Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site

Main Page This family-friendly site celebrates Italian culture for the enjoyment of children and adults. Site-Overview



Hyphenated Italian R.B. grew up in the States, then lived many years in Brazil and Argentina


Hyphenated Italians


Italians as Europeans


London's Italians

R.B. wrote to me after reading the site page on Hyphenated Italians, and he graciously allowed me to put his words here for everyone to read.  Candida

From the Guestbook

The Italian Diaspora

A Unique Perspective

Latin American Hyphenated Italians

- how religious are the communities

- prejudices faced from society

- perceived contributions to society

- how common is marriage outside community

- how Italy is perceived

- where he felt most comfortable

- use of Italian language

- attitudes to/about women and their roles

- conflicts with society

- contacts with Italy


From the Guestbook

"I read your section on the Italian Diaspora and while I am happy that someone is using that term I think that it is important to realize that the Italian Diaspora in The USA and Canada is smaller and less Italian than the community in South America. 

I am an Italian American but I lived in Brazil and Argentina where at least 70 million people (Brazilian Government Statistics) are of Italian descent. The Italian communities in Brazil and Argentina are more closely linked to Italy and there are more speakers of Italian than in the USA."

The Italian Diaspora

R.B. expressed this concern:  "The issue of Italy's treatment/ignorance of the Italian Diaspora is a profound issue that needs to be addressed."

I responded:  "I agree that Italy has failed to embrace her diaspora, unlike, for example, the attempts made by the Presidents of Ireland to embrace her diaspora, and the Eastern European countries' welcoming ex-refugees and descendants of refugees after the wall came down.  Anything you'd like to say on that point would be of great interest."

A Note:  All my research shows Italy's interest in Latin America and the Italian diaspora living there has mainly to do with the ease for Italian-born tourists and businesses to visit and do business there.  Only in 2003 was a site set up by an Italian governmental institution, ANSA, with the Latin American diaspora in mind (  

A Unique Perspective

I was impressed with R.B.'s unique perspective:  "You have the unique perspective of being an Italian-Anglo (from English-speaking, majority Protestant countries, with developed economies), and having lived in Italian-Latin American communities (Romance language, majority Catholic countries, with developing economies).  

I would love to know more about the different experiences of the communities, due to the differences between these two groups of Italian emigrant destinations."  R.B. obliged...

Latin American Hyphenated Italians

-how religious are the communities
The Italian Diaspora communities in Brazil and Argentina are about as religious as the society in which they now live.  Since both Argentina and Brazil are Catholic countries people tend to be religious in a Latin way; that is they are very spiritual and they tend to have a faith-life that is filled with saints and rituals.  Argentina is more profoundly orthodox in their Catholicism but Brazil too is religious. 
-the prejudices faced from the greater society
Italians in Argentina and Brazil have never been discriminated against. In fact Italians make up one of the 'core' groups of these societies  the way Germans and Irish are a "core group" in the USA;.
In Sao Paulo and southern Brazil Italian food, words and music are everywhere the best Italian restaurants outside of Italy are in Sao Paulo and their pizza is the best in the world including Naples. In Argentina the Spanish language has been changed and many Italian inflections and words are used as well.
Italians are some of the richest people in these societies.  It has been said that when the Italians arrived in the USA they stopped being 'white' Italians and other White Ethnics were an outsider group;  while in South America when they arrived they became part of the European class immediately and hence were perceived as superior to the indigenous and African origin populations. While life was hard for Italians in South America it was a totally different immigration.  The Italians in South America invented the Tango,  profoundly influenced art and writing for example Portinari one of Brazil's most important painters is of Italian descent. The influence of Italians in profound in Brazil and Argentina along with Uruguay, Bolivia, and Chile.
-the perceived contribution (good and bad) to the greater society
Italian and Italian things in Argentina are perceived as "class".  In Argentina Italian and Spanish cultures are considered the apex of life along with English that fuse to create the Argentine character.
In Brazil Italians, along with German immigrants are viewed as the hardest working and most important sectors of society. In major business centers like Sao Paulo it is not uncommon for entire companies higher management to be of Italian origin.  Italians and German-Brazilians tend to intermarry and have created a powerful upper class that is dominant in Brazil. 
In the area of the Arts Italians have brought so much to Argentina and Brazil.  I am a poet so I can tell you that in both nations it was the infusion of Italian culture into a predominately Iberian society that lead to many innovations in Art and Culture.  Many of the finest painters and artists in Brazil and Argentina are of Italian descent and people with very disparate backgrounds came into art in these nations. 
-how common is marriage outside of the Italian community
Intermarriage is very prevalent but in Argentina for example 50% of the population is of Italian origin hence the Italian culture never becomes diluted as it does in the USA. This is also true in the south of Brazil especially Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre a huge percentage of the population is of Italian origin and so the culture does not get diluted.  It was estimated by a Brazilian government source that in the region between Sao Paulo, Brazil and Buenos Aires Argentina,  an area approximately the size of Italy over 60% of the population of 90 million has at least one Italian grandparent. 
Well, in Argentina Italy and Spain are viewed as the apex of culture. People are very aware of books and culture from these nations and food and fashion are very prevalent.  In Brazil this is also true but the ethnic milieu is more varied with German, Portuguese and African cultural influences but Italy is still viewed very well. There is none of the "Anglo Saxon' prejudice of Italy as corrupt et cetera since these nations are also Latin nations and function much as Italy does.  It is not widely known that both Argentina and Brazil based their government bureaucracy on the Italian Fascist model and it is very similar to Italy's bureaucratic system today.  More than one Italian I know has said that Brazil is the place where he feels more at home outside Italy.
I have a unique perspective on this. I speak Italian, Portuguese and Spanish and I 'look' and sound like someone from these countries so I have never been treated like an American in these nations. I found both Argentina and Brazil (and to a lesser degree Chile and Bolivia) more comfortable than the USA as a Latin person the assumptions and body language that are so strong among Italians and Italian Americans are NORMAL in Brazil and Argentina.  These nations do not have the cold callousness of the USA and the culture which spawned it.  The idea of Dolce Vita is very strong in these nations and this came from Italians I think.  In the end if you want to see a culture that is both American and Italian go to Brazil or Argentina it will blow your mind how similar the cultures are to what you know.
The biggest difference with the USA is that Brazil and Argentina being Catholic and Latin possess all the "structures" that Italy possesses in terms of class people, there are still "from good families" in South America. People do not have the rebel innovator mentality that is strong among all Americans.  The passiveness and live and let live attitude that you find in Italy also exists in South America. 
-the use of the Italian language
Italian is still spoken by many people- in rural areas especially in Southern Brazil there are many whole towns speaking late 19th century dialects and Italian regions finance their schools especially Lombardia and Trento .  RAI is available as basic cable in most places.
-attitudes to/about women and their roles
Sex is a weapon in Latin America.  Sexiness and a lusty lifestyle is de facto and de jour.  Women have to struggle to succeed but Anglo American feminism has never taken root in South America and women remain feminine. 
There are not many cultural conflicts since the culture is Latin and Catholic Italian values blend easily into the society.
 -contacts with Italy (business, social, family...)
Italy has strong influence in Brazil and Argentina many Italian companies like Parmalat and Fiat are very strong. Most Italians in Brazil and Argentina have strong ties to Family in Italy. 

My heartfelt thanks to R.B. for his honest comments and insights.  I've used R.B.'s initials for this piece, but only for convenience.  Mr. Bianchi has set up and manages two websites.  I've provided links below.  Just click on the logos to visit them.  He will soon be running a press together with Italian-American poet William Allegrezza.  Their first publication will be translations of Italian poetry.  You can find the link to Mr. Allegrezza's on-line poetry journal below.



Also see my pages:

Italian Immigrants in New York City

John, and Italian Emigrant to the U.S.A. - by D. H. Lawrence

G.P.'s Hyphenated Life