Knowledge of the Italian language is an existential question for Americans of Italian origin. Often their ancestors spoke local Italian dialects when coming to the US, and later may have even discouraged the use of Italian in the household as means to assimilate more easily. Today, new generations of Italian-Americans have the luxury to be able to reconnect with the modern, dynamic, noble side of their historic homeland, thereby regaining a key part of their identity and learning a major global language.
Watch below to see civic leaders talk about the pervasive Italian impact on the region.
So, what has Italy and Italians contributed to the area? We could start with AP Giannini, the Genovese banker who financed the reconstruction of San Francisco after the Great 1906 Earthquake and founded what started as the Bank of Italy, but eventually became today’s Bank of America. And, of course, John F. Fugazi was another pillar in early San Francisco history: banking, transportation, the arts and publishing were all benefitted by this great bearded benefactor. Did you know, for example, that Fugazi published an Italian language newspaper in San Francisco? Moreover, did you know that, at one point, there were three Italian language daily newspapers in the Bay?
Then there is the strong contribution Italians have made to city politics. San Francisco has enjoyed three Italian Mayors who left lasting impressions on the civic landscape. First was Angelo Rossi, who presided over the building of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, as well as hosted the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island to show off San Francisco to the world and to rival Italian mayor La Guardia. Next was Mayor Joe Alioto who steered the city through the cultural revolution of the 70’s and also pushed through impressive developments like the BART system, the Embarcadero Center and Transamerica Pyramid. For some perspective on his Mayorship, listen to his daughter Italian Cultural Ambassador Angela Alioto describe her unique experience as a politician and proud Italian in San Francisco.
Finally, Italians are proud to have lionhearted George Moscone who was at the helm of San Francisco after Mayor Alioto. Mayor Moscone was a bold and fair soul, who embraced the city for all its diversity and was tragically martyred at the hand of hatred. He made a lasting impact on this fine city’s commitment to tolerance and acceptance that still forms the backbone of civic DNA today.
And how could we ignore the impact that Italians have made on the arts in the Bay? Perhaps the most powerful example is Lawrence Ferlinghetti who founded the City Lights Bookstore and was first to publish Alan Ginsberg, helping to spawn the Beatnik movement, without which the cultural transformation of the 70’s may not have happened. Mr. Ferlinghetti is also an Italian Cultural Ambassador and we got a chance to talk with him too. Check it out below.
Zip forward to modern times and the transformational impact of Italians continues. Take for example Dr. Federico Faggin, the father of the microprocessor, recipient of the 2009 National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama and a current pioneer in the understanding of the interplay between human consciousness and technology. Get a sense of his life’s story below.
We are lucky to have the oldest Italian-American parade in the United States run through the streets on Columbus Day weekend — the oldest civic event in the city, at almost 150 iterations. That’s ancient history from a San Francisco perspective, preceding even the great earthquake of 1906. Indeed, Italians made a huge impact as they immigrated to the West Coast. Learn more below.
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