header i-Italy

Articles by: Letizia Airos

  • Op-Eds

    Before wishing you happy holidays...


    I’ll start with the last few lines of a poem written by Giuseppe Ungaretti at Campo di Mailly in May 1918, during the First World War:


    To enjoy

    but a minute of life's

    first life

    I look for an innocent

    country


    In these few words the great 

    twentieth-century Italian poet conveys 

    all the anxiety of finding no country 

    untouched by the destruction and 

    suffering of the war. Unfortunately, 

    not much has changed. We wanted 

    nothing else but to begin this editor’s 

    note with a simple “happy holiday” 

    but couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Instead we suggest taking a moment 

    to reflect before the celebrations. 


    From New York to Paris 

    and the World 

    We hope that the celebratory 

    atmosphere, especially among families 

    and regardless of ethnicity or religious 

    affiliation, does not make us forget 

    what humanity is going through in 

    this historic moment. Many will not be 

    able to celebrate, and post-9/11 New 

    York continues to nurse a wound that 

    no Freedom Tower can heal.


     

    On the Cover 
    As you can see from the cover, this issue celebrates creativity on the streets of Harlem, spotlighting three 

    Italian artists’ contributions to the 

    wonderful Audubon Project. And, as 

    we do for every end-of-year issue,

    we’ve also nominated a “Person of 

    the Year.” Two people, actually, two 

    women from Puglia, two rivals on the 

    court and friends in real life—tennis 

    players Flavia Pennetta and Roberta  Vinci, stars of the all-Italian US  Open women’s final. In our opinion, as people around the world tuned in to watch them play, the fact that these two female competitors were  also (and remain) friends bore an  important message. You’ll recall their spontaneous embrace, which may have trumped their sense of national pride at having “conquered America.” 

     



    The most important message of their embrace, which takes on new meaning in these times of war, is that of friendship. 

     


    Arrivederci Baronessa!
     

    Speaking of women, we would like to take this occasion to bid a final  farewell to an extraordinary person, a model of cultural and philanthropic industry. This special woman has dedicated her own time and energy to the Italian culture she only recently 
    departed.


    Baronessa Zerilli-Marimò was that rare figure, a benefactress, a patron of the full spectrum of Italian culture and founder of NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. The Casa, a  center of Italian cultural and academic events in the West Village, was her pet project. Mariuccia founded the center in 1990 to honor the memory of her husband Guido, a pharmaceutical industrialist, diplomat and refined intellectual, using her inheritance to 
    help charity causes.


    Over the years  it became an amazing, unique place. Mariuccia’s patronage was special indeed, all the more precious for being  carried out without preconceptions or conditions and with the utmost respect for diversity. We all wish her farewell. Rest assured, she will always be with us. She left behind passion and love and a daughter:  her—and our—Casa Zerilli-Marimò.

     

    Support i-Italy! 
    Like many of us at the end of the year, we at i-Italy are taking a moment to look back—and forward. After creating a website way back in 2008, three years ago we made  our print and TV debut under the multimedia rubric “i-ItalyNY.” We took a chance. Despite some snags,  it has been a solid win. Given our current level of operation, we badly need to consolidate and grow even more.


    And we want to take that step with you, our readers. Our choice is to offer our content free of charge, not only on the web but in print (with this free-press magazine) and on TV (our show airs on the prestigious Public Broadcasting Station of the City of New York—NYC Life). Choosing to not have a commercial publisher cover our costs and influence our editorial decisions was hard. And if we are to continue in this fashion, we need your help. We exist thanks to those who appreciate our work and support us through sponsorships and donations. Now it is easier than ever to lend your support thanks to the “Friends of i-Italy 2016” program.

    As you may know, i-Italy is partly- sustained by the Italian American Digital Project, Inc., a 501(c)3 not for profit company whose mission is to facilitate cultural exchange between Italy and the United States via new information and communication technologies. IADP, Inc., will be collecting donations for us through the “Friends of i-Italy 2016” program.


    Donations may be made by individuals, corporations and other nonprofit organizations. In compliance with the laws established by the Internal Revenue Code, the gifts are tax-deductible. You may contact us directly or visit our website. And remember that we are always open to suggestions and will be sure to keep you informed of all our future endeavors.



    And now, at long last...
    Happy Christmas-New Year’s Eve. And a happy 2016 to all. Let’s hope next year brings peace. 

  • Fatti e Storie

    Jaqueline Greaves Monda. Vivere (con un) italiano a New York

    Che cos'è l'italianità per uno straniero? Come l’avverte?
    Ci sono certo degli stereotipi astratti. Si dice per esempio che gli italiani siano simpatici, amiconi, belli, passionali, mammoni, che sanno amare e divertirsi.

    Poi ci sono delle immagini che automaticamente riportano all’Italia, come la Ferrari e Prada, Venezia e Firenze, la Fontana di Trevi e il Vesuvio di Napoli, la pizza, e la pasta …

    E ci sono, si sa, anche stereotipi negativi: gli italiani sono spesso considerati rumorosi, disordinati,  rissosi e collerici, e c’è ancora chi sottolinea la “M-word” magari, aiutato da fatti di cronaca…
    Ho così pensato, per affrontare il tema più nel concreto,  di parlarne  direttamente con uno straniero che vive il suo quotidiano con un italiano.

    Cosa vuol dire per un non-italiano “vivere italiano” tutti giorni? Farlo con un italiano e in un contesto italiano, anche se fuori dall’Italia?

    Parlo di Jacqueline Graves, Jamaicana, e Antonio Monda, italiano, scrittore, professore di cinema alla NYU, e direttore della Festa del Cinema di Roma.

    Una coppia presente e attiva, spesso insieme, in diversi luoghi vivi culturalmente: dalla Morgan Library alla Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò della NYU, dal TriBeKa Film Festival  al Lincon Center, al MoMA e tanti altri.

    Ma Jacqueline e Antonio sono anche noti per l’ospitalità nella loro casa nell’Upper west Side, dove si incontrano spesso scrittori, giornalisti, attori, critici, artisti americani e italiani. Il loro appartamento è  diventato un vero  “laboratorio di  idée ”.

    Jacqueline Graves Monda, dunque, ci farà da guida in questo viaggio nell’italianità vista da uno straniero. Famiglia, cibo, senso della religiosità e la grande virtù dell’ospitalità. E poi il ‘vizio-virtù di parlare, parlare, parlare—sempre e di tutto.

    Avere tanto in comune
    L’incontro innanzitutto. A New York grazie ad amici. Era il 1985, lui era in giro in cerca di location per un documentario. Lei in città con la famiglia. Sapeva poco dell’Italia, Jacqueline, ne conosceva però l’arte, l’opera, la musica, come tanti.

    Si sentono subito vicini. Lui parla ancora poco l’inglese. “Ho imparato prima io l’italiano partendo da zero – ci dice sorridendo – grazie ad una full immersion con la sua famiglia in Italia, mentre lui era in viaggio!”

    Bella, solare, i tratti jamaicani esaltati da un modo di vestire molto personale, ma sempre al passo con tempi. Porta con se la sua terra sempre,  in ogni movimento, sguardo, gesto e lo fa con una naturale gentilezza. E' facile intuire il fascino che deve avere avuto sul quel giovane ragazzo italiano.
     

    Ma cosa hanno in comune? “Domanda fin troppo facile”, mi risponde senza esitazione. “Il rispetto della tradizione, della famiglia, dei valori che contano, dell’ospitalità.”
    E poi la religiosità, anche se il percorso non è stato lineare.

    “La mia famiglia è protestante, una religiosità rigida rispetto a quella cattolica”, dice Jacqueline. “Una mia zia ha sposato un prete anglicano che è diventato  vescovo della capitale della Jamaica. Ho frequentato un scuola religiosa. Vicino ad Antonio sono diventata cattolica, anche perchè credo che sia importantissimo crescere insieme i figli con lo stesso credo.”

    E un altro elemento che li unisce è stato certo l’interesse per la cultura, la musica, la letteratura, l’arte. “Vengo da una famiglia molto colta, ho vissuto tra i libri, mio nonno leggeva il greco antico, a casa si sentiva tanta musica classica…”

    Ospitalità come stile di vita,  'a way of life'
    Ma il vero, potremmo dire fatale,  punto d’incontro con Antonio è stato in quel “saper accogliere”, così legato poi alla loro vita qui a New York.

    “Gli italiani sono simili ai jamaicani. Ero abituata con miei nonni, mia mamma, ad aver sempre la casa aperta a gente di tutto il mondo. Ricordo le feste bellissime che faceva mia nonna in giardino, le tavolate con le frutta di stagione. Quando Antonio mi ha portato per la prima volta in Calabria ho ritrovato subito tutto questo. Anche se ancora non parlavo italiano.”

    Come racconta anche il New York Times, la casa dei Monda è frequentata da personaggi illustri: Philip Roth, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Zadie Smith e tanti altri ... Essere ospitati da loro è un'esperienza sempre speciale. Ma riuscire a far “sentire a casa propria” personaggi così diversi non deve essere facile. “Sono me stessa – dice Jaqueline – mi viene naturale accogliere chiunque.” E da splendida padrona di casa si divide tra cucina e ospiti con grande semplicità. E a volte, se siete fortunati, può capitare anche di vederla ai fornelli con mamma di Antonio. Sono momenti di una visibile e calda intesa.
     
    E, parlando di fornelli,   viene fuori un importante segreto di questa ospitalità giamaico-italiana. 
La cucina con cui Jaqueline è diventata famosa, una vera sintesi  italo-jamaicana che presto troveremo raccontata anche in un suo libro. “Sì, un libro di cucina ‘a modo mio" ci dice "Osservo quello che mi piace intorno. Trovo sempre degli ingredienti che creano un equilibrio. Piano piano ho inventato una mia cucina. Ma ci tengo a dire che la mia non è cucina Fusion – la odio!”

    Unire le culture usando il cibo
    Ma come nasce qusta passione? Non a caso viene dall’ambiente italiano… “Ti faccio ridere. Devo dirti che da ragazza non sapevo cucinare. Vivevo con mia mamma, una brava cuoca, e così non ne avevo bisogno. Poi tutti gli italiani in famiglia hanno cominciato a chiedermi ‘Ma come, davvero tu non sai cucinare?’ Nella famiglia di Antonio si dava una grande importanza a questo aspetto. E così piano piano mi sono messa ai fornelli. Marilù, mia  suocera, ed Elvira mia cognata sono state favolose nell’aiutarmi.”

    Cucinare per degli italiani… deve essere una sfida ardua per una non-italiana…
    "Infatti per molti  anni ho avuto paura di cucinare la pasta agli italiani!” ci confessa. “Oggi non è più così, tutti mi chiedono di cucinare la pasta. Mi piace inventare. I sapori che creo sono basati sui ricordi. Molto della mia cucina viene dalla memoria, dal tempo passato con mia nonna. E poi è semplice, cerco di crearla con pochi e naturalii prodotti. Ora è più facile trovare ingrendienti di qualità a New York,  ma ricordo che nel ‘94,  quando ho cominicato a cucinare, non c’era neanche un mazzetto di basilico decente.”
     

    NYC rende tutto più facile
    E la famiglia? Cosa vuol dire crescere dei figli in una famiglia bi-cuturale? Jacqueline e Antonio ne hanno tre e a casa loro si respira un senso della famiglia inconfondibile.

    “New York è  il posto migliore per crescere i figli di due culture. I nostri figli sono andati ogni estate in Italia, hanno sempre sentito parlare italiano. A New York sono stati vicino a mia madre e ad altri miei parenti: hanno vissuto la mia cultura anche se non siamo andati spesso in Jamaica. Qui ci sono poi tanti eventi jamaicani, concerti, balli folkloristici, mostre, e ci andiamo sempre. New York è una città speciale, permette di rimanere quello che si è. E’ un concentrato di accoglienza.”

    Italianità = "free" speech. Gli italiani parlano sempre di tutto!
     Mi diverto un pò a provocarla. “Cosa non sopporti degli italiani?”
    “Mi metti nei guai… gli italiani parlano sempre: di tutto, tanto. Sopratutto di politica. Nel mio mondo non si faceva. Mio nonno diceva: ‘Non si deve parlare con nessuno di religione e di politica’. Pensa che differenza! Ricordo che impressione i primi anni... e mia mamma perplessa che non capiva la lingua e sentiva sempre parlare, parlare, parlare...
    Ma poi rispondendo alla tua domanda mi accorgo che amo questa libertà di parlare. Mia madre dice che sono cambiata e che non mi riconosce più in questo. Ma amo questa libertà di espressione che voi italiani avete.”

    Ed in quale momento si sente più italiana, Jaqueline?
    “Forse quando parlo con mia figlia Caterina. Lei si sente proprio italiana. Vuole parlare sempre italiano e lo fa così velocemente che a volte al telefono non riesco a capirla!”

    L’ultima domanda ritorna al suo Antonio. Le chiedo quale è il segreto alla base del loro stare insieme oggi,  “Lavorare ogni giorno con un costante bisogno l’uno dell’altra. Si deve dare ma anche prendere, essere generosi …”
     

  • Life & People

    Erri De Luca: Naples is the Center of My Entire Nervous System

    Poetry lives in his daily life. He has experienced it, especially during the most difficult times. Erri De Luca – writer, translator, poet – is originally from Naples and has lived a very intense life.

    He has been a laborer, truck driver, warehouse worker, bricklayer. He has worked in politics and for humanitarian causes. These experiences provided him with important life lessons and have inspired his poetry.

    Carrying Naples inside of him, as do many Neapolitans who no longer live there, he lives in contrasts. He left Naples at 18. He returns, physically, every now and then. Even when he is far away, his mind and heart remain there.
     

    “My senses were created in Naples. That place is my center; it’s the center of my nervous system. My nervous system was formed there, as well the education of my emotions. I don’t mean walking arm-in-arm with a young lady. For me, it’s about fundamental feelings of compassion, anger, and even shame. They’re feelings that crop up every time I think of Naples. I hear them inside my head when I react to news coming from the city, every time they call me to comment on some distasteful piece of news from Naples.”

    As he describes his childhood, the story emerges of a city to hear as well as see. “I grew up in avery narrow alley. There was not much of a view, but the sounds worked miracles. You could hear everything that was going on beyond the walls and the streets. The city was very acoustic.” 
     

    It was an education that took place through listening, especially in dialect. “Voices, cries, prayers, lamentations of my mother. All in Neapolitan.

    Italian is my second language. It’s difficult to explain to non-Italians, because in their experience dialects don’t really exist – only the inflections of pronunciations that distinguish one place from another. It’s rarely found outside of Italy, this radical differences in vocabulary and phonetics among our dialects. We come from a country of ‘multiple languages.’ In Naples, we speak one of these languages.”

    Leaving Naples.
    So what does Erri recall of his departure from Naples? He was young, he left suddenly, and never went back there to live. “I had built up a lot of drive to get out, and the drive at a certain point materialized. I opened the door to my house…and I closed it slowly behind me, not letting it slam. I disappeared. I went down the stairs, I went to the station and I took a train. I separated myself from the future that had been set for me. I immediately threw myself into the fray. I remember precisely the emptiness of the descent; it was a deep void. For me, those stairs were an abyss, and I would never go up them again.” 
     

    For Erri De Luca, New York City, America, and Naples are linked by a personal red thread. The United States entered his life even before he visited. His grandmother was Ruby Hammond and she was raised in Birmingham, Alabama. His name, Erri, comes from Harry, even though he dropped the “H.” 
     

    “Neapolitan America”

    But America didn’t just exist in family stories. He had lived it and seen it while he was still a boy in Naples. “The U.S. Sixth Fleet is headquartered in Naples. There were aircraft carriers and whole squadrons. Entire neighborhoods in Naples were inhabited by American soldiers and officers. America was all around me.”
     

    This “Neapolitan” America joined the America that was already inside him. He looked very much like those young Americans, those soldiers who descended from ships and were seen wandering around Naples while on leave.

    “My body resembled theirs. Once I was even taken in by the American police since they had mistaken me for one of their soldiers. Physically, America fit me; it was my calling card. I was an American in Naples. “
     

    At last — New York

    But Erri visited New York City for the first time just two years ago, and did so as a famous writer on tour to present his book. We asked him to describe some of feelings upon his first “return” to America.
     

    “I had just read a travelogue written by my father, who had been in New York after the war. He had longed for America and had read a lot of American literature. So I tried to see New York through his eyes, looking for what he had seen him in the 1950s. Of course I made it up; I completely imagined the stories hidden inside of my father’s diary. I followed him as he went to Ellis Island, the terminus of the journey for emigrants, and I went to the top of the Empire State building, again because he had been there….”
     

    A city that is unique

    Our conversation seemed to be a relay between Naples and New York. We went back to Naples and asked Erri for some tips to tourists who want to visit. “Naples is not a touristic city in the classic sense. It’s not like Rome or Florence. Naples must be visited alongside a Neapolitan, someone who will take you by the hand, not because you need to be protected but because only a Neapolitan can open up the city to you. Otherwise, you won’t see anything. You need a friend in Naples. It’s a secret city. For however beautiful it is, for as much as it seems completely open with its wonderful bay, it’s actually impenetrable.” Perhaps an intrinsic aspect of this city is its impenetrability and its religiosity.

    “It’s a religious city, even superstitious. In particular, there is an intimate worship of the dead, who are never erased or excluded, but continue to be with us. There is great adoration of the relics. Neapolitans have entrusted themselves to the intercession of the patron saint Gennaro who saved them from the plague, the lava from Vesuvius, and earthquakes. The city has its own ‘holiness’ which is neither in heaven nor on earth.”
     

    An earthquake within. As in so many of Erri De Luca’s books, there lives and seethes a tension that feeds his research and transforms it into poetry. In this way, he exorcises the interior earthquake that is so often within us. And he allows something sacred to grow in its place, something which takes us back to Naples, where his senses were constructed.

     

  • Events: Reports

    IACF’s Annual Benefit Dinner & Auction

    We discussed with Cristina Aibino the importance of collaborative research between Italy and the US regarding breast cancer, a very significant and pressing topic in the lives of many.

    This year the benefit is celebrating its 35th anniversary.You’ve been putting so much effort into research for so long – what do all these years of hard work mean to you?

    These 35 years represent the consolidation of our fight against cancer. We have given over 419 scholarships to young Italian researchers who have come to the US to contribute to excellent research projects and we have offered over 90,000 screening tests to New York residents to guard against cancer.  Our programs allow us to invest in research and in the American community in which we reside. We’re proud of the results we’ve achieved over the last 35 years and look forward to the next 35 years.

    The American-Italian Cancer Foundation supports cancer research, a very sensitive topic of great importance. What is the difference between the manner in which research is conducted and work is carried out in the US as opposed to Italy?

    The technical and scientific preparation of Italian researchers ranks among the best in the world. With this solid background, the recipients of our scholarships have ample opportunity for professional development. In the US, Italian researchers will have access to exceptional laboratories, international research teams, and both financial and creative freedom to develop research projects.

    During the benefit, prizes will be given to two world- renowned scientists: Fredrick W. Alt. and Carlos L. Arteaga. What are the criteria for being selected for these prestigious awards?

    Our Prize for Scientific Excellence in Medicine is awarded annually to two doctors who have made significant contributions to the field of oncology, one in research and the other in applied medicine.

    Frederick W. Alt is the Director of the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and a Professor of Pediatrics and Genetics at Harvard Medical School. Carlos T. Arteaga is the Clinical Research Director of the Breast Cancer Research Program, Professor of Cancer Biology, and Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University.

    They were chosen by our Scientific Advisory Board, a group of select Italian and American doctors who have collaborated with us for many years to further our work in the field of oncology.

    The chairs of the charity gala will be Laudomia Pucci, CEO of Pucci, and Alessandro Castellano, CEO of SACE. Lamberto Andreotti, Chairman of the Board of Bristol-Myers Squibb, will receive the Alessandro di Montezemolo Lifetime Achievement Award. Why did you choose these specific honorees?

    The honorees of our annual gala are professionals who have distinguished themselves via exceptional accomplishments in Italy and around the world.

    What projects are you working on at the moment?

    We are working on promoting the Foundation via a new website and a social networking effort to raise public awareness of our programs. We want to give a voice to our fellows, tell their stories, and follow them until the end of our scholarships so that others can travel the same road in the future.

    With regards to our screening against breast cancer, we are constantly searching for centers in the region in order to expand our screening and admit more women into our clinics.

    To support the IACF: >>>

  • Opinioni

    Baronessa Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò, sei con noi

    Ci sono volute diverse ore prima di poter mettere le mani sul mio computer e scrivere dell’improvvisa scomparsa di una persona a cui la cultura italiana deve molto e che ho avuto l’onore di conoscere e frequentare.

    L’ho saputo mentre ero a Washington per il Gala 40mo anniversario della Niaf (Italian American Foundation), istituzione che come molte altre deve tanto alla Baronessa Zerilli-Marimò, icona della promozione della cultura italiana in America.   Subito un grande vuoto dentro di me, e poi la voce rotta per telefono di quello che forse è stato il suo più grande amico, oltre che collaboratore, Stefano Albertini direttore della sua Casa Italiana da diciassette anni.   Sarà una perdita difficile da realizzare, tanto era viva la sua presenza, anche se negli ultimi anni passava più tempo a Montecarlo che negli Stati Uniti.   Ma “La Baronessa”, come tutti la chiamavamo, ci è stata vicina egualmente, attraverso email, commenti al nostro lavoro, incoraggiamenti, incontri quando veniva a New York e voleva sapere come procedeva il nostro progetto. Era consapevole che stavamo portando avanti un lavoro non facile, e voleva sapere tutto.   La ricordo nel nostro ultimo incontro, ferma e materna al tempo stesso, pronta a fare le sue critiche come i suoi apprezzamenti. Lì nella sua stanza d’albergo, dopo aver venduto la sua splendida casa davanti al Central Park—luogo straordinario, dove sono passati tanti nomi che fanno parte della storia americana e italiana.    I suoi occhi scrutavano tutto con dolcezza, pieni di curiosità. E quel giorno sono andata via sempre più grata per i consigli ricevuti da una donna che mi appariva non solo lucida e razionale ma giovane dentro, costruttiva, piena di vita. E soprattutto una persona che sapeva ascoltare, virtù oggi sempre più rara. Devo molto a lei come donna, e non parlo di donazioni o finanziamenti. E’ stata per me  un vero “mentor”.   Era la sua fiducia, il suo ottimismo, nonostante la profonda consapevolezza delle difficoltà di un’impresa editoriale a New York, che me la faceva sentire vicina e mi rendeva indispensabile vederla. Il nostro è stato un rispettoso rapporto da donna a donna, tra due persone molto diverse, ma che condividevano una grande passione per la trasmissione della cultura italiana.   Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò. Una signora d’altri tempi, ma così “contemporanea”, attenta a tutto ciò che di nuovo nasceva intorno a lei, si è sempre dedicata con grande generosità e senza risparmiarsi alla diffusione della cultura italiana negli Stati Uniti.   Non solo attraverso contributi finanziari ma partecipando personalmente ai progetti che sceglieva di seguire. E’ così che è entrata a far parte, direi con estrema dolcezza, del tessuto culturale profondo del mondo italiano di New York e degli Stati Uniti.   Abbiamo parlato tante volte del suo passato, di quel marito che l’ha lasciata cosi presto e che lei ha voluto far rivivere attraverso un impegno vastissimo di promozione culturale.   Ne abbiamo parlato in privato, come davanti ad una telecamera. E lei era sempre coerente, una persona vera, che certo conosceva bene le regole dell’alta società, ma sapeva rimanere se stessa, sempre. Donna elegante e sofisticata, era anche capace di una semplicità disarmante.   Era vicina ai giovani con una dolcezza ed intensità rare, e per questo soprattutto la nostra redazione sotto i trentanni amava lavorare con lei, come del resto tutti i collaboratori, gli interns e lo staff della Casa Italiana che la ricorderanno per sempre. E due tra i tanti, i più vicini credo: Julian Sachs ed Elsa de Giovanni.   E che dire del mondo accademico? I nomi di Ruth Ben Ghiat e di Antonio Monda vengono subito alla mente per la loro assidua frequentazione della Casa. E poi la fondazione Tiro a Segno, importante risorsa da lei voluta come liason con mondo italo-americano. Per lei infatti promuovere la cultura italiana ha sempre significato anche avvicinarsi alla cultura italo-americana, scongiurando quella cesura tra i due mondi che, soprattutto anni fa, rischiava di approfondirsi.   Tra i suoi amici e collaboratori di una vita infatti, tantissimi americani, italiani ed italo-americani. Come anche nel Board della Casa, alla cui ultima riunione  avevo assistito la scorsa primavera, per filmarne una parte. La Baronessa si muoveva sempre a suo agio tra i suoi amici e collaboratori di una vita, come Matilda Cuomo, Katherine LaGuardia, Dominic Massaro, Steve Acunto, tra gli altri...   Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò ha contribuito a realizzare tanti progetti importanti, ma la Casa Italiana della NYU era certo la sua creatura speciale. Fondata nel 1990, per ricordare ed onorare il marito Guido, industriale farmaceutico, diplomatico e raffinato intellettuale, utilizzando il patrimonio ereditato per cause benefiche, è diventata, negli anni, uno straordinario centro della cultura italiana. E Stefano Albertini, suo storico direttore, ha lavorato con lei in maniera esemplare, contribuendo a valorizzare un impegno filantropico che non ha uguali nel mondo per profondità e competenza.   Una magica vicinanza che lasciava già far intendere che il suo lascito, un giorno, non sarebbero state solo le mura di un luogo stupendo, le sue mille attività, le borse di studio, ma anche una direzione culturale e organizzativa in grado di perpetuare la sua missione.   Grazie a tutto questo la sua presenza continuerà ad essere viva, perché la cultura è fatta di passione e di libertà che lei, prima di tutto, ha trasmesso a tutti.   Il suo mecenatismo è stato tanto tanto piu’ prezioso perche portato avanti senza preconcetti e condizionamenti, e sempre nel rispetto della diversità.   Un modello certo per molti e un invito a seguire le sue orme.   Baronessa Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò, sei con tutti noi.

  • Baroness Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò, Always With Us

    It took me some time before I was able to sit down and write about the sudden passing of someone to whom Italian culture owes so much and whom I had the honor to  meet  in person and spend time with.

    I found out about it while in Washington for the Gala celebrating the NIAF 40th anniversary,

    an institution that, like many others, owes so much to  Baroness Zerilli-Marimo', an icon for the promotion of the Italian culture in America.

    I felt a sudden void, and then the broken voice, on the phone, of Stefano Albertini , the director of 'her' Casa Italiana for the last seventeen years, and maybe her best friend.

     

    It's a loss that's going to be hard to accept, since  so vivid was her presence,  even though in the last few years she used to spend more time in Montecarlo than in the US. But "The Baroness", as she was known, was never too far from us: she would make her presence felt through her emails, her comments on our work, her encouragement, her meetings while she was in New York and her interest in our projects. She was well aware that the endeavor undertaken was not a simple one, and she wanted to know everything.

    I remember her in our last meeting, firm and maternal at the same time, as ready to criticize as she was to compliment you. We were in her hotel room, after she had sold her magnificent home across from  Central Park, an extraordinary place that had been visited by so many illustrious names of Italian and American history.  Her eyes would scan everything, with curiosity and tenderness.

    That day I left feeling even more grateful for the advice received by a person who not only seemed alert and rational, but also young, constructive and full of life. And someone who could listen, a rare virtue today. As a woman I owe her a lot, and I'm not talking about donations or financial support. She has been a true mentor. Her confidence and optimism, regardless of the difficulties an editorial enterprise in New York would face, made me feel close to her and needy of her support. Ours was a relationship of respect, woman to woman, between two very different people who shared the common goal of wanting to promote Italian culture.

     
    Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimo' , a woman from another era, yet a very 'contemporary' one, aware of everything new that was happening around her. With dedication,  generosity  and without sparing herself she contributed to the diffusion of  Italian culture in the United States. Not only through financial support but also personally participating in some of the projects. And this is how,  very delicately, she became at one with the deeper cultural fabric of the Italian world in New York and in the US.

    We often talked about her past, about that husband that left her side too early and that she tried to keep alive through her immense commitment to cultural promotion . We talked about it privately. She was being her true self, a genuine  person, someone who knew too well the rules of high society but that could still remain herself, always. Elegant and sophisticated, but also capable of disarming simplicity.

     
     
    She was understanding of young people, with rare compassion and intensity, reason why our staff loved working with her, and the same can be said about the collaborators, the interns and the staff of Casa Italiana who will never forget her. Two among many, maybe the closest: Julian Sachs and Elsa de Giovanni.

    And what about the Academic world? The first names that come to mind are Ruth Ben Ghiat and Antonio Monda, as they used to often spend time at the Casa. Then the Foundation 'Tiro a segno', an important association wanted by her as a liason with the italian-american world.

    For the Baroness promoting Italian culture also meant getting closer to Italian-American culture, preventing the gap between to two worlds to widen. Among her lifetime friends and collaborators there are in fact  many Americans, Italian-Americans and Italians. This past summer I participated in and filmed the last meeting of the Casa's Board: the baroness  always moved confidently among hher friends and collaborators, Matilda Cuomo, Katherina la Guardia, Dominic Massaro, Steve Acunto...

    The Baroness contributed to numerous important projects, but NYU's Casa Italiana certainly was her crowning glory.  Casa Italiana, established in 1990 to commemorate and honor her late husband Guido, pharmaceutical industrialist, diplomat and notable intellectual, over the years has become an extraordinary center representing italian culture. Stefano Albertini, its historical director, has worked with her in an exemplary fashion, adding value to a philantropic commitment unmatched for depth and competence. A shared sense of purpose which implied that its legacy would go beyond the walls of this marvellous place, its various activities and scholarships, to become a cultural and organizational movement able to perpetuate its mission.

     

    Thanks to all of this she will live on, because culture is made of passion and freedom,  which she has passed on. Her patronage was especially precious since she applied it without prejudices, and with the utmost respect of diversity. A role model for many , an example to follow.

    Baroness Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò, you are with us, always.

     

  • Opinioni

    “Il papa siamo noi”

    Ma chi sono io per scrivere su Papa Francesco? Me lo sono chiesto fino a questa sera. Premevo i tasti del mio computer e una voce interna mi bloccava. E mi veniva da pensare ancora: ho  letto già fiumi di parole su di lui e resoconti sulla sua visita in America, cosa posso aggiungere?

    Sono stati infatti giorni permeati dalla presenza del Pontefice qui. E’ stato il primo Papa nella storia a parlare davanti al Congresso di Washington, prima di recarsi a New York, alle Nazioni Unite, e poi a Filadelfia per la giornata mondiale delle famiglie.

    Le parole di Francesco, le sue azioni, anche alcuni suoi semplici gesti, sono arrivati questa volta dove nessuno è forse mai arrivato.

    Rimarranno sicuramente nei palazzi del potere, incideranno sulla campagna elettorale degli USA, toccheranno le decisioni alle Nazioni Unite. E speriamo che chi ha la possibilità, la responsabilità ed la possibilità, sia abbastanza coraggioso da seguire i consigli del Pontefice.

    La sua voce incredibilmente ferma, dietro la dolcezza, ha toccato temi scomodi, addirittura impronunciabili per alcuni.  Il suo modo di parlare descrive, rende partecipi, rimane dentro. In certi casi spiazza.
     

    Questo  con la semplicità della verità, tenendo sempre virtualmente per mano tutti coloro che sono deboli, che hanno bisogno. Gente come lui. “Siamo stati tutti stranieri”, dice.

    Cosa posso aggiungere io dunque su Papa Francesco ora?  Oggi pomeriggio l’ho incontrato in qualche modo da vicino. Ancora prima di vederlo fisicamente. Ho trovato infatti il Pontefice tra le gente, dopo aver passato ore nella folla aspettandolo. Questo scegliendo di fare la persona comune e non la giornalista, senza usare un permesso stampa. 
     

    In un bellissimo pomeriggio di fine settembre ho così ascoltato la speranza, mi sono fatta contagiare dai sorrisi, ho sopportato l’odore del sudore di chi è scappato dal lavoro per vedere il Papa, ho sentito le urla dei bambini, il loro pianto insofferente, ho provocato il sorriso di un vigile del servizio d’ordine, ho diviso l’acqua, ho provato a cantare insieme in spagnolo, non preghiere, ma melodie per festeggiare.

    Tutto questo a New York, sotto le vetrine dell’opulenta quinta strada. Stare insieme alla gente è  stato come toccare la presenza di Papa Francesco, ancora prima di vederlo. La semplicità del messaggio del pontefice, figlio di emigrati, passava attraverso le storie, gli sguardi, i gesti della gente che avevo intorno. Famiglie intere. Giovani dai vestiti più strani. Molti erano orogliosamente latino-americani. Ma tante le nazionalità di origine sulla Quinta strada. Donne, uomini e bambini che insieme lo hanno atteso per ore, in piedi. Questo per vederlo poi passare solo 30 secondi e andarsene via felici, con il sorriso.

    Queste ore mi hanno reso consapevole di cosa  mi ha colpito in questi giorni di Papa Francesco, cosa penso possa aver coinvolto la maggior parte delle gente qui: la semplicità di fondo del suo messaggio diretto a tutti, senza mai cambiare linguaggio. Con parole di facile comprensione.

    Perchè c’è  qualcosa che tutti possono capire. E questo qualcosa è il punto di partenza di tutto quello che dice.  Si chiama amore. Un amore che vuol dire cura dell’altro, cura del creato,  che esula da ogni appartenenza religiosa.

    Un sentimento che potrebbe essere la chiave per risolvere tutti i problemi che con coraggio e non senza provocazione, Papa Francesco sta affrontando di fronte ai potenti del mondo. E non dimentichiamolo, anche di fronte alla Chiesa, a sua volta una potenza.
     

    C’era molta gente per la strada, essere in tanti faceva sentire certo molto piccoli. Ma il desiderio di riconoscersi nel messaggio di Francesco, più uomo simile a loro che pontefice, e di poterne incontrare lo sguardo anche per pochi secondi, sembrava dare tanta forza ed in un certo senso grandezza.

    Molti saranno riusciti a vederlo pochissimo, molti forse non lo hanno visto,  ma l’attesa ha creato un senso di vicinanza che io non avrei mai immaginato. 

    Chi sono io per scrivere di Papa Francesco? Non lo so, ma ho provato a sentire sulla mia pelle il mistero di quell filo rosso che lega la sua esistenza ad un’umanità che crede in lui.

    Perchè “il Papa è come noi”, mi ha detto un ragazzo sotto un grande cappello, che si è tolto non appena ha visto arrivare la papamobile. 

  • Op-Eds

    ​"The Pope is Like Us"

    ​Who am I to write about Pope Francis?! I kept on asking myself this question, until yesterday. I was typing, but an internal voice was blocking me. I would think... what can I add to the rivers of words and reports already written about his Us visit?

    These have​
     been days dominated by the  Pontiff 's presence. The first Pope in history to talk before the Congress in Washington, prior to going to New York, the United Nations and Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families Conference. Francis' words, his actions, even some of his simplest gestures, have this time reached places maybe never touched before.​

    ​His words will no doubt resound inside the palaces of the powerful, have a bearing on the US electoral campaign and influence the United Nations future decisions.​

    ​ Let's hope that those who have the ability, the responsibility and the opportunity, will be brave enough to follow the Pope's suggestions.
     

    His  voice, incredibly firm behind its genuine gentleness, stirred inconvenient truths, some even unpronounceable for many. His words of inclusions often catch you off guard and their echo is  long lasting.

    ​And all this with the simplicity of the truth, always virtually holding hands with the poor and the needy. People like himself. "We were once foreigners" he says.​

    ​So what can I add about Pope Francis...
     Yesterday afternoon I've somehow met him, close up. Even before seeing him in person. I have met him among the people, after having waited for him in the crowd for hours. Choosing to be one of the many and not the journalist with a press pass.

    So it happens that in a beautiful September afternoon I listened to hope, I allowed myself  to be  infected by the smiles, I endured the body odor of those who had sneaked out of work early  to see the Pope, I heard the screams of the children, their annoyed cries, I elicited the smile of the security staff, I shared water, I tried to sing along in Spanish... not prayers, but melodies of celebration.

    ​This was happening in New York, not far from the opulent shop windows of the 5th Avenue. Being among people has meant feeling the Pope's presence even before seeing him. The simplicity of the Pope's  message​, 'a son of immigrants', was being shared through the stories, the looks, the body language of the people around me. Entire families. Youth dressed in the oddest fashion. Many of them proudly South American. But many more were the nationalities represented on the 5th Avenue. Women, men and children that together waited, standing for hours, to see him only for thirty seconds, passing by, and then go home, happy.

    ​The last few hours have made me aware of what really is that strikes you about Pope Francis and captivates everybody: the simplicity of his message that is directed to all, a message always delivered with the same direct and comprehensible language.

    ​Because there is something that we can all understand and that is the starting point of everything we can say: love. That love that inspires you to look after one another, love for the planet, love that is above any religious faith .​

    ​A feeling that could be the answer to all those problems that Pope Francis, with courage not free  from provocation, is addressing in front of the most powerful world leaders. And why not, even in front of the Church itself, a super powerful institution.

    ​There were so many people on the streets, and that made you somehow feel very small. But the desire to identify yourself in Francis' message, more a man like you  than a  Pontiff, and the hope to meet his gaze even if for a few seconds, seemed to convey strength and somehow greatness.

    ​Many would have seen him only for a split second, many others not even that.​ But the wait created a sense of closeness that I wouldn't have imagined.

    ​Again, who am I to write about Pope Francis? Not sure, but I tried to feel on my skin the mystery of that red thread that connects his existence with the humanity that has faith in him.​

     ​Because the Pope is like us, said a guy hiding under a big hat that he quickly removed as he saw the papa-mobile approaching.

    .

  • Life & People

    Living (with an) Italian in NYC

    What does italianità (or “Italian-ness”) mean to a non-native? How do you explain it? There are certainly abstract stereotypes associated with italianità. We say, for example, that Italians are kind, friendly, beautiful and passionate. We say they know a thing or two about love and having a good time.

    Then there are those images that immediately call Italy to mind: Ferrari and Prada, Venice and Florence, the Trevi Fountain and Mount Vesuvius, pizza and pasta. There are also, we know, negative stereotypes. Italians are often considered loud, quarrelsome and hotheaded. And some people still stress the “M-word”...

    But I wanted to try to tackle the concept head-on, not dwell on the usual stereotypes. Why not talk to a non-native who lives with an Italian, I thought. What does “living Jaqueline Greaves Monda in Capri Italian” mean for a non-Italian? Better yet: What’s it like to live with an Italian, in an Italian context, even outside of Italy?

    I decided to seek help from a couple that is beloved by this city, not the transient New York gossip variety, but one with a firm foothold in the city’s cultural milieu, one with ties to literature, film, art. So I decided to pay a visit to Jacqueline Graves, a Jamaican, and her husband Antonio Monda, an Italian writer, film studies professor at NYU and acting director of the Festa del Cinema in Rome.

    In New York Jacqueline and Antonio play an active role, often side by side, in various cultural institutions, including, to name a few, the Morgan Library, NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Tribeca Film Festival, Lincoln Center and MoMA.

    Yet they are also widely known for hosting Italian and American writers, journalists, actors, critics and artists at their home on the Upper East Side. Their house is a “laboratory of ideas,” as Antonio himself calls it, where people gather round the dining room table. Who better than Jacqueline Graves Monda to guide us on this tour of italianità, of family, food, a sense of religion and the virtues of hospitality. Not to mention the vice/virtue of talk, talk, talk – never ending and all consuming.
     

    A lot in common
    Let’s start with how they met. In New York, through friends. It was 1985. Antonio was scouting a location for a documentary. Jacqueline was in the city with family. She didn’t know much about Italy then, but, like a lot of people, she did know about its art, music and opera.They immediately warmed to one another. He didn’t speak much English then. “I learned Italian first, starting from scratch,” she says, smiling, “thanks to a full immersion with his family in Italy. He was away at the time!” Beautiful, sunny, Jacqueline’s personal – though with-it – fashion sense enhances her Jamaican features. Her native land shines through in an unpremeditated, gentle way. It’s easy to understand how she enchanted the young Italian.
     

    But what do they have in common? “That’s too easy,” she offers, not batting an eye. “Respect for tradition, for family, for real values, for hospitality.” And then there’s religion, even if the road was a bit circuitous. “My family is Protestant and Protestantism is a lot more rigid than Catholicism,” says Jacqueline. “One of my aunts married an Anglican priest who later became bishop of the capital of Jamaica.

    I went to a religious school. I became a Catholic with Antonio, because I think it’s very important to raise children in the same faith.” And yet another factor in their marriage is their shared interest in culture, music, literature and art: “I come from a very cultured family. I grew up around books. My grandfather read ancient Greek. Classical music was in the air...”
     

    Hospitality as a way of life
    But the couple’s real – perhaps fatal – area of agreement is in their ability to “host parties,” a mainstay of their life in New York. “Italians are similar to Jamaicans. Thanks to my grandparents and mother, I was used to keeping our doors open to people from around the world. I remember my grandmother’s beautiful garden parties, the tables topped with seasonal fruit. When Antonio brought me to Calabria for the first time, I found the very same thing. Even if I didn’t speak Italian at the time.”

    As the New York Times has reported, luminaries like Philip Roth, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and Zadie Smith flock to the Monda household. Paying them a visit is a special experience. But making such big names “feel at home” can’t be easy. Or can it? “I’m myself,” Jacqueline confesses, “hosting all kinds of people comes naturally to me.” Indeed, this splendid lady of the house attends to both her kitchen and her guests with great ease.

    On occasion, you might even catch a glimpse of Antonio’s mother by the stove. And so, as our talk drifts toward kitchen matters, I discover the secret to Italian- Jamaican hospitality: food. Jacqueline’s food has become famous for its seamless blend of Italian-Jamaican cultures and is the subject of a forthcoming book.
     

    Blending cultures through food
    “Yes, a cookbook done my way. I make a note of what I like around. I always find the right ingredients to strike a good balance, and slowly but surely I’ve created my own type of cooking. But I don’t call it ‘fusion’ – I hate that!” But where does this passion for cooking come from? “You’ll laugh. I must admit that as a girl I didn’t know how to cook. I lived with my mother, who was a good cook, so I didn’t have to. Then everyone in my Italian family started asking me, ‘What? You really don’t know how to cook?’ Antonio’s family placed a lot of importance on the subject. So I slowly began to cook.

    My mother-in-law Marilù and my sister-in-law Elvira were a fabulous help.” As an Italian, I might have guessed. But cooking for Italians must be grueling for someone not Italian. “In fact for many years I was afraid to cook pasta for Italians!” Jaqueline recalls, “That’s not the case today. Everyone asks me to cook pasta now. I like to invent. The flavors I create are based on memories. Much of my cooking is inspired by my memories of the time I spent with my grandmother. After that it’s easy. I try to make dishes with a few, simple products. Now it’s easier to find quality ingredients. When I began cooking back in ’94, you couldn’t even find decent basil in New York.”
     

    NYC makes it easier
    And her family? What is it like to raise children in a bicultural family? The couple has three kids, and their house has that unmistakable family feel. Jacqueline couldn’t be more straightforward on this matter: “New York is the best place to raise children with two different cultural backgrounds. Our children go to Italy every summer and have always heard Italian spoken. In New York, they’re close to my mother and other relatives of mine. They have experienced my culture, even if we haven’t been to Jamaica often. There are many Jamaican events here: concerts, folk dances, shows. We always go. New York is a special city. It let’s you remain who you are. It’s the essence of hospitality.”
     

    Italianness is — talking freely
    I try, fiendishly, to provoke her a little. “What can’t you stand about Italians?” “You’re going to get me in trouble...” she laughs. “The Italians talk all the time! About everything, a lot. Especially about politics. That’s not how it worked in my world.

    My grandfather would say, ‘Don’t talk about religion or politics with anyone.’ Think of the difference! I remember how astonished I was those first few years. And my mother was perplexed. She didn’t understand the language and was hearing all this talk, talk, talk...But, now that you ask, I realize that I love this way of talking freely. My mother says I’ve changed. She doesn’t recognize me anymore. But I love the way you Italians have of freely expressing yourselves.”

    And when does Jacqueline feel most Italian? “Maybe when talking with my daughter Caterina. She really is Italian. She always wants to speak Italian and speaks so quickly that sometimes on the phone I can’t even understand her!” One last question. Getting back to Antonio, what’s your secret? How do you live so happily together? “By working every day with a constant need for one another. You have to take as well as give. And be generous...”

  • Op-Eds

    What's Hiding Behind the Bend?


    The road is a child running up ahead of me and hiding behind a bend – perhaps he’s waiting to surprise me when I get there. 

    — Pascal D’Angelo, Mezzoggiorno
     
    Pascal D’Angelo was a shepherd and poet from Abruzzo. An autodidact, he immigrated to the US in 1910 and was fascinated by the dynamism of his adopted country, despite the occasional hardship he encountered there. His simple yet eloquent verse was published in various American journals, and the fresh air of discovery that permeated his work seems a fitting way to greet autumn in New York. 

     
    Although our cover pays tribute to Italian discoveries of another kind—to major Italian contributions to science and technology—an immigrant’s voyage is a similarly courageous excursion into the unknown, one that also requires invention, so we feel justified in introducing this issue of i-ItalyNY with our shepherd poet.  

     
    ● ● ● ●

     
    This special issue features an insert by the Italian Heritage
    & Culture Committee presenting all of the Italian and Italian-American events happening in this city of immigrants during the fall. And because Italy and Italians are so poorly represented by current stereotypes, we have dedicated this issue to differences and diversity by entitling it “A Different Italy, Diverse Italians.” 

     
    ● ● ● ●

     
    The “Different Italy” described in Maria Teresa Cometto’s cover story is a country that goes beyond fashion, art and good cooking, a country that gave birth to some of the most important scientific and technological innovations of the last fifty years. 

     
    The stories of “diverse Italians” that you will find in the following pages speak to a concept of Italianness that transcends ethnic labels and “hyphenated” identities, as reflected upon by Anthony Tamburri. Gennaro Matino talks about the best-known hyphenated Italian, the Italian-Argentine Pope who, in recent weeks, has borne his message of peace and social equality to the Americas. We also introduce you to Afro-Italian director Fred Kuwornu,
    a noted champion of dual citizenship in Italy, and Jaqueline Greeves Monda, a sophisticated Jamaican whose marriage to one of New York’s noted Italian intellectuals has led to her “Italianization.” And two multi-hyphenated college professors—a Slavic Sicilian American and a German Jewish Italian American—travel to uncover the Italian side of their respective ancestries, with differing fortunes.  

     
    We then profile three very different but equally successful Italian Americans. John Viola, the youngest president in the history of the National Italian American Foundation, talks about the organization’s 40th anniversary and how he intends to transform NIAF into a global ambassador of Italianness in the world. Lucia Pasqualini continues her column on Italian-American mentors and role models, this time discussing how anchorwoman Maria Bartiromo helped her understand her own family’s history. And Peter Vallone, the good old guy of Italian-American politics in New York, talks about his Sicilian origins and how he served as NYC Council Speaker for roughly twenty years.  

     
    Finally we attend to some of Italy’s “adopted” citizens—or “Italici,” as Piero Bassetti would define them. They include American architect Dan Meis, who is currently at work on the new soccer stadium in Rome; Italian studies professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, who talks with Stefano Albertini about her latest book Empire Cinema; and French writer Dominique Fernandez—member of the Académie française, award-winning Pasolini scholar and author of several important essays about Italy— who takes us on a unique tour of Baroque Sicily. 

     
    ● ● ● ●

     
    Sicily and its particular relationship to difference and diversity is in fact the subject of much of this issue. Previously the region from which Italians emigrated, Sicily now finds itself on the receiving end of immigrants coming into Italy. Here, you’ll also discover a Sicily that is home to art—not just beaches and beachcombers—and get a taste of its cuisine at New York’s best Sicilian restaurants. 

     
    ● ● ● ●

     
    Through this issue of i-ItalyNY we hope to show you that Italy’s true capital goes by the name “diversity.” Not only is its history a continuous overlapping of cultures, but a steady stream of emigrants has carried that cultural patrimony around the world, opening it up to further transformations. And today’s Italianness is the result of this long, complex process.
    So, even if you’re staying in NY this fall, let yourself wander with us—with our magazine and our television show, website and social media—in search of Italianness. Wander like the shepherd poet. What’s hidden behind that bend? You’ll be surprised to find out when you get there.


Pages