Speedy and I took a stroll along the Lungomare and over to the Port in Rapallo on Sunday. To our delight we stumbled on a small festa we had not known about: a celebration of the centennial of the statue of Columbus that points to the new world.
The festa was in honor of the 100th anniversary of the erection of the statue. The marble plaque newly placed on the rock in front of the statue says, “The Rapallini emigrants and those who returned from the Americas here placed a monument to the discoverer of their second country. The Administration of the Town of Rapallo gratefully remembers and celebrates the first centenary.”
A small crowd gathered to hear distinguished Professor Massimo Bacigalupo (Literature in English, University of Genova) speak on the history of the statue and meaning of the various figures on it. He was eminently qualified, being the product of an Italo-American marriage. He told me he remembers that when he was young his visiting American grandmother would point to the statue and say, “That is the direction I must go soon.”
Would it be an Italian celebration without food? It would not! Food was under the capable direction of Guido, owner of Parla come Mangi, a fine food emporium in the old section of Rapallo. His choices of food reflected the new world (guacamole, tortilla chips) as well as the old (wine).
When we read about Italians emigrating to ‘America’ we Americans think of the U.S. In spite of the large number of Italian immigrants and their descendants in the States, more Italians emigrated to Central and South America. According to Wikipedia Brazil has the largest number of people with full or partial ancestry outside of Italy itself. 50-60% of Argentinians can lay claim to full or partial Italian ancstry. Uruguay and later Venezuela also attracted many emigrants, as did chilly Canada.
And that is why, in the photo at the top of this post, there are flags of so many countries, all of whom welcomed Italians in the 19th and 20th centuries, and continue to do so today, just as Italy welcomes those of us coming in the other direction.