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My Take on “Tex-Mex Italians”

By Ariana Pleasure

Although it is not an easy pick, I would have to say that the final project in the Texan Italian Stories series is my favorite ITAL video. The documentary was extremely relatable to me even though I am not Italian at all. As a Texan the topic of blending cultures and dealing with heavy issues such as racism and classism are aspects that I have to experience at first hand. I appreciated that so many different voices were heard throughout this video and it opened my eyes as it might open yours.

The first sentence spoken “Sometimes we are prisoners of our own way of seeing things.” was such a great starting point for the film and one of my favorite moments. We forget that the limited aspect of the world we see around us is only the smallest fraction of what we have access to. “Tex-Mex Italians” is an eye-opener that i would highly recommend everyone to watch and get a glimpse of the Italian culture in ways you’ve never imagined.

Romina interview many San Antonionian Italians that live in the area, that come from other racial backgrounds as well. All except for one actually. Peter Gonzales Falcon who is from a border town of Mexican descent got hands on experience with Italians in Texas. He was the lead in Federico Fellini’s film Roma (1972). Falcon mentioned that although he was not Italian, the Italian crew and cast made him feel at home and was immediately comfortable. I immediately connected with his feelings towards the Italian community. Just take the Italian department at the University of Texas for example. The department creates community outside of the classroom to share their culture for anyone who is interested.

As I mentioned before this was all set in San Antonio, which has a great influence of Mexican culture. Which is why there is no way to talk about Italians in the city without talking about the Mexicans in the city as well. Not only are there connections between the two cultures but as we saw there are plenty of biracial people in the city to speak for themselves. However, we quickly learned in the film that the combination of the cultures have not always been celebrated.

Francesco Cristadoro the Italian Consular Correspondent in San Antonio discussed how actual legal problems came about when it came to interracial couples and the legality of their marriages. While the people may have seen no problem in marrying who they fell in love with in various parts of the world, the government had more strict views on such a topic. Situations such as this created an unwelcoming environment for Italians who were building lives in San Antonio. Another interviewee, Franco Mondini-Ruiz brought up very alarming points about classism and racial tensions between Mexicans and Italians in San Antonio today. Those are two words we are all too familiar with in the U.S., and especially in the south. You could sense the hurt and frustration from Mondini-Ruiz which is so valid as he lived his day to day life being a part of two cultures that have not always co-existed respectfully.

Perhaps my favorite interview from the documentary was with Patrice Villastrigo an artist and an Italian-Mexican. She expressed such great points when it came to who she was. In her interview she said “We have everything to do with whom we become”, a quote we can all take away from the video. We don’t get to pick who we are but can have such great aspirations for our future self. After asked about how she felt about Italy and Mexico she responded with “they’re both home.” A simple and heartfelt response that contributes to a difficult conversation.

So many different cultures were mentioned in the film that it was hard to keep up. Going from not knowing much about any biracial Italians to hearing about Argentinean Italians, Venezuelan Italians, and Mexican Italians was a culture shock in the best way possible. We got to see a glimpse of biracial people with Italian descent in San Antonio growing more and more proud of who they are even if it has not always been celebrated. “Tex-Mex Italians” gives such great insight on a topic that many aren’t even sure is a prominent situation in Texas today.

Thanks to this project we got a lot of information on a subject that was not clear to some of us who are studying Italian. I found their stories so captivating and got to learn that what is already such a beautiful culture truly has no boundaries. Just like the beginning of the video reminded us there is more to the world than only what you know and see. It is so important to broaden our horizons and look outside of our own community. And lucky for us we have access to Italy right here at ITAL.


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