appeals to a much larger audience because it’s about values that are universal and timeless. It’s a book about family, community, cultural heritage, friendships, childhood memories, hard work, adaptation to a new land, and legacy.

“The Mithras Conspiracy,” by Michael Polelle; Published by Lido Press; Available at Amazon.com
   Riots and revolutions may have as their source a foreign entity. That’s a lesson we learn from reading Michael Polelle’s fascinating new novel, “The Mithras Conspiracy.” The title refers to the ancient Roman cult that worshipped the god Mithras. When Christianity was adopted as the state religion in Rome, Mithras and other pagan gods were banned and their believers arrested or persecuted in some way.
   Fast forward 2,000 years to a police investigation of the murder of Abramo Basso, a Jesuit priest who worked in the Vatican Library. Found on his person is the Festus parchment, an ancient document that references the trial of Saint Paul. The lead investigator is Marco Leone, born and raised in Rome and a childhood friend of Father Basso’s. The parchment, now in the possession of the Carabinieri, is sought after by high officials from the Vatican, and others, those who belong to a powerful, clandestine group. The document may contain evidence to unravel the foundations of Christianity. Meanwhile, Italy is on the verge of economic collapse with varied radical groups opting to take over. The whole atmosphere reminds one of the economic meltdown of Southern Europe 10 years ago.
   As Italy unravels, Leone seems the last person in his country with a balanced view. While driving through a crowd of demonstrators, he considers the futility of their message. “Protesters held banners proclaiming the coming of proletarian power as the answer. Leone sighed in frustration. Did the protesters even remember what the question was? The empty slogans were dusted off once again. The national future was always the past in disguise. Nothing would ever change. Unless he got out of this country and out of this rut, neither would he.”
   Polelle carries on the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett with snappy insights and dialogue. In one scene, main character Leone is told that the dessert is a gift from the cafe owner. Leone barks: “‘No gifts for me or my men.’ He put on the table more than enough euros to cover everything. ‘Gifts come in pretty boxes…but with strings attached.’” “The Mithras Conspiracy” is an engaging and entertaining novel that is both well-written and well-researched. Italy remains a cauldron of religious, economic and cultural substance. The premise of the novel might be summed up: So goes Italy, so goes the world. “The Mithras Conspiracy” is awesome.

“Drone Strike - An Anthony Provati Thriller,” by Joe Giordano; Published by Rogue Phoenix Press; Available at Amazon.com
   A great thriller must rise on the shoulders of a main character who is clever, worldly, and above all else, likable. These are the attributes of Anthony Provati, the 34-year-old Italian American protagonist in Joe Giordano’s excellent new novel - “Drone Strike.”
In “Drone Strike,” Provati is settled in an idyllic existence with his girlfriend Nori on the Greek island Santorini. The good life, however, is not to be had when Nori suffers a head injury after an earthquake. She needs round-the-clock medical care and Provati takes a job as a sailboat captain to pay for its all. He is ordered to transfer from Greece to Italy illegal migrants, one of whom is an ISIL terrorist.
   The author has extensively researched the Middle East, Islam and terrorism. He gives us two other key characters, Karim and Miriam, victims, in different ways, of Middle East violence. Miriam is a Syrian Christian, who was raped by ISIL thugs. Karim is a chemical engineer from ISIL-controlled Iraq whose wife and children were accidentally killed after an American drone strike. He hears the words of Al-Nasir, an ISIL leader: “Like buzzing flies, Americans wave off reports of murdered Islamic women and children. They switch their televisions to reality shows and wallow in their morally bankrupt existences…You’ll continue to suffer for your loss, but Americans remain indifferent.”
   We follow Karim from a Jihadi camp in the Iraqi desert to Greece where he is captured. Faced with dire financial conditions, the country is unable to secure its border. Karim is not sentenced to prison. Instead, a Greek judge announces: “As the jails haven’t room for all the illegal immigrants coming into our country, I’m suspending your sentence and ordering you to leave Greece within a month.” The time allows Karim to find a way to sneak out of Greece and make his way to Italy with help from Provati.
   Personal tragedy is the central chord that unites the characters in Drone Strike. Giordano goes beyond the action to explore the motivations, thoughts and deeds of heroes and villains. At root is faith and the mystery of God’s intervention; an important theme in the novel since Middle East violence is religious based. In “Appointment with ISIL,” Giordano was hailed as a thoughtful and creative author who gave us a dynamic character in Anthony Provati in a contemporary adventure. Giordano has now exceeded himself with “Drone Strike.” This is an exceptional novel that is as thrilling as it is illuminating.

“Charcoal and Blood: Italian Immigrants in Eureka, Nevada and The Fish Creek Massacre,” by Silvio Manno; Published by University of Nevada Press; Available at www.unpress.nevada.edu and Amazon.com
   Events do not occur in a vacuum. That’s the lesson we learn from reading Silvio Manno’s extraordinary book, “Charcoal and Blood: Italian Immigrants in Eureka, Nevada and The Fish Creek Massacre.”
   After the Civil War, Italian immigrants, mostly from the Lake Como area, were recruited to work for lead and silver mine owners in Nevada. They cut down trees, chopped and burned wood to make charcoal for smelting ore. The job was demanding, both physically and mentally, and, after some years, the Italians wanted better pay and working conditions. Their grievances were met with disdain, not just by the mine owners, but, also, by the teamsters who transported the material. It all came to a head in 1879 when a local sheriff and his deputies confronted strikers. A fight broke out, and the Italians, most of whom were unarmed, were shot at random by the police and five were killed.
   The Fish Creek Massacre, as it was later called by the press was the first act of violence against Italian immigrants in America. Manno’s impressive research shows that the dispute had its roots in Italy. We go back to the 1860s when Italy’s Risorgimento made it worse, not better, for the poor. The new national government in Torino was oppressive and tax heavy. Manno writes: “Toward the end of the 19th century, the rural economy in the Ticino region…from where many of the Eureka charcoal burners originated was on the verge of collapse…dire economic stagnation included outdated agricultural practices, excessive taxation, and farm contracts unfavorable to the peasantry.”
   Italians left in droves for the open frontiers of North and South America. The purpose of escaping Italy was not to settle in the cities of the New World, but, rather to move west and strike it rich in gold or land.
   Manno’s crisp and succinct prose makes what might have been a dry academic work into a rich and readable narrative; akin to a historical novel. He is to be commended for avoiding the revisionist trap of claiming persecution at every turn. The author emphasizes that many Italians had successfully integrated in America by the late 1800s and were wealthy entrepreneurs in Nevada and elsewhere in the Wild West.
   “Charcoal and Blood” is a compelling, impressive work of history that all Italian Americans should read. The book is another reminder of the harrowing struggles and sacrifices our ancestors made, sometimes getting killed in the process, so that we may all have a better life.

“Holy Predator,” by Deborah Stevens; Published by Calumet Editions; Available at Amazon.com
   Deborah Stevens follows her spellbinding novel, “The Serpent’s Disciple,” with another book, as good, if not better, in “Holy Predator.” The book opens with the horrific murder of Alonso Garibaldi Poggiani, head of the Vatican Bank. He is nailed to a cross and hung upside down in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica. It is an ominous sign. The author writes: “In the New Testament, Peter had asked to be hung upside down, unworthy to die in the same manner of Christ, but today the inverted cross was a symbol of our fallen world and the symbol of the devil.”
   The death of Poggiani is reminiscent of the Calvi affair, when in 1982, Roberto Calvi, chairman of Banco Abrosiano, Italy’s second largest bank, was murdered and his body hung from a bridge in London. Authorities had uncovered massive corruption and illegalities, by then, tied to the Vatican and Italy’s financial sector. Stevens writes about these and other past events in context to what occurs in the novel. She paints a picture of secrecy and conspiracy related to the Vatican, the Society of Jesus and the first election of a Jesuit as pope.
   In “Holy Predator,” the main character is Anthony Andruccioli, a Special Forces-like commando working for the Roman Catholic Church. He suspects a clandestine takeover of the Vatican by members of a cult who worship the Satanic symbol Moloch. He is soon assisted by Christine to confront a host of characters in Italian banking, organized crime and the Vatican. The duo uncovers a Jesuit codex, the Monita Secreta, that sheds light on hidden activities among Jesuit priests to undermine governments worldwide.
   The author does an outstanding job in connecting real world events to those enmeshed in Biblical prophecy and the occult. The murder of Poggiani in the book’s beginning takes place during a lunar eclipse that bespeaks the Blood Moon Prophecy. The author writes: “The prophecy is a series of apocalyptic beliefs involving a tetrad, a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses with six full moons in between and no intervening partial lunar eclipses…Many believe this to be an omen of the coming of the End of Times.”
   Deborah Stevens’ knowledge of Roman Catholicism is most impressive. She plans to have both, “Holy Predator” and “The Serpent’s Disciple,” available in Italian by the end of 2019. “Holy Predator” is an enthralling novel that will keep readers on the edge their seats. Current scandals undermine the Church and shake the foundations of faith. “Holy Predator” is an incredible depiction, albeit fiction, of what transpires - both good and bad - behind closed doors in the Vatican.

“Bottle Alley,” by Brenda M. Spalding; Published by Heritage Publishing.US. Available at Amazon.com
   A lot can happen in a small town. That’s the premise of “Bottle Alley,” a suspenseful new novel by Brenda M. Spalding about traveling carnivals, seedy saloons and ethnic conflicts. The title of the book refers to its setting in Newton, Massachusetts, on Adams Street, where “it seemed like every other building was a tavern or a brewery…”
   Newton might be considered, today, a suburb of Boston, being 10 miles west of the city; but back in 1938 the town was wholly self-contained. The Aetna Mill was the mainstay employer and the town had its thriving commercial center of mom-and-pop shops and eateries. The city hall, schools, churches and synagogues provided a communal spirit. The town was divided among ethnic lines, as Spalding writes: “Newton…in 1938 was a mix of Irish who came fleeing from the famine, French and Jews looking for a safe harbor from war and persecution. The Italians came, mostly from the village of San Donato Val di Comino. They were all first and second generation immigrants looking for a better way of life in America.”
   Friends Michael Flannigan and Tony Pellegrino are the two main characters. Michael is the breadwinner of his family after his father Donal suffers an accident at the local mill. Tony finds sporadic work while dating Michael’s sister Ellen, against the wishes of her parents. Albeit a demanding time, considering this is the Great Depression, Newton remains quaint and innocent. That is until the traveling carnival arrives. The young men find temporary work manning exhibits and games of chance. An air of danger hovers over the fairgrounds when young Johnny Russo is found dead in nearby Silver Lake. A whodunit arises reminiscent of American film noir. There is the femme fatale, hidden clues and whispered secrets that are uncovered by the main characters, all the while a hurricane approaches.
   Most special about “Bottle Alley” is Spalding’s commendable effort to retain the unique dialect of the “Lake” region in local slang and idioms. The book is akin to a modern anthropological study. According to Spalding, many in Newton still speak the “Lake” dialect. She even includes a glossary of terms, that are found throughout the novel, such as “mush” (guy or man), “divia” (crazy, screwball) “jival” (girl), and so on. “Bottle Alley” is the kind of novel that was once common fare in bookstores and source material for watchable television. The book contains a mystery with agreeable characters and strange villains. “Bottle Alley” is what we all like: Entertaining reading without the redundant political preaching we see and hear too much of today.

“With All of Me II,” by Joanne Fisher; Available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com
   Joanne Fisher continues the romantic saga of Giuliana in her new novel, “With All of Me II.” The story highlights the new world of social media at odds with the old world values of Italy. Although born in Toronto, the author spent much of her early life in Lake Garda after her parents returned to Italy. She comes to her writing with two cultures in mind: Canadian and Italian.
   In Joanne’s previous novel, “With All of Me,” readers were introduced to Giuliana, an Italian-Canadian woman who lives with her husband Rocco and three children. In “With All of Me II,” Giuliana rekindles a relationship with Bobby, a man from California, who also is married and has children. A dilemma arises when Giuliana finds herself pregnant and is not sure the identity of the father. Could it be her husband Rocco? Or, perhaps, Bobby.
   Giuliana gives birth to a baby girl, Sabrina, who looks nothing like her other children. Suspicious, Rocco orders a DNA kit online to decipher the girl’s paternity. Meanwhile, Bobby flies out to Canada to meet with Giuliana after seeing photos of Sabrina on social media. He is convinced the girl is his biological daughter. All goes awry when the DNA results are reported to Rocco. Now, there is no hiding the affair. Giuliana is faced with the guilt of her infidelity and the added burden of divorce and dismantling of her family.
   The author claims the character Giuliana was invented after she too faced dramatic changes in her own life. Joanne said in an online interview with PRIMO, “At one point, I was like Giuliana: I had multiple online friends and most of them were men. I was also going through somewhat of a mid-life crisis which was hardened by my ex-husband wanting to return to Italy. As I wrote, the plot became quite spicy and convoluted, but at the same time, quite interesting.”
   Giuliana’s betrayal is not well-received by her children. They love both parents and the pain of divorce does not heal quickly. Giuliana soon realizes another crisis when Sabrina is diagnosed with leukemia. Now, Giuliana must come to terms with her faith and the costs of love in the modern age. She believes that God is punishing her for infidelity. Bobby admonishes her: “God doesn’t punish people, He forgives them. He does test us, and this is your test. Will you keep your faith or will you fall into the hell of self-pity and guilt?”
   “With All of Me II” is a cogently written and moving novel that explores the struggles of a good woman who does wrong. The novel follows a theme from the author’s previous work on how our high-tech world provides new opportunities that rewards and penalizes us.

 

 

 

GUALTIERO MARCHESI - THE GREAT ITALIAN
A 2017 Film by Maurizio Gigola is a Stunning Tribute to One of Italy’s Greatest Chefs
Featured at Cannes Last Year; The Film is Available for Digital Streaming April 16, 2019
PRIMO Review

If the dishes created by Gualtiero Marchesi taste as good as they look, then he will be rightly remembered as one of the greatest chefs in history.
   Unfortunately, few Americans, if any, have ever eaten Marchesi’s food. His restaurants were located in Italy and catered to the world’s epicurean elite. His reputation comes via second-hand testimony. If only to see his dishes were to taste them. We might all enjoy what so many exclusive diners have over the years.
   Marchesi re-defined Italian cuisine. He was disillusioned by traditional recipes. He once said in an interview that Italian food was too domestic and “vulgar.” The recipes needed serious refining and he saw himself as the right man for the job. He mentored a small army of new chefs that have today taken the culinary world by storm. Marchesi died in December, 2017 at the age of 87. A man famous for starting and participating in new enterprises, mostly restaurants, but also hotels, food and a line of cutlery bearing his name, he had one more project to see completed - a biographical film. Just before he died, Maurizio Gigola followed the great chef with camera in hand. Together, they journeyed through parts of Italy, France and Japan; the latter, a country the chef greatly admired. Marchesi recounted to Gigola his culinary philosophy and life’s work. He revisited the old restaurants, farms, markets and wineries that gave life to his gastronomic imagination. What comes via film is a fascinating tribute entitled “Gualtiero Marchesi - The Great Italian.”
   To recapture the innovations of master chef Marchesi, Gigola was under considerable pressure. The filmmaker had to match his technique and vision with that of Marchesi’s. In order for the documentary to work, Gigola had to balance art and substance. He conveyed Marchesi’s dynamism through crafty special effects and creative camera work. Gigola has risen to the occasion and has made a film worthy of accolades.
   “Gualtiero Marchesi - The Great Italian” was a featured documentary in 2018 at the Cannes Film Festival in France and is now set for massive digital release via a host of venues in America, beginning April 16, 2019.
   The film opens with both filmmaker and chef dining and discussing the motivation behind the film. The passion of Marchesi is the central theme. The film immediately puts to rest the stereotype of the hot-tempered Italian genius. Marchesi looks as though he never had an angry moment in his life. He is the quintessential gentleman, at ease throughout the film. Milan is where he was born and raised. His family were restauranteurs and musicians. He, himself, was an accomplished pianist before dedicating himself to food.
The film intercuts archival photographs and footage with one of Marchesi’s dishes created by a protege. He is most famous for a host of intriguing dishes; one, in which, is pasta, caviar and chives. The strands of spaghetti are rolled together like a coil spring. This might be a common feature on the plates of today’s restaurants, but it remains a Marchesi invention done decades ago. His recipe calls for pasta topped by black fish eggs and green chives. The dish looks like a surreal treasure of gold filigree, bits of jade and tiny emeralds. The dish was one of many by the old chef that put Italy on the map of epicurean destinations; finally displacing the dominance of France. Indeed, Marchesi was the first chef in Italy to have his restaurant receive a Michelin star; a surprising fact. The country that arguably is the best loved when it comes to food is without the reverence afforded other country’s chefs who elevate cuisine to high art. Marchesi is a hero to many Italians since he was the one who finally bridged this gap.
   Integrity in cooking is another subject explored in the film. Marchesi was a pioneer in several areas. He was the godfather of the Slow Food Movement and, to that extent, the organic food movement. Marchesi was adamant about local produce. He relied on nearby farms, old family butcher shops and creameries to ensure the quality of his ingredients. The film puts to rest another stereotype. Marchesi was no young romantic in the kitchen. He was a man in his 40s when he transitioned from a well-respected chef to one who was experimental and innovative.
   What pushed Marchesi to embrace the avant-garde depends on differing viewpoints in the film. Gigola seems more inclined towards music, than art, as the inspiration behind Marchesi. This is an understandable thesis considering the chef’s musical background. However, his food creations were intrinsically connected to color and framing. The plate was a canvas. The chef, an artist. Bits of meat and vegetables were placed according to the color wheel. Gigola acknowledges the essence of visual art in a number of scenes. The chef is seen in a moment of reflection. Famous paintings by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock come into view. We then see chefs create Marchesi’s dishes as inspired by such artworks. There is a bed of bright yellow risotto topped with gold leaf. Another dish is best known by its title “Fish Dripping”; an ode to Jackson Pollock and his method of dripping paint. The visual reference is given its due in the film. Nevertheless, the incessant musical score along with the display of instruments and a performance of musicians, one of whom is Marchesi’s daughter, overplays the emphasis of sound, rather than sight.
   “Gualtiero Marchesi - The Great Italian” is a beautiful creation by Gigola. The chef is a fascinating subject for a documentary and Gigola knows it. The filmmaker has ample material to make a stunning film and does so. This is Gigola’s first documentary, one in which he wrote, directed and produced. He is a true Renaissance man who is also refreshingly down-to-earth. He does not let himself get in the way of the film’s subject. We are here to see and understand Marchesi. The late chef espouses his philosophy in concise words and well-mannered diction. He is a true genius at work. Perhaps a relic; and by today’s standards, an anomaly, Marchesi is also a model for others to follow. He shows that creative ingenuity does not have to come with tattoos, Indian bracelets and pony tails.

Editor’s Note: Rock Salt Releasing will release “Gualtiero Marchesi - The Great Italian” onto digital streaming platforms April 16th (Amazon, DirecTV, inDemand, Hoopla, FlixFling, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO + Sling/Dish). To learn more about the film, please log on to https://www.thegreatitalian.com/.

 

BLIND VETERAN GABE SPATARO DIVES TO “CHRIST OF THE ABYSS” STATUE
Fifty Years After Enshrining a Famous Italian Statue of Jesus Christ Beneath the Waves, the Now Blind Diver Gabe Spataro Dove Down to Touch the Bronze Statue for the First Time in 2013

Gabriel Spataro brought the statue, “Christ of the Abyss,” to the United States in the early 1960s.
    Yet, it was not until 2013 that he dove into the waters off the coast of Florida to touch it.
    “Christ of the Abyss” is an amazing bronze rendition of our Lord. The statue went from Italy to Chicago and then on to Key Largo, Florida where, in 1965, it was submerged off the coast. It remains one of the most viewed underwater objects in the world today and has, thus far, generated more than a billion dollars in tourism revenue.
Spataro is a humble man, who, at 87 years old, is legally blind. He is a military veteran, a proud member of Shriners International, a father and business owner. He never toots his own horn. He is known by friends and associates as an amazing storyteller. He volunteers regularly at the local Veterans Hospital and at the local Shriners Hospital, where he makes balloon animals to entertain disabled children.
Jim Elliott is the founder and president of Diveheart, a non-profit organization based in Downers Grove, Illinois, that provides therapy to the disabled through scuba diving lessons and underwater excursions. He helped Spataro and other military veterans in 2013 dive into the ocean to “Christ of the Abyss” statue.
It was in the mid-1950s that Spataro returned from the Korean War to run his family-owned restaurant in Chicago. One night he overheard guests talking about scuba diving. He was interested to learn more. They invited him to a local lake in Wisconsin where they gave him his first lesson.
“Back then, people didn’t need to have scuba diving certification,” says Elliott. “A person just needed to know someone with scuba equipment. This was called bootleg diving.”
    Years later, Spataro finally got certified through a program conducted by Diveheart and sponsored by the Veterans Hospital.
    “Christ of the Abyss” in Italian is “Il Cristo Degli Abissi.” The statue was sculpted in 1954 by Guido Gilletti and commissioned by Italian diving instructor Duilio Mercante as a tribute to Dario Gonzatti, Italy’s first scuba diver. Spataro met the statue’s creator while on a wine tour in Italy. Three nine-foot statues of Jesus Christ were sculpted in bronze. The first was submerged in the waters off the coast of San Fruttuoso, a village near Portofino, where Gonzatti died while scuba diving. Another was a gift by the Italian navy to the people of Grenada for their help in rescuing passengers of the Italian vessel “Bianca C” that sunk off the island’s coast in the Caribbean. As for the third statue, Spataro wanted it to come to the United States. However, he could not afford to ship it to America. Spataro’s father had a friend that ran an Italian shipping company and he arranged to get it to Chicago for free. They stored the statue in a National Guard airplane hangar at Chicago O’Hare International Airport until, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, they got a military plane to bring it down to the Florida Keys for free. The statue sat in a warehouse for a few years in Florida before it was placed underwater. Not until 2013 did Spataro have a chance to dive to the statue, thanks to Diveheart.
    “I was driving Spataro home in 2013 after a Diveheart fundraiser when Gabe told me he was going to dive to the Christ statue with a couple of his Korean War buddies,” says Elliott
“I told him ‘You’ve probably dived to the statue many times since the 1960s,’” Elliott said. “Spataro replied that he never dove to the statue because after it was shipped to Key Largo, he was busy with his family and restaurant business in Chicago. This would be his first time.”
Elliott inquired further on how Spataro planned to make this special dive.
    Spataro said, “I’ll be diving to the statue with my buddy Vinnie, who has one leg, and my buddy Louie, who is also blind.” After hearing they were going into the ocean in a 12-foot fishing boat, Elliott realized that Spataro needed experienced divers to help him make this experience a reality.
    “I’m thinking to myself that we have two blind guys and one amputee who are all in their 80s,” Elliott recalled. “They are going out miles onto the ocean in a 12-foot fishing boat to dive to the Christ statue. They’re all going to die.”
    Elliott called his friend D.J., the owner of Rainbow Reef dive center in Key Largo, who cleared eight paid spots on a 45-foot dive boat. Spataro and friends were able to go out with Rainbow Reef and Diveheart to dive to the statue, for the first time.
    While under water, Spataro approached the bronze rendition of Jesus Christ. He placed a wreath on one of the statue’s outstretched hands. He said the experience was amazing and very spiritual. He was glad that Elliott intervened, he said, because in retrospect it might not have been such a good idea for three veterans, all with disabilities and in their 80s, to go out alone on a 12-foot fishing boat to dive to the statue.
    The Miami Herald covered the dive in a front page feature article. According to Elliott, the story was more than the rekindling of a statue to its main catalyst. How the statue was transported from Italy to its final destination in America could now be retold with greater emphasis on accuracy.
    “It changed history,” says Elliott about Spataro’s dive. “The Miami Herald originally reported that the Christ statue came to America through New York—but it didn’t. It came in through Chicago’s Navy Pier. The ring buoy that said New York was in the old photos of the statue when it arrived, because the Italian shipping company was based in New York; but it really came in through Navy Pier.”
    Diveheart’s adaptive dive buddies kept Spataro safe on the dive and have taken him back there several times.
    “Diveheart helped make a dream come true for this old, blind Korean War veteran. I can’t thank them enough,” Spataro said.
    He explained how moving it was to get close to “Christ of the Abyss” for the first time underwater.
    “It was funny how I was able to go down to the statue after all these years,” Spataro said. “It was like seeing an old friend.”

To learn more about Diveheart, please visit their web site at http://www.diveheart.org

 

 

 

STORMING OMAHA BEACH ON D-DAY
PRIMO Reader Pays Tribute to Her Late Husband’s WWII Service

Mrs. Lola Pollastrini Gianelli wrote to PRIMO about her late husband, former U.S. Army Sergeant George Frederick Gianelli, and his service in the D-Day landing at Normandy in WWII. Here is what she wrote:

"This is a tribute to the 75th Anniversary of Normandy D-Day, in honor of my late husband George and his Army Battalion who all survived (Thank God) the war against the Germans on June 6, 1944 at Omaha Beach.

On June 6, 2019, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania, along with Queen Elizabeth, saluted and stood at attention on Omaha Beach at noon for the raising of the American Flag and the 21 Gun Salute in honor and respect of our GIs.

Although I didn't know George until after the war, (we were married for 48 years until his death), this is a summary of his and his buddies' stories, as told at their Battalion reunions held every year after the war. The reunions lasted for 30 years. Wives and children attended in a one-week's vacation to listen to war stories.

George's battalion was in the Fifth Wave that stormed onto the beach where Hitler's army was waiting in bunkers. The worst battle was there at Omaha Beach. George said it was like going into a suicide mission. He stumbled over dead GIs who came ashore before him. The next 6th Wave of GIs wiped out the German troops. There is a GI cemetery on the hill above Omaha Beach maintained by the United States. George always said that the heroes were the guys who never made it out alive from that battle.

George's battalion spent four years in England shooting Buzz Bombs and fighting in Germany. They reached Hitler's bunker the day after both Hitler and wife Eva Braun committed suicide. Next to the bunker was a concentration camp where the battalion was allowed to go and observe. George refused to go. He could see from the gate a big pile of dead bodies.

George was drafted the day after graduation from Hayward High School at age 18. His battalion was made up of guys from Italian families in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Was this done purposely??) The families all knew each other. Actually, George received his draft notice before graduating from high school. He turned 18 in March and didn't graduate until June. George and his father went before the Draft Board and asked for a deferment so he could graduate. He was then drafted the day after high school graduation.

On your computer, you can see live movies and stories about D-Day, also photos of the cemetery. Just go to ‘D-Day Invasion of Normandy.’ I wish they would teach some information about WWII in schools nowadays, but they don't. I guess it's not ‘Politically Correct.’ (It might hurt somebody's feelings??) I wonder---if we went to war and there was draft today, would our youth go to battle or would it infringe on ‘their rights’???”

 

FLESH OUT
A New Film by Michela Occhipinti Offers Insight into Third World Matrimony
Weight Gain is Expected for a Bride-to-Be in the African Nation of Mauritania
PRIMO Review

Italian filmmakers have always been fascinated with Africa.
   Didn’t auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini claim Africa as his favorite place in the world, after Italy? The wild and exotic continent across the Mediterranean has been an inspiration for some of the best and most notorious films of Italian cinema. Gillo Pontecorvo immediately comes to mind with his masterpiece “Battle of Algiers,” the 1966 film about the Algerian revolution that continues to this day to impress students of cinema. Africa is not a place for elaborate set designs and special effects. Instead, the gritty documentary style is sought there by Italian filmmakers. Their mission is reality; sometimes for exploitative purposes. One is reminded of the first documentary of worldwide fame, “Mondo Cane.” The 1960 Italian production by Gualtiero Jacopetti gave birth to the “shockumentary.” Controversial customs and rituals from Africa were shown with reckless abandon. So successful was the film that Jacopetti and partners devoted a sequel that contained real and violent footage of the continent’s civil wars and revolutions.
   Such is the enigma of Africa. She remains a means of cultural fascination or exploitation, depending on the filmmaker.
   Michela Occhipinti is of the former class and takes a sympathetic and sensitive approach to storytelling. Her new film, “Flesh Out,” continues the Italian cinematic exploration of Africa. It is Mauritania, a poor and humbled nation embedded in the Sahara desert. Occhipinti is the film’s director and co-writer of the screenplay with Simona Coppini. Originally from Rome, she lived in different parts of the world making documentaries. Now settled in Milan, the center of Italian fashion, she takes on the subject of beauty. Not the thin and glamorous kind as sought by women of Europe and America. Instead, we are shown women who seek to gain weight, not lose it, in Mauritania.
   The film’s main character is Verida, played by newcomer Verida Beitta Ahmed Deiche. Engaged to be married by family arrangement, she undergoes the gavage diet of bulgur and meat 10 times a day in order to gain weight for her wedding. The film begins in the early morning hours as Verida is awakened by her mother to eat. It may be the opposite of the western concept of beauty, but, nevertheless, time, attention and sacrifice are made to satisfy the male eye. Verida is a complex character. Young and ambitious, she seeks to one day own and operate her grandmother’s beauty salon. Henna tattoos are applied to her hands and wrists. Friends pressure her to abandon tradition. Change is coming to Mauritania. Yet, Verida remains loyal to her family and customs.
   “Flesh Out” has its strong suits. The documentary style, as perfected by Occhipinti, captures the stark reality of setting and characters. The lighting and camera work by Daria D’Antonio is especially praiseworthy. He conveys a Noir-like atmosphere that heightens the setting’s cultural mystique. Some scenes are uniquely powerful such as the film’s beginning that depict the black eyes of the protagonist. Through a haze of dust, we see the face of the Third World, reminiscent of the National Geographic cover from 1985 of the Afghan girl with green eyes.
   The film’s single flaw is Occhipinti’s unromantic view of Saharan Africa. She pushes the patience of the viewer. Dullness sets in when poverty becomes overwhelming. Characters have little to do because the cultural and economic offerings of the country are minimal. Tradition seems the only endeavor to engage Verida towards action.
   “Flesh Out” is a film to be seen by those interested in the world beyond borders. A serious debate arises when one asks if the people of Mauritania are better off embracing modernity. Women are dressed in traditional Arabic clothing while walking the dirt roads of a country strewn with plastic debris. Scene after scene displays the latest technology, gadgets and disposable goods; all the while in a medieval-like environment. Such is the integrity of Occhipinti. The message of the film might not be what was intended. She may have set out to make a film critical of old and misogynistic traditions. Yet, truth in filmmaking makes the viewer lament the bullying onslaught of modernity upon a proud and traditional people.

Editor’s Note: “Flesh Out” will be shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 27 at Village East Cinema, 3 p.m.; April 29 at Battery Park Cinema, 7 p.m.; and on May 4, 11:30 a.m. at Village East Cinema. For more information, log on to: http://www.tribecafilm.com/festival/

 

 

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DEBORAH STEVENS
Her Book “The Serpent’s Disciple” Explores Freemason Infiltration of The Vatican
Are the Conspiracies True?

Your new novel The Serpent’s Disciple explores the inner workings of the Catholic Church. What new insight about the pope and Vatican will readers gain after reading your book?

Many readers might not know that The Vatican or officially Vatican City State is the smallest sovereign nation in the world. It is a theocratic, absolute, and elective monarchy. The pope as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and bishop of Rome exercises ex officio supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power over Vatican City. This translates into a significant amount of power; not just authority over the citizens of Vatican City, but as religious leader of the Catholic Church, many Christians worldwide. In any seat of power, an inner structure is set up and authority distributed between people. As we all know from history, desire for power can often result in corruption. Although we would like to believe in the sanctity of religion, we can also find the seeds of betrayal. The reader of my novels will learn about a few of the regrettable events and challenges having to do with the inner workings of Vatican City and the papacy.

One need not go farther than the engrossing title of you novel – The Serpent’s Disciple - to know its Biblical roots. How closely connected is your novel to the prophetic warnings of the Book of Revelation?

The vast array of ornate and lush imagery found in the Book of Revelation has led to a wide variety of interpretations. Ranging from the simple historical analysis, to a prophetic view of the future, to futurist interpretations of different end time scenarios. As many believe, the obscure and extravagant imagery signify the invisible forces and spiritual powers of good versus evil at work in the world and in the heavenly realms and culminating in a war against the church.
In a way, my stories could be considered an adaptation on the Garden of Eden. In the Book of Revelation Satan is called a serpent, not once but three times. So, in The Serpent’s Disciple we uncover and see the results, as in the Garden of Eden, of the soul tempted by the promises of the serpent. An intriguing element of the story line is based on real events. The collapse of the Vatican bank in the 1980’s did take place and involved a gruesome murder. The group Propaganda Due (P2), an illegal masonic lodge, existed. Conspiracy theorists believe P2 could be behind the mysterious circumstances of Pope John Paul I death after only 33 days of his papacy. The fictional story behind The Serpent's Disciple involves a battle between the serpent and a disciple of the church. If you embrace the belief that faith exists, then you will also believe there will be a judgment day. I will leave that debate in the hands of the readers.

A key suspicion among many traditional and conservative Roman Catholics is that the Church changed radically after Vatican II because of infiltration by the Freemasonry. What led you to take on this controversy head on in The Serpent’s Disciple?

Many believe International Freemasonry has sought to infiltrate the Catholic Church for decades. When Pope John XXIII announced the creation of the Second Vatican Council (also known as Vatican II) in January 1959, it shocked the world. There hadn't been an ecumenical council in nearly 100 years. Canon law before Vatican II prohibited membership in Freemasonry and considered cause for automatic ex-communication. It concluded Masonic principles and rituals are irreconcilable with Catholic doctrines. After Vatican II, however, the Catholic Church began an evaluation of its understanding of Masonry and subtle modifications of Canon law began to occur. The Church’s position appeared to be fluid on the matter. There were various interpretations of what was being reported. When doing research for the book I was not that familiar with the story of P2. As I delved deeper, I became fascinated to learn more. As I did, the idea for The Serpent’s Disciple began to materialize. I decided to use actual events with real circumstances that faced the Vatican at the time. It is often said, fact is stranger than fiction, and I agree.

The Serpent’s Disciple is a fascinating book with many plot elements that connect to other genres, i.e., horror, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction etc…What genre best describes The Serpent’s Disciple?

That is a challenging question to some degree. I use the label Fiction Thriller. A Thriller is a story that is usually a mix of fear and excitement. It contains traits from the suspense genre and action, adventure or mystery genres. I’ve had people say they thought it touched on fantasy and historical fiction. I agree with all these. My wish is to hopefully keep the reader wondering and hopefully surprised at end of the story.

Do you see yourself writing more books? Similar to The Serpent’s Disciple? Why do you find this subject so fascinating?

Yes, I plan on writing a trilogy. The Serpent’s Disciple and, Holy Predator, the second in the series is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook. The first book has received six awards and the latest Holy Predator received its first award, The Pinnacle Achievement Award, winner in the category of Thriller. Any religion or powerful group has a history of how it evolved and Christianity, in this case, Catholicism, is thousands of years old. Then, you add the existence of Vatican City and all this takes place in Italy, how can you not be fascinated by the topic. I loved to research and learn the history behind how something came to be. Although, sometimes creating more questions than answers. It’s like working on a puzzle. Trying to figure out which piece goes next and finally seeing the results of ones efforts. There are so many stories surrounding the Catholic Church, Vatican City and the history of Italy. It's hard not to be fascinated with it all. The Serpent’s Disciple has been translated into Italian. Holy Predator is presently being translated into Italian and should be out at the end of 2019. Before the final book in the trilogy is completed, I will be releasing a non-fiction book titled Strange but True, The Vatican Dossier. I hope to have it out at the end of this year.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Deborah Stevens’ books, please visit her web site at https://deborahstevensauthor.com/

 

 

 

PRIMO REVIEW
DRONE STRIKE - AN ANTHONY PROVATI THRILLER
A solid sequel to the author's "Appointment with ISIL"
- An interview with Joe Giordano

 

   A great thriller must rise on the shoulders of its main character. He must carry the novel by being clever, worldly, and above all else, likable. These are the attributes of Anthony Provati, the 34-year-old Italian American protagonist in Joe Giordano’s excellent new novel - Drone Strike.
   Fans of the author know Anthony Provati well. Giordano introduced readers to his main protagonist in a previous engaging thriller, Appointment with ISIL. We got to know Provati as a native New Yorker who owns a tiny art gallery in Soho. Always pressed for money, he finds himself in schemes and predicaments that have worldwide repercussions.
   In Drone Strike, Provati is settled in an idyllic existence with his girlfriend Nori on the Greek island of Santorini. A skilled pianist and sailor, he’s able to make a living either playing piano at a small nightclub or manning a sailboat. The good life, however, is not to be had after an earthquake strikes the region and Nori suffers a severe head injury. Although medical care is free in Greece, we learn that the public hospitals there are grossly mismanaged. The best option is a private hospital for Nori to receive round-the-clock care while she remains in a coma. Provati is desperate to pay for it all. He takes a job as a sailboat captain to transfer illegal migrants from Greece to Italy. Unbeknownst to Provati, one of the passengers is an ISIL terrorist.
    Great fiction can enlighten readers beyond mainstream coverage of world events. Giordano has extensively researched the Middle East, Islam and the history of terrorism. He gives us two key characters - Karim and Miriam, victims, in different ways, of Middle East violence. Miriam is a Syrian Christian, who was raped by ISIL thugs, after they killed her family. She met Karim at a Turkish refugee camp and together they made their way to Greece. Much of the story revolves around Karim, a chemical engineer from ISIL-controlled Iraq. The novel begins with an American drone striking a car of terrorists near his house. He is thrown back from the blast but not seriously hurt. He sees his home destroyed and finds his wife Farrah and two children dead amidst the rubble. How to make sense of the tragedy leads him to the domain of terrorists. He follows the words of one, Al-Nasir, an ISIL leader: “Like buzzing flies, Americans wave off reports of murdered Islamic women and children. They switch their televisions to reality shows and wallow in their morally bankrupt existences…You’ll continue to suffer for your loss, but Americans remain indifferent.”
    Giordano takes the reader on a grand tour of the Middle East war zone. We follow Karim to a Jihadi camp in the Iraqi desert that trains suicide bombers. He travels through Syria with a fake passport. The Mediterranean becomes the main setting as Karim claims refugee status and is allowed to enter Turkey. When he is captured in Greece, we are confronted with the impotency of law enforcement. Faced with dire financial conditions, the country is unable to fund the manpower needed to secure its border. Karim is not sentenced to prison. Instead, a Greek judge announces: “As the jails haven’t room for all the illegal immigrants coming into our country, I’m suspending your sentence and ordering you to leave Greece within a month.” The time allows Karim to find a way to sneak out of Greece and make his way to Italy with help from Provati.
    Personal tragedy is the central chord that unites the characters in Drone Strike. Giordano goes beyond the action to explore the motivations, thoughts and deeds of heroes and villains. At root is faith and the mystery of God’s intervention; an important theme in the novel since Middle East violence is religious based. In Appointment with ISIL, Giordano was hailed as a thoughtful and creative author who gave us a dynamic character in Anthony Provati in a contemporary adventure. Giordano has now exceeded himself with Drone Strike. This is an exceptional novel that is as thrilling as it is illuminating.


PRIMO INTERVIEW
Author of "Drone Strike," Joe Giordano, Sheds Light on Middle East Terrorism and Europe's Refugee Crisis

Your new novel Drone Strike takes readers deep into the workings of Islamic terrorism. What new insight about the Middle East will the readers gain from Drone Strike?

Black market sale of oil and refined products were an important financial source for the Islamic State in the Levant, and a key character in the book, Karim, worked as a drilling manager in an ISIL-controlled section of Iraq. Drone Strike begins with Karim’s family killed by a U.S. drone strike. Al-Nasir, the leader of ISIL ,recruits him for a terrorist attack on the United States. As readers follow Karim’s indoctrination, they’ll get a glimpse into a terrorist training camp; but, also, ISIL’s drug operations in Afghanistan. Readers will learn how suicide attacks are orchestrated, and ISIL’s ‘shock and awe’ execution of prisoners. When Karim travels surreptitiously with Miriam, another character in the book, a Syrian Christian, they’ll get a sense of the heartbreaking suffering refugees endure.

You cover several contemporary subjects in Drone Strike such as the ongoing crisis of illegal migration into Europe from the Middle East and elsewhere. Your novel rightly highlights Greece and Italy as main gateways. Why do both countries have such difficulties in securing their borders?

Under European Union law, asylum seekers cannot be turned away and must make their application in the country of arrival. Both Italy and Greece are accessible by sea. The UN’s 1951 convention requires asylum cases be handled individually and refugees can’t be returned to countries unable to guarantee their rights, like Turkey or Libya. Despite attempts to stem the tide, desperate refugees often arrive in barely seaworthy crafts, overwhelming the available resources to handle their processing. Greece faces a crisis within a crisis, a collapsed economy under a weight of debt and a deluge of refugees. The country can hardly sustain its population. Italy’s economy is larger but seemingly always at the precipice of recession. In Italy’s recent parliamentary elections, Matteo Salvini campaigned to expel immigrants, and his political party - League - won 34 percent of the vote. They became the largest party in Italy. Unlike the U.S. which received and assimilated wave after wave of immigrants, European countries maintained more homogeneous populations. Multiculturalism, separating distinct immigrant ethnic groups, rather than the melting pot approach often created isolated enclaves, and the huge spike of Middle East refugees sparked societal tensions, and a political backlash not anticipated by European politicians.

Anthony Provati is the main character. This is the second thriller where Provati is the protagonist; the other being Appointment with ISIL. What led you to conceive Anthony Provati?

I wanted an unlikely hero, someone readers could identify with, having strengths and weaknesses, a normal-type guy thrust into extraordinary circumstances. As a fellow Italian American and New Yorker, I understand where he’s coming from. Anthony pursues women, loves art, sails, is a nightclub pianist, and has an uncle in the mob – attributes which cause him to careen into all sorts of trouble. Characters living on the edge fuel good fiction.

Central to Drone Strike are characters such as Provati and Middle East migrants Karim and Miriam. They all share personal tragedies based on catastrophes caused by either man or nature. What more can you tell us about this theme and how tragedy propels people to greater ambitions, be they good or bad?

The genesis of Drone Strike was the question I posed to myself: How would I react if my family were killed in a drone strike as ‘collateral damage?’ Where would I turn for justice? Terrorism isn’t defensible, but in some instances, we might resonate with the motivation. Our individual characters are formed and developed by how we deal with adversity. Our knockdowns rather than our knockouts teach us who we are. The tragedies endured by Miriam, a Syrian Christian, and Karim, an Iraqi Moslem, simultaneously draw them together and keep them apart. At a point where Karim realizes he’s fallen in love with Miriam, he regrets their meeting, because the precursor was the death of his family. The affection he feels for her conflicts with his perceived duty to seek revenge. He asks, why else would Allah have spared him?

Drone Strike is an amazing novel and Anthony Provati is an incredible character. Can we expect more novels to come with Anthony as the main character?

I’m drafting my fourth novel, working title Angelica’s Secret. Anthony will be joined by a female co-protagonist, Angelica Esposito, brilliant, beautiful, intrepid – with a secret. I’ll be launching another series of books with her in the lead.

Editor's Note: You can find more about Joe Giordano and his upcoming novels by visiting his web site: http://joe-giordano.com/

 

PRIMO SPECIAL REPORT
NEW ORGANIZATION - "SAVE THE PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS" - UNVEILS PLAN TO STOP WORLDWIDE CHRISTIAN GENOCIDE
245 Million Christians are Victims of High, Extreme Persection; 90,000 Killed in 2016 for Practicing Christianity in Africa and Asia; Focus on Nigeria
Hang a Banner at Your Church!




 



Top photograph is the new banner by Save The Persecuted Christians organization. The next photograph is a Coptic church in Egypt that was destroyed by a suicide bomber who killed 128 worshippers. Other photographs: Somalia, Islamic boys are recruited to kill Christians; Palestine, parents hold a photograph of their son, abducted by Islamists; Iraq, statues in a church were destroyed by ISIS; Libya, Christian men were decapitated by Islamic terrorists; China, a Christian woman is attacked by soldiers; Frank J. Gaffney, president of Save The Persecuted Christians leads the organization’s press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. He said that the organization was inspired by American rabbis in the 1960s and 1970s who worked to save Soviet Jews from persecution; their logo pictured. Last photograph depicts the speakers at Save The Persecuted Christians press conference; with many from Nigeria who spoke about Christian persecution there.


A cry for help is heard.
    Save The Persecuted Christians is a brand new organization headquartered in Monument, Colorado, that held its first press conference yesterday, January 17, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
    Their mission: Stop the ongoing genocide of Christians, worldwide.
    The press conference convened inside the newly renovated National Press Club building on 14th street, N.W. Black steel beams streak above a lobby of contemporary decor that bespeaks the continued and active presence of the National Press Club in downtown.
    The event was held there on the 13th floor; an ominous sign, perhaps; the number of the apostle who turned on Christ. Those gathered, however, showed no signs of despair. Instead, they were hopeful. They were unified in a cause. They seek to save their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Frank J. Gaffney, president and board member of Save The Persecuted Christians, was the event’s moderator and lead speaker.
    A Washington insider since the days of Reagan and active participant in a number of conservative causes, Gaffney is the founder and executive chairman of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy. His knowledge of geo-politics will serve him well in this newfound effort.
   Gaffney’s main purpose was to convey the organization’s background and grassroots strategy. He then invited others to speak, such as Bishop Keith Butler, founder of Word of Faith International Center, former member of the Detroit City Council and board chairman of the Save The Persecuted Christians. Another was Kevin Jessip, founder and president of Global Strategic Alliance and fellow board member of the organization. Only a few reporters were present. Most audience members were activists, both foreign and American, representing different Christian denominations. A political celebrity in attendance was Alan Keyes, assistant secretary of state in international affairs under President Ronald Reagan, a former radio talk show host and a Republican presidential candidate in 1996, 2000, and 2008. Prayers were said at the beginning and end of the press event.
   Christian suffering was the main topic.

The reasons vary.
   In China, it is to preserve the zeal of Marxism. In North Korea, it is to preserve the cult of Kim Jong-un. In Nigeria, it is to set up an Islamic caliphate.
Christians get in the way.
   They praise God, not man. They seek salvation through Christ, not government. They read the Bible, not the Koran.
   They are easy targets.
   They attend church in day. They pray at night. They wear the cross.
   In many countries in Africa and Asia, Christians are increasingly arrested without warrants. They are tried, convicted and jailed without due process. They are tortured. They are killed.
   Christianity consists of 2 billion people today. Three decades ago, Roman Catholics and Protestants were on the rise in the Third World. Africa became more Catholic thanks to frequent visits there by Pope John Paul II. Protestant missions were fully established in countries such as Nigeria and Mali. Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and congregational churches spread throughout the continents.
   The past was for evangelization. The present, fear of persecution.
   Every year, more Christians are killed for their beliefs, according to a recent report issued by A Church in Need, a Roman Catholic organization based in Germany.
   Some 245 million Christians are victims of high extreme persecution. In 2016, some 90,000 Christians were killed, just for practicing their faith.
   Gaffney worked in the Reagan administration as acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. He witnessed from the White House the demise of the Soviet Union. He knows history well. Mostly forgotten today are the loud, unstinted efforts of America’s rabbis in the Cold War. A synagogue in Cleveland in 1963 began a movement to save Soviet Jews from persecution. They produced a banner with an illustration of a prison chain clasped by hammer and sykle that surround the words: “Free Soviet Jews.” The goal was greater awareness. Americans would know the plight of Jews in Communist Russia. Almost every synagogue in the country eventually hung the banner. Gaffney, who grew up in Pittsburgh, remembers walking by a synagogue one day and seeing a banner hanging there.
  One movement begets another.
  Save the Persecuted Christians pursues a similar goal and strategy as did Jewish rabbis 50 years ago. Gaffney and others unfurled a banner in white with a red colored cross and lettering “Save US.” At the bottom is the organization’s name and web site address. The group will push forward the plight of persecuted Christians. They will ask every church in America to hang one of their banners. Greater awareness will bring greater action in Congress. On an immediate basis, however, is the call for a special envoy: A person should be appointed by the president today to travel through Africa and Asia, meet leaders there to press an end to the slaughter of Christians.

U.S. foreign policy is often at odds with the persecuted in foreign lands.
    Gaffney recalls reluctance on the part of the Ford administration to stop Jewish persecution in Russia. In 1974, Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson of Washington sponsored legislation to withdraw most favored nation status from the Soviet Union unless steps were taken there to save Soviet Jews. The bill passed in Congress. Majorities in both chambers were large enough to override a presidential veto. Saving Soviet Jews was now the law of the land.
    Gaffney reminds us that back then Washington think tanks missed the cause. It was grassroots, not professional advocacy, that won the day. American rabbis moved leaders to action. Russian Jews were saved. The Soviet Union later fell.
    The current plight of Christians worldwide calls for a similar effort. This time the scope is larger. Not just one country, but many countries host Christian genocide. On display at the press conference were records of brutality perpetrated by foreign governments and their agents against Christians. They came in the way of exhibits consisting of photographs, captions and hard facts. Some highlights follow:

In North Korea: An elderly woman is photographed with black eyes and bruises. She sits, tied to a chair, under the threatening gaze of a female guard. Her crime: Praying.

In Palestine: Christian parents hold a photograph of their missing son. He was abducted by Islamic fundamentalists. Authorities claim the boy willingly converted to Islam.

In Yemen: Christians face extinction. They are caught between warring Islamic groups who agree on nothing else but their hatred for Christians.

In Sudan: Military aircraft are often sent by the Islamic government in Khartoum to destroy churches.

In Somalia: Al-Shabaab, a word meaning “young men” in Arabic, is now a call for Jihad. Children are recruited. Boys, some of whom are just 10 years old, are armed with light machine guns. They order Christian men to recite the Shahada - claim God is one and Muhammed the prophet - or be killed.

In Syria: Christian girls are taken from their families and sold as sex slaves to ISIS.

In Iraq and Egypt: Some of the world’s first churches, located in these two countries, are now under assault. In Mosul, statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary were decapitated by ISIS thugs. In Egypt, a Coptic church was destroyed by a suicide bomber who claimed the lives of 128 people worshiping inside.

In Turkey: A country where 20% of the population was Christian after World War I has seen that number decline below 1% today. Oppression by the Erdogan-led government is the reason. Only one cleric of each Christian faith can be seen in public. Only one Christian holiday can be celebrated each year. Christian celebrations are forbidden, unless approved by the government.

In Libya: One of the most horrific images in history. Christian men in orange prison clothes were marched to a beach by black clad, face masked Islamists. One by one had their heads sawed off by tormenters. The carnage faced northeast in the direction of Rome. The Vatican. The Holy See. The throne of Saint Peter. The message was obvious: All Christians are infidels. All are to be killed.

In the audience at the National Press Club event were several Christians from China.
   They spoke firsthand about persecution. The latest technology is continuously used by China’s government to harass and kill Christians. Data mining and drone surveillance locate churches slated for military assault. China forbids religious education. State media mocks and misrepresents the activities of new congregations. On display was a photograph of a young Chinese Christian woman attacked by a group of Chinese soldiers.
    Tracy Jiao belongs to the Church of Almighty God, an independent church founded in 1991 in China. She attended yesterday’s press conference. She says her group is frequently targeted by the Chinese government. Many churchgoers have been unduly arrested, she says, just for practicing their faith.
   “You see pictures of people here who have been persecuted in other countries,” she says in reference to exhibits on display. “At least, they can show photographs of what is happening. We cannot in China. Our people are arrested. Our photographs are taken. We are not allowed to share our story. We have church members who are taken to prison camps. We cannot see them. We don’t know where they are.”

Cases of Christian persecution were well-documented at the press conference with special focus on Nigeria.
    Members of the International Committee on Nigeria, an organization based in Falls Church, Virginia, spoke about their experiences.
    Nigeria is a country with the most Christians in Africa - some 80 million, according to Pew Research. Yet, each day, they are threatened and harassed by Islamic forces inside and outside the government. Most pressing are the needs of Christians in the Lake Chad region in northern Nigeria. Reports of atrocities are many; such as the time when Christian children were rounded up to watch their parents executed by Islamic militiamen. Another case had as its focus the Nigerian military. The army had ordered the evacuation of Christian and Islamic villages due to civil conflicts in the region. When the battle ended, those from the Islamic villages were allowed to return to their homes, but not the Christians. The military said their villages were not recognized by the Nigerian government. They never existed.
    In reference to the way American mainstream media reports violence against Christians in Nigeria, one speaker declared, “There is no such thing as sectarian violence. This is not a war of one tribe versus another. This is not a war of one region against another. These are Muslims killing Christians.”
Abduction of clergy in Nigeria is frequent. One speaker said he was kidnapped by Islamic terrorists not once, but twice. He said what saved him “was my name, Joachim. They thought I was Muslim. They did not know that Christians and Muslims can share the same name. We are named after the Jewish patriarch, Jacob.”
    Cases of Christian persecution in Nigeria increased exponentially after the Arab Spring in 2010 and the rise of ISIS after President Barack Obama ordered American troops to withdraw from Iraq in 2011.
    “Now everyone wants to be like ISIS,” said an audience member from Nigeria. He claimed that young Muslims there increasingly look to Islamic terrorists as models of violence.
    Assaults against Christians are not limited to the body. Christians are often discriminated against and unable to find work or get an education in Nigeria. The military will frequently take church property, according to one speaker. The church building is demolished and the foundation excavated. Property records are destroyed. It is as if entire Christian communities never existed there.
    Yesterday’s event contained only a few bright spots such as when one speaker admitted that there has been a market reduction of violence against Christians in Nigeria. He gave credit for this to President Donald J. Trump. Attacks on Christians declined almost immediately after the president spoke out against Christian persecution when he met with Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, at the White House in April.
    The future remains tenuous. West Africa is at the precipice of Islamic domination, according to several speakers yesterday. “Do not look to the Middle East,” said one Nigerian clergyman. “The real conflict is happening in Nigeria.”
    The underlying cause of violence against Christians is not poverty or dispossession within Nigeria’s Muslim majority. Rather, it is the pursuance of an Islamic caliphate. What pervades there is the spirit of Wahhabism, a branch of Islam from Saudi Arabia that sees all Christians as infidels. Persecution of Christians in Nigerian is a means to an end. Tyranny awaits. The inheritor of Mohammed will come. He will control West Africa. He will enforce Sharia law, as now imposed in Nigeria, for the entire region. Islam will then be the sole religion. Christianity will be extinct in West Africa.
    The struggle to save Christians worldwide is the story of the century. The worship of Christ now begets a death sentence. The future is a time for martyrs. Save The Persecuted Christians is an organization with a cause for all Americans to embrace. Psalm 7 may inspire: “God is my protector; he saves those who obey him.”

Editor's Note: Save the Persecuted Christians will provide a banner to your church to help bring greater awareness to Americans on the plight of Christians in Africa and Asia. Contact them today at https://savethepersecutedchristians.org/get-a-banner/

 

 

A FIGHTER FOR JUSTICE PASSES
John Cavicchi Was The Lawyer Who Won The Release of Louis Greco and Peter Limone
He Uncovered One of The Worst Miscarriages of Justice in American History
Four Men Were Wrongfully Imprisoned…Because They Were Italian Americans
PRIMO Tribute

He was the quiet hero.
    John Cavicchi died on February 19 in Florida surrounded by his family and friends.
    Two decades passed since he achieved one of the greatest victories in American jurisprudence.
    And yet, few people know about him.
    John was not a braggart. He was stoic and rock solid. He did not seek the limelight. Rarely was he mentioned or profiled in the news media. He never appeared on cable news shows. Although worthy, he was never the guest commentator, the legal expert or savant jurist who could expound on the ins and outs of criminal justice.
    John Cavicchi was a good friend of PRIMO’s. We published an article on him in 2007 and rightly praised his miraculous defense of Louis Greco and Peter Limone.

    It was in Boston in 1968 when Louis Greco was convicted of the murder of Edward “Teddy” Deegan with Joseph Salvati, Peter Limone and Enrico Tameleo convicted as accessories. They were all given life sentences and each spent 30 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
    Prosecutors had persuaded a jury then that since the foursome were Italian they had been members of the Mafia.
    From beginning to end, the case was a ruse. The accused were victims of a frame by FBI agents H. Paul Rico and Dennis Condon and their key informant, Joseph Barboza, who, as it turned, was the real murderer.
    In 1965, Edward “Teddy” Deegan, a longshoreman who had robbed a Mafia bookmaking operation, was shot and killed near Boston by Joseph Barboza and Jimmy Flemmi. The ensuring police investigation had run cold. No suspects were named. The FBI, however, knew the identity of the murderers. They had in their possession recordings and transcripts that established Barboza and Flemmi’s guilt. Some years earlier, the feds had wire tapped the office of Raymond Patriarca, the reputed mob boss of New England. Listening in on conversations among local mobsters, FBI agents heard Barboza and Flemmi request and receive the order to kill Deegan.
    By 1967, Barboza had found himself in prison serving out sentences for unrelated crimes. There, he was approached by FBI agents Rico and Condon. He was to become their informant. An agreement was brokered to get Barboza released from prison in exchange for his information on the New England Mafia.
Barboza’s long line of crimes had to be expunged. He was interrogated by state detectives about the murder of Deegan. Both FBI agents were present when Barboza admitted to killing Deegan. He then lied by saying he was ordered to do so by Peter Limone. He then falsely implicated Greco, Salvati and Tameleo. The FBI agents said nothing to the police as to the innocence of accused. They did not share the evidence in their possession with local police. Instead, they lied to detectives by claiming Barboza’s story “checked out.” One of the agents, Condon, even went so far as to testify in support of Barboza at the trial. He was motivated to do so, he said, to ensure the “purity” of his informant.

    Cavicchi began representing Greco in 1977 and Limone in 2000. He was the lawyer who won Mr. Limone’s release from prison, resulting in the reversal of Salvati’s conviction. Greco’s conviction was vacated posthumously. Cavicchi’s work was a decisive factor in the successful civil lawsuit by Limone and others against the federal government for wrongful imprisonment, with damages awarded in excess of $100 million.
    In a 2007 PRIMO interview, Cavicchi said, “To win a lawsuit for wrongful imprisonment you have to show you did not commit the crime for which you were imprisoned. They can prove this with relative ease based on the work I did.”
    Cavicchi became a lawyer after he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He sought to be a tenacious attorney committed to the best defense of his clients. He declared, “After the Marines…I said to myself I will no longer get pushed around by anyone, even a judge.”
    When Cavicchi first met Greco, “he had been in jail for 8 years. I was referred to him by a past client. I was struck by his story and his unwavering belief in his innocence. I agreed to represent him and reviewed the case.”
    What Cavicchi found was overwhelming evidence that exonerated Greco. His client took and passed several lie detector tests. Greco was in Miami at the time of the murder, according to many eyewitnesses; none of whom were called to testify at the original trial.
    “I remember telling him that he would be out in six months,” said Cavicchi. “The case against him was a joke. What I didn’t realize then was just how tangled up was the system and how slow it works when there is a miscarriage of justice.”
    Over a 20 year span, Cavicchi filed petitions, met with different prosecutors, pleaded with judges and governors for Greco’s release. A main cause of delay was bigotry: Since Greco was Italian American, he was presumed guilty by many in the justice system.
    Cavicchi said, “You had judges that did not do their jobs. At times, I thought they did not even read the case. They did not look at the evidence. They tried to push it aside. Bury it. They made believe nothing wrong happened. There was always an assumption that since they were Italian they were involved in criminal activity.”
    FBI agents Rico and Condon remained involved in the case during Cavicchi’s appeals. “They were continuously lying,” said the lawyer. “They were covering up the case. They were submitting false information during hearings.”
    Cavicchi did not let the case die.
    He kept filing petitions and motions. He kept digging. More evidence was uncovered that proved again and again his client was innocent.
    In 1995, Greco died of colon cancer in prison. Two years later, the governor agreed to commute Salvati’s sentence to time already served. In 2000, Cavicchi began representing Limone and won his client’s release in 2001. All convictions were then vacated. Meanwhile, the Justice Department convened an internal investigation that proved FBI agents had framed the defendants and covered up their crime.
     Although Cavicchi was a key factor in overturning the wrongful convictions of Greco, Limone and others, he had to sue another attorney and his former client to participate in the eventual lawsuit.
    By the time PRIMO interview him in 2007, Cavicchi was hardened and disillusioned by the case and its aftereffects. He said about defending Greco and Limone, “I thought it was no big deal. They were innocent and should have been released long ago. I came to realize how few people perform their roles. Many people do not do their jobs. There were some exceptions but most people did not come through.”
    What Cavicchi gained was a newfound appreciation for his Italian roots. Seeing how ethnic prejudices and bigotry worked against his clients, Cavicchi began to look inward and rediscovered his Italian heritage.
    “I always thought of myself as American, not Italian American,” he said. “My parents never spoke to me in Italian. I was all-American, through and through. That’s all changed now. I attend language schools in Italy. I speak Italian. I read books on Italian history and ancient Rome. I have become a true Italian American.”

We at PRIMO convey our condolences to the Cavicchi family on the passing of John. He was one of the country’s best attorneys with a legacy worthy of great praise and celebration. The angels now greet him with the rewards of justice. His life is best summed up from words in the Book of Isaiah: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause.” John Cavicchi…rest in peace.

 

 

ARCHAEOLOGY AND FOOD COME TOGETHER IN TOURS THROUGH ITALY
Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours Take Visitors to The Ancient Sites and Finest Eateries in Italy
Interview with Principals Elizabeth Bartman and Maureen Fant

 

Elizabeth Bartman and Maureen Fant conceive and lead tours throughout Italy. Their expertise is on archaeology and gourmet food. PRIMO interviewed them both on future Italian destinations and what makes their touring company different than others.

Neither of you are Italian. Tell us what got you both interested in Italy

Right, we’re not Italian or even Italian American. But our interest in Italy goes way back, to our studies of classics and archaeology. We both spent an undergraduate semester in Rome and kept returning.

Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours is different than other tours because of your focus on Italy’s archaeological sites. Summarize, if you will, the sites seen and insights gained from visiting Italy through your company.

Archaeology is the study of the material past, the actual things people built, made, and used. The word may sound arcane, but all cultures have archaeology. When there’s no written record, or when, as often, the written sources are incomplete or inaccurate, archaeology is the only way to reconstruct that lost culture. Archaeology tells us how ancient peoples lived, what they ate, how they buried their dead, made art, etc. It’s the starting point for learning history. Of course, Elifant’s focus on archaeology doesn’t blind us to later art in Italy—if there’s a wonderful church along our route, we’ll pay a visit. Liz is a trained art historian with interests and knowledge that go way beyond antiquity. But don’t imagine that our tours are for eggheads. Tour participants emphatically do not need to arrive already familiar with the intricacies of Greco-Roman architecture or Romanesque bas-reliefs. Everything gets explained in plain English.

Our tours are different from other archaeological tours because they’re also food tours. We treat food as culture and history as well as something to be enjoyed in the moment. Wherever possible, we make connections, draw lines, if you will, between the ancient remains and what people ate then, now, and in more recent local tradition. We call our tours archaeo-culinary, as opposed to, say, “archaeological and culinary,” to emphasize the connection between the two focuses. Take our flagship Rome tour as an example. In the course of a week’s tour we learn how the ancient city was able to feed its one million people. On Monday we’re out at the ports of Ostia and Portus seeing the harbor where ships carrying grain from Egypt docked and the vast warehouses where that grain was stored. By Saturday we’re underground in the city center seeing where the grain was distributed as a dole (the bread of the infamous “bread and circuses”). During the week we visit a manmade mountain made of discarded vessels that once held oil and wine, aqueducts that brought pure spring water over hundreds of miles, an imperial villa with a seaside dining room decorated with spectacular statues, and much more. On this tour, like all our tours, we get special permissions to visit places that are normally closed to the public. We also draw on our extensive professional and personal networks to bring in special lecturers and guides—sometimes even the archaeologist who excavated the site.

Your focus is on both archaeology and food. Is there a connection between the two endeavors? If so, how?

Yes, there is a connection, in many ways. It can start when you’re an archaeology student going on research trips or digs in remote parts of the Mediterranean and eating the local food at the most down-home level. On another level, so much of archaeology is about food. All that pottery—whether for storage, transport, kitchen, or table—contained food. All those temples had altars where animals were sacrificed—and then eaten. Ancient trade was about much more than marble and minerals; it was about wine, wheat, and spices. Our Rome tour is all about supplying and feeding the ancient city—interspersed with great meals and experiences to illustrate how Romans eat today and have traditionally eaten in the same places in more recent history. There’s a more abstract connection as well. A classical archaeologist looks at a society as a whole through its material remains, not just at the important figures in history and literature. In early societies, much of the economy was food-related. Food too is a window on a whole society and in many ways inseparable from archaeology, whether we’re looking at how ancient kitchens and restaurants were built or what kind of food was depicted on Pompeian wall paintings or what wealthy Romans ate at dinner parties.

Archaeological sites are all over Italy. Your company plans and leads tours throughout Italy. Coming up are tours to the Etruscan Places, Eastern Sicily and Rome. Share with us some highlights of these and other places in Italy that you plan to visit.

Highlights? Our tours are one thrill after another! At a cooking school in the smallest town in Sardinia (population 82), we helped make a fantastic lunch then climbed to the top of a prehistoric stone tower (nuraghe). In Positano, we visited a newly excavated Roman villa beneath the main piazza (it took months to get permission). Lunch that day was a seafood tour de force at a Michelin-starred restaurant way out on the Sorrento peninsula. We’ve seen Etruscan tombs not open to the public thanks to the top authority on Etruscan painting, who was also our guide. We’ve had meals in private homes, from country villas to urban palazzi. Then there’s the morning at the buffalo farm—with tasting of freshly made mozzarella di bufala. And have you ever had ricotta di bufala? It’s a revelation!
Romans regard Rome in October as one of the great universal collaborative achievements of man and nature, so naturally that’s when we go to Rome, but also Etruria, which is to say, Etruscan Places. We concentrate on the much-less-touristed northern part of the Lazio region. Visitors tend to skip it in their haste to get to Tuscany, but we love medieval Orvieto (today inside Umbria by a hair’s breadth) and Viterbo, the hazelnut groves near beautiful Lake Vico, Etruscan sites where literally nobody goes. We think it’s all magic. In eastern Sicily, we won’t attempt to climb Mount Etna, but will certainly taste its products, starting with those wonderful wines and sweet-tart oranges. We’re looking forward to a morning in the Catania market, where the fish are practically jumping and the fruits and vegetables are the most voluptuous we’ve ever seen. There are so many wonderful things to see in Italy, that it must be difficult, at times, which one to pick and choose to visit.

What do you look for, in a specific landmark, be it an archaeological site or restaurant, to say to yourself, “Ah, now this is a place to visit…”?

First we choose a general destination—say, Bay of Naples or Rome or Etruscan Places. We normally do that by identifying clusters of archaeological sites and great archaeological museums around which we can build a week-long itinerary. Surprisingly, not every part of Italy is equally archaeology-intensive. For food, it’s different. Everywhere in Italy has great food. There may be more Michelin stars in one area, more great rustic trattorias in another, but we love it all. Thus we can fit the food itinerary around the site visits. In the case of Emilia-Romagna, we pretty much built the itinerary around the food, following the Po river from the province of Piacenza to the Adriatic. But it’s usually the other way around.

We like to cover the whole spectrum of dining, from unreconstructed tradition to up-to-the-minute interpretations of local specialties. The only thing we avoid is food that is totally irrelevant to where we are. What gets a particular spot onto the itinerary? Sometimes it’s just love—for a quirky old-fashioned museum in a small town in Puglia or for bucatini alla gricia in the Testaccio quarter in Rome or Sicilian couscous in Trapani. Sometimes a place is too important to ignore (plus we love it)—say, Selinunte, in Sicily, or Barumini, in Sardinia. But mostly, we seek out the places in our chosen area that we think our participants might overlook (and kick themselves later for missing them), or where they might not go on their own for logistical reasons, or where we can provide a fresh and special experience, sometimes with a guest expert who happens to be a friend too. Rome and its province, which have some of everything, is a no-brainer, an obvious choice. We know places in and around Rome where our people have never gone on their ten previous trips to the Eternal City. One comment we hear all the time is, “We’re alone here!” Maureen lives across from the Colosseum, but a major destination like that is not on our Rome itinerary.

It helps if a spot is relevant to our archaeo-culinary theme. Even when we choose a super-popular destination, like Pompeii, we give it a food-related spin—we emphasize markets, bakeries, kitchens, and dining rooms over temples and other public buildings. Food permeated so much of ancient life that we can even justify visits to tombs because ritual meals were eaten there on festivals of the dead. Pompeii has at least one tomb made like a dining room. We once had a picnic on top of a tomb shaped like a bench. In the inscription, the deceased, a priestess, invited the passer-by to stop and rest. So we did. The connections are everywhere.

Since you both have been touring Italy, how has the country changed you? Do you feel “Italian”?

Maureen: Rome has been my home base for longer than I’m going to tell you, and I have a Roman husband. Do I feel Italian? No. I’m from Manhattan and love to go back there, but I don’t exactly feel not Italian either. I’ve definitely adopted many Italian rhythms, manners, and ways of doing things, in the kitchen, of course, but not only. I don’t get too worked up when an office or museum is closed when it’s supposed to be open, so maybe I’ve become more patient. I speak the language fluently and often find an Italian phrase says what I want better than English, and vice versa. Most important for Elifant, I had to learn how to get along with people in Italy and do things the Italian way—as opposed to having it all come naturally, as to a native. That experience makes me better able to know and explain what our people might find odd or might not even realize is different in Italy.

Liz: I first came to Italy as an undergraduate studying in Rome, and the experience changed my life. Visiting ancient sites with an archaeologist and seeing Renaissance and baroque art with an expert art historian opened up new worlds for me and set me on my present career path. Being in Rome for a full semester enabled me to see places like the Vatican multiple times, experiencing it in different light and in the rain and sun—boy, did I come to appreciate how special the light in Italy was for artists. I traveled around the country as much as I could on a (very) modest budget, but even then was able to eat local delicacies and get a sense of how seriously Italians take food. Back then the museums were often closed and the personnel surly, but I am happy to report that there is an entirely new attitude now; one of the biggest changes I see is the new professionalism in the museums and archaeological sites—longer opening hours, beautifully renovated displays, explanatory material in both English and Italian. The Italians lead the world in museum curatorship and conservation. And of course Italy has the highest percentage of the world’s art. Italy has deepened my appreciation of beauty, both in art and in nature—not to get misty-eyed, but it has enlarged my soul.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours, please visit their web site at https://elifanttours.com

 

 

 

LUCIA MANN, JOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE AGAINST MODERN-DAY SLAVERY, PENS A NEW NOVEL ON PARENTAL ABUSE
"Addicted to Hate" is Semi-Autobiographical, Claims the Author



 

The author is pictured top and as an infant, with her mother, a Sicilian immigrant to South Africa.


Lucia Mann remains ahead of her time as an advocate against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. PRIMO spoke to her recently about her new novel “Addicted to Hate.”

You have been involved in the cause of international slavery for some years. What is the latest regarding your work in this area?

Like most survivors, I have much to “teach” about bravery, emotional-resilience, self-respect, and reclaiming one’s life. I have been an anti-slavery activist and advocate for over 50 years. From former personal shame and silent suffering, I’m now an advocate against other hate crimes and criminal behavior… the abuse that has many forms, from physical, emotional, and verbal, to financial abuse.

My four published books under the heading “The African Freedom Series” are currently available on Amazon. They are: “Rented Silence,” “The Sicilian Veil of Shame,” “Africa’s Unfinished Symphony,” and “A Veil of Blood Hangs over Africa.” They were inspired by actual events and highlight firsthand the horrors of slavery, both past and present. I wrote these books to become the voice of stifled voices who have suffered heinous and brutal crimes against humanity … the hunger for freedom and justice was written on dark faces of enslaved human beings, including myself in this brutal era. “Rented Silence” is partly autobiographical. I could release the dark deeds of my own upbringing under British colonial rule and later apartheid in South Africa. I was born in the wake of World War II in British colonial South Africa where evil and darkness was rampant if you were not Caucasian! I was ethnically stereotyped as half-caste … colored … because of the union between my very dark-skinned Sicilian mother and light-skinned British father. I was not of “pure” race. I joined the ranks of other “inferior” beings who were typecast by the color of their skin. I suffered silently with them until I wrote about these factual atrocities. Racial profiling and the international slave trade has not pricked the conscience of the world because it still exists! On my website, www.luciamann.com under the “Articles” heading is an article I wrote: “Shame on the Governments of the World”… the ongoing war against modern-day slavery and racism.

"Addicted to Hate" is your new novel. It's not about slavery, but another form of persecution - one closer to home - domestic abuse. In the novel, it is the main character Maddie and the mental and physical torment she endures from her husband and her three daughters. What led you to write this book?

My latest book “Addicted to Hate” was written to inspire other victims out there that are too ashamed to speak out about their “brokenness.” Human beings, who are being subjected to criminal behavior by relatives, partners, and adult children. In my humble opinion, any abuse is a form of slavery … bullying for self-gratification by those who pour out their frustration anger and blame the whole world, especially their parents, for their own failures in their lives. In my opinion, these mentally-unstable individuals lack the human consideration for the rights of other souls and have complete disregard for others on any level. It’s never justifiable for the strong to abuse the weak and prey on them.

All your books have evolved from personal experience. And now comes "Addicted to Hate." How much of this book did you personally experience? Has writing this book help you cope with the torment of the past?

Yes, writing “Addicted to Hate” was therapeutical. It gave me the courage to show other hurting souls the depths of how unconscionable others can go. The chapters are 82 percent personal experience. I am a victim of parental and disabled senior abuse who was embarrassed to tell anyone; even the people closest to me. However, it was necessary to fictionalize some events and characters for my own protection. Nevertheless, in writing this raw story, it finally gave me the right to push the burdening shame aside and reclaim my life … say NO MORE to the intimidating bullies that took so much from me.

In Maddie's case, the abuse is unending. It begins in South Africa inside an orphanage managed by nuns. As an adolescent girl, she undergoes genital mutilation. And then she suffers from government sanctioned bigotry and is exiled to Italy. From there, the abuse is domestic; at the hands of her husband and then children. It seems you are making the case that societal abuse leads intrinsically to domestic abuse. Is that true? Why?

Yes, Maddie’s (my) suffering seems unending, but Maddie (I) was blessed with many inner-strength “gifts” ― emotional-resilience ―self-respect―, intelligence, and to not hold myself accountable for wrongdoers who did not succeed in breaking my spirit. From early childhood, I told myself: “You are NOT to blame for mankind's evils.” “Suffering won’t kill you … death will!” Yes, I choose to believe that societal abuse leads instinctively to domestic violence. Because I am living testimony at 73 years of age to have survived the odds of this deep-rooted behavior. Sever … divorce … the hateful from your life. You deserve better.

What advice can you give to women facing the same dire circumstances that Maddie faced? What can they do to escape the cycle of abuse?

To those who can relate to the raw pain in “Addicted to Hate,” and are a victim, I’ll give this sound advice: push shame and embarrassment aside and reclaim your life. Follow in Maddies’s (my) footsteps because you have the UNIVERSAL right to be loved without rhyme or reason. The right to PEACE. The right to FREEDOM. The right to say NO. The right to DIGNITY. The right to COMPASSION. The right to refute DISRESPECTFUL dialogue, not be subjected to schoolyards spitballs fights. The right to say: NO MORE!

Those who abuse others occupy an offensive, stone-cold category of their own and are not rationally-minded. Just trying to comprehend their unfathomable behavior is painful to victims and challenging. But only if you let them WIN … allow others that is, to take control of a life that is not theirs to dominate. Never let these words come from your mouth” “Why did I let this happen? Why do I let them take their rage out on me?” YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME! AND WHY SHOULD ONE FORGIVE ANOTHER? In my opinion, it merely gives the wrongdoer the right to “move on.” Do you, the abused, have this same right when you can NEVER forget? If you are a victim of abuse, it is time to reclaim your own life free of toxic hatred. I did it. So can you!

Editor’s Note: You can find out more about Lucia Mann, her work in combating modern day slavery and to purchase her new novel “Addicted to Hate” at www.luciamann.com.

 

FROM LACKAWANNA TO LAKE GARDA
NEW BOOKS FROM ITALIAN AMERICAN AUTHORS
As Featured in PRIMO’s First Edition 2019 - Six Book Reviews


Diversity defines this set of books reviewed in PRIMO’s First Edition 2019. Three are novels, two are non-fiction and one is a children’s book. They have in common the Italian heritage and are written by Italian Americans.

“Addicted to Hate,” by Lucia Mann; Grassroots Publishing Group; Available on Amazon.com

At one point, Lucia Mann’s “Addicted to Hate” reads like an international spy thriller. Main character Madeline Clark, a.k.a., “Maddie,” is employed as a code breaker for British Intelligence. She works at military bases with security experts and secret agents. Yet, Maddie is no James Bond. Far from it. She is a victim of terrible domestic abuse. Lucia Mann is no stranger to the plights of victims. Not just an author, she is also a political activist who was ahead of her time as a lead voice against international slavery many years ago. Lucia wrote several books on the subject, including the heart-wrenching novel, “Sicilian Veil of Shame.” As the title suggests, the author’s Sicilian background motivated her to convey the suffering of persecuted Sicilians in Africa; an overlooked historical injustice. Lucia revisits this crisis in the beginning of “Addicted to Hate.” Here, the protagonist is victimized at an orphanage in apartheid South Africa. Maddie’s Sicilian blood defines her as “dark skinned” in South Africa and she is grouped with indigenous Africans by Anglo and Dutch authorities. What follows is a story of abuse and survival. Maddie is deemed a “foreigner” when the government expels her from South Africa. A teenager, she is given an escort to take her to Italy; only to be abandoned by the guardian in Milan. She then meets and falls in love with David, a British rock musician visiting Italy. Together, they resettle in London where Maddie must endure years of physical and emotional abuse by David. She is all but divorced from him when she gives birth to their daughter, Joanne. What might seem a blessing turns out to be a curse. Away from David, Joanne grows to hate her mother. Maddie then adopts Mary Jean, who inherits her older sister’s disdain for their mother. With another man, Maddie has a daughter Mara, who, we later learn, is psychotic. Maddie finds herself in an awful predicament. She is confronted by three daughters who plot and scheme against her. When her health begins to fail, the youngest, Mara, physically abuses her. The story turns on the inner strength of Maddie. Although a victim of abuse, she is able to break free from the troubled past. She is the kind-hearted warrior who is able to withstand her children’s hatred. “Addicted to Hate” is a story that takes us behind the nightly news stories of domestic abuse cases. We see the underlying currents of societal injustice giving way to family dysfunction and turmoil. What counts is strength and resilience. In that way, the story of Maddie is the story of us all. Lucia Mann gives us another deserving novel.

“Italians of Lackawanna County,” by Stephanie Longo; published by Arcadia Publishing; available at www.stephanielongo.net
Lackawanna County, with its rolling forested hills and fertile valleys, contains one of the highest concentrations of Italian Americans in the country. Stephanie Longo knows Lackawanna County well. She is a writer who specializes in the ethnic makeup of Eastern Pennsylvania. She now gives us an extraordinary book that pays special tribute to this specific region in Pennsylvania in “Italians of Lackawanna County.” Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers and Protestant Independents 400 years ago. What was once a colony has become a state of people from different countries and of different creeds. Pennsylvania is now more Roman Catholic thanks to the influx of many Italians. Stephanie writes: “Lackawanna County’s Italian festival season begins in May with ‘La Corsa dei Ceri,’ or the Race of the Saints, in Jessup and ends in September with a festival in honor of Our Lady of Constantinople in Old Forge. In between these festivals are other observances, processions, and celebrations—all tied to keeping ethnic traditions alive and celebrating those who came from all over Italy to settle in the region.” Many photographs of Roman Catholic processions are in the book with informative captions to bring greater depth to the celebrations. In the Race of the Saints, we see various teams of men dressed in different colors. This is contained in a chapter focused on religion. Other chapters precede and follow with photographs and well-researched commentary to espouse different aspects of Italian life here such as work, family and culture. How and why Italians came to this region might be summed up in one word: Coal. Stephanie writes: “When the first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Lackawanna County from regions such as Umbria, Campania, Calabria, and Sicily, they had to work a variety of jobs, such as farmers and skilled laborers. However, the chief employer for Italian immigrants arriving in Lackawanna County was the anthracite coal mining industry.” This books brightly shines upon achievements of the county’s Italians. There is Gino Merli, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. We read about Anthony and Frank Suraci and the Parodi Cigars they founded. We read about the Parise family and the stone monuments they have created over the years. So many more stories of important Italian Americans are included. “Italians of Lackawanna County” is a marvelous book that espouses, not only the special attributes of Italians, but, moreover, Americans. Ours is a great country because of our people. We commend Stephanie for adding one more book in the record of America’s greatness.

“The Five-Ingredient Cookbook: 101 Regional Classics Made Simple,” by Francesca Montillo; published by Rockridge Press. Available at Amazon.com and www.thelazyitalian.com
Nothing beats an Italian cookbook such as “The Five-Ingredient Cookbook: 101 Regional Classics Made Simple,” by Francesca Montillo. Here is a stunning collection of Italian recipes. The book might be edible if not for the fact that it is made of paper. Francesca runs a touring company called Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures. She is from Catanzaro, in the Calabria region of Italy, where she learned how to cook watching her parents in the kitchen. She said in an interview on PRIMO’s web site, “We had home-cooked meals every single day, with fresh baked cookies and cakes. In hindsight, I know I was very blessed. We were eating organic before it was cool to do so. Meals were healthy, seasonal, delicious and not only nourishing for the body but also the soul.” Francesca’s new cookbook conveys many Italian dishes in the most streamlined way. Francesca knows her subject well and provides the ingredients, directions and commentaries to make cooking a special joy. She writes: “Italians love home cooking, and while Italy doesn’t lack for delicious restaurants, far more meals are eaten at home than out. Ask any Italian where their favorite place to eat is, and their response will likely be ‘my mother’s!’” Photographer Darren Muir works well with Francesca in bringing colorful life to these delectable meals. All dishes stand out as glorious creations. The book makes a person hungry after browsing a few pages. “…it’s easy to prepare dishes with five main ingredients or less, as everything used offers maximum flavor,” writes Francesca in her Introduction. Chapters follow on the regions of Italy and the basics of ingredients and kitchenware. We then come to a showcase of extraordinary recipes. For antipasti, there is “Asparagus wrapped with Prosciutto” and “Roman Style Spinach” with raisins, among ohers. For soups and salads, there is “Bean and Tuna Salad,” “Chickpea Soup,” and more. A chapter on pizza and bread is followed by one on meat, such as as “Balsamic Vinegar Steak” and “Pork with Olives.” Chapters on chicken and seafood come later and we finish with dessert. Here, we learn how to make such items as “Anise Sponge Cake” and “Lemon Bundt” cake. No doubt, Italians are blessed with great food. “The Five-Ingredient Cookbook” beautifully takes us back home to cook the wonders of our ancestors. A great cookbook, indeed!

“The Serpent’s Disciple,” by Deborah Stevens; published by Calumet Editions. Available at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com
Deborah Stevens holds nothing back in her novel, “The Serpent’s Disciple.” Here is a story connected to the conspiracy theories of the New World Order and Freemason infiltration of the Vatican. Similar to the Book of Revelation is the ultimate battle between good and evil. Except, Debra’s version is more clandestine and surreptitious than the Apostle John’s. “The Serpent’s Disciple” is an exciting and intriguing novel set in Italy. It is to be translated in Italian and available in Italy next year, along with a second book by Deborah entitled, “Holy Predator.” “The Serpent’s Disciple” includes all the attributes of a thriller that has its main focus the Roman Catholic Church. The novel contains scenes where protagonists uncover hidden codes among great works of art. We read about secret agendas and schemes taking place inside the Vatican. There are villas in the Italian countryside where meetings are held by those who seek to overturn the Church. And so on. The story revolves around the exploits of brother and sister Anthony and Antonella Andruccioli and their pilgrimage from America to their father’s homeland of Pesaro, Italy. Anthony is an architect who belongs to a secret group of Catholic defenders known as The Guardians. Antonella is unaware of Anthony’s affiliation until she has visions that show her to be The Chosen One. She and Anthony understand their destiny. They are to defend the Church from a takeover by the Antichrist. Indeed, while the two are in Pesaro, a gathering of the P2 Masonic Lodge has convened somewhere else in Italy with top leaders in politics and industry. They have hatched a plan to assassinate the sitting pope and put in place their leader, the P2 Grand Master, Peter Romanus. They hope to rule the world with a dark religion that overturns the principles as set forth in Holy Scripture. What follows is a race against time to stop the conspiracy and restore the Catholic Church. Deborah knows her material well and we are the better for it. Her novel is not in line with the “Da Vinci Code,” a popular book and revisionary view of Christianity; ultimately heretical and, in the end, not believable. Rather, with “The Serpent’s Disciple,” we have the valid structures of faith, both tangible and spiritual. It is a novel far more exciting because it is closer to the truth. One wonders that, in light of the recent scandals coming out of the Vatican, today, if such a story as Deborah’s is actually occurring now. “The Serpent’s Disciple” is awesome.

“A Boy at Heart,” by Ray M. Vento; pictures by Jay Mazhar; published by Vengiugno Press; Available at www.rayvento.com
Hard to realize, with its endless highways and urban sprawl, but, at one time, Los Angeles was a lot like New York and Chicago. The city was designed with a straight line grid to host a well-run public transportation system that took residents to a downtown of elegant department stores, fine restaurants and beautiful theaters. Ray M. Vento grew up in Los Angeles after World War II. The grandson of Sicilian immigrants, he knew his city at the dawn of the hydrocarbon age. He said in an interview on PRIMO’s web site, “Following World War II, as did so many other cities, rapid change became an operative description for how we lived…But what always remained was the beautiful landscape of mountains and ocean cupping the mushrooming of new communities. Back then, it was possible to take a Sunday ride to ski in Big Bear and have a family picnic at a local beach along the way. You would drive by orange groves and roadside farm stands. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s was amazing.” Such recollections inspired the author to conceive a set of children’s books in the “Sam Caruso” series. Three books, thus far, have been published. The main character is one Sam Caruso; much like Vento, a boy of Italian ethnicity living with his parents, a grandfather nearby, and kindly, God-fearing neighbors, in 1950s Los Angeles. In “A Boy at Heart,” Sam celebrates his birthday with a special gift from his Aunt Nancy. They are to see a play at the Biltmore Theater. All dressed up, Sam and his aunt take their seats inside - what was then - one of the country’s most spectacular theaters. The Biltmore was built in 1924, at first, to show silent films and, then, live plays after World War II. In 1964, it was demolished for a parking lot. “A Boy at Heart” comes alive in water color illustrations by Jay Mazhar. These are the kinds of heartwarming pictures we grew up with; before children’s stories were ruled by abstract and esoteric drawings. Ray writes a story that reminds us of when we were young; when we lived in close proximity to our aunts, uncles and cousins. When family gatherings were absolute. When a child’s birthday was to be attended by all and a happy time was guaranteed. “A Boy at Heart” is more than a tale of innocence. It is a book that reminds us what true fantasy is - not Never Never Land, but a time and place that should be resurrected, retained and forever valued. “A Boy at Heart” is exceptional!

“Her Spanish Doll,” by Joanne Fisher; www.joannesbooks.com; Available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com
One is hard-pressed to find a locale more enchanting than Italy’s Lake Garda. This is Italy’s largest lake, as surrounded by looming mountains and majestic vineyards and replete with fairy tale castles and villages. It is no wonder then that Joanne Fisher begins her novel “Her Spanish Doll” in this incredible area of Italy. This is a tale of romance - Italian style - that takes readers on a whirlwind tour of passion and intrigue from Lake Garda to different regions of Italy and different parts of the world. Joanne is no stranger to romantic fiction. She wrote and published “With All of Me,” a story that explores the world of online dating and what may come from love affairs in the digital age. In “Her Spanish Doll,” the setting begins in Italy, at a place Joanne knows well. In a PRIMO web site interview, she said, “…in 1980, my dad decided to go back to Italy to live. I was just out of college, and it was frowned upon for young Italian women to live on their own in those days, so I followed my parents and my sister to move to Italy. We lived in northern Italy, around the south part of Lake Garda, for 17 years. My sister and I both married local Italian men. I had 3 children, and my sister had two. All five of our children were born in Desenzano Del Garda, province of Brescia.” In “Her Spanish Doll,” we follow the exploits of Fiore, an Italian woman working at a restaurant in Lake Garda. There, she meets eyes with Sebastián Cremenes, a Spanish businessman, and the two fall madly in love. Complications arise since Fiore is engaged and Sebastián is married. Soon, she is given a gift of a Spanish doll. What follows is an intertwining plot of passion, money and secrets while the fire of romance rages on between the two main characters. Joanne writes perceptively and engagingly when it comes to the Italian feminine mystique. It is the female beauty that drives men to reach for the stars. She writes, “Well, he was there in body, but not in spirit. He had Fiore on his mind…She was a goddess in his eyes and she had already place a spell on him. All he did was look into those piercing brown eyes and poof! He was captivated by her beauty. He was hers! But was she his?” “Her Spanish Doll” captures the passion of Italian romance. It is a book that celebrates the settings of love in Italy. “Her Spanish Doll” is a book for all lovers, Italian young and old.

Editor’s Note: To order a copy of PRIMO’s First Edition 2019, please log on to our back issues pages and scroll to bottom for the newest available edition at PRIMO Back Issues.

 

 

THIS YEAR’S SAINTS
Two Italian Priests and One Layperson Reach Sainthood by Different Paths
Read about Pope Paul VI and his sainthood in PRIMO's current edition


In the current edition of PRIMO, we examine the life and legacy of Pope Paul VI. Born Giovanni Montini, he is named a saint this year by Pope Francis. Read about Pope Paul VI in this new edition of PRIMO. To order a copy of PRIMO’s Second Edition 2018, please access the following link: http://www.onlineprimo.com/back_issues.html

Pope Paul VI is not the only person named a saint. With him is Father Oscar Romero, Sister Ignacia Nazaria March Mesa, and Sister Maria Katharina Kasper.

There are other Italians named saints besides Pope Paul VI. They come from different parts of Italy and come to canonization through different callings of faith. They are Father Vincent Romano, Nunzio Sulprizio and Father Francesco Spinelli.

 


Father Vincent Romano
. The people of Torre del Greco know Father Vincent Romano well. He is their patron saint, not to mention also the patron saint of orphans and sailors. Father Romano was born in Torre del Greco in 1751 and ordained a priest in 1775. He devoted himself to helping the poor and orphans. Torre del Greco lies beside the Bay of Naples and is famous for its many cameo workshops. A beautiful white church, the Basilica of Santa Croce, is in town beside the Piazza Santa Croce. If not for Father Romano, the church would not be standing there today. Much of the region laid in ruins after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1794. Father Romano was the parish treasurer and led the effort to restore the church. He collected donations and oversaw the construction of a new church based on designs by architect Ignazio di Nardo. Father Romano was called by locals the “worker priest” for his unstinted efforts, including removing stones and other debris after the earthquake. By 1827, the Basilica of Santa Croce was fully restored and consecrated. Father Romano died four years later. His canonization comes with two miracles. The first had to do with Maria Carmela Restock, diagnosed with breast cancer in 1891. She sought Father Romano’s intercession and made a full recovery. The second miracle occurred after Maria Carmela Cozzolino was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1940. She too recovered after Father Romano’s intercession.

 


Nunzio Sulprizio
. Nunzio Sulprizio led a difficult and sad life before he died in 1836 at the age of 19. Pain and suffering, abuse and neglect, were the primary conditions of his childhood and adolescence. His canonization stands as a model of faith. He never gave in to despair or cruelty even though his short life was harsh and unfair. Nunzio said the rosary often and believed deeply in Christ. He was born in 1817 on Easter Sunday in Pescara, in the village of Pescosansonesco. At the age of three, he lost both his father and baby sister. His mother then remarried a man of wealth who mocked and verbally abused him. When she died, Nunzio went to live with his grandmother who taught him the rosary. After she passed away, he lived with his uncle, a brutal blacksmith who physically beat him. The boy was taken out of school and sent on long errands through the countryside. His uncle would not feed him if he made a mistake in the workshop. His leg was cut on one of his long treks. He was ostracized by townsfolk after the laceration became infected and they thought him contagious or unclean. He was hospitalized in Naples after the onset of gangrene. With no one to pay for his care, he was left on the street to beg. Colonel Felice Wochinger found him there, a child alone, sick and starving. He gave him refuge and from then on was like a father to him. He paid for his medical care and Nunzio began to recover. Then the doctors discovered he had bone cancer. His leg was amputated but the cancer remained and he died in 1836. Throughout these terrible ordeals, Nunzio declared his love for Christ and saw in Him his model. People from all over Naples came to his funeral. He was loved and praised for his unflinching faith, his kindness and gentleness.




Francesco Spinelli
. Francesco Spinelli was born in Milan in 1853 and was ordained a priest in 1875. He lived in Cremona and Bergamo before moving to Rome. There, he received a vision while praying at the Basilica di Santa Maggiore. He saw women devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. He founded an order of nuns in Bergamo in 1882. With little experience in business administration or accounting, Father Spinelli mismanaged donations and the bishop forced him to sever ties to the convent. He returned to Cremona a failure. Yet, he did not give up. He believed in his calling to begin an order of nuns that would help the poor. In 1892, he founded the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament. Father Spinelli learned from his previous experience and structured the order on sound financial footing. After he died in 1913, the sisters grew to an order of 59 convents serving the faithful in Argentina and Senegal.

 

NYC ITALIAN AMERICAN MUSEUM UPDATE
Interveiw with Museum Director Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa




An Interview with Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa on the Status of the New Italian American Museum:

As we begin 2019, what can you tell us about the status of the new museum?

"Now that we have removed the Banca Stabile artifacts (vault, teller cases, light fixtures and deposit table) and placed them in storage, the demolition of the existing buildings has begun. The developer has erected scaffolding along the Mulberry and Grand Streets sides of the existing buildings. The anticipated building completion is by the end of this year."

What effect do you think the new museum will have on Little Italy, whose “shrinkage” has been the subject of news stories?

"Once the building is completed, we will begin assembling artifacts in the new museum and expect we will have a grand opening in Spring 2020. It is our hope the new IAM will become a community nexus, much like Banca Stabile was in its heyday. Of course, our focus will be history and culture. More to the point, IAM will be a permanent neighborhood anchor to help ensure Little Italy will always be an important and vibrant part of New York City. We owe a lot to the long-time businesses that have remained. The museum may be in the heart of Little Italy, but the Italian merchants are its soul."

What are your fundraising and public attendance goals?

"We would be thrilled to say that one million people visited the new IAM during its first year. It’s an achievable goal, and we hope to get there with a full program of exhibitions and events. Through museum visits and annual fundraising events, we will seek to keep IAM’s finances healthy."

What do you want museum visitors to leave with?

"With so much interest in ancestry, we think we’re in the right place at the right time. But for the “Italians of New York” exhibit at the New-York Historical Society more than a decade ago, Italian Americans have never had a permanent place that celebrates their heritage, which includes an especially long list of achievers, many of whom are unsung. When they visit, we think they’ll be enriched by the experience as a whole, and this is crucial for younger generations."

To learn more about New York's Italian American Museum, please visit www.italianamericanmuseum.org.

 

 

AUTHOR DINA DI MAIO MAKES THE CASE FOR REAL ITALIAN FOOD IN “AUTHENTIC ITALIAN.”

 

Dina Di Maio conveys the amazing history of Italian food in her extraordinary new book, “Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People.”

In PRIMO’s latest edition - 2nd Edition 2018 - we gave Dina a thumb’s up for writing an incredible book. Here is an excerpt from our review: “The book is richly insightful, informative and entertaining. We all love Italian food. What better way to know what we love than to read an extraordinary book about the origins and travels of the world’s greatest cuisine.”

Dina’s passion for all things Italian will lead her to write other great books. For now, she shares with us her background and insight into what made her write “Authentic Italian.”

Tell us about your family background.

I have to tell you about my grandparents. They were from Italy. They made all the traditional foods for the popular holidays like Christmas and Easter, but also for lesser-known Italian holidays or seasons like St. Joseph’s Day and Lent. Grandma was from the Naples metro area, so she used to make zeppole and calzones for St. Joseph’s Day. The smell of frying dough that came out of her kitchen on those days will stay with me always. For Christmas, I’d make fried bowknot cookies with her. I still remember as a kid, standing on the chairs in the kitchen so I could reach the table. She’d cut the rolled-out dough with a fluted pastry cutter. Then she’d make a hole in the middle, and tie it through. She taught me a couple of ways to “tie” the bows. I still make them—I made them for this past book club. For the holidays, she’d take me with her to all the Italian specialty stores like the butcher shop, the fish market, the pastry shop, the bread bakery. Grandma was very particular about the food we ate. She taught me to be that way too, and I’m sure many of our members have similar memories.

Despite the fact that there is this collective memory of recipes and traditions passed down to us, there is a trend in the food media today to distinguish between Italian and Italian-American food. It goes so far as to claim that Italian-American food is not “real” Italian food. I know this isn’t true because I am Italian American and I grew up on Italian food. But I didn’t hear anyone defending Italian-American foodways. Actually, to the contrary, I heard many famous Italian-American chefs endorsing it. I became so frustrated waiting for someone to speak up that I decided to do something about it myself, which is how my book came to be written. In it, I discuss the food of Italian Americans, and how it is “authentic” Italian. In fact, it’s based primarily on the cuisine of Southern Italy because the majority of immigrants to the United States 100 years ago were from Naples and Sicily. Italian-American food is so deeply connected to the history of Southern Italy and the events that precipitated the migration, a history many people, including Italian Americans, are either not aware of or have misconceptions about. For these reasons, I was compelled to write Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People.

What inspired you to write “Authentic Italian”?

Young Italian Americans are my inspiration. I want them to grow up with a sense of pride in who they are and what their ancestors have accomplished. We are not the Jersey Shore; we are not the Sopranos. We are millions and millions of people who have kept our traditions alive through the generations, through recipes handed-down from our grandparents and great-grandparents, through religious traditions, through music, through art, through dance. When you play the tarantella at your wedding, you are honoring our heritage. The Sicilian traditions of making cuccidati cookies at Christmas, a painstaking process but rewarding because it is time spent with family, or creating the marvelous altars to St. Joseph on the Saint’s feast day in New Orleans. The men who raise the Giglio in Brooklyn every year. The band that plays the processional music down Mulberry Street in New York’s Little Italy to honor San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples.

How long did it take to write the book?

Between the researching and the writing, it took four years. But you could say it was a lifetime in the making because it deals with topics beyond only “food” that have personally touched my life, growing up as an Italian woman in America.

What was your goal in writing “Authentic Italian”?


I want the Italian-American community to be proud of its heritage, and Southern Italians in particular. Our cuisine is being dismissed as something “made up.” Italian Americans and our drive and determination to succeed in America made Italian food one of the top two most popular cuisines in the world. Pizza is one example of many. Entrepreneurs like Gennaro Lombardi, who opened the first pizzeria in America, Lombardi’s in New York’s Little Italy, or Frank Pepe, who opened Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut, brought pizza to the world. That is quite an accomplishment, and something to celebrate.

It’s critical that the Italian-American people control our own story. We have contributed so much to world cuisine, to music, to art, to culture. The treatment of Southern Italians in the media is at least, unfair, and at worst, egregious. We don’t deserve the organized crime allusions or the “dumb guy” characterizations. Unfortunately, this denigration is carrying over to our foodways. I’m hoping, by writing this book, that I am setting the record straight, for my grandma, and all the other Italian-American grandmas out there, who deserve better.

How did you get into writing?


When I was six or seven, I wrote a letter to Highlights magazine and told them I wanted to write for them. They wrote back and told me I had to grow up first. My first professional piece of writing was published in a national newspaper when I was 18. The next year, I published a short story in David Kherdian’s Forkroads: A Journal of Ethnic-American Literature. I went on to get my MFA in creative writing at NYU and then worked at literary agencies and publishing companies in New York City. From there, I wrote for major publications like Glamour and Time Out New York. I was an editor in the food department of Family Circle magazine. I even started my own general interest magazine that I ran for six years. Somehow, I found the time to become a licensed lawyer in two states, New York and Tennessee. Writing called me back, however, like Lisa Scottoline, another Italian-American lawyer/writer, who is also a passionate advocate of our culture.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Dina Di Maio’s new book “Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People,” at https://www.amazon.com.

 

 

A ONE-MAN SHOW ON THE LIFE OF VITO MARCANTONIO
Vito Marcantonio Was a Congressman from New York, from 1935-1951;
Noted Progressive and Member of The American Labor Party
A Fighter for Civil Rights, Defender of Communists and Radicals


A photograph of Vito Marcantonio, 1945 approximate, and poster of the current play on Marcantonio, as portrayed by Roberto Ragone. (Poster designed by Gabrielle Napolitano and photograph of Mr. Ragone by Christian Morales.)

Review by Gary Bono and Gabe Falsetta

On a recent Sunday afternoon in New York City an audience of more than 50 people was treated to a unique one-man show, “The Purgatory Trail of Vito Marcantonio”, written and performed by Roberto Ragone and directed by Art Bernal with introductory remarks by Professor Gerald Meyer. Professor Meyer is the author of the definitive biography of the progressive congressman and the co-chair, along with co-chair Ragone, of the Vito Marcantonio Forum.

The play opens on August 9th, 1954, the day of Marcantonio’s death. Though a Catholic, Marcantonio was denied a Catholic burial by New York’s Cardinal Spellman, and thus the action of the play centers around an imagined plea by Marcantonio to be released from purgatory — the repository of souls that God assigned neither to heaven nor hell — and be allowed to ascend into heaven.

By way of a defense, Ragone, as Marcantonio, presents excerpts from Marcantonio’s speeches in Congress and dramatized reenactments of incidents from his life. Ragone carries these texts (explaining each of these key moments in his life) in a portfolio each of which illustrate his record of selfless service to his constituents and his loyalty to his East Harlem community.

Reenacted are such things as Marcantonio’s impassioned speeches made on the floor of Congress — his pleas for the establishment of a “second front” in Europe during WWII to assist the beleaguered Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, his defense of jailed Puerto Rican Nationalist, Pedro Albizu Campos, and his lonely stance in opposition to the Korean War. In doing this, the play clearly illustrates how, in serving his constituency, Marcantonio never compromised his progressive principals; always serving as a champion of equality, a fighter against injustice and a defender of the common folk.

Also documented is the relentless hostility of the powers-that-be who continually plotted and schemed against him, changing the boundaries of his district until it extended as far south as Sutton Place. They even changed the election laws to his detriment. Initially these attempts at sabotage were in vain, he was reelected some 6 times!

Contributing greatly to Marcantonio’s electoral success was the fact that during his time in Congress he had an unparalleled record of direct service to his constituents. In his introductory remarks, Professor Meyer read extracts from letters sent to Marcantonio from people in his district thanking him or asking for help. With that kind of grassroots support, he proved hard to beat and the only way his opponents could succeed was through the immense effort of getting all the other political parties to unite against him.

Contributing greatly to Marcantonio’s electoral success was the fact that during his time in Congress he had an unparalleled record of direct service to his constituents. In his introductory remarks, Professor Meyer read extracts from letters sent to Marcantonio from people in his district thanking him or asking for help. With that kind of grassroots support, he proved hard to beat and the only way his opponents could succeed was through the immense effort of getting all the other political parties to unite against him.

There are many memorable highlights’, e.g., the eulogy given at Marcantonio’s wake by the great Paul Robeson; the back and forth with a friend of questionable reputation, Tommy Lucchese, showing his friend respect while rejecting his offer to have a personal bodyguard, a news report from a Marcantonio campaign rally at 116th Street and Lexington Avenue (Lucky Corner), and his successful defense of black leader and Communist W.E.B. DuBois who aptly said the main hurdle of the 21st century would be overcoming racism.

Although this New York performance was a limited engagement Ragone and Bernal have already been approached about possible performances in other cities and it may, in part, even be available for viewing on YouTube, so many others may get a chance to see this play in the future.

Today, Marcantonio, perhaps the most progressive representative to ever hold a congressional seat, has largely been written out of history. The Vito Marcantonio Forum’s goal is to reverse this wrong.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Vito Marcantonio forum and one-man play, please log on to http://vitomarcantonio.com/

 

 

AUTHOR RAY M. VENTO TRANSPORTS READERS TO 1950’s LOS ANGELES
We See The Past Through The Eyes of Character Sam Caruso
PRIMO Interview

What made you become a writer of children’s stories?

In general, short stories and essays have always been my preference. They give me focus and discipline to keep me on track with my subject matter. Although my books are categorized as “children’s” stories, they are meant also for adult readers. When I began to write my Sam Caruso stories, it was my intent to invite the reader to exchange their own stories about childhood.

“A Boy at Heart” is the story of Sam Caruso and his birthday gift from his favorite relative - Aunt Nancy. The story is set in Los Angeles in the 1950s. Tell us what it was like living in that era.

Following World War II, as did so many other cities, rapid change became an operative description for how we lived. In Los Angeles, veterans and their families moved into new suburbs; the automobile rapidly replaced public transportation; and downtown shopping was superseded to local communities. But what always remained was the beautiful landscape of mountains and ocean cupping the mushrooming of new communities. Back then, it was possible to take a Sunday ride to ski in Big Bear and have a family picnic at a local beach along the way. You would drive by orange groves and roadside farm stands. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s was amazing.

“A Boy at Heart” is not your only story. You have others. Please tell us about them.

My Sam Caruso books are loosely based on fragments of my own childhood. I considered my boyhood to be a “golden age.” The adults, like my Nonno (grandfather), an elderly neighbor and my aunt were mentors who introduced me to worlds and experiences that complimented my imaginative life. Throughout my boyhood, I was a listener. I absorbed the stories told by adults about their early lives. As long as I can remember, I was able to replay stories told to me from another time and of another time; and pull them together for my Sam Caruso books.

What is the message you want to convey in your stories.

Actually, there are few messages I want to convey. I would hope they help to create a conversation between adult and child readers about their respective childhoods. I am worried that story-telling today faces many outside distractions. Adults and children seem to be separated and compartmentalized with their own worlds of self-interests. I hope my Sam Caruso series will get people to see that “wondering about another time” might be a way to take and share their own stories with one another. We can only learn about the world if we listen to others. With such wonderment and a dash of imagination, everyone can learn to be a storyteller.

What other stories are you working on currently? What do you have for us in the future?

I have a tremendous interest in family genealogy. Over the years, my memories of family has helped me to research their lives. My grandparents emigrated from Sicily. I have spent some time learning about them and other ancestors. I am developing a written narrative about the early journey and assimilation of my Italian American family from Sicily to Los Angeles. The other story I am mulling over is about experiences with my brother who was born with Down Syndrome. Both books are challenges, but I have a rich source of recollections to call upon.

Editor’s Note: You can read more about author Ray M. Vento and purchase books from his Sam Caruso series by logging on to www.rayvento.com.

 

 

SICILY, LAND OF LOVE & STRIFE - A NEW DOCUMENTARY CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF SICILIAN HISTORY AND HERITAGE

Independent Filmmaker Mark Spano Covers the Breadth of Italy’s Dynamic Island Region



“Little has been produced about the cultural and historic relevance of Sicily,” claims Mark Spano in the beginning of his new documentary, “Sicily, Land of Love and Strife.”

As such, the filmmaker has gone the extra mile to undue that deficiency.

“Sicily, Land of Love and Strife” sets the bar higher than any other documentary in recent years in telling the story of Sicily. Mark Spano has done an incredible job in conveying the richness of his family’s homeland.

As one of the largest islands in the world, Sicily is the culmination of human migrations and settlements that have integrated with each other over thousands of years. Spano’s focus is on the diversity of the island. He delves into the age-old question of what makes a land and her people. Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spanish make up Sicily’s rich mosaic. In the center of the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily binds three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. People from other parts of the world have come as conquerors and as settlers. They have all left their mark in the way of language, traditions and customs in Sicily.

“Sicily, Land of Love and Strife” is an extraordinary documentary. Spano committed himself exhaustively to bring us the visual dynamism of Italy’s largest region. The visual images are all stunning. Sicily is surprisingly diverse in terrain and habitat. A beautiful shot in the film shows Mount Etna, covered in snow. Another is of the ocean flowing roughly into the rocky shoreline. We see rich agricultural lands on display with lemon groves, grape orchards and olive trees. City streets come alive with farmer’s and fish markets.

Well-edited is the documentary that flows from one subject to the other seamlessly. At one point, viewers are shown ancient relics, only to be shown next, food being served at a Sicilian trattoria. Spano is especially effective in delving into the traditional crafts and occupations of Sicilians. We see painters, sculptors, carpenters, farmers, chefs and vintners. In one segment, we are given a profile of a maker of musical instruments. In another segment, we see the work of an illustrator of carts. He is 102 years old and conveys the commitment it takes to bring to life his art.
The only flaw in the film, and a minor flaw at that, is the opinion of one commentator. Experts are shown with insightful information that convey color and depth to subjects brought up in the film. However, one scholar conveys a political agenda under the guise of expertise. The importance of Roman Catholicism in Sicily cannot be overstated. The outpouring of faith among Sicilians can be seen in beautiful Baroque and Gothic churches. Spano goes to great length to convey the Catholic heritage of Sicily. To suggest, as did one commentator, that the outward expression of faith by Sicilians was insincere or just for show diminishes this depth of coverage.

Spano grew up in Kansas City and today lives in North Carolina. His family came from Sicily. He is rightly proud of his heritage. He shares an anecdote about the stigma faced by most Sicilians. When he tells people his family is from Sicily, they respond with an inquiry as to his father’s background in the Mafia. He explains that his father was never a criminal; but rather, worked in a steel mill for 30 years to provide for his family and help his children attain the American Dream.

By making this extraordinary documentary, Spano has done his family and heritage a great service. “Sicily, Land of Love and Strife,” is an awesome film and a worthy tribute to Sicily.

Editor’s Note: You can find out more about “Sicily, Land of Love and Strife,” by logging on to the filmmaker’s web site, www.markspano.com.

 

 

ITALIAN BORN FRANCESCA MONTILLO TELLS WHY SHE WROTE “THE FIVE INGREDIENT COOKBOOK.”
“No one has all day to cook, we need access to simple, quick, authentic options and I feel my book provides that.”

 

Tell us about your childhood in Italy. Where in Italy were you born? How did your parents influence your way of cooking today?

I was born in Calabria and lived in a small town in the province of Catanzaro. I moved to the US as a young teen, along with my family. My dad was a greengrocer in Italy, so of course, produce was plentiful in our household. As is typical in this region, my mom was a stay at home mom, so she really filled her days cooking and baking for the family. We had home-cooked meals every single day, with fresh baked cookies and cakes. In hindsight, I know I was very blessed. We were eating organic before it was cool to do so. Meals were healthy, seasonal, delicious and not only nourishing for the body but also the soul. I loved spending time in the kitchen with my mom, especially when it came to baking. We rarely ate at restaurants; actually, I don’t have one restaurant meal memory from growing up in Italy, other than weddings or other religious celebrations. We’d occasionally go for pizza, but that would be it. No doubt my upbringing in this environment shaped who I am today both as a person and how I view food and cooking.

What led you to write "The Five Ingredient Cookbook."

I started my own business a few years ago, which combined Italian cooking classes and culinary tours to Italy. I started blogging my recipes and of course, writing a cookbook was always a major goal. The blog recipes were very well-received, shared and liked, so I immediately realized that I had an audience who would be drawn to my culinary philosophy, which is simple, seasonal, unpretentious and delicious.

I also realized a recurring theme in my classes, which was the shock from students at how easy Italian cooking could be. They had this pre-conceived notion that Italian cooking was going to be a lot of hard work, hours of simmering sauces, lengthy recipes, dozens of ingredients. Look, I am being honest, not every traditional Italian recipe is 5 ingredients or less, or takes just 30 minutes to prepare, but many are, and those are the ones I like to showcase to my audience. We are a “9-5” world, there’s work, commuting, sports, after school activities, doctors appointments and many other things that keep us from spending hours in the kitchen. No one has all day to cook, we need access to simple, quick, authentic options and I feel my book provides that. At this point, I have worked with hundreds of students and I have yet to meet one that says, “I wish cooking took longer!”

The subhead of your book is "101 Regional Classics Made Simple." How diverse is Italian cooking today? Has the digital world enhanced or lessen this diversity?

I definitely think that Italian cooking is changing a bit. There’s the authentic dishes I grew up on and will remain classics, which you will find in this book, then there are also newer chefs in Italy that are changing what Italian cuisine is. Thanks to blogs, Youtube and social media, we’re all more open to diversity in the kitchen. I definitely think there’s room for both classic dishes and new cuisine.

You have spent considerable time in both Italy and America. You know both countries well. What do you find most different about the two countries, outside of language?

Certainly, the food, and I am not just refering to the quality, which, truthfully is far superior in Italy, but also for the appreciation of it. Italians eat for the love of food, for sharing family time, to show someone that they love them. Italians have a lot of respect for food, how it’s treated, grown, prepared. In the US, food and cooking are seen by many as a chore, a bore, and another to-do on a list of growing tasks, akin to the laundry.

I would also have to say that Italians certainly know how to enjoy life more. They make time for family meals, gatherings, celebrations and the enjoyment of good art, architecture and historical beauty. The speed of life is much slower, especially in the south, where it feels like life is in slow-motion! But even in the north, which I would say the lifestyle is a bit closer to the lifestyle in the US, it’s not as stressed and frantic. Employers offer more time off, more flexibility, much of the entire country shuts down and is on vacation in August. It’s not uncommon for offices to be closed from Christmas Eve to the Epiphany, we wouldn’t hear of that here.

That said, I don’t try to paint a rosy picture that life in Italy is perfect. I think as a general rule, the US is a more efficient country when it comes to bureaucracy or having to file any sort of paperwork. A trip to the post office in Italy will age you by a few years! We laugh here that the cable man will arrive between 9 – 5, in Italy, it’s more like between April and June! And that vacation everyone takes in August? A real buzz kill if you need to reach someone in government or other office!

Having traveled and lived in both countries, I can honestly say that there are pros and cons to both. I try to bring some of Italy to my life in the US as much as possible by valuing family time, enjoying time off, connecting with friends on a regular basis and slowing down as much as possible. I travel back and forth a lot, so my return trips leading my culinary tours give me the Italy kick I need. I could easily travel back every month! And that’s why I also love leading my tours. I love exposing travelers to not just the cuisine, which is obviously the theme of my tours, but also the slowing down a bit, enjoying meals with the locals, celebrating life and la dolce vita.

If you had to choose one attribute that makes a great Italian cook...what would that be? What does a person have to remember when he or she is making Italian food?

Above all else, I think a great Italian cook needs to keep simplicity, seasonality and quality ingredients in mind. Ok, those are three attributes but they all play off of each other. There’s no reason to overcomplicate a recipe, to add-on random ingredients for no reason, to add heaps to sauces to everything. I sometimes think home cooks keep adding ingredients because the ingredients they’re using have little flavor or are of poor quality, so they keep adding hoping the final product is flavorful! It’s a recipe for disaster! If you’re using ingredients of poor quality, no amount of them will give you great flavor! A tomato in January has no flavor. Dry herbs (with the exception of high quality oregano) are useless. Cheap olive oil is no better than vegetable oil. And whatever you do, stay away from pre-grated parmesan cheese that comes in the green can! My mother calls it the AJAX cheese because it reminds her of a cleaning product! A home cook must be selective with the ingredients they utilize at home. Your family deserves better, you deserve better.

This is really what I advocate in my cooking classes, and that’s why my classes are so well received. And in the long run, high quality ingredients are not more costly. You will have less waste, you will be eating out less and you will be buying less pre-packed and pre-made food. You will need less of the good stuff because it will have so much more flavor that you will not need to pile it on. Buy a large chunk of parmesan cheese and you will see that you only need a dusting to add flavor, and it will last a long time.

Of all the recipes in "The Five Ingredient Cookbook" which ones are your favorites and why?

Perhaps you’ve had past cookbook authors tell you that they can’t pick, or it’s like “picking favorites among children”! Not for me, I definitely have my favorites! I love sweets and loved baking with mom growing up, so I definitely have a preference for the chapter on sweets and desserts. I love baking for my family now, there’s nothing better than a cup of espresso with some homemade treats. Also by virtue of being raised by a greengrocer, I do love all the dishes that contain fresh vegetables, so the soups and sides containing green beans, Swiss chard or legumes are also some of my favorites. I like to think that eating the sweets evens out with all the produce I eat!

Francesca’s new book “The Five Ingredient Cookbook” is now on sale. You can learn more about her Francesca, her new book and her culinary tours of Italy at www.thelazyitalian.com

 

 

 

THE ITALIAN FAMILY FROM PHILADELPHIA THAT PIONEERED CRAFT SODA
By Sal Cataldi


It’s no secret that many of America’s greatest food brands can trace their genesis to Italian American families. And if it wasn’t for one such family, the Salvatores of Philadelphia, we might not today be experiencing a boom in craft soft drinks, one of the fastest growing sectors of the $52 Billion U.S beverage market. The brand in question is Hank’s Gourmet Beverages, a company founded by the Salvatores to help ignite America’s craft soft drink boom with the debut of its critically-acclaimed Hank’s Gourmet Root Beer in 1995. And while overall carbonated beverage consumption falls each year, the craft soft drink category is expected to see a 3.5% annual growth through 2025, reaching over $732 million in sales.

Interestingly, the Salvatores’ roots in culinary entrepreneurism, and charity and public service, go back three generations, 100 years and nearly 5,000 miles away. John and Tony Salvatore, the respective brother president and chief customer officer team who today helm Hank’s, are a part of a decades-long legacy connected to a family beverage business that emerged in and around the City of Brotherly Love. 

It was John and Tony’s grandfather Pietro (Pete) who came to the Philly-area from Italy, settling in North Philadelphia in the early 1920s. After building a nest egg while working as a laborer, Pete founded a successful grape-hauling business. In the 1930s, he then launched Salvatore Beer Distributors, one of the city’s first and most ambitious local distributorships, which he ran with his cousins and, later, his son and current soda brand namesake, Hank.
 
In time, the beer distributorship folded. Hank took a series of jobs until he finally landed a long-term position as a State of Pennsylvania Fuel Tax auditor, a job he’d keep for a decade. Not only did his time as a civil servant give Hank an insider’s look into how government worked, it also quickened his deep desire to serve his fellow “everyman” Philadelphian. This deeper need eventually fueled his blooming interest and long career in politics.
 
Fortunately for his sons and, ultimately, their collective family fortunes, that initial State auditor job didn’t pay enough to support Hank’s growing family. So, Hank followed in his father’s footsteps and founded another wholesale beer distributorship. The company blossomed in 1958 to become L&M Beverage, the immediate precursor and launching-pad for Hank’s Beverage Company.
 
Although L&M Beverage was growing, Hank’s commitment to his city prompted him to continue deepening his involvement in public office. In 1972, he was elected to represent Northeast Philadelphia’s 170th district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, a position he held for six terms through 1984. Later, he went on to be elected and serve another four terms as a Pennsylvania State Senator, from 1985 – 2000, building a reputation as a popular favorite with everyone – from pizza-lovers and plumbers to presidents and popes – much like the sodas that would come to bear his name.
 
Hank eventually brought his children -- sons Frank, John and Tony plus daughters Gloria and Liz -- into the distribution company, where they eventually oversaw every department and all aspects of a fast-growing beverage business, from product acquisition, sales and warehouse to logistics, customer relations and back office. This positioned them as the leading independent beverage distributor serving the greater five-county Philadelphia-area and larger Pennsylvania region.

The business thrived, in large part, due to the Salvatores’ keen eye for new products. They were among the country’s first distributors to literally discover Pennsylvania’s own Yuengling and take on now-popular beer brands like Fosters, St. Pauli Girl and Moosehead.
 
The growth and family entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop there, however, especially when they met Bill Dunman. They were contemplating an expansion into a non-alcoholic division. While Dunman had also run his own regional beverage distributorship serving Maryland, he was at his core – having spent his early career working on several launches with Coca-Cola – a soda and new products guy. His background, ingenuity and intuitive sense of business made Dunman (now the company’s Chief Operating Officer) the perfect candidate to become Hank’s first non-family full partner; complementing sons John and Tony, who had ascended to jointly stay atop the company.

Together, in 1995, they launched a soda division, bearing an award-winning label branded after their dad’s popular Philly nickname, “Hank” -- rolling-out the now iconic Gourmet Root Beer to their local Philadelphia on-premise customers in 1996.  

This product uses a local Philly recipe to remind proud Philadelphians of their city’s heritage as the birthplace of Root Beer. Made with a focus on flavor and using pure cane sugar, Hank’s emphasis on both taste and the highest quality ingredients set the company’s unparalleled standards going forward. Hank’s broke new ground, not only going gourmet “before gourmet was cool,” but also building the brand’s national reputation as one of the richest, smoothest and creamiest sodas available. Other hand-crafted, press-worthy and award-winning delicious flavors continue to follow.
 
In 2001, the partnership sold the larger L&M Beverage, choosing to shift away from distribution, focusing their efforts and resources instead on expanding their pioneering, Philadelphia-based craft soft drink business. Through the 2000s, the company prospered -- especially in its Mid-Atlantic footprint -- and patriarch Hank continued to both accompany his sons to the office daily and pursue his various good-works of public and community service – always with his everyman approach and telltale upbeat grin.

Founder Hank passed in 2014, at age 92. In his spirit, the company – through its public and often private pro-social efforts -- continues to work closely with and support several of the organizations, constituencies, foundations and other charities that Hank proudly served and championed. Hank’s surviving partners also formally adopted a series of Business Principles and Fan Promises, drawn immediately from their founder’s own correspondence to family and friends, after his death.
 
Today, Hank’s Gourmet Beverages are a favorite of hip, gourmet food devotees, soda fanatics, renowned chefs, “mixologists” and media critics at prestigious national outlets like Eater, Grub Street and the Los Angeles Times. Hank’s also remains a local Philadelphia media, foodie and blogger favorite, and the only remaining national root beer player still headquartered in the city.

Their flagship Gourmet Root Beer anchors a product line that has grown over time to feature seven flavors, including Diet Root Beer, Orange Cream, Vanilla Cream, Wishniak Black Cherry, Birch Beer and Grape, crafted by Hank’s in-house “Flavor Doctor” and creative visionary, Bill Dunman. These flavors reinforce Hank’s authentic, high-quality image along with its upscale, innovative packaging, and are now available nationwide in supermarkets, gourmet and natural food stores, upscale bars and restaurants, entertainment/sports venues and convenience stores.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Hank’s Gourmet Beverages, you can log on to your web site at www.hanksbeverages.net.

 

AN AMERICAN’S WAY TO SIDESTEP THE ITALIAN BUREAUCRACY
Paul Spadoni, author of "An American Family in Italy, Living La Dolce Vita without Permission,” was, in essence, an illegal alien in Italy

 

 

Tell us about your background as it relates to Italy. Where did your family come from in Italy? How much or how little did you know about Italy prior to your recent extended visit there?
 
I grew up surrounded by Italian cousins in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and they imbued me with a sense of pride in our heritage. However, my generation knew very little about where our grandparents had come from. Sometimes my grandparents said Montecatini, sometimes Lucca, and to us, those were just dots on the map. When I finally went to Italy for the first time, at age 43, I discovered that my grandparents had lived in a rural area between Montecatini and Lucca called San Salvatore, a suburb of a hill town called Montecarlo. In my 50s, I began traveling to Italy every year, visiting different regions in a search for the ideal city to put down roots when I retired. I had a long list of criteria. As it turned out, Montecarlo fit my list in every category, and having cousins there was an added bonus.

Your book's title, "An American Family in Italy, Living La Dolce Vita without Permission" summarizes effectively the uniqueness of your Italian adventure. You were able to sidestep the Italian bureaucracy to live and work in Italy. Please share with us some details as to how you did it
.
 
I can tell you, but then I’ll have to kill you! OK, the truth is, it’s not something that can be easily repeated. We stayed for 10 months without a visa, but this was before 9/11, and no one seemed to care then, in Italy, at least. The headmaster who hired me said, “We really should get a work permit, but that’s a lot of work and there may not be time. Just say you’re a tourist if anyone asks.” Then he paid me al nero, under the table. It’s very unusual to arrange something like this from the United States. More frequently, people go to Italy first and then find an off-the-book job, often teaching English.
 
People with children are often reluctant to pick up and move to a foreign country and immerse themselves in the language and culture. How did your children fare in your family's move to Italy? Were they the better for it?
 
For the first six months, my daughters begged us to let them go back home and live with friends. For the last four months, they really enjoyed themselves, though at the time they wouldn’t admit they had been wrong. Since then, they thank us every year for making them go with us.
 
 
How is Italy different than America? You spent considerable time there and had serious interactions with the people, businesses and government. What did you like and not like about Italy?
 
Oh, wow! I wrote a whole series of blogs on this, so it’s hard to sum up in a few words, but it’s a great question. The markets, the food, convenient public transportation, the opportunity to learn a language and compare cultural differences, the art and architecture, the scenic beauty—these all entered in. I think the strongest reasons are that I wanted a challenge and I wanted to experience a little of what my own grandparents had faced when coming to America. Could I learn a new language and learn to survive and thrive in another culture?
 
What are your future plans? Do you plan to live in Italy or here in the United States? And why.
 
We now live in Italy for four months a year and the United States for the other eight months. We have four children and nine grandchildren in the States. If we learned nothing else during our time in Italy, it’s that family is priority one, and we can’t leave our U.S. family behind. There are also some more practical reasons for dividing our time, such as tax advantages and the fact that I’d have to pass a daunting examination to get my Italian drivers license if we lived there full time. That may not sound like much, but I’ve heard horror stories about how expensive it is and how hard it is to pass the written test. We feel we've found the perfect balance for our family situation.

Editor’s Note: A photograph of the author in Sorrento and enjoying a meal with his daughter and friend in Italy. To learn more about Paul Spadoni’s new book “The American Family in Italy,” look on to Amazon.com.

 

IN TIME FOR MARCH MADNESS
“Madness,” A Book About Hank Luisetti - The Man Who Forever Changed Basketball
Interview with Author Mike DeLucia

Mike DeLucia has written a book entitled “Madness” based on the true story of Hank Luisetti. Mike’s Italian roots extend to Naples, on his mother’s side of the family and from Benevento on his father’s side. He has several family members who reside in Milan and Varese. PRIMO interviewed him about his novel “Madness” and what made Hank Luisetti such a revolutionary basketball player.

Your novel "Madness," is based on the true story of Hank Luisetti; a college basketball player from Stanford. Tell us how Hank changed the game forever?

Before Luisetti total scores of basketball games averaged in the 30s. Basketball was a filler sport between baseball and football season. Passing and shooting with two hands was at the center of basketball’s stop-set-shoot philosophy. Then came Hank Luisetti. He defied the establishment by means of a running one-handed shot. With basketball’s integrity on the line, a promoter from New York arranged a grudge match between LIU and Stanford, in a game that would both test Luisetti’s unorthodox style and determine the unofficial national champion. At that time the east was considered the class of the nation and LIU was the class of the east. They were so good that the Olympic committee asked LIU to represent the USA in the 1936 Olympic games. LIU, a team comprised of many Jewish players, however, refused in protest due to the rumors of anti-Semitic acts in Germany. LIU was riding a 43 game winning streak before they encountered Luisetti, and they simply could not contain him. Besides popularizing the one-handed shot, Hank is credited with the behind-the-back dribble. He was doing fast breaks and his dribbling ability was spectacular. He could jump so high and stay up so long that he looked like a ballet dancer. He employed the no-look pass. He was voted the most outstanding athlete to perform at Madison Square Garden in 1936. The man was 50 years ahead of his time. The New York Media reported the news of the great Luisetti and people began to emulate his moves and style. Basketball got hot and grew a fanbase of its own. What followed was the NCAA March Madness Competition and the NBA. He changed basketball’s genetic footprint with his unorthodox playing style. James Naismith invented basketball in 1891; Hank Luisetti reinvented it in 1936. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959, its inaugural year. 

Luisetti was a basketball innovator, and yet he did not go on to play professionally. What happened? 

A few things. First, he was paid $10,000 in 1938 to star as himself in a movie starring Betty Grable and because he was paid to play basketball in the film, he received a suspension from whatever committee governed the pro leagues of the time. The pro leagues were more like tournaments that were played in armories and dance halls, because as previously mentioned, basketball didn’t have a fanbase before Luisetti's innovations made it exciting. He played in some leagues after that, but the real blow came while he was serving his country in WWII. He contracted Spiral Meningitis and nearly died. The sulfur drugs they used to treat him damaged his heart and when the NBA formed he turned down lucrative offers to play. The Knicks wanted him, but he chose not to play at a level with which he was not comfortable. 

How did you get acquainted with Luisetti? What was your inspiration to write the novel?

Sylvester Stallone played a major role on my road to Luisetti. When Rocky was released in 1976, I was a sophomore at Monsignor Scanlan High School in the Bronx, and my life’s goal was to become a film actor. I was bitten by the acting bug in 1973 when Ron MacFarland, a dynamic teacher at my grade school, put on a rock and roll musical. However, marriage and a mortgage reduced my ability to pursue an acting career and that’s when I got the idea to “Stallone” it in 1983. I’d write my own screenplay and star in it as well. I wouldn’t have to invest time going to auditions or traveling to Manhattan for acting classes. I’d just write a film and wouldn’t sell it to a studio unless I played the leading role. Sounds funny now, but back then, I thought it was a rock-solid plan. I shared my project with the family at our 2:00 p.m. Sunday dinner ritual. My father, a man who knows just about everything about Italy and Italians, snapped his fingers and said he knew the perfect story for me. He read about a Stanford University athlete named Hank Luisetti from the twenties or thirties, who revolutionized basketball. I began researching the story at the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and began the onerous task of researching a ghost. The first version was a handwritten screenplay. My life’s business scale jumped up a few notches after kids entered the scene and The Hank Luisetti Story, as it was then called, kept finding it’s way to the bottom of my to “To Do List.” I finally decided to turn it into a historical fiction novel in the summer of 2018. 

What are the similarities and differences between your novel "Madness" and the real-life story of Luisetti?

While Hank’s court heroics elevated him to celebrity status in the latter part of the 1930s, there was little-to-no information regarding his personal life. This was due, in part, to a lack of paparazzi and an NBA. Since these were the days before Google, I researched microfilms of his games and found more details in magazine articles. From there I wove together Hank’s achievements with the snippets I garnered of his personal life, into the first draft of The Hank Luisetti Story. Even after computers entrenched themselves in our lives there still wasn’t much more to learn about Hank’s personal life until his biography was written in 2005, but I didn’t learn of it until a few months before my book was complete, and it was once again my father who told me about it. He said he was talking about Luisetti and someone said he just read a book about him. I would say my book is 60% fiction and 40% nonfiction. The book is based on Hank’s contributions to basketball. Some of the non-basketball story is true, so it’s a mixture. 

A novel such as yours should make the perfect vehicle for a feature film. And yet, so far, it has been challenging to find a studio to support the project. Why the reluctance from Hollywood?

Part of the reason why it’s not a feature film is because of my lack of connections in the industry. I’m actively searching for a producer and getting some interest, but too little to even discuss right now, so I’m still talking about it and hoping that articles such as this will open it up to a serious party. Aside from that, it’s not easy for a film about an Italian who isn’t a criminal or an uneducated “goombah” to me made. Since The Godfather’s release in 1972 I know of one film, Unbroken, which Italians aren’t presented as criminals or knuckle draggers and it’s an insult to our great heritage in light of all the Italians have contributed to society since the Roman Empire in 700 B.C. Our accomplishments are both numerable and varied, and have made this world a better place. Even this year’s Academy Award winner Green Book reenforces Hollywood’s Italian stereotype. This has nothing to do with Green Book itself, because it’s apparently a superior film based on a true story, but it’s another reminder by the media that they will only present Italians in one of two ways. Madness features a Stanford educated Italian who made basketball into the game it is today; he is the basketball’s pioneer and first national celebrity, and I can present a solid argument as to why he’s the greatest basketball player of all time. This should be a film—a billboard to the world of who we are. The stereotype must change and it will take films like Madness and Unbroken to do that. 

Editor’s Note: To find out more about Mike DeLucia and his book “Madness,” please log on to http://www.booksbymikedelucia.com.

 

 

 

EUFORIA
A  New Film Directed by Valeria Golina
An Inspiring Story, Excellent Direction and Acting Undone by Seedy Scenes of Sex and Drugs
PRIMO Review

Valeria Golina is a triple threat.

She can do it all and do it well. She can act, sing and direct.

“Euforia” is her third time behind the camera. She shows all attributes of a skillful director and one day will make a film to win critical acclaim and the awards and commendations that come with it.

“Euforia,” however, is not that film.

Golina directs competently, passionately and is able to bring out the best in her actors and actresses. Yet, “Euforia” is far less of a film than its potential. The story about two brothers, one who is terminally ill, and the other who cares for him, is an intriguing and heartfelt premise. However, scenes of gratuitous drug use and an obsession with sex sinks what otherwise might have been an exceptional film.

The Bernardo Bertolucci school of cinema remains a curse that keeps on giving in Italian filmmaking. The director who died this past November at age 77 was famous (or infamous) for taking historical epics and contemporary dramas and collapsing them under the weight of salacity. Bertolucci could make a great film such as “The Conformist” or “The Last Emperor,” but all too often warped and scandalized his films with contrived scenes of sex and drugs. Audiences were left with little more than well-produced porn. Such was the way of Bertolucci - a filmmaker who was always due for a great film but never quite made one, especially in the past three decades. His obsession with carnality and deviancy undid his efforts.

Golina has fallen for the same trap in “Euforia.” She co-wrote the script with Francesca Marciano and Valia Santella. The film’s main character is Matteo, played by Riccardo Scamarcio, a wealthy entrepreneur in Rome who takes in his older brother Ettore, played by Valerio Mastandrea. Diagnosed with cancer, Ettore must undergo treatment at a nearby hospital. At the outset, we learn that Matteo is gay and Ettore is straight. The scene is a dinner party where their white haired mother announces to guests her sons’ sexual preferences. Another scene near the beginning is most telling: Ettore wakes up from a nightmare due to the emotional stress of illness. He ventures into the living room to join Matteo late at night. Their topic of discussion is sodomy. What does Matteo prefer, asks Ettore? Is his baby brother the recipient or the giver in male-on-male sex? Matteo smiles whimsically and mentions the need for an “interlocutor” before foreplay. He claims his older brother the model. Can gay and heterosexual people, especially those related by blood, talk about anything but sex? Apparently not in cinema. Much is touted in today’s society for majority heterosexuals to treat gays and lesbians without regard to their sexual preferences. If so, why then must filmmakers obsess about gay sex when a main character is homosexual? Can we accept a person is gay and leave it at that?

The serious topic of the film is frequently undermined by sub plots and scenes more suited for a crime drama. Ettore might be ill but that does not stop Matteo going out to nightclubs with friends and scoring cocaine and other drugs. Soon, lines of coke are snorted with reckless abandon. Even Ettore joins in, with his brother questioning the wisdom of recreational drug use during treatment.

Central to the plot is Matteo’s efforts to hide from Ettore the seriousness of his cancer. Although Matteo’s intentions are noble and speak to the love and fidelity he has for his brother, the concept is preposterous. Ettore is a middle-aged professor at a university and yet the filmmaker expects us to believe he will remain wholly ignorant of his prognosis. The physician who treats Ettore appears in only one scene. He is a friend of Matteo’s and has apparently joined in on the ruse. He keeps from his patient vital information about the terminal nature of his cancer; a concealment which is counter to medical ethics and likely illegal.

Midway through the film, Matteo and Ettore journey to the village of Medjugorje in Bosnia and Hercegovina where it is believed the Virgin Mary appears. A local nun informs them that the Holy Mother is not scheduled to reveal herself during their brief stay. The brothers opt to hike the side of a mountain to see stations of the cross depicted in bas relief sculpture. Along the path, a guide stops for a moment to say the Glory to Be prayer with both Matteo and Ettore looking ahead in bleak wonderment. What followed might have been a scene perfectly suited for characters to talk about faith and the need for prayer. However, the moment descends into needless carnality. Back at the hotel room Ettore is fast asleep while Matteo stands on the hotel balcony and smokes a cigarette. Soon, a hotel guest from Germany, who is also gay, appears with Matteo. Ettore is then abruptly awakened by his brother. Sick and frail, he is ordered onto the balcony wrapped in his comforter, assured by Matteo that his sojourn outside will last no more than 15 minutes, enough time for a romp. They then return to Rome for Ettore to continue his treatment. More scenes of sex and drugs follow. The audience is left bewildered by it all.

“Euforia” is typical of many films today. An obsession with sex and drugs is at the forefront in filmmakers’ minds. Cinema is a means of enlightenment. A film such as this one should remind us of the value of family in times of physical and mental crises. Yet, debauchery and carnality is what we are given. Although competently directed and well acted, “Euforia” fails to live up to its promise. Golina will no doubt get another chance to direct, and rightly so. Let’s hope the next time she finds herself behind the camera, she will have a better script in hand.

 

RONDINE CITTADELLA DELLA PACE
The Tuscan-based Non-profit Organization Seeks World Peace by Training Young People from War-torn Countries
Saint Francis of Assisi is Their Model

 

Rondine Cittadella della Pace, is a non-profit organization committed to reducing armed conflicts and spreading its own methodology to foster peace in the world.

Studentato Internazionale – World House is a restored medieval castle near Arezzo where Rondine hosts young adults from countries beset by armed conflicts. The building is most famous as the background in the “Mona Lisa,” as painting by the great Leonardo da Vinci. The goal of Rondine is to help young people discover “the person” within their enemy through daily cohabitation. Students will become leaders in their own communities; ready to intervene and settle any conflict by applying the Rondine Method.

Rondine offers classes in a number of areas in the hope of completing its mission. Training in social activism are offered, along with programs in cultural immersion, business, publishing and language.

Rondine was started by Franco Vaccari in 1997. A psychologist by profession, Vaccari was inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi to reach out to young people. He and other Italians maintained an organization in the 1980s that fostered dialogue between the West and Communist Russia. Vaccari claims his father helped him to embrace social activism. A general in the Italian army in World War II, Vaccari’s father was captured by British soldiers and sent to a POW camp in India. He meditated while in prison and when released was at peace with his adversaries and himself.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Rondine will make a speech at the United Nations in New York City on December 10th, and in Washington DC on December 13th at the Italian Embassy.

They will ask member states to subtract a symbolic amount from their respective defense budgets and invest in future peace leader scholarships. Rondine will ask for the introduction of human rights’ education in national education systems, integrating this with the experimentation of Rondine’s training methodology in creative transformation of conflicts. 

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Rondine by logging on to their web site http://www.rondine.org.

 

 

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP MEETS WITH PRIME MINISTER GIUSEPPE CONTE OF ITALY
President Donald J. Trump welcomed Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy to the White House.



President Donald J. Trump participates in a one-on-one bilateral meeting with Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, Monday, July 30, 2018, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

President Donald J. Trump participates in an expanded bilateral meeting with Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, Monday, July 30, 2018, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)



President Donald J. Trump participates in a joint press conference with Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, Monday, July 30, 2018, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

President Donald J. Trump bids farewell to Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, following their meetings at White House Monday, July 30, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The joint press conference began at 2:05 p.m. and ended 2:45 p.m. on July 30.

In his opening statement, President Trump welcomed Prime Minister Conte and congratulated him on an election victory in Italy. The prime minister currently leads a coalition government in the Italian parliament composed of two major political parties, Five Star Movement and League, with support from minor parties, Brothers of Italy, Associative Movement Italians Abroad and South American Union Italian Emigrants. Mr. Conte is an independent. Although not a member of the political parties that make up the current government, he supports the underlying political philosophy as conceived by its principals, titled Governo del Cambiamento, Government of Change.

“In your election, the Italian nation has reaffirmed the great traditions of sovereignty, law, and accountability that stretch all the way back to Ancient Rome,” said President Trump. “This proud heritage sustains our civilization and must be always defended.”

The president reaffirmed the close working relationship between the United States and Italy in matters of international security. He sees Italy a major player in combating Islamic and other forms of terrorism throughout the Mediterranean.

“Today, Prime Minister Conte and I are pleased to announce a new strategic dialogue between Italy and the United States that will enhance cooperation on a range of issues,” said President Trump. “This includes joint security efforts in the Mediterranean, where we recognize Italy’s leadership role in the stabilization of Libya and North Africa. They’ve been terrific.”

United States and Italy face similar crises at their respective borders in illegal immigration. Both countries share the same goal of combating and impeding the flow of undocumented migrants.

The president said, “Like the United States, Italy is currently under enormous strain as a result of illegal immigration. And they fought it hard. And the Prime Minister, frankly, is with us today because of illegal immigration. Italy got tired of it. They didn’t want it any longer.”

President Trump sees Italy a model for other countries to follow in curbing illegal immigration.

“The people of Italy have borne a great part of the burden for Europe through the course of the migration crisis. I applaud the Prime Minister for his bold leadership — truly bold — and I hope more leaders will follow this example, including leaders in Europe.”

Prime Minister Conte opened his side of the press conference with a few short sentences in English. He then spoke Italian for the remainder of the event with a translator to convey his words in English.

The prime minister’s opening statement was noteworthy for it reiterated the claim by President Trump that Italy is today a major figure in Mediterranean diplomacy and security.

Prime Minister Conte said, “Today, we will have made a great step ahead.  We will start working in Italy. It’s a directorship (booth), as it were, in the Mediterranean between Italy and the United States. I would say that we’re almost twin countries in which Italy is becoming a reference point in Europe and a privileged interlocutor for the United States, for the main threats and challenges that we have before us, terrorism, and for all the crises that we see in the Mediterranean and, in particular, in regards to Libya.”

Questions from members of the press ranged from matters concerning NATO, the European Union, illegal immigration and recent reports of the United States economy growing at four percent.

Some questions were exclusive to Italy such as continued construction of the Trans-Adriatic pipeline that will connect oil and gas fields from Azerbaijan to Italy’s Apulia region. The project is scheduled for completion in 2020.

“As far as a pipeline is concerned, I’d like to see a competing pipeline,” said President Trump. “So, Mr. Prime Minister, I hope you’re going to be able to do that competing pipeline.”

The president then ended the press conference after encouraging words about the future of trade between the United States, Italy and Europe.

“And we are already talking to the European Union about building anywhere from 9 to 11 ports, which they will pay for, so that we can ship our LNG (liquefied natural gas) over to various parts of Europe. And that will be more competition.”

 

 

 


Patrons are Needed
A  call for financial support of a new exhibition open to the Pope, the Vatican and the city of Rome. The Ten Madonnas: New, original sculptures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as inspired by the medieval hymn, “Tota Pulchra Es, Maria.” Scheduled for the week of December 8th, Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, at the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. Please become a patron today! Contact Truby Chiaviello at potompub@aol.com for information on becoming a patron. Please download and review our Patron Package.

An Exhibition of Sacred Works at the Vatican in Rome
Titled Tota Pulchra Es, Maria, the project consists of the realization of ten Madonnas by Dr. Alan Pascuzzi, a world renowned sculptor and art historian from Florence. The statues will be exhibited in the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. The project is in collaboration with the cultural association, Tota Pulchra Es, Maria, under the guidance of the Monsignor Jean-Marie Gervais. The Vatican, through Monsignor Jean-Marie Gervais, expressed its interest in the innovative works by Dr. Pascuzzi. They proposed an opportunity to exhibit the new statues in a one-week exhibition open to the city of Rome, the Vatican community and to the Pope. The exhibition of original sculptures depicting the Madonna is based on the medieval hymn “Tota Pulchra Es, Maria.” The ten Madonnas will show each of the attributes of Mary – prudent, merciful, and an intercessor in prayer, as included in the medieval hymn. Every work will propose a new image of Mary and Jesus Christ, faithful to the reality of love between mother and child; but also alluding to universal love and to the divine.


Meet the Sculptor Dr. Alan Pascuzzi
Alan Pascuzzi is a sculptor, painter and art historian who has lived in Florence, Italy for the past 20 years. A Fulbright scholar with a PhD in Renaissance art with a concentration on Greek and Roman sculpture and the drawing, painting and sculpting techniques of Michelangelo and other Renaissance masters. A professor of Art History and Fine Arts who has taught at New York University, the British Institute and Bristol University, Dr. Pascuzzi is a recognized expert on Renaissance techniques. He has appeared in various documentaries for the BBC, Sky TV and 60 Minutes. As a professional artist he has permanent works in painting and sculpture in churches, palaces and tabernacles in the city center of Florence. He as executed commissions for churches in various cities in Italy, France, the United States and Australia. His first publication, “Becoming Michelangelo,” is scheduled for release in October, 2018.

Date and Location of Exhibition
Scheduled to coincide with the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, the Tota Pulchra Es, Maria, exhibition will be inside the Palazzo della Cancelleria Apostolica, a building designed by Donato Bramante. The palazzo is located at Piazza della Cancelleria, 1, Roma, less than a mile away from St. Peter’s Basilica.


Ten Original Sculptures for the Vatican Exhibiton
The sculpted works for the exhibition are original creations by Dr. Alan Pascuzzi. He brings an interpretation of the Madonna and Child based on his experience as a noted art historian of Classical and Renaissance art, his knowledge of religious iconography and his personal observations of the unique relationship between mother and child. Small clay models for all ten works (see following images) have already been realized by Dr. Pascuzzi which include by title: The Nativity, Virgo Lactans, The Madonna of Contemplation, Madonna with Sleeping Jesus, Madonna of Consolation, Madonna of Joy, Madonna of the Goldfinch – Madonna of Prudence, Madonna with Joseph and Jesus – the Madonna of the Family, Madonna of Protection and Madonna of Glory.

The following images are clay models of four of the 10 sculptures for the exhibition by Dr. Pascuzzi. They are titled "Madonna of Glory," "Madonna of Prudence," "Madonna of Family," and "Madonn of Joy." The 10 Madonnas will eventually be executed in high relief and will be life-size. The original works will be executed in clay. From the clay original a negative cast will be made to produce a positive cast in white resin – a resistant and light material. The works will be in two formats: Entire figure: 2 m x 1m; Half-figure: 1.20 m x 1 m.

A Call for Patrons....
Exhibition will be financed through patrons at every stage. Involvement of patrons come through donations organized at various levels with corresponding beneftis, i.e., present at the exhibition opening and reception in Rome with Pope Francis scheduled to attend, a copy of a clay model, name associated with one of the statues, a guided tour by Dr. Pascuzzi of the Sistine Chapel, and more! Please become a patron today. Contact Truby Chiaviello at potompub@aol.com.  Please download and review our Patron Package.

 

 


THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER AND ISTITUTO LUCE CINECITTÀ ANNOUNCE VISCONTI, A COMPLETE RETROSPECTIVE OF THE ITALIAN CINEMA TITAN, JUNE 8-28
A Celebration of the Films of Luchino Visconti with Many New Restorations and Weeklong Run of "Ludwig" in a New 35 mm Print
"Not many directors have had such a total belief in style. Visconti worked through total artifice as a way to the truth." -- Martin Scorsese



Pictured clockwise, upper left, are still photographs from Visconti's films, "Ludwig," "Death in Venice," "Rocco and His Brothers," "Bellisima," and "The Leopard."

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces Visconti, a complete retrospective of Visconti’s feature films, most of them premiering in new restorations and rare imported prints, followed by a weeklong run of a new 35mm print of his 1973 historical masterpiece Ludwig.

Italian nobility, a member of the Italian Communist Party during World War II, openly gay and staunchly Catholic, Luchino Visconti inhabited a complicated, at times paradoxical, role in Italian cinema culture. A leader in the neorealismo movement who also worked with international stars like Burt Lancaster, Helmut Berger, Alain Delon, and Dirk Bogarde, Visconti produced an oeuvre of modest and humane dramas as well as decadent, sprawling historical spectacles. Deftly aware of the subtle and rich means of cinematic expression, he uniquely imposed the narrative customs of opera and the novel onto film, yet remained sharply attuned to the social and political climates of the 20th century.

The retrospective will showcase the full range of Visconti’s oeuvre, from his debut feature Ossessione, widely regarded as the first neorealist film, and memorable contributions to the movement including "La Terra trema" and "Rocco and His Brothers"; to masterful literary adaptations "Death in Venice" and "The Stranger"; and sumptuous yet skewering portraits of the aristocracy—"The Damned," which marked his first Academy Award nomination (for screenwriting); " The Leopard," his tour de force Palme d’Or-winning epic; and his final film, "The Innocent."

A special highlight is "Ludwig," which follows the life of Bavaria’s controversial King Ludwig II. “One of Visconti’s most ambitious films…with moments of sublime beauty” (Bilge Ebiri, LA Weekly), it was drastically cut for its U.S. theatrical release. On the occasion of a new restoration and this retrospective, the Film Society is pleased to present Ludwig in the original director’s cut, screening for one week in a brand new 35mm print.

Tickets for Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and the Visconti retrospective go on sale May 18, with Film Society members receiving an early access period beginning May 15. Tickets are $15; $12 for students, seniors (62+), and persons with disabilities; and $10 for Film Society members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or Open Roads Access Pass. Learn more at filmlinc.org.

Organized by Florence Almozini and Dan Sullivan of Film Society of Lincoln Center, and by Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero of Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Co-produced by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, Rome. Presented in association with the Ministry of Culture of Italy.

FILMS AND DESCRIPTIONS
All screenings held at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted.
 
WEEKLONG RUN
Ludwig
Italy/France/West Germany, 1973, 35mm, 238m
Italian, German, and French with English subtitles
Visconti’s remarkable film about the life and death of Bavaria’s King Ludwig II is an opulent, complex study of romantic ambition in the era of 19th century decadence. Helmut Berger plays the title role as a loner tormented by unrequited love for his cousin, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Romy Schneider), an obsession with the music of Richard Wagner, and excessive state-funded expenditures. Visconti’s lavishly composed portrait of one of history’s most complicated figures is as much an operatic descent into madness as a requiem to a monarch at the dawn of the modern republican world. An AGFA release. New 35mm print made by Luce Cinecittà. Saturday, June 16, 1:30pm; Friday, June 22 - Thursday, June 28, 2:00pm & 6:45pm
 
Bellissima
Italy, 1951, 35mm, 108m; Italian with English subtitles
Visconti deftly blends showbiz satire with heart-tugging pathos in this neorealist melodrama. When Cinecittà Studios puts out a casting call for a new child actress, they’re flooded with starry-eyed stage mothers and their talentless tots, among them Anna Magnani’s working-class Roman nurse and her rather indifferent daughter, whom she’s driven to make a star. As in similar Hollywood-plays-itself melodramas such as Sunset Boulevard and The Bad and the Beautiful, Bellissima both romanticizes the power of celluloid dreams and delivers a cuttingly cynical takedown of the industry. Magnani’s affecting performance as a mother whose desperation for success is outweighed only by her love for her child helps the film achieve true poignancy. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Sunday, June 10, 3:30pm, Monday, June 11, 9:15pm  
 
Conversation Piece / Gruppo di famiglia in un interno

Italy/France, 1977, 35mm, 121m; English and Italian with English subtitles
Visconti reunited with The Leopard star Burt Lancaster for this profoundly personal, contemporary chamber study. Once again the actor is cast as an emblem of Old World honor passing into obsolescence, here a retired professor living out a quiet retirement in his art-stuffed Roman palazzo; his dignified solitude is drastically upended by a turbulent marchesa (a serpentine Silvana Mangano) and her bisexual boy toy (Helmut Berger) who insinuate themselves into his life. Visconti masterfully interweaves a provocative shuffling of ideas—on class, sex, art, fascism—in what is ultimately his own disquieting confrontation with mortality. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Friday, June 15, 9:30pm; Monday, June 18, 6:30pm


 
The Damned / La caduta degli dei (Götterdämmerung)
Italy/West Germany, 1969, 156m; English and German with English subtitles
The Damned chronicles the downfall of the Essenbecks, a wealthy German family (led by Dirk Bogarde and Ingrid Thulin) with business ties to the Nazis. Visconti’s symphony of decadence is perhaps best remembered for Helmut Berger’s indelible turn as depraved son Martin, vamping in drag as Marlene Dietrich from The Blue Angel. Kinky and perverse (the film was rated X upon initial release), Visconti’s epic features a score by Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia) and a stylistic opulence that led Rainer Werner Fassbinder to name it as one of his ten favorite films. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna and Institut Lumiere (Lyon). Saturday, June 16, 8:30pm; Sunday, June 17, 4:45pm
 
Death in Venice / Morte a Venezia
Italy/France/USA, 1971, 130m; English, Italian, Polish, French, Russian, and German with English subtitles
Opening with the otherworldly image of a steamship emerging ghostlike from inky blackness and closing with one of the most transcendent denouements in all of cinema, Visconti’s exquisite adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novella is a piercing meditation on mortality, sexuality, beauty, and the longing for youth. In a career-capping performance of tragic vulnerability, Dirk Bogarde plays gravely ill composer Aschenbach, who, while on a rest cure in Venice, is spellbound by an angelic teenage boy (Björn Andrésen)—an infatuation that escalates as pestilence consumes the city. Visconti’s painterly compositions enter the realm of the sublime thanks to the tension-swelling, never-resolving strains of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Friday, June 8, 6:30pm; Sunday, June 17, 8:00pm
 
The Innocent / L'innocente

Italy/France, 1979, 35mm, 129m; Italian with English subtitles
In his final film, Visconti offers one of his most cutting variations on the theme that most consumed him: the moral decay of the soul-sick aristocracy. Based on a novel by the proto-fascist sensualist Gabriele d’Annunzio, this poison-pill melodrama concerns a callously self-absorbed nobleman (Giancarlo Giannini) whose “liberal” views on marriage extend only as far as his own extramarital affairs. When his tormented wife (Laura Antonelli) pursues a dalliance with a writer, the full monstrousness of his chauvinism is unleashed. Working with a late-career rigorousness, Visconti returns one last time to the luxuriant, red velvet world of the 19th century, stripping away operatic excess in favor of a supremely controlled emotional intensity. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Saturday, June 16, 6:00pm; Monday, June 18, 9:00pm
 
The Leopard / Il gattopardo
Italy/France, 1963, 186m; Italian, Latin, and French with English subtitles
Visconti reached new heights of epic grandeur with his sweeping, Palme d’Or-winning account of political upheaval and generational sea change in Risorgimento-era Italy. A bewhiskered Burt Lancaster is the leonine patriarch of a ruling class Bourbon family in the last gasps of its dominance as Garibaldi and his redshirts upend social order and a new spirit ascends—embodied by beautiful people Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. With fastidious attention to period detail, Visconti evokes a gilded world fading into oblivion, his camera gliding over baroque palazzos, magnificent banquets, and ornate ceremonies. It all culminates in a majestic, dusk-to-dawn ball sequence that is as poignant as it is breathtaking. Restored in association with Cineteca di Bologna, Pathé, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Twentieth Century Fox, and CSC-Cineteca Nazionale. Restoration funding by Gucci and The Film Foundation.
Friday, June 15, 6:00pm; Sunday, June 17, 1:00pm.

 


 
Ossessione
Italy, 1943, 140m; Italian with English subtitles
Considered by many the first neorealist masterpiece, Visconti’s bombshell debut is a sexy, sweaty adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. The chiseled Massimo Girotti is the penniless drifter who breezes into unhappily married Clara Calamai’s whistle-stop roadhouse, setting the stage for a torrid saga of lust, murder, and betrayal. In blending the sordid source material with an earthy evocation of underclass life, Visconti incurred the wrath of the Fascist censors, who promptly suppressed the film. Among their objections was the homoerotic charge supplied by a character not in Cain’s novel: a gay, communist artist, whom one is tempted to read as a stand-in for the queer, Marxist Visconti. Restored by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, CSC-Cineteca Nazionale and VIGGO. Saturday, June 9, 5:15pm; Wednesday, June 13, 6:30pm
 
Rocco and His Brothers / Rocco e i suoi fratelli
Italy/France, 1960, 177m; Italian with English subtitles
Visconti’s rich and expansive masterpiece has an emotional intensity and tragic grandeur matched by few other films. The director turned to Giovanni Testori, Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky, and Arthur Miller for inspiration, achieving a truly epic sweep for this story of a mother and her grown sons who head north from Lucania in search of work and new lives. In one beautifully realized scene after another, we observe a tightly knit family coming apart, one frayed thread at a time. Alain Delon is Rocco, Renato Salvatori is his brother Simone, Annie Girardot is the woman who comes between them, and Katina Paxinou is matriarch Rosaria. One of the defining films of its era, Rocco and His Brothers has been beautifully restored, and Giuseppe Rotunno’s black and white images are as pearly and lustrous today as they were always meant to be. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna in association with Titanus, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels and The Film Foundation. Restoration funding by Gucci and The Film Foundation. Friday, June 8, 2:30pm; Saturday, June 9, 8:00pm
 
Sandra / Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa...
Italy, 1965, 105m; Italian with English subtitles
Shady family secrets, incestuous siblings, descents into madness, decades-old conspiracies . . .  With Sandra, Visconti traded The Leopard’s elegiac grandeur for something grittier and pulpier—the Electra myth in the form of a gothic melodrama. Claudia Cardinale’s title character returns to her ancestral home in Tuscany and has an unexpected encounter with her long-lost brother and a reckoning with her family’s dark wartime past. Shooting in a decaying mansion set amidst a landscape of ruins, Visconti came upon the great theme he would return to in his late career: the slow death of an aristocracy rooted in classical ideals but long since hollowed out by decadence and corruption. Sunday, June 10, 5:45pm; Friday, June 15, 3:45pm.


 

Senso
Italy, 1954, 35mm, 123m; Italian and German with English subtitles
Set amidst Italy’s struggle for unification, Visconti’s operatic melodrama is a key link between the neorealist grit of his early work and the increasingly grand-scale historical spectacles to come. The Third Man’s Alida Valli plays a tremulous 19th-century Venetian countess torn between loyalty to her country and a dissolute Austrian officer (Hollywood beauty Farley Granger). As much an aesthete as a political radical, Visconti luxuriates in the aristocratic period trappings—a Technicolor feast of sumptuous gold, lavender, scarlet, and emerald jewel tones—while casting a jaundiced eye on Italian history, class, and nationalism. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Tuesday, June 12, 6:30pm
 
The Stranger / Lo straniero

Italy/France/Algeria, 1967, 35mm, 104m; French and Italian with English subtitles
Visconti brilliantly translates Albert Camus’s landmark work of existential humanism to the screen in this shattering adaptation. Marcello Mastroianni is (perhaps unexpectedly) perfectly cast as the alienated atheist Meursault, who, due to a series of seemingly random events, shoots an Arab man on an Algerian beach and finds himself on trial for murder. The cosmic absurdity of Camus’s vision is delivered with a gut-punch by Visconti and Mastroianni in a stunning final scene that stands as one of the actor’s greatest moments. Long unavailable (and never released on DVD), The Stranger deserves to be rediscovered for its singular, haunting power. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Friday, June 8, 9:30pm; Tuesday, June 12, 9:00pm.


 
La Terra trema
Italy, 1948, 160m; Italian with English subtitles
In Visconti’s Sicilian masterpiece, a fisherman’s budding leadership of the local labor force threatens the price-fixing schemes of wholesalers all too willing to put down an incipient rebellion. Based on a classic novel by Giovanni Verga, La Terra trema was one of the most formally daring of all neorealist works, establishing the template for dozens of later films that would examine the emergence of political consciousness. The many extraordinary sequences are played out by a cast of actual fishermen, who are, to critic André Bazin, filmed as though “Renaissance princes.” Digital restoration from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Saturday, June 9, 2:00pm; Monday, June 11, 6:00pm
 
White Nights / Le notti bianche
Italy/France, 1957, 35mm, 101m; Italian with English subtitles
Visconti’s adaptation of a classic short story by Dostoevsky is a ravishing romantic reverie in incandescent black and white. Marcello Mastroianni is the lonely flâneur who meets and falls in love with a fragile young woman (Maria Schell) amidst the fog-shrouded night world of the Tuscan canal city of Livorno. The resulting tale of all-consuming love and loss is a swooning dream vision elevated to the nearly operatic by Visconti’s rapturously stylized direction. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Sunday, June 10, 8:00pm; Wednesday, June 13, 9:15pm
 
For more information, please log on to https://www.filmlinc.org


THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER AND ISTITUTO LUCE CINECITTÀ PRESENTS THE 18TH EDITION OF OPEN ROADS: NEW ITALIAN CINEMA MAY 31 TO JUNE 6
Opening Night selection is Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s “Sicilian Ghost Story” 
17-film festival features nine North American and seven New York premieres

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema is the leading screening series to offer North American audiences a diverse and extensive lineup of contemporary Italian films. This year’s 18th edition again strikes a balance between emerging talents and esteemed veterans, commercial and independent fare, outrageous comedies, gripping dramas, and captivating documentaries, with in-person appearances by many of the filmmakers.

This year’s edition showcases 17 titles, including the premiere of “Boys Cry,” a gritty gangster genre debut by the D’Innocenzo brothers; Roberto De Paolis’ feature debut about youthful self-discovery, “Pure Hearts”; Sergio Castellitto’s emotionally raw “Fortunata,” featuring legendary Rainer Werner Fassbinder, leading lady Hanna Schygulla and Jasmine Trinca, who won the Un Certain Regard Best Actress prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival; and three works by returning Open Roads filmmakers: Marco Tullio Giordana’s “Nome di donna,” Ferzan Ozpetek’s “Naples in Veils,” and Vincenzo Marra’s “Equilibrium.” 

Open Roads will also present “Rainbow: A Private Affair,” the latest and final film by legendary filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Vittorio sadly passed away this April at age 88), paired with a special screening of their classic Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner, “The Night of the Shooting Stars”; as well as the new digital restoration of iconoclast Marco Ferreri’s “The Ape Woman,” screening with Anselma Dell’Olio’s new documentary about the provocateur, “Marco Ferreri: Dangerous but Necessary.”

Tickets for Open Roads: New Italian Cinema the Visconti retrospective go on sale May 18, with Film Society members receiving an early access period beginning May 15. Tickets are $15; $12 for students, seniors (62+), and persons with disabilities; and $10 for Film Society members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or Open Roads Access Pass. All screenings take place at the Walter Reade Theater at 165 West 65th Street, unless otherwise noted.

The films and screenings are:

SICILIAN GHOST STORY  
Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza, Italy, 2017, 120m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Thursday, May 31, 1:00pm & 6:00pm (Q&A with Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza).

Winner of the David di Donatello award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s spellbinding follow-up to their acclaimed 2013 drama “Salvo” is by turns fantastic and ripped-from-the-headlines feature. One day after school, 12-year-old Luna (Julia Jedlikowska) follows her classmate crush Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez) into a possibly enchanted forest - and, just like that, he vanishes. Was he kidnapped by the Mafia, for whom his father used to work as an assassin before he turned informant? Grassadonia and Piazza’s film, based on true events, renders Luna’s quest for the truth as a transfixing blend of realism and mythology.   

THE APE WOMAN / LA DONNA SCIMMIA
Marco Ferreri, Italy/France, 1964, 100m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Tuesday, June 5, 8:45pm.

One of Marco Ferreri’s earliest and most beloved films, “The Ape Woman” is inspired by the true story of 19th-century carnival performer Julia Pastrana. Annie Girardot gives a signature performance as Marie the Ape Woman, an ex-nun whose body is completely covered in black hair. She is discovered at a convent by sleazy entrepreneur Focaccia (Ugo Tognazzi), who marries her and swiftly gets her on the freak show circuit to cash in on her distinctive appearance. A freewheeling satire both hilarious and grotesque, “The Ape Woman” is distinguished by the irreverent wit and anarchic energy of Ferreri’s greatest work. New digital restoration!

BEAUTIFUL THINGS
Giorgio Ferrero & Federico Biasin, Italy/Switzerland/USA, 2017, 94m; North American Premiere. Sunday, June 6, 6:00pm (Q&A with Giorgio Ferrero).

This wildly ambitious documentary follows four men who work in isolation at remote scientific and industrial sites around the world. Like monks, they carry out their daily tasks in silence and solitude, creating products soon to enter the capitalist cycle of production, consumption, and destruction. A ravishingly beautiful audiovisual experience, Giorgio Ferrero and Federico Biasin’s debut feature is a transfixing work about the origins of consumer society imbued with a musical sense of rhythm (Ferrero is also a composer and sound editor) and a wealth of aesthetic ideas about the way we live now. 

BOYS CRY / LA TERRA DELL’ABBASTANZA
Damiano & Fabio D'Innocenzo, Italy, 2018, 96m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Sunday, June 3, 3:30pm (Q&A with Damiano & Fabio D'Innocenzo) Tuesday, June 5, 2:30pm.

The D’Innocenzo brothers reinvigorate the gangster genre with their gritty, surprising debut feature, set on the outskirts of Rome. Best friends and aspiring restaurateurs Manolo (Andrea Carpenzano) and Mirko (Matteo Olivetti) kill a pedestrian in a car accident, kicking off a series of events that enmesh them with the local crime syndicate and push their mutual allegiance to the breaking point. Smart, stylish, and muscular, this critical hit at the 2018 Berlinale announces the D’Innocenzos as formidable and film-savvy new voices in Italian cinema. 

 

CRATER / IL CRATERE
Silvia Luzi & Luca Bellino, Italy, 2017, 93m Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Saturday, June 2, 1:00pm (Q&A with Silvia Luzi & Luca Bellino) Monday, June 4, 4:15pm.

Documentarians Luzi and Bellino’s fiction debut stars Rosario and Sharon Caroccia (playing versions of themselves) as a carnival worker and his ostensibly unambitious daughter. He dreams she will hit it big as a pop singer, but when Sharon loses interest in pursuing this potentially lucrative profession, tensions build between the two. Luzi and Bellino summon their nonfiction filmmaking background to lend naturalism and spontaneity to this tale of helicopter-parenting that consciously recalls Luchino Visconti’s “Bellissima.” Crater is a moving parable about the gulf that exists between our desires and those of the people closest to us.




DIVA!
Francesco Patierno, Italy, 2017, 75m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Friday, June 1, 4:00pm (Q&A with Francesco Patierno) Wednesday, June 6, 8:30pm.

Valentina Cortese starred in films by such masters as Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, and François Truffaut (she was nominated for an Oscar for her turn as an over-the-hill, hard-drinking thespian in the latter’s “Day for Night”). In this inventive work of cinematic biography, eight actresses play Cortese at various stages of her career, amidst a kaleidoscopic of film clips and archival footage. In a work that is by turns glamorous, celebratory, and soberly confessional, Cortese often addresses the viewer directly, yielding a direct and engaging portrait of an actress whose offscreen complexity often exceeded the roles she memorably incarnated. 



EQUILIBRIUM / L’EQUILIBRIO  
Vincenzo Marra, Italy, 2017, 90m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Sunday, June 3, 1:00pm (Q&A with Vincenzo Marra), Wednesday, June 6, 4:30pm.

The director of “Vento di terra” returns to Open Roads with this realist parable about faith and crime in Campania. After Roman priest Don Giuseppe (Mimmo Borrelli) begins developing an attraction to an employee of the refugee center where he works, he requests a transfer, settling just north of Naples. There, he finds himself in conflict with the Camorra when he tries to intervene in the local industrial-waste crisis. Working with a mix of professionals and non-actors, Marra renders a scrappy, moving drama about the antagonism between religious belief and the modern world. 



LOOK UP / GUARDA IN ALTO
Fulvio Risuleo, Italy/France, 2017, 90m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Sunday, June 3, 8:30pm.

While taking a cigarette break on a rooftop in Rome, a young baker (Giacomo Ferrara) notices a curious fowl plummeting from the sky. He crosses from one rooftop to the next to get a closer look, and what he discovers is the beginning of a journey down an urban rabbit hole of incredible situations and bizarre characters (including one played by a delightfully off-kilter Lou Castel). Documentary filmmaker Fulvio Risuleo’s fiction debut is an odd bird indeed, an unpredictable and imaginative twist on the road movie that evokes “Alice in Wonderland” and recalls the early work of Michel Gondry. 



FORTUNATA
Sergio Castellitto, Italy, 2017, 103m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Friday, June 1, 6:15pm (Q&A with Jasmine Trinca) Monday, June 4, 2:00pm.

Jasmine Trinca plays the ironically named Fortunata, a young mother and hairdresser living in Rome whose ambitions are constantly thwarted by inept, needy friends and family baggage. Awaiting a divorce from her soon-to-be-ex-husband and dealing with the resultant issues her 8-year-old daughter has developed, Fortunata begins taking her daughter to a handsome child therapist (Stefano Accorsi), with whom she has immediate chemistry. Also featuring legendary German actress Hanna Schygulla, “Fortunata” is an emotionally raw melodrama anchored by Trinca’s powerhouse performance, which earned her the Best Actress prize in the Un Certain Regard section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. 


MARCO FERRERI: DANGEROUS BUT NECESSARY / LA LUCIDA FOLLIA DI MARCO FERRERI
Anselma Dell’Olio, Italy, 2017, 77m; Italian and French with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Tuesday, June 5, 6:30pm.

“Marco Ferreri: Dangerous but Necessary” is a complex, multilayered portrait that seeks to give an under-appreciated iconoclast his due. Directed by journalist-critic (and former Ferreri collaborator) Anselma Dell’Olio, the film draws upon interviews with such performers as Isabelle Huppert, Roberto Benigni, Hanna Schygulla, and Ornella Muti, as well as cinematic luminaries like Philippe Sarde and Dante Ferretti, to make the case for Ferreri as a figure who belongs on the same historical wavelength as such artistic revolutionaries as Godard, Fassbinder, and Buñuel. This fast-paced documentary’s enthusiasm for its legendarily provocative subject is positively infectious.  




NOME DI DONNA
Marco Tullio Giordana, Italy, 2018, 90m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Saturday, June 2, 3:30pm (Q&A with Marco Tullio Giordana), Tuesday, June 5, 4:30pm.

A woman courageously tries to break the silence in a culture of complicity surrounding sexual harassment in this all-too-timely film from Open Roads veteran Marco Tullio Giordana. Nina (Cristiana Capotondi) is a single mother who takes a job at a home for the elderly in Lombardy, where the inappropriate verbal treatment of her new manager (Bebo Storti) turns into outright assault. Nina’s quest to seek justice brings her face to face with the cultural and institutional mechanisms that allowed for the harassment in the first place. Ultimately, Nina is one of the most multidimensional and inspiring protagonists in recent Italian cinema. 



NAPLES IN VEILS / NAPOLI VELATA
Ferzan Ozpetek, Italy, 2017, 113m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Saturday, June 2, 8:30pm (Q&A with Ferzan Ozpetek).

In this moody, baroque thriller from Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek, Giovanna Mezzogiorno stars as Adriana, a medical examiner who meets Andrea (Alessandro Borghi) during a party at her eccentric aunt’s garish apartment. They hit it off immediately, though their romance is curtailed when Andrea later stands her up. While inspecting a corpse at work, Adriana notices a distinctive tattoo that reminds her of Andrea’s - at least as she remembers it. So begins a gripping metaphysical murder mystery, in which Naples becomes a shadowy, mysterious labyrinth of desire and memory. 


THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STARS / LA NOTTE DI SAN LORENZO 
Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, Italy, 1982, 35mm, 105m; Italian with English subtitles. Monday, June 4, 8:45pm.
 
The Taviani brothers’ crowning achievement and winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, “The Night of the Shooting Stars” remains one of cinema’s great war films. The story of a group of Italians in Tuscany fleeing the Nazis, who intend to bomb their small town before it can be liberated by the Americans, is an enthralling chronicle of everyday people refusing to sit back and wait for history to redeem them. This tonally eclectic, humanistic masterwork affectingly melds comedy, tragedy, and melodrama to convey the resilience of the Italian people during the war’s darkest hours. 


THE PLACE
Paolo Genovese, Italy, 2017, 105m, Italian with English subtitles. New York Premiere. Thursday, May 31, 3:30pm & 9:00pm (Q&A with Paolo Genovese at the 9:00pm screening).

An enigmatic, nameless man (Valerio Mastandrea) sits in the corner of a bar, receiving visitor after visitor. They tell him of their profoundest wishes and desires, and he assures them they can have exactly what they want . . . but there will be a price, and the extreme deeds they must perform will lead them to question who they are and to what lengths they will go. An elegant reworking of the American television series “The Booth at the End,” this gripping, minimalist moral thriller boasts an all-star cast that includes Alba Rohrwacher, Silvio Muccino, and Rocco Papaleo.




PURE HEARTS / CUORI PURI  
Roberto De Paolis, Italy, 2017, 114m. Italian with English subtitles. New York Premiere. Friday, June 1, 8:45pm (Q&A with Roberto De Paolis). Wednesday, June 6, 2:00pm.

An impeccably acted drama about youthful self-discovery, De Paolis’ feature debut is a fresh take on the “opposites attract” tale, set on the outskirts of Rome. Seventeen-year-old Agnese (Barbora Bobulova) plans to take a vow of chastity to appease her intensely devout mother, but then she encounters 25-year-old parking lot attendant Stefano (Simone Liberati) while shoplifting a cell phone. Stefano represents for Agnese an alternative way of being in the world beyond the strictures of the church, from which she feels increasingly alienated. Partly improvised and deftly filmed by DP Claudio Cofrancesco, “Pure Hearts” marks an auspicious debut for De Paolis. 


RAINBOW: A PRIVATE AFFAIR / UNA QUESTIONE PRIVATA
Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, Italy, 2017, 85m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Friday, June 1, 2:00pm. Monday, June 4, 6:30pm. 

Few filmmakers have better embodied Italian cinema over the past 50 years than the Taviani brothers. Their latest and final film together (Vittorio died in April) is an elegant tale of young love caught in the whirlwind of war, loosely adapted from a book by Beppe Fenoglio. Set near Turin in 1944, “Rainbow” follows student Milton (Luca Marinelli) and his friend Giorgio (Lorenzo Richelmy), who both love the same woman (Valentina Belle). Their friendship is put to the ultimate test against a backdrop of violent struggle after the two men are swept up in the anti-fascist movement. A sensitive, atmospheric film about the connection between the personal and the global, this is an essential capstone to the Tavianis’ vital oeuvre. 

STORIES OF LOVE THAT CANNOT BELONG TO THIS WORLD / AMORI CHE NON SANNO STARE AL MONDO 
Francesca Comencini, Italy, 2017, 92m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Saturday, June 2, 6:00pm (Q&A with Lucia Mascino). Wednesday, June 6, 6:30pm.

Francesca Comencini adapts her own novel for this intelligent, intensely felt romantic comedy. Academics Claudia (Lucia Mascino) and Flavio (Thomas Trabacchi) have been a couple for seven years, but their physically and intellectually passionate relationship seems to have reached an impasse, and neither of them understands why. As a result, Claudia begins a process of reflection and self-exploration to come to terms with Flavio’s love in light of her own insecurities and neuroses. This funny, charming movie reveals the inner work we must do in order to move on with our lives. 


The Film Society of Lincoln Center is devoted to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema. The only branch of the world-renowned arts complex, Lincoln Center shines a light on the everlasting yet evolving importance of the moving image. This nonprofit organization was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international films. Via year-round programming and discussions; its annual New York Film Festival; and its publications, including “Film Comment,” the U.S. premier magazine about films and film culture, the Film Society endeavors to make the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broader audience, as well as to ensure that it remains an essential art form for years to come.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Shutterstock, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. For more information, visit filmlinc.org

Istituto Luce Cinecittà is the state-owned company whose main shareholder is the Italian Ministry for Culture subsidizing its activities on an annual basis. Istituto Luce Cinecittà holds one of the most important European film and photographic archives in which materials are collected and digitally categorized, including its own productions and materials, derived from private collections and acquisitions by a variety of sources. Istituto Luce Cinecittà owns a film library, Cineteca, containing around 3000 titles of the most significant Italian film productions in order to promote Italian culture at major national and international institutes around the world. In collaboration with the Italian Ministry for the Foreign Affairs, restorations and new prints are added every year. 

Istituto Luce Cinecittà cooperates with major film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Locarno, New York, London by organizing national selections, guaranteeing the presence of Italian films and artists in the various festivals, and by providing multifunctional spaces to help the promotion of our cinematography and it is the reference place for all Italian and foreign operators. It is also involved with the direct organization of numerous Film Festival around the world: The Festival of Italian Cinema in Tokyo, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema in New York, London¹s Cinema Made in Italy, Mittelcinemafest, and The Festival of Italian Cinema in Barcelona, Istanbul, and Buenos Aires. For more information, visit www.filmitalia.org and www.cinecitta.com

 

 

LUCA CHIELLINI – FROM TOSCANY TO THE LAND OF THE BLUES

The journey of pianist, keyboardist and singer Luca Chiellini started in the countryside of Tuscany, Italy, where he was born and grew up. After playing music all his life and at the same time pursuing a career in the pharmacy business, he left Italy and the medical field with a one-way ticket to Chicago and he found fortune in America playing with the top names in the Blues.

He now tours with Alligator Record’s artist and Chicago’s very own Toronzo Cannon, playing all over the world on the biggest stages of Blues and Rock music.
Toronzo Cannon established himself as one of the most important bluesman of the moment with his record released in 2016, “The Chicago Way”, and the tour supporting the album brought Cannon, Chiellini and the band all over the US, Canada, Central America, Europe.

Luca Chiellini, who brings the Italian tradition with him in his music and his touring, has also his own band and performs internationally as a solo artist on piano and vocals.
His debut Blues album will be presented next September 2018 and his first single “Warm Heart”, from his instrumental project, will be released on digital platforms and his website on July 17th, 2018, on the day of Chiellini’s solo show at the International Festival of the Teatro Romano in Volterra, Italy.

You can catch Luca Chiellini playing on tour with Toronzo Cannon and with his own project in the Chicago area and all over the world.

For information log on to www.lucachiellini.com

 

 

IS ITALY SHIFTING HARD RIGHT?
What an Italian-American Professor Observed of Italian Politics on a Recent Visit to Milan
By Dennis Barone

For the moment at least, it seems Italian politics no longer thrives on a north/south split, but rather on one that pits Italy against the rest of Europe.

I went to Milan to see if during a brief visit one can understand Italy’s severe north/south division that has existed since unification. Milan is the home of the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, and nationalist Lega Nord political party led by Matteo Salvini. As one racialized slogan put it: Risotto yes, couscous no. Historically, Milan has been the center of northern Italy’s anti-southern Italian bias, a view that prejudicially and in a racist manner postulates that everything south of Rome is Africa. It is a view that holds that southern Italians are mentally slow and morally corrupt; in short, the south has been a drain on the more advanced and governable north and that the latter would be better off without the former. Is this animosity evident while briefly visiting this northern capital, I wondered?

I found that things do change -- and not necessarily for the better. At the start of my visit the nation had no government and by the end of it, a new coalition government was formed by Salvini and his Lega Nord party and by the young populist Luigi Di Maio and his 5-Star Movement. For both of these leaders and their constituents, the scapegoat has changed from southern Italians to northern Africans. Will such a change be good for those Italians living south of Rome? I doubt it. For this kind of politics has fear and division as its roots.

I noted that Di Maio was born in southern Italy, in Avellino and that the man Di Maio and Salvini had put forth to be Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, came from a small town in the province of Foggia. The person proposed to be minister of justice, Guilia Bongiorno, came from even farther south – Palermo, Sicily.

But these southerners and their northern colleagues find shared enemies in today’s global migrants. These would-be leaders also oppose the trans-national Euro-zone. Some of them want to stop a tunnel project that would connect Italy and France. Some seem to shout - keep the French out. Keep the Tunisians out. Italy is for the Italians which for the moment includes those from Avellino, Foggia, and Palermo.

I was a tourist. A scholarly tourist, but a tourist nonetheless. Thus, the shifts of governments and citing of articles in the Italian constitution did not directly touch me; though fascinating, I found the maneuvering. On the streets of Milan everyone seemed friendly, affluent, and stylish. One would not guess from the historic center of Milan that the nation nears financial crisis. Everyone strolls about with shopping bags brimming with purchases.

In central Milan I saw few panhandlers. Is this the work of a vigilant Carabinieri? Heavily armed security seem ubiquitous although no one seems disturbed by their presence; rather, perhaps they are assured. Farther out from the center I saw young people who seemed to be homeless or jobless migrants – or could this impression have been the result of a prejudicial lens of my own? Near my hotel I saw one line of graffiti (and only this one line) that read: “Public education creates socialists,” its intention ambiguous.

The small Risorgimento Museum on the picturesque Via Borgonuovo emphasizes the central role Milan had in the unification of Italy. For example, the museum extensively describes the Five Days revolt against Austrian rulers in March 1848. The south appears neither criticized nor slighted here. The “Album of the Thousand” shows card-like images of all soldiers who joined Garibaldi’s southern Italian military expedition of 1860, the campaign that brought Italy to modern nationhood.

The reputation of the Italian fiction writer Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) rests on the work he set in his native Sicily. But Verga lived much of his life in Milan and often set his writing in this bustling northern capital. In one of these fictions, he describes “those ill-fated daydreams that pour into Milan from every corner of Italy to turn pale and fade away […].” Now those with dreams pour into Milan not just from the Italian peninsula, but from the entire Mediterranean world. At least they do so for now, but perhaps not for much longer.

 

 

THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH
Full Coverage of The New Documentary by William Friedkin, Director of “The Exorcist” and “The French Connection”
- PRIMO's Review of the Film
- Highlighted Scenes of Italian Landmarks in the Film
- To Come Later...William Friedkin Shares Insights into How and Where "The Exorcist" Was Made in Washington, D.C.

 





Satan is busy.

Cases of demonic possession are on the rise. We learn at the beginning of “The Devil and Father Amorth” that 500,000 people in Italy request an exorcism every year. The same goes for Spain and many countries in Latin America. More people are coming forward with claims that the devil or demons are taking over their bodies. The demand for Catholic intervention is high. So much so that the Vatican convenes a week long course each year to train priests to identify and cure demonic possessions. This workshop was first offered in 2005 and since then the number of priests in attendance have doubled to 250.

The model is Father Gabriele Amorth. He was a pioneer in the field of exorcism and a champion fighter against the devil. Father Amorth was the official exorcist of the diocese of Rome from 1992 until his death in 2016. As the foremost expert on demonic possession, he was often newsworthy. In recent years, he made a host of stunning revelations such as “Harry Potter,” yoga, and other contemporary offerings were just instruments of the devil. He said whole groups, even countries could be possessed. He thought ISIS was overtaken by Satan as were both Hitler and Stalin. He even thought the devil’s spirit had infected the Vatican.

Never mind the headlines, Father Amorth was no charlatan. The practice of exorcism has its rules and regulations. In 1990, he along with five other priests founded the International Association of Exorcists. The organization based in Rome retains a mission to review cases of demonic possession and share information on how best to combat the devil. A set of principles remain in place. An exorcism is the last resort. Only when a person is uncured after examination and treatment by licensed physicians and psychologists can she be seen by an exorcist. Often, it was Father Amorth who was called upon to expel demonic spirits. Before he died in 2016, he claimed to have performed over 150,000 exorcisms.

Now comes a new film to further establish Father Amorth’s legacy. It is “The Devil and Father Amorth,” a disturbing yet fascinating documentary now showing in movie theaters across the country. The film recounts the work of Father Amorth and shows the first ever authorized account of him performing an exorcism. The film comes to us from the man who is rightly credited, along with William Peter Blatty, for advancing the concept of demonic possession throughout the world. He is the director of “The Exorcist,” William Friedkin.

A list of America’s greatest filmmakers of the last 50 years will no doubt include William Friedkin. He is a lead member of a generation of directors that came of age in the 1970s such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg.

It was Friedkin who practically kicked off the decade when he won the Oscar for best director in 1971 for “The French Connection.” The film also won an Oscar that year for best picture and for best actor, Gene Hackman. Friedkin followed that success with another. In 1973, he made “The Exorcist.” If there ever was a film that deserved an Oscar for best direction and best film, it was “The Exorcist.” But it was shockingly bypassed that year when Oscars for best director, best film and a host of other categories went to “The Sting.”

With or without Oscars, Friedkin’s two back-to-back cinematic masterpieces gave him the credibility to embark on his most personal and ambitious film, yet; one he still considers his favorite, “Sorcerer.” It was a 1977 remake or reinterpretation of the 1953 Italian-French production “Wages of Fear,” as directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. “Sorcerer” contained Friedkin’s signature intensity and innovation. It came with tight frames, handheld shots and, as always, a fast pace. The film was bold and provocative but not a hit. It was greeted with ambivalence among critics and suffered from bad timing when it was released the same summer as “Star Wars.”

Friedkin’s career underwent reevaluation with his later films. Always a vanguard, he wrote and directed “Cruising,” a 1980 film slightly ahead of its time that starred Al Pacino. It was a dark and sinister post-noir journey of New York’s underground gay S&M scene. He made “To Live and Die in LA,” a 1985 crime thriller that featured a riveting car chase reminiscent of “The French Connection.” Good and bad scripts then came the director’s way. He could still tell a good story as he did in “Killer Joe” and “The Hunted.” What was lacking was nirvana. The critical and popular acclaim he found in “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist” went missing. That is until now…

“The Devil and Father Amorth” is Friedkin at his best. He gives us a riveting documentary for a new generation to savor his unique style. It is 1973 all over again. The film latches on to the viewer within its first few seconds and doesn’t let go until the last credits roll. The film is horrifying, disturbing and controversial. The belief in God is confronted head-on. It is a stark and mesmerizing exploration of terror and faith. The viewer is not the same after seeing this film.

Friedkin said that he is at his best when he approaches a film as a journalist. This is what he did in “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist” and what he does here in “The Devil and Father Amorth.” He gives us a record. He shows us the action. He conveys the subjects as they are. We are left to decide. Do we believe or not?

Italy was a key reason why “The Devil and Father Amorth” was made. The film came about by chance and circumstance. Friedkin had been directing opera in Italy in recent years and was given the Puccini Prize in Lucca. He was enticed by the beautiful walled city and home of Giacomo Puccini. From there, he visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Italy had cast her spell. He wanted to see more. Rome. The Vatican. St. Peter’s. The Sistine Chapel. He thought his friend, Andrea Monda, a religious scholar, could get him in to meet Pope Francis, but that was not possible. The pope was on travel. Was there anyone else he wanted to meet? Father Amorth, he said. And if possible, could he observe an exorcism. And if possible, could he film it.

This was a first. Exorcisms are intensely private. Only family of the person possessed and selected priests can attend. Father Amorth, however, knew Friedkin from his work in cinema. “The Exorcist” was his favorite film, he said, and one he claimed was a vital step forward in enlightening the general public about demonic possession and exorcism.

Born in Modena in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region in 1925, Gabriele Amorth came from an upper middle class family. As a teenager, he became a partisan fighter when Mussolini returned from exile and established the Salo Republic. Gabriele fought beside socialists, communists, and anarchists. Yet, he came out of the conflict with the hope of stabilizing Italy. He worked in the youth wing of the Christian Democrat party and helped Giulio Andreotti, Italy’s future prime minister, get elected to parliament. In 1951, he was ordained a priest and joined the Society of Saint Paul, a religious institute founded by Father James Alberione in Alba, with a goal of spreading the Gospel through modern communication. In 1986, he began an apprenticeship in exorcism under Father Candido Amantini. After Father Amantini died in 1992, Father Amorth became the official exorcist of the diocese of Rome.

In an opening scene of “The Devil and Father Amorth,” we see Father Amorth make his way with a walker through the halls of the Order of Saint Paul office and rectory. It is the first day of May and his birthday. He is 91. Old and frail, the cleric is set to face his arch enemy Lucifer.  The subject for dispossession is an Italian woman in her early 40s who goes by the name Cristina. Reality is apparent. The film is different than its inspirational predecessor “The Exorcist.” Cristina comes without green bile or other makeup effects. She seems normal. She is an architect. She has a boyfriend. Yet, she claims the devil is inside her. He pushes her to do things against her will. We see her sitting on a chair covered in a red sheet. Her family is there with her. She is held down by several men. Father Amorth initiates the Roman Ritual of 1614. He holds the crucifix. He calls for the intercession of saints. He leads the participants in prayer. He then orders the devil from Cristina’s body.

Friedkin was the lone filmmaker in the room. He records a fight on a simple handheld video camera. It is the devil versus Father Amorth. It is an evil parasite against the power of Christ. Cristina struggles to be released. She tries to overpower the men holding her down. She then screams in anger. The voice is deeper, scratchier and maybe not her’s.

Footage of the exorcism is just one part of “The Devil and Father Amorth.” As he did in “The Exorcist” and “The French Connection,” Friedkin conveys the complexities of a story without one part overshadowing the other. He takes the audience from Rome to Los Angeles where he shows footage of the exorcism to brain and neuro surgeons at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. He visits psychiatrists at Columbia University in New York. He then returns west to speak with Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles Robert Barron.

The film sets up the never-ending debate between the Old World and New. Ideas and beliefs collide. Faith versus science. Myth versus reality.  The medical experts in the film admit to not knowing the exact cause of Cristina’s violent reaction during exorcism. UCLA surgeons surmise a malfunction in the temporal lobe. However, they are open to other causes and treatments outside the practice of medicine. There soon appears on screen a digital map of the brain. Demonic possession might be a delusion resulting from a tumor. The team of psychiatrists at Columbia University are more confident in their diagnosis. They believe Cristina suffers from Dissociative Trance and Possession Disorder. Although open to other causes and effects, the rituals of faith may have overwhelmed Cristina. The intercession of saints. The signs of the cross. The use of Holy Water. Maybe she has fallen prey to group think and the pressures of mysticism.

Then comes the most noteworthy of interviews in Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles. He is smart, calm and articulate. He begins with equivocation about demonic possession and the need for exorcism. Yet, as the interview progresses, he makes a starling revelation. He admits to being unqualified to perform an exorcism. He does not have the acumen to take on the devil. He lacks the level of spirituality as endowed by Father Amorth.

The music. The raw close ups. The tight shots and intimate framing. The unrehearsed comments by experts. This is the kind of documentary we we grew up on. What puts the “The Devil and Father Amorth” above the current fare of contemporary documentaries is Friedkin’s signature style. He remains a master of confrontation. He holds nothing back. Although he says the film is different than “The Exorcist,” we cannot help but make a connection between the two. It is the aging Father Amorth who is the film’s central character. He died some months after Cristina’s exorcism. He is in many ways a carbon copy of Father Lancaster Merrin, the aging priest played by Max von Sydow in “The Exorcist.” Either in a non-fictional or fictional setting, the two priests are the same. They come armed with Scripture. They come endowed with the Cardinal virtue of fortitude. They come to do battle. In eithe