The Italian minister for foreign affairs, commonly known as “Farnesina” after the name of the building where it has its see, has recently launched a hashtag dedicated to the work of Italian embassies around the world and, more widely, to Italian communities outside of Italy. #ItaliaIn, the Farnesina writes on its official webpage, aims at “making people aware of the work made everyday by our diplomatic and consular contingent to protect the interests and values of Italy, to assist Italians abroad and support Italian businesses around the world through the promotion of Italy’s products and initiatives.”
The hashtag, which you can use on the Farnesina’s Facebook page (@ItalyMFA.it) and Twitter (@ItalyMFA) to see all updates and stories related to project, gives the possibility to learn a bit more also about the Italian-American community.
The Italians of America
The Italian-Americans are 25 millions, just slightly less than a half of the population of Italy, and are the fourth largest European ethnic group in the United States. Their number has been increasing steadily since the 1980s, counting today for 5.4% of US citizens. Italian citizens residing in the US are 258.000, equaling the population of cities like Buffalo or Venezia.
True, large scale immigration from Italy to the US started at the end of the 19th century and came mostly from the southern regions of Italy, which had been struggling harder than the rest of the country since the 1861 unification of the peninsula. Yet, the South of Italy, rich in resources and beauty, had been struggling even earlier than that, held back by extensive agriculture and a feudal social system which left the majority of its people starving.
If it is true Southerners flocked to the US in large numbers, it would be however wrong to think they were the only ones: between 1876 and 1900 the largest amount of Italians passing through Ellis Island were from the northern regions of Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Piemonte.
Data collected in 2004 and published by Frank Cavaioli on The Catholic Social Science Review say around 5.5 million Italians migrated to the US between 1820 and 2004.
Italian soil on American soil
Beside the Italian Embassy in Washington D.C., Italy has 9 consulates on the American soil in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco, and 5 Institutes of Culture (Istituti Italiani di Cultura or IIC) in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.
The work of the IICs is essential, as they act as liaising entities between relevant cultural and academic figures of Italy and United States, promoting collaboration and mutual knowledge of the respective cultures. Their role in rising awareness of all cultural initiatives involving the Italian and the Italian-American communities is crucial to create unity between the two and to increase public participation to events.
Want to learn Italian? Then you are very likely to deal, even if indirectly, with your local IIC, as they are responsible for the diffusion and teaching of the Italian language on US soil. Notably, they also collaborate with universities, both in the US and in Italy, to support language learning.
Speaking of academia, there are more than 800 active academic collaborations between Italy and USA at the moment, in several fields of study and research.
Italian businesses in America
Promoting, supporting and facilitating the commercial and economical relationship between the US and Italy is the duty of the 5 offices of the Agenzia per la Promozione all’Estero e l’Internazionalizzazione delle Imprese Italiane (the Agency for the Promotion and Internationalization of Italian Businesses) and the 5 Chambers of Commerce present on US soil. As the Farnesina aptly underlines, “the bilateral relationship between Italy and the US has relevant, deep historical roots.” Today, such fruitful relationship is based on a tightly woven net of collaborations among institutions at international, national and even local level.
As of 2015, the economic exchange between the US and Italy is worth 35.988 million euro, the equivalent of 40.306 million USD, with a 18,7% growth since 2014.
A curiosity: Italy is the most relevant partner in the development of US space missions for the exploration of the solar system.
For more information on the #ItaliaIn hashtag, check the Farnesina Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as the Italian Embassy cultural webpage, at www.italyinus.org.