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Articles by: Joey Skee

  • Life & People

    Francesco Pepe, My Dutch Paisan


    Francesco Pepe of the Netherlands and I (NYC) have been communicating for few years now about Italian vernacular culture after a chance encounter on the Net. Francesco, the son of immigrants from Pagani (Salerno province, Campania) was googling hip hop and came across my site italianrap.com. He emailed me to ask what Italian Americans thought about black rappers using mafia references in their music. A flurry of emails traversed the planet as our conversation turned to various aspects of a transnational popular culture (to update a key Gramscian concept), from contemporary cinema to Neapolitan singer Mario Merola to tammurriata frame drumming during the feast of the La Madonna delle Galline in his ancestral town.

     
    Due to the nature of Dutch immigration, Pepe’s friends hail from various parts of world. His wife is Turkish. As a result he is keenly aware of the historic and cultural relationship of the cirum-Mediterranean. 
     
    Soon the packages started to arrive from Holland. Francesco sent CD mixes that juxtaposed Mediterranean roots music from Italy’s Lina Sastri and Lino Cannavacciulo, and Turkey’s Sezen Aksu and Kardeş Türküler. He introduced me to a spate of feature and documentary films unknown and unavailable in the States that dealt with southern Italian culture, religion, and politics. I, in turn, sent him packages with similar items. I posted his father Vincenzo’s 2006 Nativity presepio on my website.  When I was in Italy last year, Francesco flew down and we met in Naples for the first time, traveling to Pagani for lunch with his relatives.
     
    Francesco was both familiar with and knowledgeable about Italian-American life having not only seen the various cinematic exports from Scorsese, Lee, and others, but also read the classics of Italian American history, sociology, and literature. When new books were published, Francesco bought the book on line. It was through Italian-American history and culture, in part, that Francesco was able to get a better handle of his own experiences as the child of Italian immigrants. 
     
    Francesco is a community scholar of Italian diasporic history and culture. His enthusiasm has fueled artists and scholars alike. It was his idea that got directors Tonino Boniotti and Daniela Tacsa to make De Spaghettiflat (2007) a documentary film about the Italian community in Zaandam, where he lives. 
     
     
    His communication with historians Donna Gabaccia and Linda Reeder has initiated a research project investigating “honor killings” among Italian immigrants world wide. It was Francesco who made me aware of the upcoming Italian diaspora film festival in Australia, as well as a host of other cultural products. 
     
    From time to time, I’ll be sharing Francesco’s findings here on my blog, linking you to our paesan in Holland.

  • Art & Culture

    Linking the Diaspora Cinematically


     

    "Italian migration is a weird phenomenon." With that understatement, artistic director Massimiliano Civili sets the stage for Sydney’s “The Weird Mob 2: The Italian Invasion” Film Festival, June 4th-9th. The festival explores and links Italian diasporic experiences in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, and the United States, with the screening of shorts, documentaries, and feature length films. 
     
    Films include older works like Francesco Rosi's The Magliari and Franco Brusati’s Bread and Chocolate (1974) to recent films like Fatih Akin’s Solino (2002) and Giuseppe Gagliardi’s musical road-movie mockumentary La vera leggenda di Tony Vilar (2006). As Civili writes, “This film festival demonstrates that in order to invade the world, the only weapons needed are a strong sense of community and a flexible and receptive culture.” Seems like we Americans can learned a thing or two from this event!
     
    The festival sponsor is the Federation of Italian Migrant Workers and Families (FILEF) is a non-profit, progressive community organization established in Australia in 1972. It’s worth quote the organization’s description:
     
    Its key objective is to promote a multicultural Australia which values the heritage and culture of all Australians. It’s a voluntary organization and to achieve its aims it organizes a variety of activities for all those who are interested in Italian language and culture, and in social issues, whether they are of Italian background or not.
     
    FILEF also provides a forum for those who strive for a more just and ecologically sustainable society. A society that is democratic and inclusive. We also organize cultural and social evenings, public meetings and campaigns focused on current social issues. [. . .]
     
    One off shoot of FILEF is Movimento Città Verde, who (sic) deals specifically with information on ecological issues [and] maintains contacts with the Australian environmental organizations . . . .
     
    We do have a lot to learn from our paesani down under.

  • Life & People

    Sinatra, a Morality Tale


    I hated Sinatra growing up.

     
    Aesthetically, the “Kid from Hoboken” ran counter to the ’60 gestalt of the rock singer/songwriter expressing his (the reigning model was masculine despite Janis, Joni, Grace, and others) personal views of relevant topics like the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. No trivial Tin Pan Alley commercial love for me! In addition, my perception was that American crooning was a racist rip off and a diminishment of black musical styles that went unrecognized and unremunerated. Politically, Sinatra was the epitome of the reactionary white ethnic who opposed the various progressive movements that emerged during the 1960s-1970s. 
     
    There was an additional dimension to my aversion to Sinatra. My father detested him. 
     
    The stated reason had nothing to do with taste, politics, or the hedonistic Vegas life style. Rather it was Sinatra’s mean-spiritedness and abusive personality that my father found offensive. He didn’t like how Sinatra took advantage of his power to dominate and intimidate others, especially women. My father’s observations on the Jersey singer were invariably couched as a morality tale importing a valued life lesson to his first born male child: This is how not to be a man. 
     
    Sinatra’s (and Dean Martin’s) infamous 1983 intimation of an Atlantic City card dealer, Kyong Kim, to break New Jersey casino laws and his racist comment, angered my father. Kim, along with three coworkers, was suspended from her job without pay and the casino was fined $25,000. While implicated as the cause of the violation, Sinatra and Martin were not fined. New Jersey Casino Control Commissioner Joel Jacobsen denounced Sinatra as “an obnoxious bully” with a “bloated ego.”
     
    The cautionary tale I recall the best, in part, because I heard versions of it from other Italian Americans over the years, was the one about Sinatra’s vindictive sabotaging of singer Jimmy Rosselli’s career after the latter refused to perform at a 1969 benefit organized by Sinatra’s mother Dolly. Biographer David Evanier provides a version in Making the Wiseguys Weep: The Jimmy Roselli Story (1998), which involves perceived slights, acts of disrespect, and bruised macho egos. The oral versions I heard over the years, while slightly different, all made the same point: “Do not act like this man.” 
     
    In his now classic treatise Blood of My Blood: The Dilemma of the Italian Americans (1974), Richard Gambino argues that the Italian-American ideal of masculinity can be characterized by the phrase l’uomo di pazienza, the man of patience. But his purported principle was not always the lived experience of numerous women and children who dealt daily with the abuse and violence of patriarchal power. Writers Lorenzo Carcatterra, Rachel Guido deVries, Gianna Patriarca, Vittoria Repetto, Karen Tindori, and others have penned verse, novels, and memoirs to expose, purge, and heal their personal stories of psychological and physical brutality. Others have taken other measures to address the problem. For an example closer to home, Drs. Emelise Aleandri and Gloria Salerno, former staff members of Queens College’s John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, sued the City University of New York (CUNY) because of what they considered the “psychological abuse” and the creation of “a workplace that was hostile to women” at the hands of their then supervisor Joseph Scelsa, according to The Clarion. The May 2005 edition of this newspaper, the official organ of the Professional Staff Congress union representing CUNY faculty and staff, reported that Aleandri and Salerno settled their seven-year-long discrimination lawsuit against CUNY for over $1 million. 

     

     
     
    I have come to love Sinatra the singer, embracing his rich, expressive masculine tenor. Recent scholarship by Gerald Meyer and John Gennari has helped me to appreciate Sinatra’s once progressive politics and his influence on African-American artists. But as Fred Gardaphé writes in From Wiseguys and Wise Men: The Gangster and Italian American Masculinities (2006), the “redirection and redefinition of Italian-American masculinities” calls for “the absence of macho,” a new state he christens “zero.” As somone who grapples with his own bullying tendencies, I impart to my children their grandfather’s cautionary tale of the Chairman of the Board’s abusiveness and all the other Italian-American thugs in an effort to relegate the remnants of such patriarchal violence to the annals of history. 

  • Op-Eds

    Sinatra, a Morality Tale.


     

    I hated Sinatra growing up.
     
    Aesthetically, the “Kid from Hoboken” ran counter to the ’60 gestalt of the rock singer/songwriter expressing his (the reigning model was masculine despite Janis, Joni, Grace, and others) personal views of relevant topics like the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. No trivial Tin Pan Alley commercial love for me! In addition, my perception was that American crooning was a racist rip off and a diminishment of black musical styles that went unrecognized and unremunerated. Politically, Sinatra was the epitome of the reactionary white ethnic who opposed the various progressive movements that emerged during the 1960s-1970s. 

     

    There was an additional dimension to my aversion to Sinatra. My father detested him. 
     
    The stated reason had nothing to do with taste, politics, or the hedonistic Vegas life style. Rather it was Sinatra’s mean-spiritedness and abusive personality that my father found offensive. He didn’t like how Sinatra took advantage of his power to dominate and intimidate others, especially women. My father’s observations on the Jersey singer were invariably couched as a morality tale importing a valued life lesson to his first born male child: This is how not to be a man.

     

    Sinatra’s (and Dean Martin’s) infamous 1983 intimation of an Atlantic City card dealer, Kyong Kim, to break New Jersey casino laws and his racist comment, angered my father. Kim, along with three coworkers, was suspended from her job without pay and the casino was fined $25,000. While implicated as the cause of the violation, Sinatra and Martin were not fined. New Jersey Casino Control Commissioner Joel Jacobsen denounced Sinatra as “an obnoxious bully” with a “bloated ego.”
     
    The cautionary tale I recall the best, in part, because I heard versions of it from other Italian Americans over the years, was the one about Sinatra’s vindictive sabotaging of singer Jimmy Rosselli’s career after the latter refused to perform at a 1969 benefit organized by Sinatra’s mother Dolly. Biographer David Evanier provides a version in Making the Wiseguys Weep: The Jimmy Roselli Story (1998), which involves perceived slights, acts of disrespect, and bruised macho egos. The oral versions I heard over the years, while slightly different, all made the same point: “Do not act like this man.” 
     
    In his now classic treatise Blood of My Blood: The Dilemma of the Italian Americans (1974), Richard Gambino argues that the Italian-American ideal of masculinity can be characterized by the phrase l’uomo di pazienza, the man of patience. But his purported principle was not always the lived experience of numerous women and children who dealt daily with the abuse and violence of patriarchal power. Writers Lorenzo Carcatterra, Rachel Guido deVries, Gianna Patriarca, Vittoria Repetto, Karen Tindori, and others have penned verse, novels, and memoirs to expose, purge, and heal their personal stories of psychological and physical brutality. Others have taken other measures to address the problem. For an example closer to home, Drs. Emelise Aleandri and Gloria Salerno, former staff members of Queens College’s John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, sued the City University of New York (CUNY) because of what they considered the “psychological abuse” and the creation of “a workplace that was hostile to women” at the hands of their then supervisor Joseph Scelsa, according to The Clarion. The May 2005 edition of this newspaper, the official organ of the Professional Staff Congress union representing CUNY faculty and staff, reported that Aleandri and Salerno settled their seven-year-long discrimination lawsuit against CUNY for over $1 million. 
     
     
    I have come to love Sinatra the singer, embracing his rich, expressive masculine tenor. Recent scholarship by Gerald Meyer and John Gennari has helped me to appreciate Sinatra’s once progressive politics and his influence on African-American artists. But as Fred Gardaphé writes in From Wiseguys and Wise Men: The Gangster and Italian American Masculinities (2006), the “redirection and redefinition of Italian-American masculinities” calls for “the absence of macho,” a new state he christens “zero.” As somone who grapples with his own bullying tendencies, I impart to my children their grandfather’s cautionary tale of the Chairman of the Board’s abusiveness and all the other Italian-American thugs in an effort to relegate the remnants of such patriarchal violence to the annals of history. 

  • Art & Culture

    Holy Land USA, a Religious Vision in Ruins


     

    Writer and teacher Joanna Clapps Herman emailed me yesterday with an update on one of the great Italian-American folk environments, Holy Land USA in Waterbury, Connecticut. On Tuesday, a demolition crew dismantled the 56-foot stainless steel and fiberglass illuminated cross that stood on the city’s Pine Hill overlooking I-84 because it had become unsound due to weather and vandals.  (watch video.)
     
    It was lawyer John Greco who conceptualized and implemented the construction of Holy Land USA in the late 1950s on his 17 acre property. Greco, a devout Catholic, envisioned his sprawling creation as a devotional act. A sign posted for many years there read:
     
    “A group of dedicated men present a pictorial story of the life of Christ from the cradle to the Cross—it is our prayerful wish that the project will provide a pleasant way to increase your knowledge of God’s Own Book and bring you closer to Him.” 
     
    The completed site was an amalgam of Italian sacred and American secular models, ranging from the presepio (Nativity scene) and the sacro monte’s religious dioramas to Disneyland and other theme parks.  
     
    According to Waterbury historian Sando Bologna, “Greco was born in Waterbury on March 29, 1895, the son of Vincenzo and Raffaela Greco. The parents brought him to their birthplace, Torrella dei Lombardi, Avellino, when he was small boy. When he was 13 years old, the family returned to Waterbury.” (The Italians of Waterbury, 1994). John entered the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in order to become a priest but was forced to drop out due to illness and lack of finances.  He went on to earn a law degree from Yale University and passed the bar exam in 1926. Barry Dillinger’s web site states, “In the mid-1930s he founded the Catholic Campaigners for Christ [of Connecticut] as a lay group to preach the Bible at a grass roots level.”
     
    In 1956, Greco organized a cadre of volunteer laborers —the self proclaimed “Companions of Christ”—who created a miniature Bethlehem, the 200-foot-long “Catacombs” lined with religious scenes of Christ’s martyrdom, and an assortment of structures from chicken wire, iron rods, plywood, brick, and cement. In addition, Greco obtained statuary and other objects discarded from the Vatican Pavilion and the Jordon Building at the 1964-65 Worlds Fair held in New York. In 1968, the group erected the illuminated cross on Pine Hill, which became a beacon for motorists traveling in the Constitution State. 
     
     
    During the 1960s and 1970s, Holy Land USA was a major tourist/pilgrimage site, with an estimated 40,000 people visiting annually in tour buses and automobiles. Greco was made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Pius XII, as well as an honorary citizen of Bethlehem. 
     
    By the 1980s, visitors waned and the site became a nocturnal hangout for local youth who vandalized it over the years. The Holy Land USA spiraled into disrepair and the site was officially closed in 1984. When Greco died on March 8, 1986, at age 90, he left his property to the Religious Sisters of Filippi. 
     
     

     
    In the past couple of years, I’ve been making my way to famed folk art environments like Rodia’s Watts Towers and Wisconsin’s Dickeyville Grotto. Holy Land USA is renowned among folk art cognoscenti. So I was thrilled when Joanna offered to take me to her hometown Waterbury to walk among the ruins in early winter 2005. The site’s decrepitude transformed it from a theme park of religious sentiment to a Lilliputian Coney Island of American urban decay and blight. The South Bronx as if staged by Disney. I retrieved a piece of rotten plywood to incorporate in my domestic presepio that Christmas, a silent tribute to a fallen Italian-American vernacular landscape.

  • Life & People

    Holy Land USA, a Religious Vision in Ruins


     

    Writer and teacher Joanna Clapps Herman emailed me yesterday with an update on one of the great Italian-American folk environments, Holy Land USA in Waterbury, Connecticut. On Tuesday, a demolition crew dismantled the 56-foot stainless steel and fiberglass illuminated cross that stood on the city’s Pine Hill overlooking I-84 because it had become unsound due to weather and vandals.  (watch video.)
     
    It was lawyer John Greco who conceptualized and implemented the construction of Holy Land USA in the late 1950s on his 17 acre property. Greco, a devout Catholic, envisioned his sprawling creation as a devotional act. A sign posted for many years there read:
     
    “A group of dedicated men present a pictorial story of the life of Christ from the cradle to the Cross—it is our prayerful wish that the project will provide a pleasant way to increase your knowledge of God’s Own Book and bring you closer to Him.” 
     
    The completed site was an amalgam of Italian sacred and American secular models, ranging from the presepio (Nativity scene) and the sacro monte’s religious dioramas to Disneyland and other theme parks.  
     
    According to Waterbury historian Sando Bologna, “Greco was born in Waterbury on March 29, 1895, the son of Vincenzo and Raffaela Greco. The parents brought him to their birthplace, Torrella dei Lombardi, Avellino, when he was small boy. When he was 13 years old, the family returned to Waterbury.” (The Italians of Waterbury, 1994). John entered the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in order to become a priest but was forced to drop out due to illness and lack of finances.  He went on to earn a law degree from Yale University and passed the bar exam in 1926. Barry Dillinger’s web site states, “In the mid-1930s he founded the Catholic Campaigners for Christ [of Connecticut] as a lay group to preach the Bible at a grass roots level.”
     
    In 1956, Greco organized a cadre of volunteer laborers —the self proclaimed “Companions of Christ”—who created a miniature Bethlehem, the 200-foot-long “Catacombs” lined with religious scenes of Christ’s martyrdom, and an assortment of structures from chicken wire, iron rods, plywood, brick, and cement. In addition, Greco obtained statuary and other objects discarded from the Vatican Pavilion and the Jordon Building at the 1964-65 Worlds Fair held in New York. In 1968, the group erected the illuminated cross on Pine Hill, which became a beacon for motorists traveling in the Constitution State. 
     
     
    During the 1960s and 1970s, Holy Land USA was a major tourist/pilgrimage site, with an estimated 40,000 people visiting annually in tour buses and automobiles. Greco was made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Pius XII, as well as an honorary citizen of Bethlehem. 
     
    By the 1980s, visitors waned and the site became a nocturnal hangout for local youth who vandalized it over the years. The Holy Land USA spiraled into disrepair and the site was officially closed in 1984. When Greco died on March 8, 1986, at age 90, he left his property to the Religious Sisters of Filippi. 
     
     

     
    In the past couple of years, I’ve been making my way to famed folk art environments like Rodia’s Watts Towers and Wisconsin’s Dickeyville Grotto. Holy Land USA is renowned among folk art cognoscenti. So I was thrilled when Joanna offered to take me to her hometown Waterbury to walk among the ruins in early winter 2005. The site’s decrepitude transformed it from a theme park of religious sentiment to a Lilliputian Coney Island of American urban decay and blight. The South Bronx as if staged by Disney. I retrieved a piece of rotten plywood to incorporate in my domestic presepio that Christmas, a silent tribute to a fallen Italian-American vernacular landscape.

  • Facts & Stories

    Pippa Bacca, performance artist, is murdered during "Brides on Tour"


     

    I picked up today’s New York Times to read about the death of Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, an Italian performance artist who went by the name Pippa Bacca. I was unfamiliar with her work but found her final piece particularly daring and her rape and murder tragic. 
     
    Bacca, 33, along with sister artist Silvia Moro, left Milan on March 8th, International Women’s Day, for their “Brides on Tour” piece, an international tour through the Balkans, Turkey, and Middle East. The performance piece involved the two women who were wearing specially designed and crafted “wedding dresses” hitchhiking the entire length of the journey on behalf of peace. Web reports stated that, “She had said she wanted to show that she could put her trust in the kindness of local people.”   The English text on the “Brides in Tour” web site reads:
     
    The Project: Our dream is to hitch-hike across the war-torn areas of the Balkans and the Mediterranean – dressed as brides. That’s the only dress we’ll carry along - with all stains accumulated during the journey. We’ll visit artists and craftsmen along the way and stop at museums, foundations, cultural centres and youth clubs for the daily pacifist ritual/performance of personal hygiene and then interaction with the place, people, and their crafts.

    Objectives: The goal is to explore and collect photographic and video evidences on the common Mediterranean culture. The expected route is through route is through North-Eastern Italy, Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Syria. At the end of the journey the dresses shall be exposed together with other evidences of the journey.
     
    The two women separated in Istanbul on March 19th, planning to meet up in Beirut. She was last seen on March 31st in Gebze, a town 70 miles southeast of Istanbul.  Her naked body was found this past Saturday.  A truck driver, who confessed to raping and strangling di Marineo, was caught after using his SIM card in di Marineo’s cell phone.
     
     


     
    Turkish government officials and the media condemned the murder.  The headline “OUR GRIEF IS GREAT” in Italian ran across the front page of the daily Milliyet.  Turkey's leading newspaper Hurriyet ran the headline "WE ARE ASHAMED" on its Web edition.  Di Marineo’s sister Antonietta was reported to have said that such incidents could happen anywhere in the world. “I have nothing to say about Turkey and Turks. The Turkish nation and officials helped us greatly,” she said.
     
    Di Marineo’s rape and murder has prompted self-criticism about the plight of women in Turkey and the need to combat violence against women at all levels of society. One Web proposal calls for Pippa Bacca’s being picked up by Turkish women: “We should be ashamed that she is not the first woman raped and killed in this country. . . . I propose to continue the mission that Pippa started. . . . [W]hat if [we] were to transform the “peace walk” of Pippa into the “freedom walk” of Turkish women in our country?”
     
    Pippa Bacca’s and Silvia Moro’s performance art/journey was a female remapping across a topography of war that dared to imagine peace with the proverbial hopefulness of a new bride. That vision remains the alternative to all cultures of violence.
     
    Della guerra sono stanca ormai,
    al lavoro di un tempo tornerei,
    a un vestito da sposa o qualcosa di bianco,
    per nascondere questa mia vocazione, al trionfo ed al pianto.
    “Giovanna d’Arco” (1974)
    Italian version by Fabrizio De André
    From “Brides on Tour” Web site
     
    She said, “I'm tired of the war,

    I want the kind of work I had before,

    A wedding dress or something white

    To wear upon my swollen appetite.”
    “Joan of Arc” (1971)
    Original by Leonard Cohen
     
     
     

  • Op-Eds

    Folk Performances of the Italian-American Prominenti


    There have been informal and in-depth looks at Italian-American folk performances from the Sicilian opera dei pupi and St. Joseph’s altars, to the full-blown spectacle of the religious street festa. We know the histories of how immigrants introduced these various practices to the United States and how their descendants developed them over time. The overwhelming majority of the theatrical and social performances that have been written about are rooted in the subaltern lower classes, the vernacular performances derived from southern Italian peasantry and expanded upon by the American proletariat and lower middle class. Unfortunately, little research has been conducted on the folk performances of the Italian-American elite, such as the gala, the banquet reception, and the award ceremony.

    Any attempt to understand the aesthetics and social worlds of everyday Italian-American life must include a close examination of the elite’s notions of taste, history, politics, and group identity. Such a project would call for Gramscian lines of inquiry into hegemonic discourse and cultural production: How are positions of power established and institutionalized? How are collective histories created and reproduced? How is group identity constructed as normative, traditionalized, and disseminated? What are the aesthetic components and cultural codes by which such identities and relationships are enacted? 
     
    The work of social scientists like sociologist Erving Goffman and anthropologists Victor Tuner and Clifford Geertz have shown how certain ritualized behaviors and group activities constitute paradigmatic performances dramatizing deeply held beliefs and values. A performance studies approach to Italian-American elite ceremonies, banquets, and receptions could tell us much about the cultural politics of the group.
     
    Historical studies on the folklore of the prominenti (literally “prominent ones”) include folklorist Elizabeth Mathias’s work on former contadini living in south Philadelphia who borrowed prestigious funerary practices of gli signori remembered from Italy in their attempts at social competition in America. Historian Philip Cannistraro examined the prominenti’s self-serving association with Fascism during the 1920s ad 1930s and their preferred performance modes of self-congratulatory award ceremonies, banquets, and receptions. Folklorist Joan Saverino’s research on Columbus Day and the “Italian Days” Festival in Reading, Pennsylvania during the same time period shows how the local prominenti crafted public festivals in their attempts to serve as culture brokers between working-class Italians and American elites and dictate how “Italian American” culture and identity would be represented. 
     
     
    A similar study of contemporary practices has not been undertaken. An ethnography of such events would reveal a series of core, seemingly obligatory, components that establish the genre, such as formality, prestige, and celebration. Hero worship, in which a historical or living person of success and fame is ceremonially “honored” and whose individual accomplishments are transferred by association to the group as a whole, is the seeming raison d’etre of such events. (Historian Robert F. Harney’s work on the “ethno-psychiatric uses of history” by Italian community leaders and intelligentsia in North America in their attempts to assuage “ethnic self-disesteem” in critical for understanding this aspect.) The bestowing of an “award,” a physical object often taking the form of a plaque, and its subsequent display in places of high visibility such as the work space are defining elements. The political nature of these events as witnessed by the invited local, national, and international politicians, the singing of national anthems, etc., is fundamental.
     
    A synchronic look at a specific performance would show how these and others components are knitted together into a holistic event to convey meaning. A look at different ethnic events in a single institution such as a banquet hall would uncover similarities and differences between various groups.   The very mundaneness of these events masks their importance in perpetuating the cultural-political face of group identity, summed up by Saverino’s subtitle: “Pageantry, Power, and Imagining the Italian American.”  
     
     
    Bibliography
     
    Philip V. Cannistraro. “The Duce and the Prominenti: Fascism and the Crisis of Italian of Italian American Leadership.” Altreitalie 31 (July-December 2005), 76-86.
     
    Robert F. Harney. “Caboto and Other Parentela: The Uses of the Italian Canadian Past.” From the Shores of Hardship: Italians in Canada, Nicholas De Maria Harney, Ed. (Welland, Ontario: Éditions Soleil, 1993), 4-27. 
     
    Elizabeth Mathias, “The Italian-American Funeral: Persistence through Change.” Western Folklore 33.1 (1974), 35-50.
     
    Dorothy Noyes. "Form the Paese to Patria: An Italian American Pilgrimage to Rome in 1929.: Studies in Italian American Folklore.  Luisa Del Giudice, Ed. (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1993), 127-152.
     
    Joan Saverino. “Italians in Public Memory: Pageantry, Power, and Imagining the Italian American.” The Italian American Review 8.2 (Autumn/Winter 2001), 83-111.
     

  • Art & Culture

    Tags I Like


     

    Benedict XVI’s Dadaist Dance
    (made in Dylan fashion)
     
    biomedica brain drain of divine ghosts and citizen children;
    cappuccino censorship of big band corruzione.
     
                            documentary ebrei
                                   humanitarian Halloween
                                           graduate school.
     
                molecular catholics google cyberspace crucifix and birdland paradiso.
    gay abortion feminism mask an amusing autobiography.
    legions of laissez-faire saints mob Brooklyn and New Jersey in procession:
     
                            Sinatra
                                 Scorsese
    Anna Magnani.
     
                                        extra virgin Silvana Mangano.
     
    __________________________________
     
     
    Baroque Pinocchio Politics
     
                italo-americano language:
     
                       mafia mafioso mafiosi
     
                                       
                                                                mammoni.
     
    the economy of authenticity:
    childhood autobiography, a history of identity victims.
                    goomba gesture of anti-defamation statistics; activists w[h]ine ethnic disunity.
     
                        Tresca
     
                            Vanzetti
                                       
                                   Gramsci
     
     
                watch the pallino, Rudy!              
     
     
    __________________________________
     
     
    Animazione
     
    young adults,
         lovers,
    met cyberwriting.
     
    slow simulation: deficiency.
     
    Epifany!
         Holiday in Italy!
     
    FUGA! VALIGIE! MOVIMENTI!
     
    Unions in Rome, breakfast in Milan, festa in Sardgena!
     
    vestiti: BING! and
    all day: FRICK! FRICK! FRICK!
     
    brunello and pizza
    poetry, music, art
     
    flavor of female forest, fuel of endowed balls
    all day: FRICK! FRICK! FRICK!
    aiHAAAA!!!!
     
     
    lovers fashion divine times in unity.
    dolce paradiso
     
    __________________________________
     
     
    La Tregedia di Iraq
    (blue note)
     
    Washington’s illegal Wall Street war,
    TNT salvo rock town and city,
    victims di morte:
     
    children, young adults, parents
     
    bitter inferno ghosts.
     
    Iraq war institutes government censorship and fuel[s] terrorismo radicalism.
     
    Presidential elections: referendum on citizen discontent and government confidence.
     
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  • Life & People

    Gino Vitale, Brooklyn developer and shrine builder.


     

    The clichéd truism about New York City’s continuous change has never been more evident than today. The city is currently undergoing rapid transformation, with development and gentrification altering the urban landscape from the street level to the larger skyline. Brooklyn developer Gino Vitale, 35, is one of those dynamic forces refashioning the city from the ground up, changing the look of the land by capping the roofline of his newly constructed buildings with devotional shrines housing Catholic statuary.
     
    Vitale emigrated with his parents from the Sicilian town of Militello in Catania province in 1977 at age five. He grew up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Brooklyn’s Gravesend, moving to the borough’s Carroll Gardens in 2003. In 1998, he founded the Red Hook-based development company Vitale Builders, which currently owns approximately thirty rental properties in the area.
     
    During the past four years, Vitale has included arcuated niches at the top of four renovated or constructed buildings. He installed a statue of the Immaculate Conception at 23 Luquer Street in 2004 and a figure of St. Padre Pio at 126 Coffey Street the following year. Last year, Vitale placed the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the alcove atop 32 Luquer Street. A Hispanic woman who owns 31 Luquer Street was so inspired by Vitale’s restoration work and religious practice that she hired him in 2006 to renovate her building with a new brick façade from where stands the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
     
    When I asked him why he placed religious statues within the façades of his rental properties, he answered, “We come from a religious town. You know, we’re religious people. It’s like the house is blessed.” In Catholicism, these creations are called sacramentals, material objects serving as vehicles for channeling God’s presence, i.e., grace, into the mundane world.  Each of the statues are blessed by a priest from the local Roman Catholic Church of the Visitation on Verona and Richards Streets.
     
    Edicole sacre, or devotional shrines, are one of the most widespread manifestations of popular Catholicism and vernacular architecture in Italy. Constructed out of stone or plastered masonry, rural edicole are freestanding structures containing a niche in which the image and offerings are housed and are located in the woods, along the roadside, and at crossroads. Town and urban edicole are found on the walls of buildings either at street level or higher up. Urban shrines often consist of recessed niches or box-like structures fastened directly to the wall and often include a protective awning or roof and a ledge where offerings are left. Columns, roofing, and decorative framing made from marble, plaster, metal, and/or plastic contribute to a particularly Baroque flare in the streets of Naples, Palermo, and Rome. 
     
     
    For Vitale, the statue’s presence offers a sort of sacred insurance safeguarding the building in a  protective field of the sacramental. Standing on the roof of his multi-unit rental building at 32 Luquer Street, Vitale recounted a story as he pointed across the street:
     
    I’m going to tell you something crazy. You may not believe this. We just finished that building (31 Luquer Street with installed Our Lady of Fatima). Saint there and saint there (Immaculate Conception at 23 Luquer Street). A fire started in this building (25 Luquer Street). Bad fire. All these buildings went up in flames, bad fire. Didn’t touch mine. Didn’t touch hers.
     
    When I asked what he attributed this to, he replied:
     
    It’s strange how the fire started here and this building burnt to a crisp. This one went down, this one went down, and our two didn’t get touched. And it’s not like it’s made out of anything different. It’s the same material. Nothing! Nothing! Not even tinder smoke.
     
    People of faith engage the divine through the performance of ritual behavior such as prayer often in relationship to objects such as religious texts and images. Such practices and objects are constantly being adapted, updated, and transformed in an ongoing journey towards salvation. For Gino Vitale and others, the sacred presence is made manifest from the rooftops of his renovated brick buildings in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

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