words by Carol King
October is when the USA holds National Italian-American Heritage Month. There are hundreds of events across the country to encourage a greater appreciation for the roles played by Italians and Italian-Americans in building the nation.
In the five centuries since Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic Ocean, many Italians have followed the course he charted to seek a new life in the USA. Since then, generations of Italian Americans have helped shape American society and steer the course of its history. More than five million Italians immigrated to the USA between 1820 and 1992, and there are now 26 million Americans of Italian descent living there. First held 14 years ago, National Italian- American Heritage Month has become an annual event to celebrate the rich heritage of Americans of Italian descent and their immeasurable contributions to the country.
Events from film festivals to jazz concerts, and porchetta parties to tarantella nights celebrate Italian and Italian-American culture, history and activities. Among them have been an Italian-inspired cocktail night in Long Island City; the Italian Heritage Day Parade in San Francisco; and the honouring of Italian businesswoman and former mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, with the National Italian-American Special Achievement Award in Philanthropy at the Foundation’s Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., for her leadership as president of Friends of San Patrignano that led to the growth of the largest drug-rehabilitation centre in Europe.
Among the activities to come is a talk at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum in Staten Island, New York on ‘Italians Who Helped Shape America’ that includes the Italian Renaissance explorers Columbus, Giovanni Caboto and Giovanni da Verrazzano. The Dante Alighieri Society of Massachusetts is sponsoring a performance in Cambridge of ‘Francis the Holy Jester’ by Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo. The ‘Da Vinci: The Genius’ exhibition at the Leonardo Museum for Science, Technology and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah opened to coincide with Heritage Month, and will run until 27 January 2013.