Italian life, documented
Brazos Valley Italians chronicle heritage
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 22:09
Honoring a deep heritage, filmmaking partners Sergio Carvajal and Romina Olson have captured Italian culture in the Brazos Valley in a documentary series focused on Texas-Italian life.
Local Italians congregated at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Bryan on Sunday to preview a screening of the third episode, “The Italians from the Bottom,” of the documentary series “The Texas Italian Stories.” Created by two collaborators from Austin Intercultural Transmedia Approach to Learning (ITAL), the series explores how people identify with their Italian heritage. Featuring residents of the Brazos Valley, the episode documents the important historical contribution of Italians to the region.
“The idea was how we could make something that is actually fun to watch and where you can learn not only Italian culture itself and what happens only in Italy, but something that also happens around here,” Carvajal said. “There is Italian culture all around.”
The series of videos are recognized as part of the “Year of Italian Culture in the U.S. 2013,” a cultural and educational initiative enacted by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The Embassy of Italy in Washington D.C.
Carvajal and narrator Olson said “Texas Italians” and native Italians were equally represented throughout the videos to celebrate their cultural similarities and differences.
“This is a way to bring everyone together and kind of break that wall they kind of build between each other,” Olson said.
A native of Tuscany, Italy, Leonardo Lombardini — associate professor of horticulture at Texas A&M — appeared in the video.
Lombardini took the team to Royalty Pecan Orchards, a place that was originally cultivated by immigrants.
“They wanted to film me in my environment,” Lombardini said. “They asked me what differences I saw from Italy and here in the United States”
“The Italians from the Bottom” highlights how Italian farming techniques impacted the Brazos Valley. Lombardini said Italians brought an appreciation for the land that carries over to present-day.
“One of the things I think I brought with me was more respect for the land and the environment,” Lombardini said. “Just the fact I come from a different country where we grow different crops and have different methods, I brought in a different perspective”
Lombardini also took the team to a historical marker located off of Highway 50 on land settled by Italian immigrants in the 1870s.
Carvajal said many Italians today might not know how to become acquainted with other local Italians.
Carvajal said he and Olson would continue filming these short documentaries and then present them to the participating communities. Calling the screenings a “perfect environment,” Carvajal said he was optimistic the screenings would inspire the “exchange” of stories.
“The Italians of Bryan might want to talk about [their experiences] but they don’t know how,” Carvajal said. “The video provides everyone a platform to start conversation. We hope to see lot of people connecting.”
Both Carvajal and Olson said one of their goals is to establish relationships with universities throughout Texas. The videos are bilingual, so they said Texas A&M students learning Italian can benefit from watching the films as well.
“We hope that the Italian courses taught at Texas A&M and those professors can use this in their classes or just as extra [material] so students can learn about the Italian culture in Bryan,” Olsen said.