There are two words that truly define the essence of Italian Carnevale : the first is maschera , or mask; the second is — of course — Venezia. While...
New York. Columbus Day weekend. Saturday, October 12, the day America was discovered. The sun is shining; the wind is blowing. The leaves on the trees are painted in iridescent fall colors, and Central Park is reminiscent of an Impressionist painting.
Sunday, October 13. I decided to attend Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue. The building is covered in scaffolding due to major remodeling and is crammed full of the faithful. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, celebrates the Mass. He is funny and charms the congregation. When mass is over, Cardinal Dolan announces tomorrow’s Columbus Day commemoration and Parade. We file out of the cathedral at a few minutes past 11 a.m. Workers are placing barriers along the street, and New York City police officers are everywhere. I assume they are setting up for tomorrow’s famous parade, which I am going to attend as a delegate of ANFE – The National Association of Immigrants’ Families.
But I was wrong. In a few minutes, a different parade shows up led by NY mounted police. At first, I can’t understand what is going on, but then everything becomes clear. New York city’s Hispanic communities — Spaniards, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Venezuelans, Bolivians, Argentineans, Peruvians, and others — are celebrating their own Columbus Day. They are joyous and colorful. Because it is Sunday, 5th Avenue is particularly crowded with tourists and bystanders.
Monday, October 14, Parade Day. I leave home at 9 a.m., headed for the Columbus Day Commemoration and Mass at the Cathedral, celebrated by Cardinal Dolan.
The whole Italian American community is in attendance, including leading figures such as the Consul General of Italy in New York Natalia Quintavalle. She is the perfect host, much esteemed, and loved by our community.
I am with Fabio Ghia, a retired Navy rear admiral who now works as an entrepreneur and journalist; he is also President of ANFE Tunisia. On Columbus Day and in the Parade, he and I are the representatives of the National Association of Immigrant’s Families founded by MP Maria Federici, native of L’Aquila, Abruzzi Region. The official delegation of ANFE is one of the most important among those participating in the Parade, thanks to the close relationship with the powerful Columbus Citizens Foundation which has been organizing this event - started in 1929 by Generoso Pope - for decades.
It is a beautiful sunny day. Just outside the Cathedral, somebody is calling me. It is Rosanna Di Michele, a proud ambassador of the culinary traditions and regional foods and wines of the Abruzzi. Well known and charming, Rosanna performs in New York restaurants at least twice a year. Her commitment and the quality of her initiatives to promote our region are outstanding examples of good public relations, and an excellent investment by the Abruzzi region.
The Parade is now starting, led by Consul General Natalia Quintavalle and representatives of the Italian community in the Columbus Foundation, with President Louis Tallarini and celebrations supervisor Frank Fusaro, followed by the marching band and a delegation from Columbia University.
As the Parade moves forward, Italian American mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio arrives. He is tall and easygoing. We also meet Mariangela Petruzzelli, whose mother was a native of Abruzzi while her father was from Basilicata. Mariangela works in Rome, in the press office of ASMEF - Association for the Development of Southern Italy’s Future. She is here to promote a play in NY theaters, based on the versatile, fascinating Neapolitan actress and singer Gilda Mignonette, who in the 1920s became an icon for Italian immigrants across the country. We all parade together, joining the delegation of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He and his father Mario are among the leading figures of our community in the United States.
The Parade kicks off from 48th Avenue at about 11 a.m., passes through 5th Avenue, and reaches 69th Avenue at noon. There, at the Columbus Foundation’s headquarters, the guests are welcomed with a buffet. Afterwards, we go back to the streets to watch the Parade ending at 3 p.m. with the last college band from Connecticut, while the street cleaners are already on the job.
I have been invited to attend the reception held at the Italian Consulate General at 5 p.m., with Consul General Natalia Quintavalle; Honorary Vice Consul Tony Tufano, a pillar of ANFE in New York; Professor Tamburri, Director of the Calandra Institute; and Professor Sciame, leader of the Italian Cultural Heritage Month Committee which selected Mario Fratti’s play “The Vatican knows” to celebrate 2013 -Year of Italian Culture in the United States. Fratti is an outstanding playwright, native of L’Aquila, who has taught for years in New York, first at Columbia University, and then at Hunter College. His dramatic work will be staged for three weeks at the Theater for the New City in the Village. It tells the story of the kidnapping of Emanuela Orlandi, a young woman disappeared from the Vatican during the pontificate of John Paul II in 1983. The case remains unsolved.
In May 2012, the New York Times advanced the hypothesis that she was kidnapped for the purpose of negotiating the release of Ali Agca, the Turkish attacker who tried to kill the Pope. Mario Fratti’s drama is brilliantly based on this hypothesis. The play stars talented actors and an excellent protagonist, Giulia Bisinella from Belluno. Playwr
ight Argia Coppola, author of an interesting drama regarding Marilyn Monroe, also attended.
After expressing her gratitude to the guests, Natalia Quintavalle introduced the new head of Italy’s Permanent Representation to the UN in New York, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi.
It is almost dark, but I always enjoy the walk home through Central Park. Tourists ride in chariots, people sit on the grass, children play, a young saxophonist plays his music, squirrels run on the dark brown granite boulders and climb the birches, while the sky turns sunset red, and a half moon appears on top of the skyscraper behind the Essex House.