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     Calgary's Italian Community

     With Heart and Soul: Calgary's Italian Community

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The Calgary Italian Club

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Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the centre of Italian associational life in Calgary was the Italian Club.  It was organized in 1955 when the Associazione Italo-Canadese merged with the Giovanni Caboto Loggia.  As the club had no permanent home, meetings and other social activities were held in Luca Carloni's Isle of Capri restaurant until 1 May 1959, when a barn was purchased to house the club.

The new club was no longer a benevolent society, but operated purely as a social organization.  It held dances, bocce tournaments, banquets and festivals.  Its soccer team, "Juventus," gave young men the opportunity to play their favourite sport.  One of the most popular activities was the annual picnic, which was attended by members and non-members alike.  The club enabled new immigrants to meet other Italians, who often provided assistance with lodging or employment and introduced them to potential spouses...  

The Italian Club thrived in the 1960s because it filled the needs of a growing community.  Members worked together to establish a variety of services.  In 1960, in response to the problems many Italians had in trying to secure loans from established financial institutions, they created the Columbus Savings and Credit Union.  In 1974, with the aid of grants from the federal government, club members founded the Italian Saturday School and Italians for Community Action (a television media group).  A Ladies Auxiliary, a bocce club and the Sportsman Dinner Association were all extensions of the Italian Club.

Neither the club nor the community has been successful in establishing an Italian newspaper in the city of Calgary.  One possible explanation is that the number of readers literate in Italian is insufficient to support a local paper.  The availability of alternative news sources also makes it difficult for a local paper to succeed financially.  Some of the immigrants subscribe to Italian newspapers published in other cities, such as Il Congresso from Edmonton and L'Eco d'Italia from Vancouver.  Others keep abreast of events in the homeland by reading newspapers from Italy, such as Corriere della Sera of Milan or journals published by the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, like Il Messaggero di Sant' Antonio.

As the Italian Community has grown, it has become more diverse and less cohesive.  Economic competition has fuelled class antagonisms.  But the greatest obstacle to the organizational unity of Italians in Calgary has been regionalism.  Immigration did not serve as a basis for long-term community cohesion.  Pride, arrogance, traditional enmities and jealousy cause immigrants to regard those from outside their region as distinct, inferior types.  This division is most prevalent between northern and southern Italian immigrants.  Northerners refer to southern Italians as ignorant cafoni (boors), while southerners call northern Italians by the derogatory term polentoni (polenta eaters).  Regional hostility is so strong that any project requiring cooperation from the Italian community is certain to create controversy and has a high probability of failure.  It is perhaps for this reason that Calgary's Italians do not organize cultural activities like the Settimana Italiana (Italian week) held every July by Vancouver's Italian community, or the Giovanni Caboto Days celebrated in Edmonton's Italian community.

Reprinted from With Heart and Soul: Calgary's Italian Community by Antonella Fanella, with permission from the University of Calgary Press and the author.

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