The letter from the Consolato Generale D’Italia a San Francisco arrived in the mail today. The words inside this envelope were a culmination of 3 long years of hard work and dogged determination: 31/08/11 Dear Ms. DeBella: “I am pleased to notify you that your Italian citizenship has been recognized and that your certificate(s) have been forwarded to the Italian municipality of CORLEONE (PA) for recording.”
Somehow I envisioned this auspicious occasion much differently. There were times when I wondered if this day would ever come. And if it did arrive, I imagined it would be filled with much fanfare, jumping up and down, and screaming. Instead it was a quiet moment. A solitary moment. A very personal moment. It was my time to reflect on what it took for me to get to this place: patience, tenacity, belief, humor and a clear intention. August 31, 2011 was the day I became a citizen of Italy.
Italian by Blood Jure sanguinis (“right of blood”) contrasts with jus soli (Latin: “right of soil”) in that citizenship is not determined by place of birth, but rather by having a parent (or decendent) who is a citizen of a nation. In Italy there’s no limit to the generations that can obtain citizenship via blood (except for specific constraints which did not apply to me). Furthermore, because the U.S. and Italy have a reciprocity agreement, one is allowed dual citizenship.
After tracking down my grandparents’ birth certificates (likely located in books archived in church basements of Corleone and Contessa Entellina), respectively, I gathered together some twenty other documents (i.e., birth, death, divorce) of myself and members of my immediate family. Translations and Apostilles of each followed, along with a list of discrepancies, misspelled names (of which there were many), etc. And don’t even get me started on the rabbit hole that is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security! This part of the process took a little over a year to complete. Then there was the waiting period: one-and-a half years- to be exact – for an appointment to peronally submit my application to at Consulate.
The procedure was daunting, frustrating and at times discouraging. When I felt like giving up, I thought about the finish line – life in Italy – which helped spur me on. I guess if becoming a citizen of a country were easy everyone would do it. You really have to want it!
Throughout the 3 years, I’d been very fortunate to have the support and encouragement of my mom, my Dad (from Heaven), my son, and my dear friends, both in the U.S. and Italy. But it was my grandparents, Jake (Gioachino) DiBella and Emma (Ninfa) Pizzo, who deserve my utmost thanks and gratitude, for without them none of this would be possible. In the late 1880s, they came to this country as young immigrants from Sicily. They married, worked hard and raised a family of ten children and grandchildren. I wonder what they would have thought about their granddaughter one day returning to the land they left behind.
It appears that the DeBella family, in the not-too-distant future, is about to come full circle.