How Italians became American (Washington Post)

Printer-friendly version

University of Massachusetts professor Vincent J. Cannato describes in the Washington Post how Italian culture has influenced and changed the definition of Americana.

According to Cannato, the waves of Italians arriving to the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s were greeted with suspicion and stereotypes, relegated largely to unskilled labor. Americans of the time would be surprise to see Italian staples such as garlic or pastas in the pantheon of American cuisine, both having once been objects of scorn to American palates.

Cannato describes the historical forces that guided evolution of Italians and Italian Americans from foreigners to “Americans”, noting the impact of immigration quotas and World War II on Italian immigration and acceptance.

Today’s Americana includes aspects of Italian and Italian American culture ranging from the Godfather films, singer Frank Sinatra, sports legend Yogi Berra, and ubiquitous pizza dishes, among others – all accepted as part of the nation’s heritage, reflecting the small immigrant community’s sizeable impact on mainstream American culture.

Read full article here

Photo credit: (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)