La Festa Italiana: A look into the celebration of Italian culture in Utah.

Photo 1: A woman videotapes on her smart phone as the Italian band performa. The concert consists of both Italian and American influenced songs. Many that have become popular in the United States such as, the song “Tu vuò fà l’americano” by Neapolitan singer/songwriter Renato Carosone released in 1956. The song title translates to “You Want to Be American” referencing a sattire of Americanization of Italians at the time. (wiki).

On September 18th, 2021, the Festa Italiana marked its 6th annual festival celebrating “the tastes, sounds, and culture of Italy.” (About, 2021). The festival mainly focused on the culinary offerings of Italy in America. Music, art, and other activities were also enjoyed by various people living or visiting Utah. Two organizations that support this festival are the Italian American Civic League of Utah and the Italian Club of Salt Lake; the former being founded early as 1934.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many Italians immigrated to the U.S. for economic opportunity. Some of this large group arriving in North America found better opportunity in the West, including Utah, as the East Coast became congested (Society & Papanikolas, 1981). Like many immigrants at the time, new comers found work as laborers in mines and railroads. As was possible, Italians found other work in Utah in more specialized trades such as farming, grocers, shoemakers, and business owners (About Us, 2018). Though it might be obvious of the strain and struggle it took for Immigrants to migrate to the U.S. that might not have been too apparent during the Festa Italiana where performers and vendors enjoyed the two-day experience focusing on their heritage and home towns.

During the begining decades of immigration by Italian and other Europeans, there are many reports of strife and struggle between stereotyping, racism, and great attempts of Americanization by various Utah residents. Unions formed in attempt for better working conditions and workers’ rights. Among issues, some of the workers unionized to fight against the attempt to only allow the english language spoken in mines. The written reports show that there was in contempt against Italians and other immigrants. In these beginning generations of Italians in Utah, they tried to maintain their traditions and language but with fewer means and possibilities the Italian language was used less and less often with descendants extending to present day (Society & Papanikolas, 1981).

Photo 4: Participants in the festival check out the “sapori” of an Italian food vendor. Over the consumers and vendors hangs the artwork of two hands embracing, one grey and the other red, depicting unity and cooperation.

There is still economic opportunity for those in Italy to come to America today. We still see groups of Italians migrate every year in search of better opportunities. Yet there is a tension between Italianness and Americanness which is present at the Festa Italiana. In remembering the initial Italian settlers in Utah, the festival depicts the modern struggle and remembrance of Italian Americans finding acceptance in America while maintaining their heritage and traditions.

Many Utah residents claim an Italian identity among censuses although they are not recent immigrants. Among the crowd at the Italian Festival, it is assumed that for many there are ties to Italy in some form (Wikipedia contributors, 2021a).

Photo 5: Two people stand in front of two vibrant red Ferrari cars and discuss them. Surrounding them are crowds of people as they walk from the concert stage and drink vendors towards the many restaurant vendors.

The purpose of the Italian street festival is to let others explore “the culture, entertainment, and culinary diversity of Italy” (About, 2021). Although I claim no expertness to the land of Italy, I can say that I lived in various regions of Southern Italy including, Puglia, Campania, Sicily, and Rome for about 3–6 months each. There I experienced the variety in people, food, and language. I also met many different people in the midst of poverty and economic hardship. I walked on streets that were less than pristine amongst many abandoned buildings. A contrast needs to be noted between the Italian American culture developed over the past century and the current conditions in different regions of Italy. During the the Festa Italiana, I enjoyed reminiscing in the land I came to know and love however I couldn’t help but recognize the possible avoidance of the struggling historical contrast compared against the bright cultural festival. There is an acceptance of Italians and admiration of culture now that wasn’t there from the start for early immigrants, however the factor of Americanization of Italians still plays a role and should be further researched in the individual lives of Italians in Utah.

Photo 6: An employee at Màstra works in their tent to prepare pasta and focaccia. Other workers seen in the back work to oraganize and distribute food for in-coming consumers. This business is a recent start-up by an Italian chef who recently moved to Utah to start his restaurant. Màstra is gaining momentum in Utah as having authentic Italian food made with ingredients from Italy.

Addendum:

The exposure settings used for photo 1 were f/13, 400 ISO, and 1/125 exposure time. The larger F number allowed more aspects of the photo to be in focus while the ISO was at 400 to adjust to the overcast lighting. The exposure time allowed clarity and enough light into the photo to capture figures as they moved. In the editing process, decreasing the temperature made the photo more accurate to the ambient. I also slightly increased the vibrancy and saturation to give emphasis to the National colors of Italy.

In photo 4 the settings were f/5, 400 ISO, and 1/125 shutter speed. The f/4 stop focused on the two main subjects walking while also allowing the overhang in focus as well. The ISO and shutter speed allowed enough light to capture the details of the the participants. In the post processing work, the exposure was slightly increased and the highlights descreased to bring out light while bringing out more detail. The temperature was also descreased to more acurately show the environment.

Photo 5 had f/9, 400 ISO, and 1/125 shutter speed exposure settings. These settings were chosen for similar reasons to the photo 1 and 4 as well. The f-stop allowed for a majority of the photo in focus while still drawing attention to the cars and two people. In editing, not much was needed to adjust the coloring since the red cars stood out so much already. One adjustment made was to the temperature so that the lighting would be brighter and bring focus to the vibrant cars.

In photo 6, f/5.6, 1600 ISO, and 1/250 shutter speed were best to capture a darker setting. The shot is zoomed in to better focus on the individual and his movement mid-action. The ISO was increased to bring in enough light to depict the details of his work. During editing, I did not change much of the color in a drastic way as to show the overcast quality of the day. However, in this photo I focused on clarifying, dehazing and adding a vignette to the photo to better put focus on the person in a busy setting.

Sources:

About Us. (2018, August 22). Italian American Civic League of Utah. https://italianamericancivicleague.com/about-us/

About. (2021). Festa Italiana SLC. https://www.festaitalianaslc.com/abouthttps://historytogo.utah.gov/italianita-utah/

Society, U. S. H., & Papanikolas, H. Z. (1981). Italianita in Utah: The Immigrant Experience. In P. F. Notarianni (Ed.), The Peoples of Utah (Reprint ed., pp. 303–331). Utah State Historical Society. https://historytogo.utah.gov/italianita-utah/

Wikipedia contributors. (2021a, May 3). Utah Italians. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Italians#Demographics

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, June 30). Tu Vuò Fà L’Americano. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_Vu%C3%B2_F%C3%A0_L%27Americano

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