Antonio Pandolfi

It-Us (Italian-Americans)

The images shown here are an essay of what should have been a vast project on the italian american community in USA and were taken in Ishpeming and Marquette, Michigan, where I visited the italian-american community.
The country was once flourishing thanks to the iron mines that supplied Detroit's auto factories. Now that the mines have shut down and most of the young inhabitants have left, the area has a feeling of the past frontier.
Since Cristoforo Colombo stumbled on this continent five hundreds years ago, it has filled up with new settlers who aimed to build a new way of life far from old european schemes and bureaucracy or, in the case of most of italian emigrants, far from poverty.
Though in the united states freedom and individualism are a choice of life, it is also important to feel part of a group so as not to be left alone in the wonderful vastness of the land. The previously "melting pot" has recently become the " salad bowl" as americans have given up the old dream of blending different races and cultures into something called "america". Acceptance of this idea has lead descendants of immigrants to a renewed desire to discover and celebrate their origins in a new world where all groups except native-americans have shallow roots.
The organizations which seek to preserve the contribution of italian descendant to american history are spread out anywhere. The italian-american community has had a great part in the development of the country. Pizza is, no doubt, along with hamburger, a national dish and is surely as good as in italy. Eating in italian-american homes it is possible to experience old regional recipes that have been transformed by time and shortage of original ingredients.
It is comforting being far from home and finding places where you can read "caffe' con panna", or visiting people whose family name is Mauceri or Valela, even if they only speak a few words of italian.
Most italian-americans are not really interested in visiting that land of poverty their ancestors escaped some eighty years ago.
They are innocent wonderful people, and they would never go back. Many italian-americans are now moving out of ghettos and mixing with other groups. They arrived in America and worked as miners and hard laborers. Now they own the bakery, the bar, the grocery. They made their american dream come true. They are proud of themselves, proud of their roots, and visiting them would eventually help us, who are native italians, to find the sense of nation we never had.

The project has been possible thanks to Prof. Russell M. Magnaghi of Northern Michigan University