Two kinds of Italians
October 12, 2010, 12:07 AM
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From the New York Times:
In the raucous race for governor of New York this year between Andrew M. Cuomo and Carl P. Paladino, an unexpected debate is mesmerizing the Italian-American community and increasingly spilling out into public view: Is the contest shattering long-held ethnic stereotypes or reinforcing them?

The tension has recast a milestone election for the state’s largest ethnic group, which has spent decades battling for political might.

But the two men are starkly different in how they view and express their Italian identity.

Mr. Cuomo, the Democrat who is the state’s attorney general, prides himself on transcending the image of the unpolished, old-country Italian, and credits his father, Mario M. Cuomo, the former governor of New York, for debunking many of those stereotypes. ...

By contrast, Mr. Paladino, a Republican real estate developer from Buffalo, seems to relish his reputation as an undiluted, street-smart, up-by-the-bootstraps Italian.

He travels to Italy up to a dozen times a year. He sometimes lapses into Italian. And he developed a habit of greeting associates, Italian-style, with a kiss on the cheek.
Paladino and Cuomo exemplify two quite different but equally stereotypical Italian male personalities, the boisterous Sonny Corleone and the watchful Michael Corleone. This split can be seen in two center-right prime ministers of Italy, Berlusconi and Andreotti (who barely moves his hands when he talks).

The quiet, cautious Italians get less publicity, of course, but remembering them helps you understand things like why the Italian World Cup soccer team is traditionally among the least flashy. They would be extremely satisfied getting out of the first round with a 1-0 win followed by two nil-nil draws.