• The Hammonton Gazette

October is the perfect month to celebrate Italians



The cooler weather does not make me think of pumpkin spice anything. It makes me think of warm soups and comfortable sweaters.


I do love October.


It is Italian Heritage Month and it is fall. Could life be any better?


However, the holiday of Columbus Day has been marred due to the famed explorer’s own exploits that have become common knowledge rather than the simple paragraph we leaned about in elementary school about Columbus working for the Spanish King and Queen who landed in the Americas in 1492 with his three ships.


Statues have been torn down, boxed up and disgraced across the nation.


Where do we go from here?


I don’t want the month dedicated to my ancestrial heritage to be solely associated with Christopher Columbus.


Maybe each second Monday of October we should honor a different Italian-American for that year.


Antonin Scalia is a good choice. He was the first Italian-American on the Supreme Court.


Mother Cabrini is another.


As is Enrico Fermi.


Not to mention Frank Sinatra, Geraldine Ferraro and Joe DiMaggio.


It should be noted that Italians who came to America in the late 19th century and early 20th century were not exactly treated well.


Two years ago the New York Times published a piece “How Italians Became ‘White.’” Yes, you read that right.


It was written in the article that, “The federal holiday honoring the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus—celebrated on Monday—was central to the process through which Italian-Americans were fully ratified as white during the 20th century.”


I attended a very Catholic school. Italian-Americans were not the predominant background of the student population.  In fact, it often felt like we were looked down upon by fellow students.  That somehow, the vowel on the end of my name, made me less than them.


At the time, it was amusing.


The stakes were low and I really don’t care about how people see me.  But it did make me see them in a certain way.


The Italians who came to America have left an indelible mark on the American culture.


Think about what you eat in the week. Most people eat something that ties back to the Italian culture or the Italian-American version of it.


Let’s listen to some music. Maybe Sinatra is crooning or Rosemary Clooney or Dean Martin.


And it goes on from there.


Our small town of Hammonton is known for its Italian roots.


But outside of our boundaries, many of the Italian cultural enclaves are no more.  


I don’t want my heritage to be blanded out by a lack of appreciation for Italian-Americans on American history or offenses committed by Columbus who came to the Americas more than five centuries ago.


Our government, on all levels, needs to do better in recognizing the efforts of other Italian-Americans and remove the focus from the negative.


Do you have a story about growing up Italian, either in Hammonton or anywhere else? Send it to hammontongazette@yahoo.com.