Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1990s PBS documentary: "Italian Swiss in California"

I may have mentioned this on a couple of entries, but I have been in search of a particular PBS documentary from the 1990s. I recall watching a documentary, probably in the mid-90s, specifically about Italian Swiss (Ticinese) in California and their descendants. Although I had it on, it was one of those times where someone was over visiting and I probably missed most of it. At the time, I remember feeling a cultural tie-in, but it didn't quite register to me at the time. I recall something fairly comparable to programs about certain ethnic groups. Like just recently, there was a documentary 'The Greek Americans', or some such title, about Greeks in America, past and present.

What I recall about it was it had many interviews, most in somewhat rural areas, with Italian Swiss descendants. It appeared to be in a number of locations in both northern and southern California. Needless to say, today I can see the significance of this and would like to find that documentary. If anyone out there has any information about it, please e-mail me at camun@live.com.

I had heard two estimates of the number of Italian Swiss immigrants to California between the 1850s and probably the 1930s. One was 20,000, and the other was 90,000. Maybe someone can clue me in on that too. I suspect that it was closer to the 90,000 figure. There are a lot of similarities between Ticino and Val Camonica. Both are located in rural and mountainous Alpine terrain, and speak the Lombard language. In other words, both are Lombardian peoples.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Lombardian Heritage in California

Quite coincidently, just yesterday, I ran across two things which were in relation with Lombardian heritage here in California. First, a news item from the San Francisco Chronicle entitled 'Mario Ghilotti, prominent Marin builder, dies'. I've had some familiarity with Ghilotti Construction and a couple of Ghilottis, but I don't know if they were related to him.

Just to back up for a moment, Lombardi nel Mondo Nord America had released, I think fairly recently, some information about the chief areas of specifically Lombardian settlement on this continent. Listed were about ten areas, one of which was the Bay Area, and in particular the San Rafael area of Marin County (north of San Francisco). Since "Ghilotti" is overwhelmingly a surname from Lombardy, and the family was from San Rafael, it was pretty easy to make the connection. As usual, sifting through Lombardian heritage in this country is like pulling teeth. I will post those areas of settlement shortly.

One of the main problems is that individuals will, if anything, will be referred to as "Italian-American" only. "People," past and present, are what reflect the uniqueness of any particular demographic, and there is a huge void for any American with roots in Lombardy. Just for the record, there are some very strong characteristics that Lombardians often possess, which could be called positive or negative depending on one's perspective. In other words, there would be some pretty big cultural differences between an "Italian-American" family in Hobokan, New Jersey, of Sicilian origin, whose business is a pillar in that community; and an "Italian-American" family in San Rafael, California, of Lombardian origin, who business is a pillar in that community. Not to mention that Sicilians outnumber Lombardians by a huge ratio.

Later on yesterday, I watched a movie called 'Bug' (2006), which stared Ashley Judd. Ashley Judd has American-Southern roots on her mother's side (Naomi Judd), but her surname at birth was "Ciminella," which is an overwhelmingly West Lombardian name. Her father was a marketing analyst for the horse racing industry in California, and she was born and partially raised in California. Perhaps they weren't close to their father, but we can see the troubles with tracking down Lombardian heritage. I mean, I'm no celebrity-lover, but Ashley Judd at least appears to be a classy, highly intelligent, and yet very exciting figure; and especially in an industry were so many are not. She is beautiful, and yet in a woman-next-door type of way. She would be a credit to any heritage. She is married to famous race car driver Dario Franchitti.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if some of these people would actually DISCOVER their Lombardian ancestry!? In other words, perhaps to actually get some funding, do some hard scholarly research, have some meetup groups where people can better interact with others in this folk family. Like I had mentioned in prior entries, where people of Ticinese heritage in California, Lombardian heritage in the Great Lakes region or the St. Louis area, Bergamasks in Toronto, and others in other parts of the continent, can see themselves as one Lombardian folk family. That is really our chief goal here, even more than the various elements of Camunian heritage. It should be mentioned that at least small pockets of Lombardian immigrants settled in the north, mid-west, south, and west; not to mention Canada.

Our best chance to reach this goal is through Lombardi nel Mondo. We have criticized their direction in the past, but only as constructive criticism. Even their article, which I will post soon, about the main areas of Lombaridan immigrant settlement, they published it only in Italian, and only in a couple of hard-to-find pages on the internet. Even their own website is very hard to navigate, and even their North American information and history is only in Italian, even though Italian is not an official language anywhere on this continent.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Lugas: A Celtic god

I have always preferred the word "god" to the word "deity." Maybe it's just me, but somehow god is a better descriptive word. On our Cernic Rite video, we used a song by the Spanish Celtic/Pagan black metal band the Crystalmoors entitled 'Lacrimae Lugus', which was supposed to be a tribute to Lugus, not to the god Cernunnos. Lugus was a pre-Roman/Christian god in the Celtic world. The Crystalmoors were likely motivated by the fact that Lugus was an important god to the Celtiberians in ancient Iberia (Spain/Portugal). This god was also present in the British Isles, Gaul (France), and in what is today modern day Switzerland.

Wikipedia does not mention Cisalpine Gaul, so I guess this is another area of open study. I had originally written that Druidism was not present in Cisalpine Gaul, but later discovered that it was at least present in some form there. Therefore I suspect the same for Lugus. If it was present in Iberia and Switzerland, then it's likely that it played some role, albeit smaller, in ancient Cisalpine culture. After the Romans conquered Celtic lands, they cleverly assigned one of the Roman gods to each Celtic god to make assimilation more easy. Therefore Lugus became the "Gaulish Mercury." In conclusion, it seems to appear that Lugus may have been to the Celtiberians, what Cernunnos was to the Cisalpines.

Lugus (from Wikipedia page):

Lugus was a deity of the Celtic pantheon. His name is rarely directly attested in inscriptions, but his importance can be inferred from placenames and ethnonyms, and his nature and attributes are deduced from the distinctive iconography of Gallo-Roman inscriptions to Mercury, who is widely believed to have been identified with Lugus, and from the quasi-mythological narratives involving his later cognates, Irish Lugh and Welsh Lleu Llaw Gyffes.

It is possible that Lugus was a triune god, comprising Esus, Toutatis and Taranis, the three chief deities mentioned by Lucan. The "threefold death" in Celtic human sacrifice may reflect the triplicity of this god.


Celtic pantheon (Wikipedia)


'Lacrimae Lugus' by the Crystalmoors


As we've mentioned before, a search for "the Celts" on Amazon.com brings up some interesting books, several of them specifically about Cisaline Gaul.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Panthers prowling around northern Italy

Panthers prowling around northern Italy

Bobby Tanzilo's Blog - OnMilwaukee.com - August 3, 2010

The UW-Milwaukee Panthers announced a slate of four games in northern Italy this month. I held out hope they'd be going to Casale Monferrato, but it's not happening.

I often check the back pages of Il Monferrato, the Italian newspaper that's delivered to my house and for which I've written on a few occasions. That's where they keep the basketball coverage. Although Casale always has at least a couple American players, I've yet to see any with a Milwaukee connection.

When I heard the Panthers were headed to northwest Italy, I thought maybe these worlds would collide.

(There are a few other connections between Casale and Milwaukee, like the DeGiovanni family from Casale, which runs the Golosi gelateria in Oconomowoc; the Zerand company in New Berlin is owned by Casale-based Cerutti; Casale's Buzzi Unicem cement company has a small depot in the Valley across 6th Street from the Harley Museum; and Waukesha's Rose Glen School students have long had a pen pal relationship with a school in Casale, too.

The Panthers, instead, will play Lombardia of the B2 league on Aug. 18. Next they head to Livorno, on the Tuscan coast, to play that city's B2 team on Aug. 20.

Then they head back north to the region of Lombardy to face the Serie A2 team from Treviglio, a town I've only seen from the train on the way to visit my cousins in Bergamo, on Aug. 21. UWM wraps up its tour on Aug. 23 against another B2 squad, Brianza Select, from Brianza (another city in Lombardy).

Milwaukee isn't a city with a lot of Italian-Americans with Lombardian roots. For that you've got to head to St. Louis, where two of the greatest Lombardian-American sports figures -- Yogi Berra (with roots in Cuggiono) and Joe Garagiola (Inveruno) -- were neighbors as boys.

I hope the Panthers play some great basketball in Italy, but I also hope they get time to look around, taste the food, meet the people and have a great time getting to know one of the loveliest parts of the world.

And when they get back, I hope they kick some butt when their season starts.

My advice for them in Italy: while in the neighborhood, stop in and check out the Milwaukee 50's Diner in Varedo. And tell 'em we said howdy.

You can follow the Panthers' escapes in Italy via the team blog.