Saturday, May 30, 2015

Etruscan women, mythology, and the god Veltha

Etruscan Women

Tanguy de Thuret

Twenty-five hundred years ago, Etruscan women living in the Italian region of what is now called Tuscany were afforded a remarkably equal status with men.

An American Art Historian & journalist explains her passion about them & why they are still relevant in contemporary Italian society.


Etruscan mythology

The Etruscan pantheon and its mythology appears to be as mysterious and alluring as any others of the ancient world, yet little is known of it. Part of the reason is that the Romans defeated the Etruscan civilization, destroyed their structures and culture, stole their technology, wiped out any memory of them, and fully replaced them. Only later did they resurrect some of the Etruscan deities under different names. Although apparently goddess-orientated, the supreme god of the Etruscans was a male deity called Voltumna (or Veltha).

The 'Etrusca Disciplina', as they were later referred to by the Romans, were spiritual scriptures made up of three "books of fate." There does seem to be a book of this name in Italian, published in 2006, but it's already out of print... and no English translation. Apparently the original was translated into Latin, yet there is little about it online. I can't even find any evidence that these texts still exist in any form.

Re-imagining and re-imaging the Etruscan pantheon

It's just like anything else, the Etruscan pantheon could be brought back into our imagination if there was the imagery available. For example, the imagery of Odin or Thor, Isis or Thoth, and Zeus or Poseidon, are known the world over. They're probably more known by their images--their dress and props, and the distinct cultural architecture amid the landscap in the background--than they are for even their legends. The Etruscans don't have this in today's world, partly because the Romans stole their thunder.

This would be an interesting challenge for an artist, to do proper research and attempt to recreate this pantheon in art... for example, the god Veltha or the goddess Alpanu. Voltumna, or Veltha as I prefer, is easily the equal of Zeus, Isis, or Odin.


Friday, May 29, 2015

The Italians of Sao Paulo - Part 3

Martinelli Building, 1929
Samba Italiana - The historical journey of Italians in Sao Paulo

By Gabriel Riel-Salvatore - - July 2, 2014

Italian influence

Several “Little Italy” neighborhoods emerged and thrived, gradually colouring the local culture. Cooking habits changed too, with wheat flour quickly supplanting traditional cassava and maize. Pasta soon integrated the local diet, and “pastificios” and traditional trattorias appeared everywhere. Opened in 1917, the Carillo bakery in the Mooca neighborhood is still in business today, four generations later. Even the national language was influenced by Italian.

Indeed, Paulistanos came to integrate several Neapolitan and Venetian intonations and expressions into their Portuguese dialect. Now virtually disappeared, except for a few areas, this accent remains nevertheless forever immortalized in the songs of Adoniran Barbosa, a famous samba singer and son of Italian immigrants. In addition, the use of the word “tchau” (ciao) is widespread in the region.

The influence of the community was also manifest in social struggles, sports and religion. Italian elites and intellectuals were keen to make their voices heard, publishing the nearly 150 different Italian newspapers in the early 1920s, famous among them Il Piccolo and Fanfulla. In 1914, the Palestra Italia soccer club – to become in its latter incarnation a giant of Brazilian professional sports – was founded in Mooca.

Today the club boasts 17 million fans, including many Brazilians of Italian descent. Also common are Italian-inspired religious festivals, such as the popular San Vito and Our Lady Archiropita, which each continue to attract more than 250,000 visitors and hundreds of volunteers yearly.


In the 1920s, 80% of the population of Sao Paulo was made up of immigrants. Germans, Japanese, Arabs, Russians, Spaniards and Italians all intermingled in this multi-racial city. The diversity was so great that some Brazilians worried about upsetting the cultural balance of their country. Portuguese literacy policies coupled with laws barring immigrants from speaking their mother tongue were designed to accelerate the integration of newcomers. Many southern cities changed their names. Nova Trento and Nova Vincenza were renamed Flores da Cunha and Farroupilha respectively. These policies even went so far as to impose a new name onto the Palestra Italia soccer club, renamed Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras since 1942. The overwhelming popularity of Italian immigrants rarely made them feel singled out, except during the Great Wars when xenophobic attacks on them were more common.

Though inward-looking at first, the Italian community in Sao Paulo, which was mainly composed of men, quickly began mingling with locals. Intermarriage became common and accepted, except in rural communities, which were still subject to the dictates of the Italian patriarchal marriage model. Integration and assimilation of Italians happened relatively quickly. In two generations, most of them already saw themselves as Brazilians.

At a time when the concept of dual citizenship did not yet exist, debates raged between Mussolini’s Italy and the Brazilian government regarding the status of children of Italian immigrants. Italy, which championed the principle of jus sanguinis (based on blood), requested that they be given Italian citizenship, but Brazil refused, favouring instead a jus soli (based on place of birth) principle of citizenship.

Rossi Firearms, founded by a Venetian immigrant in 1889
Throughout the period, the Brazilian government’s goal was to grant citizenship to the largest possible number of immigrants. To facilitate the naturalization process, all immigrants who owned property in Brazil, who married a Brazilian, or who arrived in Brazil after 1889 and did not explicitly express a desire to retain their original nationality within six months of arrival, were automatically awarded Brazilian citizenship. A constitutional amendment in 1994 eventually allowed for dual citizenship. Ever since this decree, more than half a million Italian-Brazilians have taken steps to acquire Italian citizenship.

Italian-Brazilians today

While Brazil’s policies endeavored for decades to stifle any sense of Italian identity, the second post-war wave of Italian immigration gave new life to Italian culture and its local institutions, such as the Circolo italiano di San Paulo, founded in 1911. Since 1982, the primary and secondary school Eugenio Montale offers an Italian, Portuguese and English curriculum, which is simultaneously recognized by the Italian and Brazilian states. Still, for most fourth and fifth generation youths, Italian origin may mean little more than dining on the odd pizza at one of the many Italian-Brazilian restaurants still operating in Sao Paulo’s traditionally Italian neighborhoods. And even there, you can bet everybody will be cheering for the team in yellow and green during this summer’s World Cup.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Italians of Sao Paulo - Part 2

Samba Italiana - The historical journey of Italians in Sao Paulo

By Gabriel Riel-Salvatore - - July 2, 2014

Renowned for its prestigious museums, great restaurants and its forest of skyscrapers, Sao Paulo, the economic heart of Brazil, is one of the largest cities in the world. With no less than 20 million inhabitants, this Brazilian megalopolis is home to a multitude of cultural communities that all contributed in their own way to its tremendous growth.

Like many major cities in southern Brazil, such as Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte, the impact of Italian immigration was such that many thought of Sao Paulo as an almost “Italian” city in the early 20th century. Given this, one wonders what legacy these millions of Italian-Brazilian “colonos” left behind and what has become of their descendants today?

An overview of the Italian Diaspora in Brazil

Today, the number of people with Italian origins in Brazil is estimated at 25 to 30 million, nearly 16 percent of the total population. Among them, 5 to 7 million live in the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo, making the Brazilian metropolis the third largest “Italian city” in the world after Rome and Milan. Not too surprisingly, after five generations on Brazilian soil, few “Oriundi” (descendants of Italian immigrants) have retained anything but their Italian names. And yet with nearly 4 million people still embracing their Italian origins, the community can be said to be doing quite well, all things considered.

Migration to cities

Though Sao Paulo eventually became the largest city in South America, it began as a humble trading post before leaping into modernity from the early 19th century onwards and overshadowing its neighboring rivals in size and importance. The more than one million Italians who initially settled in the state of Sao Paulo between 1880 and 1914 were crucial to the city’s development.

The industrialization of Brazil

At the height of the Roaring Twenties, in the wake of the industrial boom which took over the city, a few Italian investors accumulated colossal fortunes. Like the Rockefellers and Carnegies of New York, the Martinelli and Matarazzo families became some of the richest in the city and the country. Giuseppe Martinelli inaugurated the city’s first skyscraper in 1929. Ten years later, Ind├║strias Reunidas Francisco Matarazzo (a huge conglomerate) asked Marcello Piacentini, Mussolini’s official architect, to build its prestigious headquarters in a Fascist architectural style.

Today, that same building houses Sao Paulo’s City Hall. Of course, not all Italian immigrants made it rich, and today Brazil maintains the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s most unequal countries. In 1901, 90% of workers and 80% of construction workers in Sao Paulo were Italian. These proletarians settled by the thousands in the city’s central areas, founding neighborhoods like Bela Vista (Bixiga), Bras and Mooca (the latter being mainly composed of Neapolitan immigrants). Living in “corti├žos” (row homes that line narrow avenues) in the shadow of factories, they worked tirelessly to improve their living conditions.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Italians of Sao Paulo - Part 1

When Americans think of Brazil, they think "Latin America, the tropics, palm trees, big sandy beaches, vast jungles, the Amazon, and people with dark skin." Probably one of the very last things that an American would think of is "Italians"..?? Even the massive city of Sao Paulo, with a metro population of about 20 million, is hardly known. The vast majority of Italian-Americans would be stumped with the fact that there are 5 to 7 million "Italian-Brazilians" in the Sao Paulo metro.

The city of Sao Paulo is in the southern part of Brazil, just outside of the tropical zone, so the weather is something like Miami. When Italian immigrants--northern and southern--began arriving in the area over a century ago, it was much like the rest of the country.. in abject poverty. Likely more led by "northern" industriousness and self-determination, the city grew and grew to the point of where it it today... as big as New York City. It was a city of immigrants and their descendants, Italians, Germans, French, Spanish, Japanese, Jews, Greeks, Russians, and Lebanese/Syrian Christians.

Brazil welcomed those long-ago immigrants who they knew would help develop the underdeveloped province through farming. Quite frankly, these immigrants--many of whom were from the Veneto and Campania--were much more forward-thinking and harder working than the local impoverished population. They saw the land itself as their opportunity, and the farming, business, and working classes began to prosper. They weren't the common "immigrants" who move into an already formed society; but they reformed it. They were the civilization creators, from the skyscrapers to the farms. If these immigrants never arrived, the place would resemble Santo Domingo today. 

The early immigrant experience which eventually led to the establishment of the great city, often began as practically indentured servants to feudalistic Brazilian land and factory owners. Far from the general perception of most, I've seen old photographs where blondish Lombard types were working the land and factories for darkish Brazilian landlords and mercantile class; before rising to the top of the society.

Italian Brazilian

Sao Paoulo (city)

Sao Paulo (state)

Demographics of Sao Paulo


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Atmospheres of Padanian Alps - Distinct architecture of the Padanian Alps

If you haven't watched this, you may find this fascinating. This Alpine architecture is not Swiss or German, but distinctly of the Padanian Alps. I don't know how many centuries it goes back. You may want to click the full-screen button on the lower right for this one.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento

The Buonconsiglio Castle could be a lot of other castles in the Cisalpine region. It stands out a little due to it's history, size, and artistry. If you click on the above image, right-click, click view image, and click to get the full size; you can see the faces and fine detail on the upper columns. Many centuries old structures further stand out within the picturesque and colorful mountain areas, such as the Trento province.

The castle, which was constructed in the 13th century, was an important state administrative headquarters for the next five hundred years. Invading groups, such as the Austrians, occupied it as a military base.

Decorated by the aristocracy over the centuries, the castle also houses many frescoes and art pieces.

Appearing much as it must have in the 1200s, the castle sits majestically against the Alps at twilight.


The castles of Tuscany

The website has an index of all the major castles in the region.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

John Cabot - The first European since the Vikings to explore the mainland of North America

John Cabot

John Cabot (Italian: Giovanni Caboto, Venetian: Zuan Chabotto; c. 1450 – c. 1500) was an Italian navigator and explorer whose 1497 discovery of parts of North America under the commission of Henry VII of England is commonly held to have been the first European exploration of the mainland of North America since the Norse Vikings' visits to Vinland in the eleventh century. To mark the Canadian site of a celebration of the 500th anniversary of Cabot's expedition, the Canadian and British governments accepted a widely held conclusion that the landing was at Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

'Unbroken' (2014) - movie review

'Unbroken' (film)

Unbroken is a 2014 American biographical war drama film, produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, and based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The film revolves around the life of USA Olympian and athlete Louis "Louie" Zamperini, portrayed by Jack O'Connell. Zamperini survived in a raft for 47 days after his bomber was downed in World War II, then was sent to a series of prisoner of war camps.

The film begins with a WWII U.S. Army Air Corps fighter plane engaged in combat over the Pacific. The extreme danger of this engagement is quickly and strongly portrayed, with enemy bullets seemingly able to pierce through any portion of the plane at any time, and with dangerously close flybys. Louis Zamperini is a member of this air crew. Then the movies shifts back to Louis' childhood, which would be the less complicated manner to begin reviewing this film; in chronological order, which it does eventually follow midway though.

His parents were immigrants from Verona, in the Veneto region; having settled in a small town in eastern New York state. Growing up during the Great Depression, life was not easy for anyone, and less so for immigrants apparently. His parents were shown as having achieved great respect in the town, but young American-born Louis was always getting into trouble. Encouraged by his brother, he finally finds some focus when he starts to run track in high school. He begins to make a name for himself as one of the best middle distance runners in the country.

Not much of his 1936 Olympic experience in Germany was portrayed. It did show his come-from-behind eighth place showing in the 5000 meters, where he finished with a phenomenal fifty-six second final lap in a twelve and a half lap race. His physical peak probably would have been in the 1940 Olympics, which was cancelled. A couple of years later, before going off to war, he set a national collegiate mile record in the 1600 meters. He set that record despite being severely spiked by other runners during the race. Personally, I think that those fouls were every bit at insane as Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield's ear.

Spoiler alert beyond this point...





During a rescue mission in 1943 by the air crew, the plane had to be crash landed in the water due to engine problems. Only three men survived, including Louis Zamperini. They were afloat in a life raft for forty seven days! Since you cannot drink the salt water, being stranded in a life raft in the middle of the Pacific is practically a death sentence. At one point, the men were awakened by a shark fin nudging against the raft, which must have been terrifying enough in itself. They later had to beat back sharks with their fists. After catching and eating a raw sea gull, they got sick and threw up. Eventually, in a prey-to-predator scene depicting pure evolutionary struggle, they pulled in and killed a small shark. Rain water further helped sustain them.

After failing to attract an American aircraft with a flare, they got another chance; only this time it turned out to be a Japanese aircraft that proceeded to fire upon the raft. Louis jumped into the water with the sharks. Somehow nobody was hit. Eventually they ran into a Japanese navy vessel, but their struggle was really just beginning. The Japanese military engaged in policies such as beheading prisoners. They somehow survived brutal interrogation before being sent to a detention camp.

After falsely being reported as having been killed in action, the Japanese allowed Louis to send a radio message to his family. This act of seemingly good will was actually only a ploy to later get him to deliver an anti-American message over the radio. He had a choice of either delivering the false message with a chance of living and eating well until the end of the war, or refusing and being sent back to the detention camp with further beatings. He still refused.

The camp commander was Sergeant Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a sadistic torturous psychopath who had it in for Louis. Watanabe always carried a wooden stick/club, which he used at his every whim. Louis was probably targeted due to his Olympic status, which made him a man whom they wanted to break down in front of the other Allied prisoners. I'm not going to describe all of the physical and psychological torture depicted, some of which would sound almost unbelievable in their brutality. However, in a possible psyop, at one point Watanabe was to have been moving on to a different position due to a promotion. He said to Louis: "Aren't you going to congratulate me?," with no response.

Shortly after, due to emergencies stemming from Japan losing the war, the prisoners were relocated to a work camp. The new commander of this work camp was none-other-than Sergeant Watanabe. This wasn't just hard labor, but they worked prisoners to death. It was apparent policy that if Japan lost the war, all prisoners would be executed, which even took away their hope. This mining camp was dark and desolate, and the poorly fed prisoners were all filthy from the work. Pure misery. Finally, all of the prisoners were ordered into the water of the lake or ocean, fully expecting to finally be executed. Instead, the war was declared over.

The movie ends with his return and some actual photographs and details from his life. Later he is shown at age 81--at the 1998 Nagano, Japan Winter Olympics festivities--carrying the Olympic torch and running well. Sergeant Watanabe went into hiding and was never prosecuted. The film was a financial success, but received mixed reviews. I think that many critics fail to understand that not every movie is made for the intended purpose of them to be "woo'd." It wasn't 'The Shawshank Redemption', but it is a true story. As a movie, it could be called a survival story, depicting one mans plight more than any kind of political message.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

'Don't Speak' by No Doubt

A couple of weeks ago I heard this 1996 hit song while driving down the sunny coast, and it sounded more impressive than I remembered. Gwen Stefani is half Italian or Cisalpine, and from southern California. No Doubt has been around for twenty-nine years already. She started the band with her brother Eric when she was about seventeen. Gwen Stefani has a very alluring and elusive style; but appears to have a normal family life. I saw them in about 2000 at the outdoor Greek Theater in Berkeley on a warm summer night. It seemed like there were mostly teenage girls there. She's been a real icon for awhile now.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Lake County Wine Adventure 2015

Recently my Mother received a fancy post card ad from It was in regard to their first big event of the year, the Lake County Wine Adventure 2015. It runs for three days (Fri-Sun) from May 15 to 17. The information is on the website. When we think of northern California wine, especially in regards to the history of the Cisalpine people, we think of Napa or Sonoma counties. However, Lake County is part of that history, and is emerging as an important center for the multi-billion dollar California wine industry.

Much of northern California looks so much like the "northern nations." Napa can look like Tuscany, Santa Cruz like the Apennine Mountains, Sonoma like Piemonte, and Lake County like the "Lakes region" of Lombardy. The self-determinist Cisalpine people and early northern California was a perfect match. Whenever I drive down 101 in Sonoma County at night, and I see the old farm properties with perhaps just a few lights on... as if a scene from a century ago with a few oil lamps on against a black surrounding landscape. 

An ancient name

I recall, when I read the book 'History of the Lombards', the old Langobard names. Most often they were typical ancient Germanic names. However, one seems to be more rooted in the Cisalpine culture. According the the website, the name "Romilda" is "Italian" and "ancient Germanic." It means "famous battle" from the Germanic elements hrom ("fame") and hild ("battle"). Although once used as both feminine and masculine, naturally it would be feminine today unless altered with an "o" at the end. It's a name which became more well-known due to the Harry Potter character Romilda. The noteworthy nineteenth century opera singer Romilda Pantaleoni was from Udine.