October 11, 2010

Two kinds of Italians

From the New York Times:
In the raucous race for governor of New York this year between Andrew M. Cuomo and Carl P. Paladino, an unexpected debate is mesmerizing the Italian-American community and increasingly spilling out into public view: Is the contest shattering long-held ethnic stereotypes or reinforcing them?

The tension has recast a milestone election for the state’s largest ethnic group, which has spent decades battling for political might.

But the two men are starkly different in how they view and express their Italian identity. 
Mr. Cuomo, the Democrat who is the state’s attorney general, prides himself on transcending the image of the unpolished, old-country Italian, and credits his father, Mario M. Cuomo, the former governor of New York, for debunking many of those stereotypes. ...

By contrast, Mr. Paladino, a Republican real estate developer from Buffalo, seems to relish his reputation as an undiluted, street-smart, up-by-the-bootstraps Italian. 
He travels to Italy up to a dozen times a year. He sometimes lapses into Italian. And he developed a habit of greeting associates, Italian-style, with a kiss on the cheek.

Paladino and Cuomo exemplify two quite different but equally stereotypical Italian male personalities, the boisterous Sonny Corleone and the watchful Michael Corleone. This split can be seen in two center-right prime ministers of Italy, Berlusconi and Andreotti (who barely moves his hands when he talks).

The quiet, cautious Italians get less publicity, of course, but remembering them helps you understand things like why the Italian World Cup soccer team is traditionally among the least flashy. They would be extremely satisfied getting out of the first round with a 1-0 win followed by two nil-nil draws.

Henry Kissinger, a close student of stereotypes, cited the more boring Suspicious Peasant version in his 1986 article on how World Cup teams reflect national character:
The Italian style reflects the national conviction, forged by the vicissitudes of an ancient history, that the grim struggle for survival must be based on a careful husbanding of energy for the main task. It presupposes a correct assessment of the opponent's character, paired with an unostentatious and matter-of-fact perseverance that obscures many intricate levels on which the competition takes place. . ...  But once the Italian team has imposed its pattern, it can play some of the most effective, even beautiful soccer in the world -- though it will never waste energy simply on looking good.

53 comments:

Geoff said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Italy#North-south_divide

Anonymous said...

Do you know where in Italy Paladino's and Cuomo's families originated? There are great differences in manners from one section to another. The southerner - Neapolitan or Sicilian - is stereotypically emotive and expressive, while the northerner is colder and more calculating; a the saying goes, Piemontese, falso e cortese.

Anonymous said...

Only a PC Liberal in denial would pretend Northern Italians and Southern Italians are the same.

Northern Italians are descended from the Germanic Franks. That's why they have high occurrence of light hair and light eyes, higher IQ comparative to the South and a rich history of art, science, literature and architecture. Think of their cities like Venice and Florence and many others which have no counterparts in the South. Think of the Renaissance that began there. Think of scientists like Galileo, poets like Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. Even the root of the Roman empire is in Northern Italy.

The South and Sicily, on the hand, are unremarkable in every way, except high rates of crime and corruption. This is down to the fact that they were ruled over for centuries by Arabs, North Africans, African Moors and other forces of Islam. Of course, the rulers had their share of the women and this led to great amounts of intermixing, leading to Southern Italian's possessing dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes. Southern Italy's average IQ dropped and made has made no contributions in art, literature or science, just in crime and low culture in the United States and Italy itself.

Northern Italy - Germanics

Southern Italy - Mix of Italian, Arab and African.

Warkis said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqccyUpnZwA

Anonymous said...

All the same, I'd rather have Paladino as my governor. Andrew Cuomo is an establishment politician that played a major role in getting us into the subprime mortgage fiasco. He was also married to a Kennedy. Paladino is a street smart, common sense outsider that would get things done and, judging by his statements, would be tough on welfare and immigration.

Paladino is like Mayor Rizzo. Andrew Cuomo is like everyone else in DC. Please New York, get this right. You screwed it up with Spitzer/Paterson. Now here's a chance for decent government.

By the way, what's it with all these acerbic Italians? Tancredo, Lou Barletta, Joe Arpaio, Chris Christie, Paladino, etc.?

Anonymous said...

"Paladino and Cuomo exemplify two quite different but equally stereotypical Italian male personalities, the boisterous Sonny Corleone and the watchful Michael Corleone."

And there is the stupid sister, Connie, who reminds me of Nancy Pelosi.

patrick said...

Cuomo is half Sicilian and half Salernitan. Paladino I believe is Sicilian (as is my father, who is pretty quiet and low-key guy).

Jim O said...

Andrew's father, Mario, cast his father as the image of the unpolished, old-country Italian so that his son wouldn't have to. The presidency is a multi-generational goal for the Cuomos, just like it was for their former in-laws, the Kennedys.

Whiskey said...

Being a peasant, working the land, tends to make one taciturn and fairly stoic, given the chances of weather, prices, plagues, and other things that can ruin or make (for a while) a profitable crop. It is also backbreaking work, constantly. Keeping one's emotions in check is vital. So too, expenses, suspicion of outsiders (aka tax collectors) etc.

There have been a fair amount of stoic, peasant farmer Southern Italians, shaped by this, and flamboyant, tempestuous Northerners like Caravaggio, Michaelangelo, the founder of Ferrari, various fashion house founders, etc.

More likely the personality types are a function of class and peasantry versus anything else. You can be flamboyant if you have to rise at 3 AM to milk cows and do chores on the farm.

Jim O said...

...and FWIW, the Coumos trace their roots from southern Italy, although you'd get the opposite impression from the NYT article. Does the Times figure that the misapprehension would help the Coumo campaign?

And while we're on the subject: anybody know where in Italy Paladino's dad comes from?

l said...

I want Paladino to win, if for no other reason than...

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/video/the-view-discusses-carl-paladino-scandals-11737557

Mac said...

Wonder how this will effect the race:
http://tinyurl.com/2bgecku

Anonymous said...

Would the NYT publish an article asking if a Jewish politician confirmed stereotypes about Jews: Abrasive, manipulative, money-grubbing, etc. -- if he exhibited such characteristics? I'm guessing not.

Anonymous said...

The southerner - Neapolitan or Sicilian - is stereotypically emotive and expressive, while the northerner is colder and more calculating

In honor of Dennis Hopper's passing [listen, thanks for giving Joe Sobran so much time, but did we ever have an iSteve tribute to Hopper?] - anyway, in honor of Dennis Hopper's passing, can we please please Please PLEASE PLEASE link to his most famous speech?

Thanks.

PS: Pretty please with sugar on top?

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

"The presidency is a multi-generational goal for the Cuomos, just like it was for their former in-laws, the Kennedys."

We'll get there, pop.

Peter A said...

"Cuomo is half Sicilian and half Salernitan. Paladino I believe is Sicilian (as is my father, who is pretty quiet and low-key guy)."

Not at all. At least according to Italian newspapers - Cuomo's ancestors come from a town in Campania - somewhere south of Naples. Paladino's family comes from Santa Croce di Magliano, a small town in Molise - the province between Abruzzo and Campania. So both are Southerners but not Calabrians or Sicilians.

Eduard said...

Not that high-IQ politicians are always better, but I'd be scared to have someone as clearly dim-witted as Paladino playing the role of governor. Regardless of his alleged "guido-ness", he just displays too many low-IQ traits to make him a viable candidate -- impulsive, quick to anger, aggressive, homophobic, averse to change/novelty, tribal, etc etc. If I had to guess, I'd peg Cuomo at about 130, and Paladino at 102, maybe 105 if he's had his espresso. In other words, just too plain dumb to helm an economy as vast and vital as New York State's.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying hearing Paladino.


I love what he said about gay pride parades--the truth.

Anonymous said...

"And while we're on the subject: anybody know where in Italy Paladino's dad comes from?"

http://gens.labo.net/it/cognomi/genera.html

Not sure where Paladino's dad is from but Italian last names denote extended families and
the Paladinos are distributed fairly uniformly along the western coast of Italy and the northern and eastern coasts of Sicily -- there's clump in Catania. The Cuomos live mostly in the vicinity of Naples.

Dahlia said...

You older ones may remember when Scalia was nominated, but I only remember it being talked about after the fact. Al Gore said in an interview once that Mario Cuomo was feeling extremely ethnocentric and threatened liberals who stood in the way of Scalia getting nominated. He actually sighed and rolled his eyes at the memory of Cuomo's passionate pleas that they dare not get in the way. The good liberal cared only that an Italian got on the Supreme Court. Scalia was unanimously confirmed. Wikipedia says they were reluctant to oppose the first Italian nominee, but leaves out the Cuomo angle.

Anyway, interesting that the famous liberal put ethnicity above ideology to give America that arch-conservative SCALIA(!!!)

Anonymous said...

My dad was Italian --from the Bronx. He couldn't stand Mario Cuomo--too liberal.


Two Italians I love--
Chris Christie, Sicilian/Irish. I love him to death for his fresh bluntness. He lacks the sinister-appearance of Paladino, although I am loving Paladino.

Antonin Scalia--I wish we could clone him and put a bunch of Scalias in high offices and a few more of him as Supremes.

Anonymous said...

The north of Italy, being industrialized, was the first to adopt football/soccer/calcio in a big way and dominated the sport in Italy for the first half of the 20th century; it took a long while for the south of Italy to catch up. IMO the north put its stamp on the national team, and this is reflected in Italy's national playing style.

DCThrowback said...

Ann Althouse posted a video of Nick Gillespie comparing both candidates to Fredo Coreleone (and apologizing and equivocating for doing so for fear of angering the anti-Godfather lobby).

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2010/10/andrew-cuomo-vs-carl-paladino-fredo.html

Silver said...

The southerner - Neapolitan or Sicilian - is stereotypically emotive and expressive, while the northerner is colder and more calculating; a the saying goes,

And now you know why people -- "liberals" -- first started bursting veins over stereotypes.

Hey, maybe it is empirically true that there is a higher frequency of emotional gesticulators among southerners but it's not the sort of conclusion a cursory glance would reveal. That's because there plen tee of southerners who are so cold, withdrawn and unemotional that their gaze pierces right through you. You haven't known many Italians if you haven't noticed this.

Anonymous said...

"Northern Italy - Germanics

Southern Italy - Mix of Italian, Arab and African,"

Sicily is heavily Greek as it was once a Greek colony.

ATBOTL said...

Chris Christie's father was English, not Irish.

Anonymous said...

can we please please Please PLEASE PLEASE link to his most famous speech?

Why did you link to a scene of torture? Why do people enjoy such images? How did it somehow become hip and cool to watch the human body being desecrated? Americans are so screwed up: they love watching extreme violence and yet have strict censorship when it comes to sex and sensuality.

Peter A said...

Just to put an end to uninformed commentors saying Paladino is from Sicily:

http://www.mynews.it/sotto-costa/64-news-molise/8355-carl-paladino-originario-di-santacroce-candidato-a-governatore-di-new-york-la-lega-sannita-lo-sostiene-

Dahinda said...

I grew up in a heavily Italian neighborhood in Chicago, and another division in their community is class, no matter if they are quiet or not. I knew Italians who were clean cut straight A students who went on to college and others who were complete losers who out hillbillied the hillbillies who were also heavily represented in our neighborhood. This seemed to be a big divergence in their assimilation process. Also it seemed like there were many Italian-Irish marriages. Many more so that any other ethnic pairing. I don't know if this has something to do with the Irish and Italian mindset being the same or what.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna go anonymous here, so I can point out that Andrew's classmates at Albany Law would peg his IQ at considerably lower than 130.

Did the son of the then-Governor of New York go to a third-tier school in New York State'scapital just because he wanted to be near his father? Cornell's not that far away. Or was Albany the only place where his father had enough influence to force him in?

He was also the object of behind-his-back ridicule at school because his Corvette had an automatic transmission. He still owns it and brags about it, BTW.

Omnivore said...

I think you are generalizing outrageously here, Steve. Italy wasn't even a country until 1870. Berlusconi was born in Milan; Andreotti in Rome. Milan is in the North; Rome in the middle. These regions have nothing in common with Sicily or S. Italy. They are countrymen in name only.

Might as well call an Albanian a Serbian. Which you should not do.

ben tillman said...

This reminds me of a quote from Archie Bunker that for some reason has stuck with me for decades:

"Well, then you got Salvatori running for D.A. He can keep an eye on Feldman. You know, I want to tell you something about the Italians. When you do get an honest one, you really got something there."

Dutch Boy said...

Mario Cuomo was very touchy about his Italian ancestry to an absurd degree (e.g, he accused those of pronouncing his name Mahrio [the Italian way] instead of Maryo of slurring his ancestry).

thurston Zhu said...

Another bingo for Whiskey - economics explains personality better than geography. Right now I have personal acquaintances with two native Italians in San Francisco. The Sicilian is quieter and more calculating. The northerner, a blond from the Veneto, is tempestuous and wears his emotions on his sleeve.

Giovanni said...

Northern Italians are descended from the Germanic Franks. That's why they have high occurrence of light hair and light eyes, higher IQ comparative to the South and a rich history of art, science, literature and architecture. Think of their cities like Venice and Florence and many others which have no counterparts in the South. Think of the Renaissance that began there. Think of scientists like Galileo, poets like Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. Even the root of the Roman empire is in Northern Italy.


Only a person with few historical and geographic background can thinks such idiocies.
The Renaissance began in Tuscany (not exactly in the north.....) and then in all the country...Galileo was not from the north and Dante too.
We, in the north aren't Germanic...and not Arabs in the south...
The Roman Empire began in the Latin region, not in the north but very close to the south.....

Anonymous said...

Paladino is my kind of guy, a politician who doesn't care to march in a gay pride parade and is upfront about it. What a contrast to these other spineless creatures who debase themselves by doing so, all the while faking enthusiasm. I wish more folks would tell them to stuff their parade, we don't need your votes.

BamaGirl said...

"Northern Italians are descended from the Germanic Franks. That's why they have high occurrence of light hair and light eyes, higher IQ comparative to the South and a rich history of art, science, literature and architecture."

No. Italians are more of a mix between various Germanics and the pre-existing Italic populations. THe occurence of light hair/eyes is certainly higher in the south, but not that high. They are no "blonder" than the southern french, who are certainly not germanic.

Kylie said...

Anonymous said..."And there is the stupid sister, Connie, who reminds me of Nancy Pelosi."

Funny but Nancy Pelosi reminds me of that other stupid sister, Janice.

Anonymous said...

"Chris Christie's father was English, not Irish."

Saw the Gov. on Neil Cavuto. He said he was Sicilian-Irish, and, as you might imagine, he made a joke of the combo in terms of his bluntness and temper. You might be able to find a YouTube video of the interview or another one in which he says the same thing.

Anonymous said...

"he just displays too many low-IQ traits to make him a viable candidate -- impulsive, quick to anger, aggressive, homophobic, averse to change/novelty, tribal, etc etc."

Some bright people have tired of the crap so-called "high IQ" people spout--like those who call others who think gay pride parades are ridiculous and who think gay activists have an unhealthy agenda
"homophobic."

Tell me, do you complain about the tribal behavior of gays, blacks, Hispanics, Jews, high IQ people, etc. etc. etc? Do you complain about the aggressive, impulsive, criminal behaviors of some minority groups? How about the heterophobia of gays? Or the compulsivities and drug use of a high % of gays in urban communities?

If you don't, I assume you are okay with the behaviors you listed, and that therefore you have concluded members of these groups are, as you accuse Paladino of being, low IQ.

Andrew Cuomo is not bright like his old man. He's just schooled in politics,having been immersed in it all his life.

I wouldn't want Paladino as President, but governor....I'd take him any day over Cuomo and his ilk.

Anonymous said...

Lots of Italian/Irish mixing in the Boston area, Dahinda, basically because the were the only large groups of Roman Catholics.

Brutus

SFG said...

"Also it seemed like there were many Italian-Irish marriages. Many more so that any other ethnic pairing. I don't know if this has something to do with the Irish and Italian mindset being the same or what."

They're both Catholic.

The Italians, Irish, and Jews are responsible for much of the ethnic character of big NE cities; the joke used to be that a NYC mayor had to visit 'the three Is'--Italy, Ireland, and Israel.

That said, there are quite a few Italian/Jewish mixes around NYC. There's even an off-Broadway show about it--'my dad's jewish, my mom's italian, and I'm in therapy!' Not to mention the term 'pizza bagel'. (Yes, you can buy them.)

Chicago has many Poles, who are also Catholic. Does anyone know if they marry the Italians and Irish?

AmericanGoy said...

Poles marry poles.

Some, very few, opportunistic women marry whomever to get into a marriage, citizenship and make babies.

For the record, I believe the Slavic women, poles included, are the most beautiful in the world.

The only ones who trump them are some (very very VERY few) latinas, like venezuelans.

Anonymous said...

Are any issues with Southern Italians not simply because they come from groups that are more likely to be "feuding" borderers and hill people (like the explanation for the "Scotch-Irish")? It would seem to be an appealing explanation, looking at the topology...

Anonymous said...

actually cumo is known to have an explosive temper - the press just chooses to show the bad side of the republican

the NY press does this all the time - Bruce Ratner - crooked developer but friend of Mort Zuckerman and Shulzberger - has an explosive temper and often says off color or candid remarks which are never reported.

Dutch Boy said...

The Romans called Northern Italy Cisalpine Gaul (which should give one a clue about the ethnic backround of Northerners).

Anonymous said...

That said, there are quite a few Italian/Jewish mixes around NYC.

e.g. Fiorella LaGuardia. Who never affirmatively advertised himself as Catholic (he wasn't, but was Episcopalian) but always understood the political benefit of letting NYC voters simply assume he was. He never lied, exactly, about being half-Jewish, but when a reporter confronted him about it, he said "half isn't enough to brage about."

Dahinda said...

"Lots of Italian/Irish mixing in the Boston area, Dahinda, basically because the were the only large groups of Roman Catholics."

Brutus: Chicago also has a huge Polish and German Catholic community but there is not a lot of German - Italian ot Polish-Italian marriages like there is with Irish-Italian,

Anonymous said...

Italian/Irish combo reporting in here -

I grew up in Northern NJ and it seems like half my classmates were Italian-Irish. Very common mix.

I like Gov. Christie's personality and watching him on TV makes me homesick, it is hard for me to explain but his personality is very "New Jersey", he embodies the Garden State with the way he speaks and his mannerisms.

gymquiz said...

"lontanza" - the italian word for non-gesticulator

James Kabala said...

"Does anyone know if [Poles] marry the Italians and Irish?"

I can testify that (in Massachusetts, not Chicago) a Polish-Irish marriage has happened at least once. :)

Anonymous said...

Why did you link to a scene of torture?

Two words:

1) Cantaloupe.

2) Eggplant.

'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

I'm Irish American living in a typical American N.E. urban area, and indeed I have dated mostly Italian girls over the past few years. Some guys don't find their more curvacious body types appealing, but I do.

I also observe plenty of "Jersey Shores" type guys stealing our own women, so I guess it balances out :P