Monday, October 10, 2011

Remembering Denver's Italian community

Before Columbus Day became a time for Ward Churchill's followers to flaunt their self-righteous indignation, it was a time for Italian-Americans to remember their heritage and the faith which inspired their countryman on his world-changing voyage.

The Denver Catholic Register's archives remind us of this rich history, using the words of many local Italians themselves.

The Register's 1988 Columbus Day issue interviews Gerald Natale, pharmacist of the North Denver Tejon Drug Co. Also featured are Fr. Thomas M. Lo Cascio, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel organist Nettie Borelli, former restauranteur and Democratic district captain Ernie Capillupo, and future Congressman Tom Tancredo. Rosie C. DeLorenzo Churchill recalls life in North Denver, while Vicki Villegas, daughter of Louisville's Blue Parrot owner Joe Colacci, talks about rebuilding the restauruant after a fire.

In the 1990 issue, Genevive N. D'Amoto Fiore recounts her life, including run-ins with anti-Italian discrimination. Carmine Lonardo's Italian Sausage and Meal Deli in Lakewood also gets an article, as does the priest who baptized me: Father Dorino DeLazzer, who now lives in Greeley. The Register also profiles Amato of Denver concrete statuary business owner Carlo Amato, along with Dante Alighieri Society then-president Pamela Adducci.

Not surprisingly, the issue also covers Mother Cabrini and her famous work in Denver.

Despite our official praise for diversity, America's white ethnics have become largely invisible. Many have have left their old neighborhoods. Sometimes they left because of the lure of a better life elsewhere. Sometimes they left because political actors refused to defend their homes from crime, poor schools, or massive "urban renewal" projects.

Thanks to the assimilatory forces of modern culture (a mixed blessing, for sure), many have forgotten both the great and the humble achievements of their ancestors.

But there are always family members who will remember great-grandfather and tell his story to the next generation.

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