Italian America Blog
Cross-pollination, in its first meaning, is the transfer of pollen between different plants by action of wind or insects. Metaphorically it is used to indicate the fusion of ideas and knowledge from different cultures. We learned it – not surprisingly – in San Francisco, talking with Emilian (and now Californian) Valentina Imbeni, director of the International School of San Francisco. Founded in 2002 by a small group of Italian-American parents, now it counts 170 children of 15 different nationalities, the majority of whom are children of American parents interested in what Italy has to offer in terms of education.
In Pittsburg, California, we meet the descendants of Sicilian fishermen who arrived here at the end of the 19th century, most of them coming from Isola delle Femmine, near Palermo.
In 1909 the Italian ambassador Edmondo Mayor des Planches visited this town – then called Black Diamond because it had been founded by Welsh coal miners – and wrote: “I find almost exclusively Italians, they are fishermen, who came from Isola delle Femmine, and from Ustica.
“Welcome to the end of the world,” a woman tells us as we arrive in Paradise Valley, in the heart of north Nevada. We drove through a few hundred miles of rocks, thorny bushes and rare grazing herds to find the place where a few families coming from Piedmont settled more than a hundred years ago. It’s hard to believe that anyone could come in the middle of nowhere without any motor vehicles and could find a spot where they could start a new life.
Our guide in Denver is Alisa Zahller, fifth generation Italian, historian and curator of History Colorado, the local institution that strives to preserve and share the memory of those communities who had been contributing to the development of Colorado. Today, breaking through a tight schedule of interviews, we can finally sit down on a table and listen to Alisa happily sharing with us the story of her family, arriving from Italy at the end of 19th century to settle in Como, a tiny mining centre on the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
The Italian American country team stopped in Stockton, Missouri, for the only not “Italo-American” stop of the trip. No Italian-americans to chase, no stories to gather or people to interview, but one good memory to live again.
Paolo Battaglia came back to Stockton today 29 years after his exchange year program at the local high school and 29 years after he had scored the winning field goal at the play off of the football match Stockton vs Marionville, where he was playing as a kicker (what a perfect role for the only Italian guy in the team!).
Surely wine has always been in the DNA of Tontitown. However, only one cellar, the Tontitown winery run by Ranalli sisters, Hether and Summer, is left in the little town of North-East Akransas… Let’s go back in the days, when father Bandini, the first priest of the town, left Forlì and lead here the first italian settlers in 1896, believing that the vines would have found the perfect home among Ozarks mild hills.
“I owe my soul to the company store”, goes the old famous American folk song. And the Italian population of Fairmont and Monongah, West virginia – today 60% of total local population has Italian origins – knew this very well. Migrating from southern regions of Italy – especially Calabria and surprisingly most of them from the small town of san Giovanni in Fiore, Cosenza – at the end of 19th cent, Italians would soon find work as miners, hired by owners of the local mines and also housed in the owners’ properties, specifically built for workers, the company homes.