Let's go back to the Great Lakes, in our journey to discover Italy in the USA, and today we are happy to meet with the Italian Consul General in Chicago, Adriano Monti, whom we thank for his cordial availability.
On the next October 23 and 24 Chicago will host the Italian Expo, the most important event yearly organized specifically to promote Made in Italy in the Midwest, and one of the most important in the United States. Thanks to the efforts of the Italian American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, with the collaboration of the Italian Consulate General governed by Monti, ENIT and the Italian Travel Promotion Council, this year's event will have as its theme the promotion of Italy and its tourism in line with the actions of the "Destinazione Italia" plan to Expo Milano 2015. We the Italians will be part of this important event.
Consul Monti, your Consulate's jurisdication covers a big territory, including Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Which activities are implemented by the Consulate in favor of our countrymen?
Our main mission is to ensure the protection of Italian interests beyond national borders and to offer our countrymen a wide range of services. The protection applies, for example, in cases of death, injury, serious illness, arrest or detention, acts of violence, assistance in the event of a serious crisis, or by issuing passports or emergency travel documents due to events like a loss or stolen passport.
The Consulate also performs notarial functions (for example with the preparation of powers of attorney and/or legalization of documents and/or translations), is responsible for the transcription of all the civil status acts that take place in the States in our jurisdiction (births, marriages, deaths, divorces , naturalization) and the carrying out of practices concerning AIRE, the registrar of the Italians living abroad, which is also an essential tool for the preparation of the electoral vote of our citizens abroad. Much of the office is also dedicated to the recognition of new Italian citizens by checking the blood lineage.
Although our services are mainly dedicated to our compatriots living abroad, a considerable amount of work originates from the many (over 3,000) requests for entry visas of foreign nationals, mostly American college students who apply for a semester of study in our country. As part of the services offered, the objective is to make possible the completion of some operations without physically going to the Consulate. Meanwhile, where the physical presence is still needed, it is possible to make an appointment and talk online with operators to be prepared and have in advance of all the data of interest (documents to submit, amount to pay, the estimated time needed to work the papers, etc.).
It should be emphasized that during the last decade, besides the traditional tasks have been added functions of a different nature which led to an inevitable increase in the number of the users of consular services: the influx of immigrants to our country that continues to grow, the new requirements arising from the law on voting abroad, the new mode of release of the e-passport. To this we must add the work in support of compatriots abroad, for both measures of protection and rescue in emergency situations, both in serious situations and in less conspicuous ones, sometimes simply psychological distress, but important too. We have then to consider the needs of the "new emigration": often with high levels of education, Italians with different prospects of mobility from previous generations.
Our work is therefore complex; it is not only to provide high standard services but also to ensure that people are able to perceive a friendly institution government and up with the times: not an easy mission in the current climate of tight resources.
How is the presence of the Italian American community in Chicago?
The Italian community in Chicago consists of approximately 14,000 compatriots with the right to have an Italian passport and registered in the AIRE. However, the Italian American component is obviously much more numerous: in the State of Illinois the census says that they are nearly 800,000, and almost 1,500,000 in our whole consular district. Among the "Italians" one can identify two different groups: the first consists essentially of those belonging to the last wave of our emigration in the years immediately following the Second World War (the regions of origin are mainly Calabria, Sicily and Puglia); the second, however, which is a constantly growing phenomenon, is composed by fellow younger expatriates who recently arrived here.
Who are these new Italians emigrants in your area?
They are highly skilled professionals, primarily hired in corporations, academia and research, from economics to medicine (eg there are many physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory "Fermilab", about 1h30 from Chicago), with a significant presence of Italian doctors in the main city hospital. Finally, there's an interesting number of qualified professionals among Italian enterprises operating here.
And what about the Italian American community in Chicago, where do they generally work?
In general, the Italian American community in Chicago is very active, well integrated into the social fabric and with exemplary success stories, typical of our history of emigration. Many indeed are those who occupy elected positions in all sectors of the local politics and senior managerial positions in important enterprises.
Our job is to try to create an interaction between the various components, the old and the new emigration, to foster new synergies that can give new life to our community. To this end, I recently set up a large database of Italian people, Italian Americans and people interested in our country, that receives a newsletter about the various activities that take place at different levels in the Chicago metropolitan area, whether they are organized by associations founded many years ago, or by the most recent association of young entrepreneurs or by the Symphony Orchestra of Chicago. The common denominator must still be the connotation of "Italian event".
In your opinion, which are the most important "Italian" places in Chicago?
Among the places of the past, I would say definitely Taylor Street, where in 1910 was concentrated one-third of the total presence of the Italians in Chicago, and the various Little Italy, such as the one located between the 24th and Oakley Avenue and Little Sicily in the Near North side. Among the current symbols I would mention Casa Italia in Melrose Park, another place characterized by a high concentration of fellow countrymen, which continues to be an important point of reference and aggregation for our community, with many activities and initiatives for all ages.
Among the religious places I think that the church of Our Lady of Pompei deserves a mention: it is a significant location of important celebrations and anniversaries. Turning to more modern times, there is no doubt that the opening of Eataly in Chicago contributed to the awakening of a great interest in our culture even among Americans of other heritage, and it is a meeting place for many members of the recent Italian immigration.
How are you preparing for the biggest event of Expo 2015, which will lead our country in the spotlight all around the world?
This is a great opportunity not to be missed. A showcase that will represent the best of our country. I am sure that this event will reward the Italian excellence and its ability to carry out large-scale events. Besides, the theme chosen, "Feeding the planet, energy for life" allows us to address topical issues of global interest, which in fact is the size of the exposure which will see the presence of 147 countries so far.
Estimated that the number of visitors to the Expo will be about twenty million, Milan and Italy will be the center of the world. It is an impressive number that requires the work of a large team at all levels.
Personally, I take every opportunity to promote this event and to this goal are also involved the Italian American Chamber of Commerce, the Italian Institute of Culture and the local ICE office. Right here in Chicago, in July, the Director General of Expo 2015 Piero Galli explained the great opportunities that the event will offer to the American market and to the local tour operators. He also presented "Made of Italians", an ambitious project inside the EXPO 2015 event that aims to enhance the potential role and support of the community of the Italians living abroad whom, with the help of some Regional Councils for Emigration and several Italian associations, will be granted favorable conditions during the EXPO, from subsidized prices for tourist accommodation to reduced entry to museums and other events.
An important signal from the organizers who rightly aims to enhance our communities abroad and responds to the desire and ambitions of many Italians of different generations of partaking in initiatives that contribute to strengthening ties with our country, and that make our countrymen proud ambassadors of the Italian spirit in their respective places of residence.
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