The Impact Of Italy And Italian-Americans On The United States Essay, Research Paper

The Impact of Italy and Italian-Americans on the United States

In January of 1999, I embarked on a pursuit to go more familiar with the Italian-American community and its rich heritage. As an aspirant Urban Planner, it is cardinal to my ends to larn more about the many civilizations that make up the fantastic mosaic that is New York City. To ease this journey, I enrolled in Italian-American Surveies 304 at Lehman under the tuition of Professor Anthony LaRuffa.

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Professor LaRuffa provided us with the academic foundation necessary to capture the full kernel of this vibrant and interesting community. The chief beginning of information we referred to was the ethnographic survey written by Professor LaRuffa entitled Monte Carmelo: An Italian-American Community in the Bronx. This book captures the bosom of the Italian-American community of Monte Carmelo and chase away the misconceptions that have long been ascribed to people of Italian descent.

This paper will seek to supply a topical analysis of Monte Carmelo and the selected readings from the Journal of Ethnic Groups. Particular accent will be topographic point to observe the impact of Italy and Italian Americans on the United States.

During a recent visit to Monte Carmelo, I can remember that the streets were decorated with streamers of ruddy, white, and green ; the odor of sausage and Piper nigrums in the air ; the friendly ambiance. All of which contribute to the festivals performed each and every twelvemonth in Monte Carmelo.

On one of its most seeable occasions, the Italian civilization comes to halfway phase. Everyone enjoys themselves irrespective of their heritage. And all are welcome, the august generousness and cordial reception associated with Italian civilization every bit vivacious as ever. It is at these times that everyone experiences and acknowledges all that Italian civilization has contributed to the uniquely American civilization. But what the mean festivalgoer does non see is that this civilization and joyous attitude is present most of the clip inside Italian households.


Even though America was discovered by an Italian ( Christopher Columbus ) , name for an Italian ( Amerigo Vespucci ) and explored by such Italian adventurers as Giovanni Verrazzano and John Cabot ( born Giovanni Caboto ) , it wasn t until the late nineteenth century that Italians began to emigrate in significant Numberss.

Between 1880 and 1920, four million immigrants sailed to the United States from Italy. They came chiefly from the southern states, the heel and toe of the Italian boot. These countries had fallen behind the industrial part of northern Italy where agribusiness had been modernized. Fusion of the state raised hopes of conveying advancement in the South, but that hope was ne’er filled.

In add-on to the economic and political factors mentioned supra, there were other contributory grounds which moved 1000000s of people to go forth their fatherlands to seek out new life in the United States.

Natural catastrophes and diseases may hold influenced one s determination. Malaria and Cholera were two diseases which enervated many of the people. La miseria was farther exacerbated by the periodic temblors, volcanic eruptions, and tidal moving ridges which killed 10s of 1000s of people and destroyed full communities.

Many of the Italian-Americans came to the United States in the early 1900 s. As they saw the Statue of Liberty for the first clip, they were invigorated by the chance of success. Some intended to pass merely a few months in America, earn as much money as they could, and the return place. Half did return place. After being processed at Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay and other in-migration centres, many of these rural Italians found themselves in urban ghettos like Manhattan s Lower Eat Side, working at humble occupations and crammed into narrow railway flats that lacked both heat and privateness. Others were westward bound, seeking their lucks in the gold Fieldss of California. But largely, they settled in urban industrial countries & # 8211 ; Boston, Newark, Philadelphia and Chicago where unskilled occupations were enough. Italians had to work themselves to the bone for low rewards. One public notice enrolling labourers in 1895 advertised the undermentioned wage rates for common labour:

Whites $ 1.30 & # 8211 ; $ 1.50

Colored $ 1.25 & # 8211 ; $ 1.40

Italians $ 1.15 & # 8211 ; $ 1.25

It s difficult to conceive of America without the rich and varied parts of the Italians. Populating in the United States among so many civilizations, one does non halt to inquire who created or contributed the things that one benefits from. Many of import points that Americans frequently take for granted came from Italy or were contributed by Italian-Americans. The parts to the United States from Italy and Italian-Americans are so legion that it is hard to name them all. They vary from manner and nutrient to music and scientific discipline.

The Italian interior decorators have ever been in the head of manner in conveying new manners and customized vesture to the manner witting public. Armani, Gucci, Versace, Valentino are merely some of the universe fame vesture creative persons. Along with being good dressed, nutrient is a passion for an Italian and in the United States it is about impossible to happen a town without an Italian eating house. The Italian culinary art is a favourite among Americans. Each dish represents the alone part that it comes from. Each roof of the mouth can be satisfied with an eternal list of dishes to take from. Spaghetti and Chicken Parmigiana have become as American as apple pie and hot Canis familiariss.

A great manner to follow up an eventide you have satisfied your appetency is to sit back and bask a assortment of Italian music, from the opera to the many popular Italian melodies such as Che Sara Sara. The music of Italy brings, as the Italians would state, allegria, enjoyment of life. The celebrated Italian music director, Arturo Toscanni, was among the finest and most admired instrumentalists of his clip.

He spent seven old ages of his celebrated calling at Metropolitan Opera every bit good as being the chief music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the NBC Symphony which was created for him in 1937. Another outstanding Italian was Phillip Mazzei, who collaborated with Thomas Jefferson on several essays about political freedom. In the universe of music, Italian immigrants played a important portion in our civilization. Lorenzo district attorney Ponte was Mozart s librettist for figure of his operas. Pietro Mascagni, a talented Italian composer, went west and provided classical music for frontier people in such topographic points as Wyoming. Included among the many other Italian persons who have contributed to the American mosaic are William Paca, who signed the Declaration for Independence ; Francis Mugavero, the first Italian-American bishop of Brooklyn ; John Pastore, Governor of Rhode Island and the first Italian-American in the U.S. Senate ; Mario Cuomo, Former Governor of New York ; Rudolph Guiliani current Mayor of New York City. The list is eternal.

Topical Analysis

Monte Carmelo offers the reader a comprehensive expression into the life styles, traditions and civilization of the Italian-American. It besides serves to clear up some of the stereotypes that have been held refering Italian-Americans. As a reader who has experienced Monte Carmelo or Little Italy ( as it is known to other cultural groups ) first manus, I stand as a informant to some of the events, attitudes and thoughts presented in the book. It is frequently stated that it is hard to objectively compose about an cultural group when you are a member of the group. Monte Carmelo written by Anthony LaRuffa who is himself Italian-American rises to the juncture and discredits this construct.

The true kernel of Italianita is conspicuously conveyed every bit good as the attempts to protect its death. I must province that one of the first decisions I arrived at while reading Monte Carmelo was that the names of people, topographic points and streets were changed. It didn t take me long to tie in the streets described in Monte Carmelo with their existent names. For me this added a small merriment to an already good read.

The other interesting disclosure for me came as a consequence of cognizing how similar the ways of Italian-Americans mirrored those that exists in other groups and specifically to my ain. The concerns of the older coevals that the ways of the yesteryear would be lost, the doomed of the female parent lingua and the Americanization and displacement of its young person are concerns that beset most foreign civilizations. One besides doesn t realize that the battles faced as the consequence of favoritism from other more prevailing groups could happened Inter-Racially. Certainly, in the 1990 s this job has captured centre phase with the repo

rts emanating out of Kosovo. But, it was striking for me to cognize how hard it was for the early Italian immigrants who arrived on the shores of the United States in the late nineteenth century as they faced a really hostile America. In Endearment or Antipathy? : Nineteenth century American attitudes toward Italians. Alexander DeConde writes As a consequence of this image ( negative ) and to a much greater extent and more openly than in the past, Italian colonists at the terminal of the 19th century encountered bias and ill will.

I must profess that it may be attributed to my ain ignorance of this history, but this had a lurid consequence upon me. I had ever viewed Italian-Americans as Whites and ne’er imagined that they had been to subject to the same biass I have been exposed to. It wasn T until I entered college that I learned that bias towards Italians was so blazing in American History. And certainly nil could hold prepared me for the information I was to be exposed to sing this history. I would hold ne’er believed that the Italians in New Orleans where the victims of the most flagitious mass lynching recorded in American history.

Probably no group has been vilified over the job of offense than the Italian-American. The negative stereotypes portrayed by the media have fueled this misconception. In Media portraitures of Italian-Americans Professor LaRuffa discourses on the many negative stereotypes that the media has perpetrated at the disbursal of Italian-Americans.

In his reasoning statement on the foregoing article, Professor LaRuffa writes Due to the scarceness of research informations on the peculiar effects of media portraitures on single Italian-Americans and on cultural groups as a whole, I had to weave together an reading based on spots and pieces. Whatever small grounds is available suggests that the cumulative impact of multi-medium portraitures over a reasonably long period of clip has proven to be more hurtful than good for Italian-Americans.

Since the decision of World War II, the Italian-Americans have been doing great paces within America. They have been deriving greater entry within the executive ranks of American concern. More and more Italian-Americans have been come ining the professions and in general their criterion of life has improved significantly. In add-on, the Italian-American, holding a strong desire to run his ain concern has seen these concerns expand and prosper. Entrepreneurship has ever been strong in the Italian-American community and the tradition has successfully continued into the last two decennaries of the 20th century. This is apparent when you stroll through Belmont and see that despite the important lessening in the figure of Italians who live at that place, the Italian-Americans remain the principal proprietors of all the concerns in the country. We learned from reading Monte Carmelo that much of this success was made possible, by the many associations who have vowed to maintain alive the homogeneousness of the country.

A civilization is based on shared traditions created overtime that are reenacted on a regular basis so that they become rites. These traditions are transmitted through words and actions. In America, we frequently speak of Italian-Americans as holding two linguistic communications, but do they hold two civilizations? What happened when Italian immigrant civilization shifted from idioms into English is the work of a life-time to calculate out. The inquiry that is face today is what do we necessitate to make to continue a cultural individuality, one that will non merely work for us today, but one that will see that our distinguishable civilization will continue overtime.

This is a major concern of the many characters that are profiled in Monte Carmelo and before we can reply that inquiry, we need to inquire merely what is it that needs to be preserved: our linguistic communication, our common people traditions, and our history? We need so to find merely where this should be preserved: in our places, our churches, our schools, our cultural centres? And eventually how should we preserved these: through linguistic communication classs for our kids, Cultural plans in our class schools, high schools and colleges, or a greater presence of diverseness and equality in our mainstream establishments?

In talking with some of my Italian-American friends they portion the concerns prefaced hereto and offered the undermentioned commentary. For many old ages, Italian-American civilization has been preserved in the places, and over the old ages, more likely than non, in the cellar, where grandfather made vino, where grandmother had a 2nd kitchen, and now where we store our material bequests and memories. Outside jubilations such as spiritual feste became the most of import public presentation of Italian-American civilization, but these one-year events were ne’er frequent plenty to protect Italian-American civilization from the regular mass media barrage of negative stereotypes.

The earliest Italian-American organisations were common benefit societies, which helped workers and their households get through tough fiscal times. As Italian-Americans improved their economic standing in the United States, those common assistance societies gave manner to insurance nines and civic organisations that were occupied with contending calumny. And while the attempts have, for the most portion, paid off, Italian-Americans have fallen far behind in other countries.

Where Italian-Americans have ne’er organized as a cultural group is in the mainstream establishments of instruction and authorities. The public plans that might hold taught Italian-Americans the value of their ain civilization and later bastioned future coevalss, the public plans that would hold challenged media-made feelings, were ne’er created apart from some of the dynamic group of professors whom I have borrowed much from in the completion of this paper. Our caputs for the most portion have remained in the cellars where Italian-American civilization is safe inside household jubilations.

Now is the clip to travel beyond the cellars of yesterday and out into the streets today. The love affair and calamity of early twentieth century in-migration can no longer function as theoretical accounts of individuality. The key to making a meaningful sense of civilization that means something to today s young person is to first insure that they have entree to histories, of their households and their communities, that we must supply them with historical and modern-day theoretical accounts in the countries of humanistic disciplines, concern, and instruction, that they can analyze, emulate and exceed. We have created scholarships for higher instruction, but we have done small to assist those appliers understand what their heritage is. This would be my response to the characters, the priest and the many associations who fear the doomed of their heritage through Americanization and displacement.

Since the mid-1960 s the Italian-Americans have been more active in contending anti-Italian favoritism and in seeking to battle the derogatory stereotypes that are frequently portrayed in the American mass media.

These unflattering stereotypes have without a uncertainty, hurt the Italian American community. The message it undertakings is clear as evidenced by the undermentioned statement by Professor LaRuffa:

Although it would be highly hard to show that certain media portraitures of Italian-Americans are responsible for specific attitudes and the images in the caputs of the people who make the determinations about term of office and publicity, hiring and fire, etc. , it would be virtually impossible to dismiss their impact wholly. Much of the message is subliminal, particularly since it is invariably repeated in multi-media signifiers and over a long period of clip.

However, there are alterations for the better occurring and it is safe to state that Italian-Americans will go on to spread out the positive parts that they have made to the United States.


Bernardo, Stephanie. 1881. The Cultural Almanac. New York: Doubleday.

DeConde, Alexander. 1982. Endearment or antipathy? : Nineteenth century American

attitudes toward Italians. Cultural Groups, Vol. 4. pp. 131-148. Great Britain:

Gordon and Breach.

LaRuffa, Anthony. 1982. Media portraitures of Italian-Americans. Ethnic Groups, Vol.4.

pp. 191-206. Great Britian: Gordon and Breach.

LaRuffa, Anthony. 1988. Monte Carmelo: An Italian-American Community in the

Bronx. Amsterdam: Overseas Publishers Association.

Tusiani, Joseph. 1982. The subjects of Deracination and Americanization in Gente Mia

And Other Poems. Ethnic Groups, Vol. 4. pp. 149-176. Great Britian: Gordon

and Breach.

Wechman, Robert. 1983. The Economic Development of the Italian-American. Prairie state:

Stipes Publishing Co.


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