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Thursday, 29 March 2007

Latin Sicily - meet the people

Are you Latino? Speak or understand Spanish? Then you're on your way to enjoying a vacation in Sicily - By Litza Melendez

"When most Latinos go on vacation, we see our country of origin. We visit abuela (grandma) , our cousins, our aunt who is still single at age 40, and all those relatives who can't remember our names. But if you're Latina and don't mind having hoards of men admire your Latin beauty, Sicily is for you! Did I mention that those hoards of men also happen to be gorgeous?

When I landed in Palermo, Sicily's largest city, I had no idea what to expect. Like most Latinos, I'd never been to a country where I didn't know the language. What I first noticed when I stepped off the plane was that the people looked like me! They were a beautiful mixture, like most Latinos. Sicily has been conquered for hundreds of years: by the Moors, Romans, Greeks, and most of Europe. The mixture created an eclectic culture of tantalizing food and people.

The men. Many of the women that I traveled with were intimidated by the forward men. Their forwardness did not phase me. Piropos, is the Spanish word for catcalls. As Latinas, we know how to handle the situation. We learned as little girls how to handle the man who used their best piropos on us. Our mothers instructed us to keep walking and pretend not to hear them, to show we're respectable women, ‘good' girls. Do what your mothers taught you when you go to Sicily! The same rules apply. The only difference is, you'll probably have no idea what they're saying because they are speaking too fast. My advice, is assume that they're calling you beautiful!
And they will do anything to get your attention; whistle, kiss in the air, call at you in Italian, Sicilian or English.

The stereotype of Latinos is that the men are macho and the women are submissive. The same is said of Sicilians. When people think of Sicilian men, they think of the mafia; they envision Al Pacino. Yet machismo, although present, does not define Sicilian culture. Like Latinas, Sicilian women do not take the husband's last name. The United States, which considers itself to be ‘modern,' does not have this same tradition. Sicilian women also are more daring in the way they dress. If Sicily were truly just a "macho" place, women would be covered head to toe. But the women that I saw flaunted their bodies and their beauty. Many in the United States see this as bad, but for Sicilian women and Latinas, it's being proud of what you look like.

Because Sicilians are as expressive with their hands as Latinos, it was also easier to communicate. So when Sicilians could not understand me, my hand movements made it easier for them to guess. In Sicily, you don't have to feel like you must restrict your movement!.
If you want to go to a foreign country that's not your native land, go to Sicily. You'll find similarities you never knew existed and differences as well. See the Roman and Greek temples. Shop. Eat. Party. Treat the Sicilians with respect, and do not assume that your values or your way of thinking is the only and right way. Smile at people. And last, but not least, roll your ‘R's with pride! The Sicilians do it too!" - Litza Melendez

Noisy, friendly, hot tempered and often overwhelming, Sicilians are the heart and soul of the place called Sicily, and they're worth getting to know. Nobody can describe them perfectly, but they immediately recognised by their unique style, in a unique realm encompassing aristocratic elegance, gangster chic and everything in between. Sicilians are the real people who make Sicily the special place it is.