John Mustaro (President of the United Pugliesi Federation)

La Puglia rappresentata negli Stati Uniti: incontriamo John Mustaro

Mar 07, 2016 3645 ITA ENG

Puglia – or Apulia, as is called in the United States – was home of millions of Italian emigrants, especially after 1900.

A marvelous region, full of art, culture and traditions, fantastic food and wine and beautiful people, now Puglia has an official representant in the United States: John Mustaro. We the Italians has met him in New York.

John, please tell us something about your heritage and how does it feel to be a Pugliese American

Both of my parents were born in the USA so I am a second generation American. My grandfather and my namesake, Giovanni was a founder of a Society for Altamurani immigrants in 1925. As such, I have a strong passion for Puglia and a subsequent pride.

You are President of the United Pugliesi Federation of Greater New York. Please tell us something more about the story and the activities of this Federation

The Federation was founded in 1989 with the purpose of welcoming Archbishop of Bari, Marino Magrassi to the US. Afterwards the organizations that formed the committee decided to stay together to work on the common good. We now host and sponsor many events of varied nature. We do book intros, concerts of all types (From Pizzica to Classical Mauro Giuliani), historical events, movies, etc. We facilitate student exchanges as well as organize tours. All of our events have a Pugliese theme. Please see our website at for a list of hundreds of our activities. I am proud to say that we are the only federation of this type to offer such a varied program. We helped produce a documentary "The Barese Icemen of NY" which premiered last November.

I am also an elected member of the Congress of Pugliese in the World and a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations.

Recently, the President of Puglia Region, Michele Emiliano, named you the official representative to promote and support Puglia business development and cultural exchange programs in America. How will you do this important job?

We will step up the efforts of the United Pugliesi Federation. Now, with the backing of President Emiliano, we hopefully can make Pugliese companies aware of the opportunities available here in the USA. We need also, to educate these companies of the rules, regulations and beaurocracy involved in doing business here. Ultimately, our goal is to establish a Puglia desk and showroom here in NYC. There are major differences in doing business in Italy versus the US. Not better, not worse, but different. Everyone needs to be aware of those differences. We recently hosted business luncheon for importers for presentations on these very aspects.

In addition, we will continue to emphasize tourism in Puglia. Tourism in Puglia has grown exponentially in the past few years and we like to think we played a part in that boom. Still, I believe Puglia is far behind the other regions in promotions. We aim to remedy that.

How many Pugliese associations are there in the US? And how many are the Americans who have their heritage in Puglia like you?

There are many individual Pugliese clubs in the USA. In the hundreds. Most of them started as Mutual Aid Societies back at the turn of the century. As such many of the groups have second and third generation members but unfortunately they have for the most part, lost the connection to Puglia.

Who have been or are the most famous Pugliesi in America?

Fiorello LaGuardia had Apulian roots. Peter Pace, the head of the Joint Chief of Staff under President Bush has Apulian roots. So do actors Sylvester Stallone, John Turturro and Joe Mantegna. The discoverer of the AIDS virus, Dr. Robert Gallo has Apulian roots. World famous architect and NY resident Antonio Pio Saraceno is from Foggia. Former Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano has roots from Grumo.

Is there a difference, according to you, between Italian Americans and Pugliesi Americans?

Not particularly. There are the inevitable differences between northern and southern Italians but in the final analysis, we are the same.

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