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An Italian American Says Basta! To Hispanic Heritage Month
Italian Americans are thick-skinned.
Call us dagos, guineas, wops…that's just sticks and stones.
When we're portrayed in the movies and on television as goombas, I'm not offended. I like a good mobster picture as much as anyone. And no matter what stereotype Hollywood uses, the Italians I know are more like Antonin Scalia than Tony Soprano.
But I confess that I got rankled when, at the 2003 National Italian American Foundation Gala, President George Bush delivered a few fleeting words without mentioning—save for a token reference to Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci—any of hundreds of significant contributions made by Italian-Americans.
Still, I forgot about Bush's slights—until this year when National Hispanic Heritage Month rolled around. It's a 31-day period beginning September 15th and ending October 15th.
By an odd coincidence, National Hispanic Heritage Month conflicts with Italian American Heritage Month, celebrated from October 1st to October 31st.
Which is bad enough. But as an Italian American reared by parents and grandparents who loved the United States, I'm miffed that any month at all is dedicated to people whose allegiance to our country is questionable—at least in some cases.
I certainly don't understand why Americans should be celebrating the history of countries whose presence in the U.S. stems largely from illegal immigration.
Call me crazy but I don't see why anyone save historians gives a rip about something called "Hispanic Independence Day." Celebrated on September 15th, Hispanic Independence Day marks the liberation nearly two centuries ago of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
But the crown jewel of Hispanic Heritage Month is Mexican Independence Day, September 16.
No doubt this is a perfectly fine and appropriate holiday if you live in Mexico. .
But we don't (yet). So why bother?
Throughout the U.S., colleges are pushing Hispanic Heritage Month.
I'm pro-awareness, of course. But, to ask a foolish question, wouldn't it be more worthwhile—in light of university students appalling ignorance about US history— to spend the time on American Awareness? .
Here in Lodi, in California's San Joaquin Valley, the Lawrence Elementary School—where last year illegal alien parents sued the school district—the Second Annual Mexican Independence Day Celebration took place.
This is a national scandal. What goes on in the schools is not a joint venture with Mexico. U.S. taxpayers fund our schools. Mexican holidays have no place on US school campuses.
I cannot imagine that Italians would ever attempt such a bold power grab.
Of course, as I have previously noted in VDARE.COM articles, when it comes to Mexico and its celebrations, nothing is ever enough. Telco Garcia, assistant managing editor of the Arizona Republic, recently admitted as much in his column tellingly entitled "1 Month Not Enough for Our Hispanic Pride." [email him]
Out of curiosity, I looked up what Bush had to say last year when he waxed poetic about National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Not surprisingly (since Hispanics now outnumber Italians in the U.S. by more than 12 million), Bush laid it on thick, trawling for votes as usual.
Among the Hispanics Bush "applauded" for their major contributions to America were Joseph Marion Hernandez, first Hispanic in Congress, 1822, Cuban Roberto Goizueta former. Chairman and C.E.O. of the Coca-Cola Company, Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente, Hall of Fame outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cuban Celia Cruz, salsa music queen.
I admire all the people Bush named. But, frankly, we Italians can field a better team.
Here, using the exact same professions that Bush chose, is the Italian line-up.
- Politics: Two of the original signers of the Constitution were of Italian descent, William Paca and Caesar Rodney
- Commerce: Amadeo Pietro Giannini, founder of the Bank of America (originally named the Bank of Italy) which financed the Golden Gate Bridge, the film, aerospace and agriculture industries for decades.
- Baseball: Joe DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper. The son of Sicilian immigrants, DiMaggio was once voted "the Greatest Living Player."
- Entertainment: Frank Sinatra, Oscar, Emmy and Grammy-winning star and philanthropist, known as "The Chairman of the Board."
No one can argue but that this dwarfs the Hispanic contingent.
After you look at those names, you have to wonder how, at that speech to National Italian American Foundation Gala, Bush could only offer up Columbus and Vespucci.
I believe the answer is simple: Bush doesn't know anything about Italians!
Yet, while yesteryear's Italians have been enormous contributors to America's success, Bush also owes a debt of gratitude to today's Italians who are fighting his ugly war in Iraq.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, citing the long-time friendship between Italy and the U.S., sent Italian troops to Iraq. Nineteen have died.
Bush owes it to Italians to learn our complete story.
Once he knows it, maybe he'll realize who his real friends are.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.