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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 [1] and about the history of Italian-American immigration on this site [2].

My wife recently did a blog post called "Real" I-talian Spaghetti Sauce [3]. 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.


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Oregano: the ancient Italian art of pizza folding.