Italian Mexicans - Orientation

Identification. People of Italian descent living in Mexico have, since the late nineteenth century, become generally assimilated into mainstream society. Their identity rests on the common experience of migration from Italy in the late 1800s (a period characterized by a more general Italian diaspora to the Americas under the pressures of economic transformation and the process of unification into a nation-state in 1871) and the establishment of communities, primarily in central and eastern Mexico. Most of these immigrants were from northern Italy, with a majority coming from the rural proletariat and farming sector in Italy. Once in Mexico, they attempted to establish themselves in similar economic pursuits, especially dairy farming. Italian Mexicans share the migration experience, speak a dialect of Italian, eat foods that they consciously identify as "Italian" (e.g., polenta, minestrone, pastas, and endive), play games that are Italian in origin (e.g., boccie ball, a form of lawn bowling), and are devoutly Catholic. Although many Italians now live in urban Mexico, many more live in and strongly identify with one of the original or spin-off communities that are almost entirely Italian in composition. These individuals still stridently claim an Italian ethnic identity (at least to a non-Mexican outsider) but are also quick to note that they are Mexican citizens as well.

Location. Italians in Mexico reside primarily in one of the rural or semiurban original communities or their spinoffs. Members of these communities tend to live in residential isolation from surrounding Mexican society (see "History and Cultural Relations"). It is important to distinguish among three types of Italian Mexican communities. First, there are the larger, original communities, or colonias (i.e., Chipilo, Puebla; Huatusco, Veracruz; Ciudad del Maíz, San Luis Potosí; La Aldana, Federal District—the four remaining communities of the original eight), populated by the descendants of poor, working-class Italian immigrants. Italian Mexicans still form tight-knit ethnic collectivities within their original communities, but population pressure and a circumscribed land base in these "home" communities have resulted in fissioning—the establishment of a second category of newer, spin-off or satellite communities composed of people from one of the original colonias. These include communities in and around San Miguel de Allende, Valle de Santiago, San José Iturbide, Celaya, Salamanca, Silao, and Irapuato in the state of Guanajuato; Cuautitlán, México; and Apatzingan, Michoacán. Third, there are a small number of anomalous communities, such as Nueva Italia and Lombardia, Michoacán, that were established by wealthy Italians who emigrated to Mexico after the 1880 diaspora and established large agricultural estates known as haciendas.

Demography. Only about 3,000 Italians emigrated to Mexico, primarily during the 1880s. At least half of them subsequently returned to Italy or went on to the United States. Most Italians coming to Mexico were farmers or farm workers from the northern districts. In comparison, between 1876 and 1930, SO percent of the Italian immigrants to the United States were unskilled day laborers from southern districts. Of Italian immigrants to Argentina, 47 percent were northern and agriculturists.

The largest surviving colonia in Mexico—Chipilo, Puebla—has approximately 4,000 inhabitants, almost a tenfold increase over its starting population of 452 people. Indeed, each of the original eight Italian communities was inhabited by around 400 individuals. If the expansion of Chipilo, Puebla, is representative of the Italian Mexican population as a whole, we might infer that in the late twentieth century there are as many as 30,000 people of Italian descent in Mexico—a small number in comparison with the immigrant Italian population in the United States, Argentina, and Brazil. It is estimated that 1,583,741 Italians emigrated to the Americas between 1876 and 1914: 370,254 arrived in Argentina, 249,504 in Brazil, 871,221 in the United States, and 92,762 in other New World destinations. Italian emigration policies from the 1880s through the 1960s favored labor migration as a safety valve against class conflict.

Linguistic Affiliation. The vast majority of Italian Mexicans are bilingual in Italian and Spanish. They use a mixture of Spanish and Italian to communicate among themselves but only Spanish with non-Italian Mexicans (unless they wish not to be understood by, for example, a vendor in the market). The ability to speak el dialecto (the dialect), as they refer to it, is an important marker of ethnic identity and in-group membership. MacKay (1984) reports that in all of the original and satellite communities, an archaic (late nineteenth-century) and truncated version of the highland Venetian dialect (as distinct from standard Italian) is spoken.


User Contributions:

francisco alvarez evangelisti
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Dec 21, 2009 @ 12:00 am
yes, i believe this article, i am from Apatzingan Michoacan and I am from Italian origin
michelle zago
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Aug 20, 2010 @ 5:17 pm
I am from there I was born in the US but raised there..and all of the above is soo true..people might say we are mexicans but we are not.out blood is italian our background and culture might include some mexican I guess...its a hard story to xpalin to people sometimes..but I am proud to say I am a chipilena.
Anonymously Here
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Feb 15, 2012 @ 6:18 pm
My family is from Celeya, Guanajuato and we're all very light-skinned but we never truly knew where our family came from considering the fact that my cousin looks very Spanish and his sister looks very Italian, I myself have been told by countless people that I look very Italian.
The whole reason I stumbled upon this is because I was bored and wanted to know for myself why we do look very 'blanco' compared to other people of Mexico.
I was in shock when I came across this and now I feel very enlightened.


We come from a small village known as Rincon de Tamayo (10 minutes from Celeya but it is usually noted as 'Rincon de Tamayo, Celeya, Guanajuato. Meaning that they include us as Celeya).


My aunts, along with mother, and uncles speak a language that they do not even know what it is.

This was very informational and I hope to one day find long lost relatives!
Rolando Donato
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Jan 4, 2013 @ 2:02 am
I also believe this study. I was born in San Bernardo, estado de Guanajuato. Unfortunately my grandfather died at a young age so we were not able to gather more information about our great grandfather Benito Donato, and where he came from. researching our name, My father Juan Donato, is mentioned in the "Italian immigration to Mexico" article on the Internet as the pioneer of the italo Mexicans that immigrated to the USA (Santa Cruz, California) during the bracero program. This is very exciting to gather more information how my family got the last name Donato which is a common last name along the Amalfi coast.
Rosalba Brambila
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Jul 2, 2013 @ 4:16 pm
I would love more information as to where I can find records of immigration into Mexico by Italians or migration from Italy to Mexico, my great grandfather was the casique in the town located in Jalisco but Jalisco is not mentioned in the article. Brembilla is the town in Italy the family comes from...since record keeping is very poor in Mexico it's very difficult to trace back to family in Italy.
Carlos Manzo
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Aug 22, 2013 @ 3:15 pm
My father came from a small town called Sahuayo in the state of Michuacan. His name is Antonio Ramirez Manzo. He was orphaned at an early age so I never new my Manzo grandparent. I have met Manzo's from Mexico that tell me most Manzo's come from the state of Colima.
Here in the US there are many Italians with the last name Manzo. I would love to find out more about Manzo's in Mexico.
Maria
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Sep 3, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
My grandma is a Pizano from Guanajuato. We are trying to piece together a family history of her ancestry there. We know her mother was Monica Pizano who was possibly married to a Francisco Cruz. I would love to find more information on when her family immigrated to Mexico!
Mario Di Proa
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Jun 25, 2014 @ 1:01 am
My father and grandfather are from Monterey Mexico I have Italian ancestry also from my father's side, I've researched my last name and there are some Italian immigrants that came to New York with the last name Proa and Di Proa but I want to know more about the immigrants to Mexico.
Angelica
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Jul 22, 2014 @ 11:23 pm
My last name is Pizano. My family comes from Guanajuato mainly from a village name Cazacuaran. We always knew our last name came from Italian origin. This explains a lot.
Carlos
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Nov 22, 2014 @ 7:19 pm
My family emigrated from Sapri, Italy to Veracruz in the early 1900's. My great-grand parents bought and worked lands in Mexico, but from my understanding they were disposed of their lands when the revolution came because they were not Mexican citizens. My dad was first generation Mexican-Italian born in Tampico. I was born in Chicago but our Mexican-Italian heritage is very strong. Aside from English, I speak Spanish and Italian fluently. I'm very proud of my heritage. Being Mexican-Italian means being very unique. Although a large part of our family emigrated to the U.S., I still have many relatives living in Mexico of Italian descent. Tanti saluti a tutti i miei parenti messicani di cognomi Capiteruccio, Bello e L'Etiere.

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