Bill de Blasio: Italian Roots Important to Him!

Dear Commons Community,

Today’s New York Times reveals a bit of the personal side of Bill deBlasio referring specifically to the importance of his Italian roots during his early years.

“For Mr. de Blasio, Italy represents more than an ancestral lodestone. His connection to the country has been a singular force in shaping his life, an identity he claimed as his family was falling apart.

Born Warren Wilhelm Jr. to an Italian-American mother and a German-American father, the future mayor asserted his Italian heritage as an adolescent. His father struggled with alcoholism, left the family and ultimately killed himself. Mr. de Blasio’s Italian relatives became increasingly important sources of support. In high school, he tried to start an Italian club, and he began using his mother’s maiden name, de Blasio. …

In an interview, Mr. de Blasio said his Italian roots had grounded him at a difficult time. “There was a strength, a warmth, a coherence in my mother’s family that was sort of the obvious antidote to me to what I was experiencing in the foreground of my life,” he said.

He said the connection began with a trip to Sant’Agata [village from where his grandfather immigrated] in the mid-1970s, when he was a teenager.

“Suddenly this world opened up to me,” he said. “There’s this whole other part of life that I had not understood, and it just rushed into my brain, and it was very compelling, it was very reinforcing, it was very reassuring.”

Mr. de Blasio’s love of Italy grew stronger over the years. He chose Italian names for his children, Chiara and Dante, and to this day, he stocks his kitchen with fresh mozzarella and bottles of red wine from southern Italy. Hoping to refine his accent, he practices his Italian with his barber, who also shares Italian newspapers with him.

Sant’Agata, with about 11,000 residents, is northeast of Naples, in an agricultural region with high unemployment. Mr. de Blasio has visited Sant’Agata half a dozen times in his life; his last trip was in 2010, with his wife and two children.”

Buona fortuna, Mayor-elect de Blasio!



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