Davide Arminio (Journalist in New Mexico)

Italia - New Mexico andata e ritorno

Jan 09, 2014 4087 ITA ENG

The discovery of traces of Italy in the vast American territory brings us today to somebody who can describe us the combination between Italy and New Mexico. Davide Arminio is an enterprising young Italian journalist, who has already been published in Italy and won a major journalism prize, who tells us about his experience as a young intern in Albuquerque. It is also a good example of a young Italian who went to the United States, and then got back in our country.

Davide, you just came back from this experience in the United States. First of all: are you satisfied with your practice as an intern?

New Mexico isn't really like America we usually think about, that one which lies maybe on the two coasts. From a professional point of view, my traineeship provided my large independence: I had a tutor who helped my with suggestions and contacts, and a wide network thanks to my relatives who live there. I had wide freedom about what to write.

My experience originated taking the occasion of the American "Year of Italian Culture" for an internship at the Albuquerque Journal, popular in Albuquerque metropolitan area and widely in New Mexico; its circulation is close to a big Italian province newspaper's. I proposed myself and the owner accepted: I couldn't do that without the help of my relatives who hosted me. I wrote about the Italian community and the Italian culture in New Mexico: I wrote nearly one article a week, talking about stories sometimes unfamiliar even to the Italians, regarding the relationship of Italian culture with American Southwest and more widely with the US.

My sensation when I was there was that it is not easy to get an internship: one of the partner in the newsroom asked me whom I knew inside the Journal who helped me to get that opportunity. In this sense there isn't a great difference between Italy and New Mexico. Probably in a big center on the East or West Coast thing may be different.

It has been anyhow an engaging and involving experience, also due to the peculiar characteristics of Southwest area. New Mexico is the second poorest state in the US, and not even there it is easy, for a young person, find a good job in communication.

What differences have you seen in the world of journalism between Italy and United States?

By and large, the work is the same. Tone and style of course are different because they attain different societies and cultures, but attention to "color", to the sensational story, is strong in America as it is in Europe. On the other hand, American journalist are extremely accurate with sources: you have to write precisely who said what, when, how and to whom; you must be careful with copyright; therefore, there's a larger effort to make the reader figure out clearly the story he is reading.

You have been in New Mexico, which is certainly not among the most well-known American areas for us Italians. Please describes this area to us

New Mexico blends three cultures: original Native Americans', old Hispanic and modern American as we know it. The result is original: to life, traditions, architecture. I perceived a hidden soul, charming but kind of neglected, because it is overcome but the mainstream American culture made up of fast foods, cars, hard work and swiftness, that is to say consumistic and high productivity society. The traditional Native and Hispanic social structure, instead, plays an important role, and I think it may more easily welcome Italian communities, as Italians are closer to these kind of values rather than the mainstream ones. I think Italians can live well in New Mexico.

For instance, I met Giovanna Paponetti, an Italian-American artist who was born in Connecticut but who then moved to Taos, a famous artistic and cultural center. She told me that since the beginning she was fascinated and engaged by the traditional social and familiar Native and Hispanic networks. When she finally visited Italy for the first time, she found out a deep similarity with what moved her in Taos.

New Mexico geography is pretty diverse. A large part of the state is a sort of desert bushland; the northern part, though, is a vast prairie where cattle breeding is prevailing. Most of the communities, including the Native American pueblos, lie in the valleys, the biggest of which is the Rio Grande's, which crosses the state north to south. The mountains are covered with forests that reminded me our Alps.

Winters are mild but sometimes very cold and the presence of snow is unquestionable on the mountains. Albuquerque, Taos and Santa Fe have significant ski resorts. The New Mexican ski is a must: it is often clear and wide and the light is fascinating, and it is one of the reasons that gave Taos popularity as an artistic community.

Federal state is probably the biggest job employer. There are several military bases and national labs, especially in Los Alamos and Albuquerque. Socorro area, in the south, is the site of the first atomic test, and it's still nowadays military area.

What is the history of Italian emigration in New Mexico, and what about our presence there today?

During my experience, I distinguished three kind of Italian emigration, beyond the strong migration over late 19th and early 20th century. Some came straight from Italy, especially from the South, after World War II; some moved to New Mexico after having spent some years on the East coast, particularly in New Jersey and New York, seeking a better climate and a different lifestyle; some, at last, arrived few years ago, and married an American citizen.

There are some Italian clubs. In Albuquerque the Italian community is lively: in February they're organizing the Italian Film and Culture Festival, including a bocce tournament, popular game among Italians and not only. Another strong community is in Gallup, western New Mexico, a former mining city with that had a wide Italian community and its own social club, the Club Principe Luigi. This club and other associations are sort of mutual assistance societies. New Mexico has two honorary vice-consuls who work jointly with the General Consulate in Los Angeles.

Definitely, the most significant story I worked on is Dawson mining disaster, the 100th anniversary of which was celebrated during my stay there. Dawson is now a ghost town near Colorado border, where at the beginning of century lodged thousands of people who worked in the coal mines. In 1913, due to an explosion, 263 miners died; among them, 146 Italians. Ten year later, another accident happened. 123 people were killed, and many of them where sons of the miners died in 1913. The cemetery is the only remains of Dawson, with its white crosses who remember the deads. This year, celebrating one century after the tragedy, October 22 has been proclaimed Dawson Remembrance Day. Dawson was the second worst mining accident in American history, Two Italians who now live in Santa Fe are working on a documentary on the mining disaster and on the stories of some who died there.

Is Made in Italy successful there too?

Undoubtedly. I met high schools students who attend Italian classes: there are five schools with an Italian class in Albuquerque area, a considerable number. Italy has a strong appeal regarding high quality in food, culture, fashion and art: also in New Mexico Italy is thought together with enjoyable way of living.

In the relations between Italy and the United States there's a not small number of young people who leave Italy to go and work in America and then are forced to return back: you are one of them. Will you come back to America, or will you try to use here in Italy what you've learned there?

I would like to spend my skills in Italy or in any case in Europe. Right now I'm not planning to go back to the US to live there. Surely not in New Mexico: not because I don't like it. I learned a lot of new things, probably I figured out some essential differences between Americans and Italians: they are more strict in following the law, we are so in traditions and social relations. But both people share strong possibilities in the capacity of changing and putting into play.

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