Italian Folklife in Los Angeles: Introduction

Italian Folklife in Los Angeles: Introduction

See: CELEBRATION: Folk Festivals, Sicilian Folklife, St. Joseph's Tables; FOLK ART & ARCHITECTURE, PERFORMING ARTS: Traditional Music

(Italian) "folklife" refers to customs, traditions (oral, material, festive) and other cultural expressions that have been passed down from generation to generation, through family, through small group (town, religious, or other association), and which have generally been learned through example or word of mouth.

[For further reading on folklife, See: Luisa Del Giudice, "Italian American Folklore, Folklife" (237-245) and "Italian American Food and Foodways" (245-248), in S. LaGumina, F. Cavaioli, S. Primeggia, J. Varacalli, eds., The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia, New York: Garland, 2000. On folklore, oral culture & oral history, see entries at:].

The most visible expressions of Italian folklife are folk festivals and Italian food traditions (See: FOLKLIFE, Foodways, FOOD, Introduction). But the festa (not fiesta óalthough the Spanish term is sometimes used), actually spans a wide variety of celebrationsóintegral parts of Italian culture. Such festivities can take the form of a party among friends, paesani (townspeople), a dinner-dance, patron saint feast days, seasonal sagre (harvest-related festivities), Carnival masquerade parties, food festivals, and civic celebrations (see: Columbus Day). (Clubs & associations have taken to the American-style election of a "queen" who serves a variety of ceremonial functions. For instance, an queen is chosen each year to represent the parish of St. Peter's at its many patron saint festivities).

Many local Italians nostalgically remember the days of grander ethnic celebrations: their carnivals at Whitney Woods (sponsored by the Italian Women's Club), the Festa Italiana at the Hollywood Palladium, picnics at Montebello Stadium featuring a tiro del formaggio (tossing of 25 lbs. rounds of aged cheese), scampagnate (picnics) at the old Guasti winery (now Brookside), the grander Fishermen's festivals at San Pedro (cf. FURTHER READING, Speroni 1955), with festive dinners aboard the elaborately decorated purse seiners. But Italian folklife in Los Angeles may be found even today, some parts more vital than others, while other cultural expressions are actually emerging (e.g., San Gennaro festival).

Further Reading in Folk Culture & Religion

Albanese, C., A cobbler's universe: religion, poetry, and performance in the life of a south Italian immigrant. Introduction of C.Albanese. New York: continuum, 1997.

Del Giudice, Luisa, ed., Studies in Italian American Folklore, Logan, Utah: Utah University Press, 1993 (includes: "Bibliography of Italian American and Canadian Folklore," 245-69).

Italian American Review (Special Folklore issue, ed. by Joseph Sciorra), John Calandra Institute, SUNY, New York, Vol. 8, number 2, 2001.

Italian Americans in the West, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, 1990, field (See: COLLECTIONS, Archives).

Orsi, R., The Madonna of 115TH Street, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1985.

Orsi, R., "The Religious Boundaries of an Inbetween People: Street Feste and the Problem of the Dark-Skinned Other in Italian Harlem, 1920-1990" American Quarterly, Volume 44, Issue 3 (Sept.,1992), 313-347.

Varacalli J., S. Primeggia, S. La Gumina D. D'Elia, The Saints in the Lives of Italian-Americans: An Interdisciplinary Investigation, Stony Brook, New York, 1999.

Of related interest:

American Folklore Society (AFS):

American Folklife Center, Library of Congress:

Mediterranean Folklore Section of the American Folklore Society: (Giovanna Del Negro, Convener: delnegro@NEO.TAMU.EDU )

Alan Lomax Archive & Association for Cultural Equity:
(Anna Lomax Wood, Director: )

John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of Queens College (CUNY):
(Joseph Sciorra, Assistant Dir. for Academic and Cultural Programs:

Folklore/Ethnography in Italy and Europe:

Museo Nazionale per le Arti e Tradizioni Popolari (Rome):
(national folk art and ethnographic museum)

Istituto De Martino (Sesto Fiorentino):
(study center on folk and proletarian culture)

Circolo Gianni Bosio (Rome):
(oral history and alternative culture center)

Centro di dialettologia e etnografia (Canton Ticino, Switzerland):

Centro Interdipartimentale di Documentazione Demoantropologica Unical (Calabria):

Accademia nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Rome):
(Music academy and ethnomusicology archive)

Visual Anthropology:
(Italian ethnographic videos) Folklore/Ethnography ñ International:

SociÈtÈ Internationale d'Ethnologie et Folklore (SIEF):
(European folklore and ethnology society)

Kommission f¸r Volksdichtung (KfV)/International Ballad Commission/Commission Internationale pour l'…tude de la Chanson Populaire (SIEF):
(international traditional song study group)

International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM):