Words by Pat Eggleton
For Italian American Heritage Month, Pat talked to Capri, an Italian American who is passionate about all things Italian. The My Paesano site is a great place to find all sorts of information about Italy and the Italian American community. It has a “Giornale and Blog” section with news, reviews, recipes and more.
Capri, where were you born?
I was born and raised in Rochester, New York and moved to San Diego, California with my husband and five sons in 1972.
Do you have Italian ancestry?
My husband's grandparents and parents [both sides] emigrated from the Province of Enna [Sicily] to Rochester, New York. My beloved husband, Joseph, passed away in 2004, a loss I am still trying to deal with .
Capri, I’m so sorry. Did he speak Italian?
Yes he did speak Sicilian and English as he grew up. My sons and I were very close to my husband’ s family, who were very kind and thoughtful people, just like Joseph. We lived next door to them and every Sunday there was pasta at grandma's house, which was filled with radio music from "The Italian Hour". All the family members gathered there. I speak very little Italian but understand a lot.
What about you? Any Italians on your side?
Yes, my maternal grandparents were from southern Italy and my paternal grandparents emigrated from Sicily to Rochester.
Have you visited Italy?
My dream is to visit Italy, in particular, Sicily. I hope this spring will be the "time" I have been planning for. I hope to spend at least a month there. There is so much I want to see and do. Although I am a senior gal I am very active and very young at heart.
That stands out in your writing, Capri. What aspects of Italy are you most passionate about?
Lifestyle, culture and the people I have heard about and want so very much to meet. I know it will be an experience I will not forget.
Tell us about the websites.
I have the one site, mypaesano.com. My Paesano Giornale and Blog is an addition to the same site. It’ s a way to reach out to others and communicate quickly, bringing feature articles and information of interest to my readers. I receive many requests and questions from my readers and "Giornale" is a great way to respond to others. The introduction of "My Paesano Giornale" just a couple of weeks ago has brought wonderful responses . The emails and tweets keep coming in. I am so pleased and at a loss for words. I have not only gained more readers but more friends. It's a great feeling!
This is Italian American Heritage Month and you have a section on this heritage on the site. What would you say are the main values that Italian Americans have brought to the society as a whole?
The answers are on this page which may give you some insight into the numerous Italian influences in America . Some are known and many unknown to the general public.
Do you think Italian Americans sometimes find it difficult to preserve aspects of Italian culture in today's USA? I am thinking particularly of the language.
It is very difficult to preserve language as generations go on. When Italians first came to America they of course wanted to become “Americanised". Many changed their last names or shortened them. There are many famous people in American Society who have done this so here is a link. You may be surprised to discover who some of the people are.
I can give you a couple of personal examples: my husband, born in the USA, was named on his birth certificate as Giuseppe. When he went to school, the other kids called him Joseph or Jo. Then one day, when he went to renew his driving licence, he asked if he could have his name shown as Joseph and this was immediately done, with no red tape, such as there is today. My father-law learned English and would say to my mother-in-law,
"Sarah, you’re in America. Speak inglese, English!"
Even today the Sicilian Regional Government is still trying to have Sicilian taught in schools. (Standard Italian is taught) They are trying to preserve the language before it is lost to the world. And that would be a shame. Many people think Sicilian is a dialect of Italian. They are so wrong. Not only is Sicilian a language but it is older than the Italian language.
It’s a similar situation to that of the Celtic languages of the UK. Are there many Italian families in your area?
There are no Italian families living near me and I miss that so terribly. I miss "my little Italia neighbourhood".
What are some of the Italian-American associations in the USA?
There are many Italian American organizations in the USA that do great charitable work and much more. To name a few:
NIAF National Italian American Foundation
UNICO Italian American Club of the Twin Cities
OSIA Order Sons of Italy in America
GIAA Guild of Italian American Actors
NOIAW National Organisation of Italian American Women
Who is the Italian-American whom you admire the most?
That's easy. My husband, Joseph. He was my high school sweetheart. We met when I was 14 and he was 16 and married when I was 18. Over the years we had five sons. He was the love of my life. He was a kind, loving and caring person, husband and father. He loved life and never had a bad word to say about anyone. He was my friend, husband and life long companion. When he died unexpectedly my world collapsed. But I went on because he would want me to. After all these years I not only miss him, but I expect him to come walking through the door and say, "I'm home, honey". He was my inspiration to go living and I know he would be so proud of the "My Paesano" website because it helps me keep his memory and the memory of our life together alive. I dedicate it to him.
Capri, I am sure he would be very proud. Thank you for talking to us and for sharing your memories with Italy Magazine.