I'm a Sicilian American

Dedicated to my parents Gaetano and Rosa Alessi Coniglio and my eldest brother Guy, who came to America in 1913 and 1914 from Serradifalco, SICILY.

 

Buffalo News feature writer Lee Coppola, a fellow Sicilian American, reviewed My Two Italies in July of 2014.   That’s a book by Joseph Luzzi that tells of the disdain that many Northern Italians have for “southerners” (those from the south of Italy and Sicily).  It led me to reflect on an experience I had in the ’fifties while serving with the U. S. Army in Germany.

 
 

Bill Tufillaro, Tom Tirone and I, all soldier-sons of Sicilian immigrants, were on leave in Copenhagen, Denmark.  On our first night there, we visited the famed Tivoli Gardens, an open public park – sort of a combination of Delaware Park and the old Crystal Beach Amusement Park.

As we strolled the flowered paths, we noticed three striking young ladies, walking together and speaking to each other in Italian. Being young soldiers starved for female companionship, we politely approached them and managed to convey the fact that we were the sons of “Italian” immigrants.

Things went well until one of them asked, in Italian, “From which part of Italy were your parents?” 

In unison, Bill, Tom and I proudly replied “Sicilia!”

The three girls froze in their tracks, faces expressionless.  Without a word, they performed an almost-military about-face and walked briskly away, leaving the three of us open-mouthed.

 
 

“What was the reason for the girls’ action?” you may ask. 

Simple: their Northern Italian mothers had warned them “Don’t you EVER speak to a Sicilian!”

Even today, Sicilian immigrants’ children, who incorrectly believe they are visiting their roots when in Rome or Florence, are surprised that the locals not only don’t understand their attempts to speak the language, but are distinctly unfriendly.

The reason is that the language we descendants of Sicilians heard at home was the Sicilian language, not Italian.   And “Italians” today consider Sicilian as the language of the poor and ignorant, even though it was the first Romance language, which preceded the Tuscan dialect now considered official “Italian”.

Most Americans of “Italian” descent are the offspring of Southern Italians and Sicilians.  Buffalo, especially, has a high number of Sicilian Americans.

 
 

I’m a Sicilian American.

I’m the son of immigrants who left a land of history and beauty, of poets and dreamers, volcanoes and olive trees.  A land that taught the world what a modern nation could be, before most modern nations existed.  A land that formed the largest country, The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, from Naples and Abruzzo to Messina and Palermo, that was subsumed into the new ‘Kingdom of Italy’ after the ‘unification’.

My parents left because for all its lore and loveliness, and their fierce pride in it, Sicily was poor and demeaned, and could offer little hope for their family’s future. 

I’m a Sicilian American.

My heritage includes mythical Persephone, Vulcan, and Icarus; Greek scholars Archimedes, Empedocles and Diodorus Siculus; composers Bellini and Scarlatti, and writers Verga and Sciascia.

I’m a Sicilian American. 

I’m Padre Saverio Saetta, who died in 1695 while bringing Christianity to the New World.

I’m Antonio Crisafi.  I came before there was a United States and in 1696 commanded the fort at Onondaga.

 I’m Enrico Fardella, who fought against the Bourbons in Sicily, one of the first people’s revolutions in Europe, in 1848, and then became a brigadier general in America’s Civil War.

I’m a Sicilian American.

I’m a descendant of Southern Italian immigrants who formed 80% of the ‘Italians’ who came to America in the ‘Great Migration’ of the late 1800s and early 1900s, most, from the island of Sicily.

I’m one of the nineteen Sicilians who were murdered in New Orleans in 1891, in the largest mass lynching in American history.

I’m a Sicilian American.

I’m Chaz Palminteri, Frank Capra, Armand Assante, Sonny Bono, Iron Eyes Cody, Ben Gazzara, Frankie Laine, Cyndi Lauper, Chuck Mangione, Al Pacino, Louie Prima, Pete Rugolo, Frank Zappa, and thousands of others who have made the world wonder, laugh, and sing with our artistry.

I’m Joe Dimaggio.

I’m a Sicilian American.

I’m one of millions of one-, two- and three-star mothers who anguished while their sons fought for the American Dream in World War II, in the frigid trenches of France or the steaming jungles of the Pacific.

I’m one of many mothers whose son never returned.

I’m a Sicilian American.

My first language was the Sicilian LANGUAGE, the first Romance language, that was used by Dante Alighieri to formulate the Tuscan DIALECT that is now 'official Italian'.

So, I say “Comu sta?”, not “Come stai?”  I answer “Bunu!”, not “Bene.”

Not “Dov’è?”, but “Unni è?”; not “La.” but “Dda!”

I’m a Sicilian American. 

I've never met a mafioso, nor wanted to, nor played at being one.

I’m a Sicilian American, and proud to be one. 

 ~ 10 May 2014
 
 
SICILIAN LINKS Sicilianità Is Sicily 'Italy'? The Sicilian Languge
Cognomi ~ Sicilian Surnames Ngiurii ~ Sicilian Nicknames Place-names as surnames Sicilian Coats of Arms
Foundlings The Sicilian Naming Convention Americanized Sicilian Given Names Converting Latin given names to Sicilian
La Bedda Sicilia ~ My history of Sicily Heritage Path ~ original Sicilian records Civil Record Format ~ 1820 - 1910 I'm a Sicilian American
My Lectures on Sicilian Genealogy Sicilian Occupations in Civil Records Sicilian Records at the Buffalo FHC The Thing
 
 

Other "Sicilian Studies"

 
 

 
 

Generations:

Genesis

1 (Siblings)

2 3 4

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Gaetano & Rosina

1
Guy

2
Len

3
Ray

4
Phil

5
Millie

6
Connie

7
Mary

8
Tony

9
Ange

Family
List

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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