Studies in Italian American Folklore

By Luisa Del Giudice | Go to book overview

4
From the Paese to the Patria: An Italian American Pilgrimage to Rome in 1929 Dorothy Noyes

This is a story about the invention of Italy by immigrants in America. Those who know something of Italy's fragmented history, its multiple dialects, and its campanilismo (localism) immediately recognize the Italy of the American Columbus Day Parade as an "imagined community" ( Anderson 1983). The parade's evocations of Columbus, Dante, Leonardo, Marconi, and other "national" heroes and contributors to international history have very little to do with the southern-Italian village reality of the great-grandparents of the children marching in red, white, and green ski jackets.

But the Columbus Day Parade of the third generation is not a site of cultural loss; rather it is one of creation. In such ceremonies, an ethnic elite has brought to life the "Italian community," unified within and distinct without, of such northeastern cities as Philadelphia. "Italian community" in this context is not a spurious exoteric label born of American failure to discriminate, but the object of a well- developed civil religion found convincing by many Italian Americans.

It cannot be denied that the Italian community--which has often worked quite effectively as a voting bloc, for instance--was constructed opportunistically by a small group who sought to consolidate their own power base. It is the upper middle class that benefits politically and economically from an ethnic identity transcending local and

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