By: Sten-Erik Gruman & Francesca Pecora
The Italian stereotype is filled with generalizations and exaggerations. Although the truth is mixed in with some of them, most of what you see in the atrium is not what being Italian is about. In last week’s Plant issue, Katrina Tortorici’s article “Don’t Stereotype, Bro” was written to “disclose the facts” about Italian stereotypes. All that was achieved by the feature was a re-enforcement of those generalizations. We did our homework.
According to last week’s article, the immigration of Italians to Canada, from “il paese”, which by the way, in the context of Canadian Italian immigrants, does not mean country. In the Italian language it does translate to country, but in our case it means the little town our family was originally from. The immigration of Italians to Canada supposedly proves that we have guts and ties in with the fact that we are “rough and tough”. Last time we checked, Italians were not the only ones who immigrated to Canada after WWII.
According to the Canadian Immigration Statistics, a total of 2,698,763 people immigrated to Canada between 1946 and 1966. Out of the above number, only 379,359 of them were Italian. As much as we’d like to think so, the fact that Italians immigrated to Canada does not make us anymore special than the rest of the brave people who left their native countries.
Another part of last week’s article stated that Italians never hire outside the family to do construction work on the house. If you have the expertise within your family, it is obvious you wouldn’t hire anyone else. However, we would like to acknowledge that not all Italians are working class citizens. Claiming that we never let anyone else perform work on our houses implies that all Italians are tradesmen. Last week’s article also claimed that we pay our relatives for doing this work in booze and cookies. We don’t know where that comes from, because “patti chiari, amicizia lunga”, is one of the most famous Italian proverbs.
It was also said that real modern day Italian-Canadians can only be found in St. Leonard, R.D.P., Laval and Montreal North, and that “any other place off the island […] inhabits Italians that barely speak the language”. Sorry, but that is absolutely false. Today, if you went to Jean-Talon Street in St. Leonard, the majority of people walking around are of Arab decent. Any time an ethnic group immigrates to a new country, they tend to congregate in the same areas and start families. As families grow, they disperse. Therefore, stating that “true” Italians can only live in a few selected places means that we are like animals that need special living conditions to thrive. (We both speak fluent Italian and don’t live in “Italian” neighborhoods).
So where did the Italian stereotype come from?
Hollywood, of course. The media became obsessed with the popular image of Al Capone, who gave the American gangster an Italian slant. This image became popular and began making frequent appearances in American movies, which gave rise to the most annoying stereotype of all: the hideous “Bro, Me-I” accent. You know where that’s from? Rocky. Watch that movie and really listen to the way Sylvester Stallone talks, then go to the atrium and listen to how the “Italians” in there speak.The ginos in the atrium are actually mimicking a bunch of Italian characters portrayed in movies that never even existed.
I’m sure we’ll get chewed out for this article because for every real Italian like us there are twenty self-righteous, “minchia bro”-ing, noisy, obnoxious, kappa-wearing, briscola playing ‘gino-beats.’ Italian culture can’t be narrowed down to a few specific ones because as you move from the Northern part of Italy to the Southern part, a lot changes. However, one thing does remain for certain, what you observe in the atrium is not Italian. They just like to think so.