San Diego’s Italian Cultural Center will be holding a memorial service for its co-founder and Vice President, Graziella Spinelli at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, in Little Italy on Saturday, December 13th at 12 p.m. Following the funeral a reception will be hosted by Graziella's sister at the church hall.
Upon attempting to teach her native Italian language to San Diegians, in 1971, Professor Spinelli was told “I believe there’s little to no interest, but let’s give it a shot; if the students enroll, you have a class, if they don‘t, you don’t.” She didn’t take that advice, instead co-founded and helped to make ICC what it is today.
Roberto Ruocco, current President of ICC, believes it is going as strong as she would have liked. He encourages the community of San Diego to “Join us in our effort to make ICC the best place in San Diego to study Italian, and to learn more about Italian Culture! Your membership with the Italian Cultural Center is vital to offer the many important classes and events provided through the Center.”
“If you don’t know the language, you cannot promote the culture,” stated Ruocco, adding that “it is our mandate.” The Italian lawyer, is also the President of Balboa Park’s House of Italy and is very passionate about his mandate to promote the Italian language and culture, as well as Italian ancestry. “Italians are a very passionate people, and that is the essence of our culture,” stated Ruocco, who is also attempting to find Italian-Americans who would like to obtain dual citizenship.
According to Ruocco, approximately 70,000 students and Italians have left Italy because of the lack of employment there. Also because of an “absent government, and years of depression, many people have immigrated here, more than ever before,” stated Ruocco.
“We need to recreate children of Italians; with new Italians we need to build a bridge between the Italian and American cultures,” stated Ruocco. “Little Italy, here in San Diego, is the biggest community of its kind in the United States, so it is the newest bridge connecting a bridge over the ocean to Italy,” he added. “The passport to travel this bridge is in our hearts.”
The President of both HoI and ICC also stated that there are approximately 250 members of HoI and that there are approximately 40 Italian organizations throughout California. “We meet every third Sunday of the month,” explained the president, adding that the HoI hosts lectures, musical and educational events. “This is not just a club, it is a family.”
He stated that there are approximately 10,000 Italian families in San Diego County, but only approximately 4,350 are registered Italians. According to Ruocco, “Italians help build the foundation of America.” He recalled that during WW II, many Italians migrated to America for various reasons. “We were barbers, construction workers, and especially fishermen, as San Diego’s early origins will show. We were not drunks, druggies or irresponsible.”
According to Ruocco’s mandate of promoting Italian Culture and Language, the ICC will be celebrating its academic year, The Festa di Natale, on Sunday, December 14th from 5:50pm to 8:30pm at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Hall, as a culmination of the year’s successes and activities. “Be ready for a scrumptious dinner and the famous tombola with a rich extraction of gifts,” added Ruocco.
“What a wonderful autumn term we’ve experienced,” said Ruocco, adding that “The month of October, as usual, has been full of Italian initiatives which saw the ICC as a protagonist.” The ICC booth on Columbus Day was visited by many people in the community, requesting information on how to get involved with “learning of our beautiful language, and getting involved with our culture.”
The month of Italian Heritage launched its 8th annual Italian Film festival. “Prof. Laruccia and his indefatigable staff, led by prof. Antonio "Little" Iannotta, an ICC teacher, featured an incredible program of new Italian movies for the San Diego Italian Film Festival at the Museum of Photographic Art in Balboa Park and at La Paloma theatre in Encinitas,” recalled Ruocco.
Il carattere italiano, The Italian Character, a documentary film of orchestral music, featured by the SDIFF hosted a full house of movie-goers and was augmented by a question and answer session hosted by the director, Angelo Bozzolini at the film’s end. SDIFF concluded its movie showings with a gala dinner and special showing of the comedy, Una piccola impresa meridionale, A Small Southern Enterprise.