While scanning the news this week before Mother’s Day, I came across the names Kuki Gallmann, Carolyn Porco, and Frederica Bertocchini. Three Italic ladies who are worthy of international attention. Who are they, you ask?
Before I reveal their claim to fame, I’d like to note that for some silly reason Ambassador Magazine (published by the National Italian American Foundation) marked the 25th anniversary of the film My Cousin Vinny. This is the film that won actress Marisa Tomei an Oscar for portraying a gorgeous mechanically-inclined “guidette” named Mona Lisa Vito. I only bring it up because Americans know more about the fictional Ms. Vito and her neighborhood Italian culture than the three women I cited above. It seems to be the usual sad commentary on our distorted cultural image. Anyway…
Kuki Gallmann’s maiden name was Boccazzi. Her recent obituary was an eye-opener. It was Boccazzi whose life inspired the Year 2000 movie I Dream of Africa starring Kim Bassinger. Boccazzi, born in Italy, lived in Kenya and was an award-winning author and conservationist. Ironically, she was shot to death at age 73 by African herdsmen who had invaded her 100,000 acre animal/plant sanctuary. A Mona Lisa Vito she was not.
If you’ve kept up with the scientific news, you might know of Carolyn Porco, planetary scientist and leader of the highly successful Cassini Imaging Project for Saturn. This remarkable woman should be an inspiration to all young Italian American girls. She should be the media equivalent of astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a display of Italic brainpower so absent in the media but so common in real life. You can go to our website www.italic.org and find numerous references to Dr. Porco, using our search engine.
As for Frederica Bertocchini, she may have stumbled on an environmental bonanza. Aside from Global Warming the hot button environmental issue these days is plastic waste. The oceans are being overwhelmed with discarded and fragmenting plastic containers. This seemingly immortal pollutant has endangered sea-life and birds as well as inundating the shores of all the continents. Enter scientist Frederica Bertocchini. A part-time beekeeper, Bertocchini accidentally discovered that wax worms – named for their ability to digest beeswax – handily ate through some plastic bags she had placed them on. Realizing the implications, she launched a collaborative effort with fellow scientists to explore the worm’s potential in ridding the environment of plastic waste. Will the worm itself or its enzymes be the solution to digesting the world’s plastic? We shall have to wait a few years for an answer, but Frederica has opened a new door for research.
Anyone familiar with Italic women should not be surprised by these revelations. Our own mothers are testimony enough to their patience and grit. There is a reason why mothers are revered in our culture and share equal, if not more, power with our fathers within the family. This special status came not from Judeo-Christian roots, nor from Magna Grecia -the ancient Greek colonies of southern Italy and eastern Sicily – but from our pagan Etruscan and Roman ancestors. The former cultures suppressed the female while the latter accepted them as social, if not political, equals.
At every opportunity I relish showing skeptics how the Romans elevated women and even predated Christianity’s most iconic image – The Madonna and Child. The image you see here is from the Altar of Peace in Rome. It was dedicated in 9 BC – that’s nine years before Jesus was born. It depicts the Earth Mother (aka “Mother Earth”) holding two infants representing Italy and its Empire. We have colorized it to give you the sense of its link to the familiar Renaissance theme. The point is, the Italic people have always had a special place for the female – be it the Earth Mother, Mother Mary, or those that rocked our cradles and raised us.
Happy Mother’s Day! -JLM