Italian Americans in the Deep South

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Topics: Family
Italian Americans in the Deep South
What major cultural group do you come from? I am a third generation Italian American living in the deep south. My great-grandparents were immigrants to this country from Sicily, Italy. They migrated to Alabama to pursue jobs in the coal mines. My grandparents were raised in Ensley, Alabama. During the 1940’s this area was referred to as “Little Italy” by most Birmingham residents. We are a hardworking culture that has progressed from the lowest of low economical statuses to now middle class Americans. The American Southern culture is a culture in and of itself. My family is a hybrid of both the American South and Italian cultures. We have incorporated both of these cultures into our daily lives.
How does your family of origin define itself? Family is a word used to describe those of blood relation. It includes grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, grand-children, and all cousins. In-Laws are included unless a divorce ensues. In this circumstance the former in-law is no longer part of the family. However, the children are of blood relation so they will always remain part of the family.
Does your family of origin use any particular language or language formulations? A few Italian words have made their way down the generations. However, my great-grandparents attempted to fully assimilate into American culture. In fact, my great-grandfather would not allow Italian to be spoken in the home. He wanted the children to grow up as Americans and not be known as “different”. We still do use Italian words for some foods. Such as: sugo for spaghetti sauce, basilico for basil, carciolo for artichoke, and salsiccia for sausage. However, the slang pronunciation is used and is pronounced differently in individual households. Of course Southern slang is in our vocabulary as well. Ya’ll and fixin are staples in everyday language. We have also been known to use the term “getting down” in the context of coming inside.

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