Author

Jamie Carter

Date of Award

5-2014

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

Carol Toner

Second Committee Member

Betsy Beattie

Third Committee Member

Pauleena MacDougall

Abstract

The Italians who settled in Portland, Maine’s historically working class, immigrant neighborhood around India Street and transformed it into a Little Italy were from the poor, southern region of Italy. In Portland’s Little Italy they settled among their family members and fellow villagers, often with families sharing apartment buildings, working together, and growing extended family connections through intermarriage within the neighborhood. Because of the settlement pattern that put family and community above all else, the Italians of Portland have kept their community close even with the physical destruction of part of the neighborhood under the auspices of urban renewal, and the continued destruction of the built environment of Little Italy during the twenty-first century.

The families that settled Little Italy followed a pattern established by Italian immigrants in other cities, and in doing so created a neighborhood that was smaller in population but was similar in character to the Little Italy neighborhoods of New York City and Boston. The immigrants who settled these enclaves maintained certain cultural values such as a close-knit family and community, strong religious values, vibrant social interactions, and a strong emphasis on work. The strength and identity of Italian immigrants’ culture was not determined by where they settled, but rather on the values they chose to emphasize once in America. In Portland the close-knit enclave in which family and community were the key cultural values allowed the Italians of Portland to not only survive in the city, but to contribute to the city’s physical, cultural, and ethnic development.

Share