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Christopher Columbus, the First Italian-American?

picture of Christopher Columbus

Happy Columbus Day! Though the only thing exceptional about today for most of us is receiving no bills in our mailboxes, I have one reader for whom the day holds special meaning ... and she knows who she is.... 🙂 Columbus Day, the anniversary of Columbus's 1492 landing in the Americas, is observed October 12 in Spain and the second Monday of October in the USA. Some don't realize that, though financed in his explorations by Isabella I of Castile (north-central Spain), Columbus was Italian, born in Genoa, which is in modern-day Italy. Some now seek to vilify Columbus, but his coming to the Americas may give him the distinction of being the first Italian-American.

With that in mind, today I'm posting a list of ways you can know you're from an Italian background. If you're not, you might at least recall observing some of these behaviors in people you know with an Italian heritage.

DISCLAIMER: Since my background is French, there are some aspects of the following that I don't understand and pass on with a bit of trepidation. I asked an Italian student of mine about several, and he assured me they're okay. Just don't send the Mafia after me!

picture of flags

You know you're Italian-American when...

You can bench press 325 pounds, shave twice a day, and still cry when your mama yells at you.

Your mechanic, plumber, electrician, accountant, travel agent, and lawyer are all blood relatives.

When you were growing up, you had five cousins all living on the same street.

All five of those cousins are named after your grandfather or your grandmother.

You have many relatives named either Joe or Mary, and you have at least one brother named Joe.

Your two best friends are your cousin and your brother-in-law's brother-in-law.

You are on a first name basis with at least 8 banquet hall owners.

You grew up in a house with two kitchens, and one was in the basement.

You get only one good shave from a disposable razor.

You netted more than $50,000 on your first communion.

A high school diploma and one year of community college has earned you the title of "professor" among your aunts.

There were more than 28 people in your bridal party.

There were more than 400 people at your wedding, most of them being family.

Your grandfather had a fig tree.

30 years after immigrating, your parents still say "Pronto" when answering the phone.

When you were growing up, you ate Sunday dinner at 2:00 p.m., and on Thanksgiving your family's first course was Ravioli.

Christmas Eve ... only fish.

Connie Francis songs make you cry.

Your mama's meatballs are the best.

You've been hit with a wooden spoon or had a shoe thrown at you.

When you visit, you are greeted at the door with a meatball on a fork.

Your father owns five houses, but still drives an old car.

You share a bathroom with your five brothers, have no money, but drive a $45,000 sporty car.

You consider dunking a cannoli in an espresso a nutritious breakfast.

You're comfortable sitting on furniture with clear plastic covers on it, and it looks normal for your lamp shades to be covered in clear plastic.

You know all the words to That's Amore.

You know how to pronounce "manicotti" and "mozzarella."

You fight over whether it's called "sauce" or "gravy."

You've been to a funeral where talk of the deceased is, "He shoulda kept his big yap shut."

picture of statue

The American continents were named for Amerigo Vespucci, the Florentine explorer and geographer who was a contemporary and friend of Columbus. He sailed to the New World in 1499, first landing in what is now Brazil. Vespucci was the first to advance the belief that the land discovered by Columbus was not part of Asia, but a new continent and for that, European cartographers named the "New World" in his honor. Columbus died believing he had reached the far side of Asia, hence the "West Indies." At first, the name of America was meant to apply only to South America, but eventually both continents of America became known by this name.

If it weren't for Italian-Americans, we wouldn't enjoy such things as Jacuzzis, Mr. Coffee products, Chef Boyardee (Boiardi) Italian foods, chocolate bars, Radio Flyer wagons, Big Macs, and much more. You can read more about innovative Italian-Americans on this site and about the history of Italian-American immigration on this site.

My wife recently did a blog post called "Real" I-talian Spaghetti Sauce. I'll be interested to hear from readers who might confirm how accurate the items in today's list are in describing those with an Italian heritage.


=^..^= =^..^=

Oregano: the ancient Italian art of pizza folding.

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7 Comments on “Christopher Columbus, the First Italian-American?”

  1. #1 Michael
    on Oct 11th, 2010 at 9:17 am

    And the cartographer who named the new continents after Vespucci was German.

    I wonder what Native Americans think about Columbus? Their world definitely changed forever when he showed up.

    Rob adds: I’ve read that the cartographer even made up his own name Waldseemuller. I don’t think any of the original Native Americans are still around, Michael, so I don’t know how we can find out what they think. 😉

  2. #2 Jonathan
    on Oct 11th, 2010 at 10:19 am

    The influence of Columbus still resides in Washington D.C. He didn’t know where he was going when he left. Didn’t know where he was when he got back. And he did it all on someone else’s money. That’s why they call it the District of Columbia.

    Rob adds: What more can I say, Jon?! 😀

  3. #3 Elizabeth
    on Oct 11th, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I like Columbus Day because most people assume we’re closed and don’t bother coming in. 🙂

    Rob adds: I think bank employees and postal workers (in the classic sense of that expression) might be the only ones who have the day off today. Enjoy a light day at work. 🙂

  4. #4 Heather
    on Oct 11th, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    @Jonathan — I need to borrow that. 🙂

  5. #5 Heather
    on Oct 12th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    As a part Italian-American, I appreciated this post. 🙂 I might add that you know you are Italian if you know what gnocchi is and have seen it made from scratch. Delicious stuff! 😀

    Rob adds: I agree — gnocchi is great stuff. I’ve never seen it made from scratch, but I watched a woman in France from an Eastern background (I can’t remember specifically if it was Czech, or Slovakian, or what … back in 1975…) make something similar to Spaetzle from scratch. She broke off little pieces of the dough into boiling water. So many good things to eat out there from different ethnicities!

  6. #6 Carrie
    on Oct 14th, 2010 at 12:38 am

    *Chuckling to herself* I love this! Do you have one on the Dutch?

    Rob adds: I’ll have to check my archives, Carrie. There’s probably nothing about the Dutch that we could poke fun at, is there?

  7. #7 Salvatore Buttaci
    on Oct 17th, 2010 at 9:24 am

    This was an enjoyable read, except for the mafia allusions. As a proud Sicilian American, I have been an anti-media activist for too many years to count. I’ve written books, appeared on radio and TV talk shows, written letters to editors and advertisers, in defense of my ethnicity. Though many will insist I need to lighten up and laugh along with the others who poke fun at us, I continue to object to this kind of bias. Those who came to America, beginning with Columbus, did much to make this nation what it is today. Yet, how are we honored? We are roped into the corral with the less than .006% of us who find violence a profitable way of life!

    Salvatore Buttaci
    author of Flashing My Shorts
    and A Family of Sicilians

    Rob adds: Thanks for your comment, Salvatore. I can honestly say that no offense was intended when I said, “Just don’t send the Mafia after me!” But clearly, offense was taken. I’m truly sorry to have offended you.

    Did you miss the following paragraph in my post?

    If it weren’t for Italian-Americans, we wouldn’t enjoy such things as Jacuzzis, Mr. Coffee products, Chef Boyardee (Boiardi) Italian foods, chocolate bars, Radio Flyer wagons, Big Macs, and much more. You can read more about innovative Italian-Americans on this site.

    I was speaking highly of Italian-Americans and even sent my readers to a site dedicated to praising Italian-Americans, my focus on that site was especially on their innovativeness. You appear to be guilty of what you are accusing others of doing. In a blog post of 767 words, you were arrested by and focused on one word, a single reference to the Mafia. That was about one thousandth of my post — which is smaller than what you say is the percentage of the Italians who are in the Mafia’s “corral.” I’m sorry that that seems to be all you saw worth commenting on in what you called “an enjoyable read.” I join those who say you need to lighten up and laugh along with others. If we cannot laugh at ourselves, we are missing some of the best comedy in the universe. My background is French and I’m extremely proud of that, but they do have some ways that are indeed laughable. You can check out some of my posts about France and (the) French.

    Hope you’ll be back to explore my blog more. This is and probably will be my only post on Italians since my topics are so varied. There’s no need to reply to this reply. 🙂