Editor’s Note: To celebrate 2013’s “Year of Italian Culture,” Davide Arminio, an Italian journalist studying in Albuquerque, is finding stories with an Italian connection in New Mexico.
The Italian Cultural Society of Taos was born in a very peculiar way. Pia Lima is a strong woman who spent most of her work life on the East coast in culture, tourism and non-profit related jobs. In September 2012 she moved to the small city in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and started looking for other fellow Italian countrymen. After some unsuccessful investigation, she had an idea. She wrote several postcards inscribed on one side with the words “Siete italiani?” (“Are you Italians?”) and on the other with the time and place of a meeting. She mailed the cards to all the Taosenos with an Italian family name. It worked.
Currently the Italian Cultural Society has about 170 members, both Italians and Americans who are fond of the culture and traditions of Italy. They run several meetings and events for the members, some of whom come all the way from Santa Fe. Once a month they watch a movie and host a dinner with specialties from a different Italian region each time; every week (except for wintertime) they meet to chat in Italian and spend some time together. Last but not least, they promote the Italian artists who work in Taos. Recently they set up an exhibition with artworks from a dozen artists, and hope to find the resources to promote that exhibit all over the country.
And, for the upcoming year they’re planning something even more ambitious: a wide network of partnerships and exchanges with some Italian cities, from north to south of the peninsula. Pia Lima, now president of the Cultural Society, and Alfred Moscarella, its director, clarify in detail what is going on.
“We signed a tourist agreement with the city of Alberobello, Puglia, which is a Unesco site, famous for its unique trulli construction,” they explain. Since Taos is also a Unesco site, the idea is to promote exchange tours and events between the two cities. Another agreement is underway with the neighboring town of Fasano, the “City of the Oil”, in order to bring to New Mexico and other states famous olive oil makers and to improve the trade exchanges between America and the Italian region of Puglia “We also hope to send some people from here to the Fasano Food Festival. It’s a different kind of tourism, more like a full-immersion in the culture and customs of the country, and we hope to do the same with Italian exchange tourists here in New Mexico” Lima and Moscarella explain, interviewed in Taos.
But that’s only the beginning: the Cultural Society is working with many other Italian cities to strengthen ties and possibilities of exchanges and events between Italy and New Mexico. There’s the Val di Mazara in western Sicily, famous for ceramics, Treviso for its sparkling wine, the Cilento area in Puglia and the Sicilian city of Messina.
“We can thank mostly the Fondacioni Europa, a non-profit association based in Albania, that works with the European Union and some universities to promote tourism-related skills to young people and has a wide network of contacts we can rely on.”