I am grateful for the bravery of my Italian ancestors who immigrated to the United States and their contributions to our great country. I do my best to honor their memory as I celebrate my Italian heritage this month. There are many ways to celebrate. I enjoy cooking with my family. We spend hours making homemade pasta, laughing together, and telling stories about our ancestors. My dad makes the best Bolognese.
Italian American Heritage Month was first celebrated in 1989 with a proclamation of the United States Congress and President George H. W. Bush. It is commemorated every October to honor the achievements and contributions of Italian immigrants and their descendants living in the United States. About 5.5 million Italians immigrated to the United States between 1820 and 2004. The greatest influx of migration was between 1880 and 1920 when over 4 million Italians came to America. Italian immigrants found work in coal mines, and on railroads and farms. By the second half of the century, Italian Americans excelled in many career fields, including law, medicine, teaching, and the arts. Today, Italian Americans make up the fifth largest ethnic group in the United States.
We are the descendants of people who value family and strong work ethic. It is important to us that our children take pride in their Italian American heritage, and know America recognizes Italians and the broad influence they have had on American culture including sports, movies, language, and music.
Italian American Heritage Month is in October to coincide with Columbus Day, which is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Many of America’s discoverers, explorers, and colonizers were of Italian descent. In fact, Amerigo Vespucci, who explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502, is the source of the name "America."
Jessica M. Heinz is a partner in the firm's Philadelphia office.