Sicilian Americans (Italian: Siculoamericani; Sicilian: Siculu-miricani) are Americans of Sicilian birth or ancestry. They are one of the largest and most prominent Italian American groups in the United States. Sicilian Americans are a subset of Italian Americans often considered a separate group due to cultural and historical differences.
(2000 American Community Survey)
|American English • Italian • Sicilian|
|predominantly Roman Catholic|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Italian Americans • Italians • Italian Canadians • Italian Australians • Maltese Americans|
The first Sicilians arrived in what is now the United States in the seventeenth century as explorers and missionaries. Sicilian emigration to the US then grew substantially in the period starting in the 1880s and in 1906 as many as a 100,000 Sicilians emigrated to the US. The Emergency Quota Act, and the subsequent discriminatory Immigration Act of 1924 effectively ended immigration from Southern Europe. This period saw political and economic shifts in Sicily that made emigration desirable. A great portion of the Sicilian immigrants would settle in New York City, New Haven, Buffalo, Rochester, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Milwaukee.
Sicilian immigrants brought with them their own unique culture, including theatre and music. Giovanni De Rosalia was a noted Sicilian American playwright in the early period and farce was popular in several Sicilian dominated theatres. In music Sicilian Americans would be linked, to some extent, to jazz. Many of the more popular cities for Sicilian immigrants, like New Orleans or Chicago, are pivotal in the history of jazz. In Chicago the predominantly Sicilian neighborhood was called "Little Sicily" and in New Orleans it was "Little Palermo." One of the earliest, and among the most controversial, figures in jazz was Nick LaRocca, who was of Sicilian heritage. Modern Sicilian American jazz artists include Bobby Militello and Chuck Mangione.
The Sicilian-American respect for San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) is reflected in the celebration of the Feast of St. Joseph, primarily in New Orleans and Buffalo, every March 19. Many families in those cities prepare a "St. Joseph's Day table", at which relatives or neighbors portray Jesus, Joseph and Mary and oversee the serving of meat-free Lenten meals to the poor of the community. The tables are the vestiges of a Sicilian legend which states that farmers prayed to St. Joseph, promising that if he interceded in a drought, they would share their bounty with the poor. The foods served at such tables include: pasta con sarde (spaghetti with sardines); lenticchie (lentils); and various froscie (omelettes) made with cardoon (wild artichoke), cicoria (dandelion) and other homely vegetables. Desserts include sfinge or zeppoli, a light puff pastry; pignolati (honey balls); and cannoli, a Sicilian creation. One tradition has each guest at a St. Joseph's Day table receiving a slice of orange, a bit of fennel and a fava bean, for good luck.