A unique project, called GENIUS LOCI, made its way to San Francisco and opened with an exhibition at the Museo Italo-Americano on February 7th. The...
“Italy is a Cultural Superpower” - An interview with the Consul General of Italy in San Francisco
The Honorable Mauro Battocchi is the newly-appointed Consul General of Italy in San Francisco; he succeeded the Honorable Fabrizio Marcelli in September 2012.
Born in the Alpine region of Trentino, Mr. Battocchi graduated with a degree in economics from Bocconi University in Milan, and received a Master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University. He began his diplomatic career at the financial section of the Italian Embassy in Bonn between 1995 and1999, taking part in the negotiations for the start of the European Monetary Union.
He then went on to become the head of the economic section of the Italian Embassy in Tel-Aviv from 1999 to 2002. A Foreign Service officer who specialized in economic issues, he worked in the private sector from 2008 to 2012 at Enel, a multinational power company, as Vice-President for international governmental affairs.
Once he arrived in San Francisco, the new Consul General wasted no time involving himself in the local Italian Community.
In the two months since his arrival, he has attended a multitude of community events, and has spoken at most of them. From Italian celebrations to cultural events and even academic panels, Mauro Battocchi has already become a well-respected and beloved fixture in San Francisco’s Italian Community.
This week, Mr. Battocchi agreed to an interview with L’Italo-Americano in which he outlined his goals for his tenure as Consul General. Before the interview even began, it was evident that this man would be moving in a new direction.
The desk in his office that has served numerous predecessor consuls general had been turned around to face the opposite direction. Perhaps it was merely to enjoy a view of the Bay, but in a symbolic way, Mr. Battocchi had already begun to “turn things around.” With his desk now facing North Beach, the heart of San Francisco’s Italian Community, the new Consul General turned his gaze to the people he had come to serve.
The lengthy interview began with a simple question:
“What is it that you want to accomplish during your tenure as Consul General, what are your goals, and what are your mandates from the Italian government?”
In this, the first of a multi-part series focusing on the relationship between Italy and Italian-Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area, Consul General Battocchi eloquently outlined what can be expected from him in the years to come.
“This is a very special moment for Italy: a moment of change, a moment of renewal. Diplomacy has a role to play to promote economic growth. It’s a plan our Foreign Minister GiulioTerzi outlined as diplomacy for growth. There must be a joint effort from all the branches of government to promote economic growth. And in this respect, it is very important for me in these coming years to highlight the opportunities for business—opportunities of economic growth that Italy can offer to California and to the Northwest Pacific where the Consulate is actually responsible.
“We want to promote investment, we want to promote trade, and this is for us very crucial. I am sure that we can capitalize—leverage on—the fantastic reputation that the Italian-American community has gained over the decades in this part of the world. We have wonderful examples of Italian business people like Mr. Giannini, Mr. Fugazi, down to the present generation. It is very important to build a bridge between the Italian-American community and the young Italian professionals coming to town.
“It was fantastic to see—yesterday, the fourth of November—an event where Italian Community Services, that was founded by Giannini and other prominent Italians to support the Italian Community here, acknowledged BAIA—the Business American-Italian Association—born in San Francisco with young Italian professionals. It is an important step to build a bridge between different generations, between different Italians here, to generate business opportunities, and to work together as one.
“But business is not the whole thing. Business is within a larger picture: of promotion of Italy as a modern, culturally-advanced country. We know that Italy is a super power as a culture, and from this point of view, our objective—my objective—is to show Italy as an innovative, modern, technically-advanced, culturally-propulsive country.
“2013 will be “The year of Italian Culture” in the United States. And this is a fantastic platform to work on projects, we can actually do that. We will have, on one hand, events that will feature our classical heritage, like the Magi Adoration, a wonderful Caravaggio painting, which will be exhibited at the Legion of Honor starting in February. But we will also have an “Italian Innovation Day” in March involving Italian companies and honoring the contribution of Italians through the development of IT technology and Silicon Valley.
“Very important in this respect is the promoting of the Italian language. We want Italian to be taught and learned more. We have actually a variable, a measure that is very important for us: it is the number of students that have an Advanced Placement (AP) certificate. We want to work together with our great new education officer, Paola Ebranati, to expand the number of students that take the AP, the number of schools that offer these programs, and the number of teachers that are qualified and certified to teach those programs.
“So, business, culture, technology…the over-arching effort…is bringing together the different souls, the different generations of Italians in the Bay Area and the Northwest Pacific. I see there is a revival of interest among Italian-Americans of the third and fourth generation. Some of them are actually now starting to apply for their Italian citizenship. They have neglected, probably, in the past, this possibility.
Now they realize that is a wonderful opportunity to be reconnected with their ancient homeland. And among those who apply, we have CEOs, we have directors, we have journalists, we have lawyers. There is a tremendous interest. All this is definitely an asset that we have to use because, again, Italy needs to connect to California, needs to take advantage of all the business and cultural opportunities that come from this part of the country.
“Italian-Americans can be the bridge between these two parts of the world.
“One more thing is about my blog. It is just a small token, an example of how as a consulate we try to pursue this project. But through the blog, www. SanFranciscoItaly.com aspects of modern Italy are shown that probably San Franciscans don’t know yet, and vice-versa. Aspects of what Silicon Valley, San Francisco is all about—what California is all about, Italians hardly know.
This is a way to connect, and so I invite everybody to be connected and to be part of this effort.”
Next week, we will continue this multi-part interview with Mauro Battocchi, as he provides more details about his goals and objectives, and talks candidly about the benefits of learning the Italian language, how to promote Italian culture in multi-cultural San Francisco, the renewed interest in Italian citizenship, dealing with the economic hard times in both the United States and Italy, and his views of negative Italian stereotypes in American culture and media.