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THURSDAY, APRIL 20, 2017 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS Italian-Americans who have found their America U sually, when thinking of Italian emigration to the US, all those that have p a s s e d t h r o u g h E l l i s I s l a n d come to mind, and those whom, through many labors and heavy sacrifices, have reached those dignified living conditions that have allowed them to forget the misery they left in Italy. We think less about the many kids that today, with the best degrees in their pocket, pass the checks at international airports with a PhD to play in famous universities or the location of a research campus where their studies will transform into hi- tech developments and in scien- tific progress. We think less about it because we don't have t h e m a s s l a n d i n g s n o r t h o s e folkloric representations of poor families who, bewildered and exhausted, saw the Statue of Liberty appear in the fog and, struggling to figure it all out, found themselves tossed among immigration inspectors and local traffickers that placed them, at the very least, in some dark cor- ner of an unknown city among o t h e r v i l l a g e r s . T o d a y t h e y arrive one at a time, mixed with tourists, students and residents, they already speak English, they already know everything before they leave and they connect with home, tablet in hand, whenever they want. Ties with those who have been left on the other side of the ocean don't seem to stop, but only to change, even when they don't go back and they get dual passports. Even fewer think, after the first generation, about the sec- ond and third generations of Italian Americans. I f w e e v e n i m a g i n e h o w many people, in recent times, have made the final separation process from the beautiful coun- try, choosing not to go back but to cultivate life, suffering and work in the new continent, we certainly don't think about their children who grew up feeling themselves to be U.S. citizens right away, and who are native English speakers, despite the very strong and direct Italian heritage. N o r d o w e c o n s i d e r t h e i r grandchildren, who as well as having a more diluted Italian legacy increasingly mixed with other ethnic groups, even within their own family, retain some connection with their roots and the surnames of their grandpar- ents. Y e t e v e n t h e s e I t a l i a n - Americans, children and grand- children of those who emigrat- ed—who must come to terms with their cultural heritage and choose whether to preserve the differences or assimilate com- pletely—have their migration routes within the United States, moving from east to west, from north to south, from one city to another with the same hopes and the same dreams that had once been found in the drawers of their parents and grandparents. Their hope is always the same: find opportunity to live the best life, to realize the American dream, which at the beginning of the twentieth century had the strength to pour out millions of d r e a m e r s , e x p o s i n g t h e m t o often inhumane passages. And these Italian-Americans, who more or less have strong ties with their origins, that return more or less often to find rela- tives left behind in one of the t w e n t y I t a l i a n r e g i o n s , w h o proudly preserve the Italian lan- guage and their family tradi- tions, in turn try and very often find their America. Step by step they build their o w n p a t h , t h e j o b o f t h e i r dreams, economic wellbeing, and social ascent. Chances of success are not random but strongly pursued with a tenacious work ethic, effort, perseverance like that of the early immigrants, as well as w h a t t h e y t h e m s e l v e s o f t e n demonstrated due to the training received at home, absorbed from mothers, fathers and grandpar- ents along with the concept of family, strong interpersonal ties and religion. And if it is true that for years official Italian culture has com- pletely forgotten the sacrifice and contribution of those Italians w h o s u f f e r e d t o d e p a r t t h e i r homeland in order to seek their fortune in distant lands, then for too long, the Italian-American c o m m u n i t y h a s n o t c o m e t o terms with their history, their c o m p o n e n t s , i n t e l l e c t u a l s , artists, professionals, workers who have made it big, and these communities continue to do so today. Of course, this phenomenon is difficult to classify because everything is always changing a n d t h e p r o c e s s o f d e f i n i n g one's identity is primarily per- sonal rather than collective, but not recognizing it, not giving them membership, means mak- ing the same mistake that Italy has done for decades by not rec- ognizing the significance and cause of the migration phenom- enon for the entire nation. If today Italy is aware of the success of Italians in Silicon Valley and really tries to bring home the brains that have gone away, because it understands the added value of their experience, t h e n s o s h o u l d t h e I t a l i a n - American community: recogniz- ing their spearheads in the pro- fessional world, in science, art, cinema, and sports in order to transform their experiences into beneficial examples, to show their cultural richness, that iden- tity heritages are added values, not obstacles. It is not empty p r i d e b u t c o l l e c t i v e g r o w t h because it is about sharing and supporting an ethic based on excellence in their profession, about self-sacrifice, creativity, and conviction. It is about exalt- ing life paths which have affect- ed not their economic aspect, but the result that in any profes- sional field was constructed with exemplary personal sacri- fice. BARBARA MINAFRA

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