Saturday, December 8, 2007


In an act of idiocy, presidential candidate, Tom Tancredo has declined to participate in a debate sponsored by the TV conglomerate, Univision. His complaint is that it will be translated into Spanish. Tancredo's disdain for illegal immigration and the Spanish language in general borders on lunacy. But in the words of Shakespeare, "Me thinks he doth protest too much". Tancredo need only check his historical facts to realize that the Italian and Spanish cultures are tied together. The language that Tancredo's Sicilian grandparents spoke was woven with the Spanish language that he consistently derides. Discrimination against Sicilian by Italian mainlanders has been a long standing practice. In the Lina Wertmuller film, "Swept Away", the blond protagonist refers to a dark and curly haired Sicilian deck hand as an "Abyssinian idiot".
So.....chequela Tommy. You are what you despise.

By Helen Donegan
© Italian HistoryFirst there was the Roman conquest of Spain and the "Spanish Wars" under the rule of Julius Caesar:Romans conquer SpainThe Spanish WarsDuring the middle ages it was Spain's turn to dominate parts of Italy. Subsequently the French and Spanish effectively "carved up" the Italian peninsula between themselves:The Italian Wars (1494-1559)Spanish DominationThe three main areas of Spanish rule were:• SardiniaNaples• Sicily

Under Spain, Southern Italy became one of the most backward and exploited areas in Europe. Heavy taxation (from which the nobility and clergy were exempt) filled the Spanish treasury; agriculture suffered from the accumulation of huge estates by quarrelling Italian and Spanish nobles and the church; famines were almost chronic; disease, superstition, and ignorance flourished". Sicily is probably the region that has preserved the most of its Spanish flavour: Spanish influence can be found in some buildings, music, culture, and food:• St Martino - SiracusaQuattro Canti – PalermoThe harp & Sicilian folk music"Spanish" musicPan di Spangna?

There are also parts of every day life in Sicily that follow a Spanish pattern – they tend to eat much later in the day, especially in the summer (of course, this is also due to the heat). The Sicilian dialect has a lot of words that come from Spanish, another link with the almost 500 years of Spanish domination.Baroque architecture is not everyone's favourite. Sometimes that is because it isn't understood well enough. In the future I hope to have a series of in-depth articles about different types of architecture. For now I would just like to highlight the Spanish influence on Sicilian baroque which makes it different from Roman baroque.BaroqueSicilian

After the very large earthquake of 1693, eastern Sicilian towns were almost totally rebuilt. Spanish-influenced baroque was combined with Sicilian decorative and structural elements – this made the architecture original and innovative.It was the Spanish who commissioned the expeditions of Christopher Columbus who was born in Genova (see August 2001). Eventually, of course, he discovered the Americas.

Spain/ColumbusGold from the New World was given to the Pope by the Spanish King & Queen and it was used to cover the ceiling of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome – helping to make this church one of the most beautiful in the World. The Catholic Church always linked Italy and Spain. This link held through very negative and evil events in history, especially during the medieval period. Corruption in the Church?Spanish InquisitionExpulsion of JewsSo the circle was complete, many of the Jews expelled from Spain in the middle of the 15th century fled to Italy. (see June 2001). One of the main tourist attractions of Rome is called the Spanish Steps in English (Piazza di Spagna). They should actually be called the French steps as they were paid for by the French and designed as a link to the Trinità de Monte Church, which is owned by the French government. The Italians paid a token fee to use the steps and one half of the square actually used to be known as Piazza di Francia. The Spanish won the honours because at the bottom of the steps, on the right hand side if you are looking up at them, is the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. The Spanish were the first to recognise the Vatican as an independent state and were rewarded for this.Spanish Steps

PhotosPolitics and war are also featured in the relationship between Italy and Spain. The Spanish Civil War was the forerunner to the Second World War. Italians featured heavily on both sides, although Mussolini and his govern-ment supported Franco. The present King of Spain was born in Rome, his father had gone to live there in 1931. He had been asked to leave his country when Spain became a republic.Italy and Spain are now full members of the European Community. They have many political, religious, cultural and social connections. Lots of young Italians go to the lively Spanish resorts for their summer holidays and the Spanish (and Spanish-speaking people) are constant visitors to Italy, especially to the places of religious interest. Santa Maria de Monserrato degli Spagnoli The official Spanish Church in Rome. The centre for Latin-American people in RomeThere are many similarities between the Spanish and Italian languages, they both have Latin roots. There are a lot of Spanish language schools and centres, I have given just one example.
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