What do Sicilians Look Like? Let’s dig into the DNA

What colour are Sicilians?

This seems to be the most controversial and provocative question one could possibly ask in relation to Sicily.

I receive a regular stream of distressed or outraged comments from people who cannot bear it when I mention that Sicilian skin spans a range of many tones. They are always Americans with Sicilian grandparents or great grandparents, rather than people who live in Sicily.

Some of them actually send me photos of Sicilians to “show me how white Sicilians are”. This is not necessary because I have lived in Sicily for eleven years. I see Sicilians wherever I go. I even see one in my bed every night. Explaining that Sicilians are white is like explaining that the Queen is posh. Why would you feel the need to mention it?

Shocking prejudice

I realised why, when a Sicilian-American friend told me recently about the staggering prejudice she had experienced growing up as an American with a Sicilian surname. My mouth literally hung open when she recounted what people had said and done to her.

Here in Sicily, the people – obviously – don’t experience any of that nonsense. They have no reason to re-write the narrative of their own history or heritage. They are proud of every part of it.

In Europe we consider all indigenous Europeans to be white people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of something else in you too. We’ve been invaded so many times we probably all do.

Early Sicily... prototype for a Benetton advertisement?
Early Sicily… prototype for a Benetton advertisement?

What’s in the Sicilian gene pool?

We had our family DNA tested a while ago. I wondered what would turn up from this list of the people who have invaded and/or settled in Sicily:

Three original tribes called Sicani, Elymians and Sicels.  They were the first arrivals after Sicily rose up out of the sea, and ancient writers thought they originated from Spain, mainland Italy and Greece.

Carthaginians (Carthage is now called Tunis). They were Phoenicians (from what is now Lebanon) mixed with a few North African Berbers.

Greeks

Romans

Jews, who were the only ones to migrate to Sicily instead of invading. Nobody knows exactly when they came but they were here before the Moors invaded.

Moors from North Africa (they were an ethnic mix of Middle Eastern Arabs and North African tribes)

Vikings (otherwise known as Normans or Norsemen)

Vandals (a Germanic tribe)

Ostrogoths (from the Byzantine Empire)

Swabians from what is now South Germany

Angevins from what is now France

Aragonese from what is now Spain

More French and Spanish and also Austrians

Bourbon French

And finally, Mainland Italians.

As you can see, the gene pool is quite varied.

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My Sicilian husband’s DNA

Firstly I want to say that connecting people’s DNA with geographic regions or races is in its infancy as a science, and has a certaintly level ranging from 50% to 80% – so it is speculative and far from certain. It’s still fun to look into it, though.

My own DNA results were so boring it was hardly worth the money. They just said British British British British British British British, 0.1% Broadly North European, British. (The only exciting part was 0.1% African. Wherever did that come from? Being one-thousandth African suggests you had one African ancestor in early medieval times. The mind boggles.)

The kiddo was a bit more exotic.

For Hubby, we got 81% Italian, a lot of “broadly southern European” and a little “broadly northern European” (this means they cannot work out exactly where it comes from), a little bit of Spanish and a little more French and German, about 4.4% Middle Eastern and North African, and about 1% west (sub-Saharan) African.

Why so much variety among Sicilians?

There are plenty of national and ethnic groups in the list of invaders which did not make an appearance in my husband, but which might be heavily concentrated in other Sicilians. Based on Sicilian people who have told me their DNA, the variety is immense. Some had as much as 24% Middle Eastern DNA in their report. Some were 20% German. One was nearly a quarter Greek.

I think this lack of homogeneity is because Sicilians have spent centuries marrying people from the same village. If a village or town was a Greek town 2,000 years ago, chances are it pretty much still is. If it was originally Moorish, it may still have a major spike in African and Middle Eastern DNA.

It’s only very recently that significant numbers of Sicilians have started marrying people from other towns and begun seriously mixing up the gene pool. It will take many generations before they achieve the homogeneity that mainland Italians now have. (As a result of the Roman Empire, Italy with its slave economy was very multi-ethnic 2,000 years ago.)

Out of Africa

One particular gene called a haplotype can tell you, if you’re male, who you father’s father’s father’s father was, going exclusively through the male line back to when you were only just human. Women can go back directly through the femal ancestry.

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In this male line, Hubby’s haplotype evolved 23,000 years ago in Eastern Africa and then one of his ancestors migrated, along with others of his tribe, into the Mediterranean region at some point. This haplotype is still most heavily concentrated in Eastern Africa around Ethiopia and Somalia, where almost 100% of the men carry it.

The tantalising thing about genetics is that we can never know if this African male ancestor turned up in Sicily during the Moorish invasion in about 1,000 A.D., or 22,000 years earlier than that.

So, what colour are Sicilians anyway?

Let’s go back to those Sicilian Americans and the question of what Sicilians look like. The short answer is that there’s no such thing as a typical-looking Sicilian. There’s just far too much variety. You get tall ones, short ones, sturdy ones, dainty ones, very dark ones and very pale ones and even a few gingernuts. There’s one boy in my village with platinum hair and freckles, who looks Swedish.

When Sicilians have a baby, the question on everyone’s lips is, what carnagione do they have? Carnagione means skin tone, and in Sicily, you never know what you’ll get. Dark like Nonna Pina? Blonde and green-eyed like Nonna Anna? Deep olive skin like uncle Danilo? I have a brother-in-law who is extremely dark but his son has platinum blonde hair and blue eyes.

Meanwhile the photos I am sent from America always look like Sicilians in winter. Of course Sicilians are pale in winter. But what about summer?

Most Sicilians spend as much of the summer as possible on the beach. I have never, ever seen a Sicilian buying or applying sunscreen; they just don’t need it. How dark they go is partly a result of their genes and mainly a direct measure of how much leisure time they get. Very white people get lots of pity and commiseration, whereas the dark ones attract slightly envious admiration.

I’ve seen Hubby looking the same colour as me, and I’ve seen him after a lot of time on a yacht looking, I swear, as dark as an African. Except for his buttocks, which were so white they glowed in the dark.

I expect his backside is his 2.5% German part.

***

Feel free to say anything you like about this post but, if your comments are rude to me, or to anyone, or ranting, or designed to provoke, I will not publish them.

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248 thoughts on “What do Sicilians Look Like? Let’s dig into the DNA

  1. As someone who is half Sicilian (paternal side) I wanted to do a DNA kit. I had no willing males who were prepared to do the Y test, so I resorted to the Autosomal test and took it quite recently. There is a Sicilian DNA Group at FTDNA (https://www.familytreedna.com/public/Sicily/) and perhaps you have already joined (or your husband has) this group.

    So my test has gone off and I await (rather impatiently). My results will be added to the Orlando DNA Project and then the Sicilian DNA Project.

    By coincidence an American who has Sicilian heritage and lives in Sicily wrote a similar thread on his Facebook wall this morning. I shared your link on his thread. What I find curious is that there is this yearning to understand Sicilian identity – two posts and all before 9.30am!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re obviously miles ahead of me on all this DNA stuff!
      What is the autosomal test? My sister had traced our family ancestry and is currently symped for the lack of a male to offer DNA to establish whether we’re related to a whole bunch of extra family – we think we are but the only way to be sure of the connection would be to exhume a dead body!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My maternal side is much easier to research. I started researching in the late 1980’s.

        The Autosomal test is called Family Finder & is perfect for catching those cousins! There is some videos on YouTube from Maurice Gleeson & Debbie Kennett both Guild of One-Studies members & very knowledgeable on DNA. I will find the links for you & add to this thread.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So my adopted daughter’s birth mom was from Mexico, and her birth father is unknown (her birthmom was homeless…I helped her and ended up with the greatest blessing in my Bella!). Anyhow I was at a doctor appointment and he commented that she looks like Spain’s Sicilian. Her curly black hair, narrow nose and pale skin. Mind blown, but I’d love to learn more! She’s two now. I have to get her to spit for the DNA test. Drooling doesn’t provide enough of the right cells for DNA testing.

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  2. Great post. I expect some of the craziness in American responses is the bizarre tradition, handed down from the beliefs used to justify slavery, that anyone with a single African ancestor is considered black. Which means we all are. Every last one of us.

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      1. I wish I knew. I do remember, re being Hispanic, someone I knew writing, “I’m not his panic, her panic, or anyone else’s panic.” It may help, in the long run, that we are, at long last, acknowledging that the lines between the “races” aren’t hard and fast (although we haven’t, for the most part, acknowledged that the “races” aren’t races). The more the picture blurs, the harder it is to hold to the old beliefs. That sounds almost hopeful, doesn’t it?

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      2. Ha ha!!! I like that!
        And yes, the reality is that there are no sharp divisions between one race and the next. If you work across Kazakhstan towards China you don’t leave a village of white people and suddenly find in the next one they are all yellow. And if you work southwards towards India, they just gradually get darker, there’s nowhere specific you could draw a line.
        It just shows race is something we have settled on as a convenient human convention rather than an actual scientific definition.

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      3. As an American I can tell you we are trapped, for lack of a better word. It sometimes scares me just how worried we are about race. Every form we fill out asks so that they can differentiate, but then turn around and tell us we are all Americans and the same. If we did deep enough we would all trace back to the same areas of the world, I assume.

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      4. That reminds me of some Spanish friends who did a study course in America and had to complete one of those forms, After ticking the “white European” box, naturally, they were astonished to see reams of different races and then, further down, find out that being Spanish gave them a race all their own!
        “Hispanic, Spanish, Latino” or whatever it was.
        Which box should they tick? Even the woman who had given them the forms didn’t know.
        I think “trapped” sounds like a good word for it.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Great post! I feel all this color scheme personally, as I am Venezuelan by birth, from a Romanian/Moldavian father and a Venezuelan born mother of Itlaian and Dutch parents. So I don’t look at all Latinoamericana, Hispanic, or Latina. Or whatever looking Latina means. There’s a saying in my country, that in Latin America in general we either play drums ( have african blood) or throw arrows ( Native American blood) … But even though we also had slavery in Venezuela, we are not as discriminatory as in the USA. We call darker people ” negro or negra” as an endearment. Nobody takes issue or is offended. In any case we also look like a Benneton add.
        I never mark Hispanic in the forms in USA. I always mark “other” as I hate to be pegged and classified. And even throughout Latin America we are totally diverse. Here I’m posting a video from Joanna Hausmann another venezuelan that doesn’t look Latina at all. Very funny about different accents in Lat Am. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VlK-neOypDM

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      6. My Brazilian brother in law has the same attitude. It’s just not a big deal and I get the impression from him that people have put the history of slavery far behind them and don’t look back.
        In America they replaced slavery with a kind of apartheid system that ended very recently and I guess that’s the reason for the deep hurt and resentment that affects people’s attitudes to so many things.
        I think dividing people up always turns out to be a terrible mistake.

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      7. Hahaha, that’s Rant’s video about accents was awesome!!
        well I have to say that I really thought Sicilians had higher average percentage from sub-Saharan Africa, maybe around 10 to 20%, I come from DR and people with 15 to 20% sub-Saharan African looks more white Europeans than many Sicilians that I know.

        About the slavery been left in the past and got it over in Latin America, is just not true. I have to say that the word “Negro” in Latin America, doesn’t have the same connotation than in USA, but is just because we didn’t have the same slavery horrors and recent segregation past. but of course always depends on the contest where you say that word. for example if you say “Mi negro” “my nigger” to a family member is not an offensive word, but if you say, ” u n negro te busca” “A Nigger is looking for you” like a reference is offensive!!! in Latin America.

        The difference between USA and other countries of America is that USA had to stablish many laws to deal with the racism and discrimination, we deal with that a little difference, but black people in Latin America still oppressed and discriminated maybe not like in USA, where hate lead to murder and riots.

        One thing that I would to clarify is that the name is United States not America, America include all countries of the continent, with all due respect, is not your fault.
        and it was a great post!!

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  3. fascinating, I imagine if i did this test, even though I live in New Zealand I would get the British, British, British result, all New zealanders (apart from Maori) have only been in this part of the world for a very few generations, if that, so everyone comes from somewhere else. it would be interesting to give it a shot though,… maybe my gene pool reflects my exotic personality 🙂

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  4. We all originated from ancestors in Africa; that has been proven. Americans are sensitive to the slavery issue. Perhaps because it is still fresh. Slavery was abolished a little over 100 years ago – not long at all. My maternal grandfather was from Orvieto, maternal grandmother from Marsala, paternal grandfather from Taranto and paternal grandmother from Naples. I have spent time in Orvieto and Marsala, off to Taranto next year. I like to say that I’m Etruscan, Phoenician, Greek, Spanish, French, Italian and everything in between!

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  5. I took the DNA test myself as I am half Sicilian and half Calabrese. Turns out I am about 64 percent Italian/Greek, 22% West Asian (14% Caucasus and 8% Middle Eastern), 6% European Jewish, 5% Iberian Peninsula, less than one percent South Asian and less than one percent North African, and less than one percent Irish!

    Yes, I have been spit on, slapped, etc., because of my ethnicity (even though I look very white). When my Mom was growing up in Wisconsin, there were signs on stores that said, No Italians. Prejudice is very real in the states. Whether it is a race or an ethnicity. BTW, since I work for the government, I have to keep all sorts of ethnic and race data, in the US, Latino (formerly Hispanic) is an ethnicity, not a race.

    Both of my parents took the test and their results were 40% middle eastern. I expected the same for me. I have to remind myself, I only got half of their genes and which ones are always a crap shoot. Hence, although the gene test shows we are related, I have much more of the Italian/Greek percentage then they do! Where the one percent Irish comes from, Lord only knows. My dad shows 6% British. I am thinking it came from those folks who came from Britain to make those fermented wines….

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    1. Oh my god, that’s horrendous. Why on earth is there this prejudice in the USA against Italians? As a European it is completely bizarre and unfathomable. What is the reason? What about other Mediterranean countries?
      I am so sorry to hear about your awful experiences.

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      1. While everyone has their own experience, I would say that prejudice against Italians is a thing of the past. Here in the greater New York area Italian culture is prized, and Italians are really trend setters in food, clothing, etc. (My wife is Sicilian heritage, born in Brooklyn, NY. Her family moved to Milford PA 60 years ago and they were the only dark haired, Catholic, non-German family in the town- it was rough for them at first certainly…). However, the US always has had a nativist versus newcomer negative dynamic – with most people forgetting that Americans are the ultimate “newcomers” as we all came from somewhere else.

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      2. In the states Italian, means Mafia. Especially Sicilian. I started watching a documentary on growing up Italian in America but haven’t had a chance to finish. No need to feel special though. Americans are prejudice against everyone who is not the same race, ethnicity, religion, or hair color. We are a great country, but very much divided. 😦

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    2. It’s really shocking to hear of te ways italians have been treated in America. I was told by my friend who made me aware of this, that I would sell far more copies of my books if I had kept my own Celtic surname instad of stealing my husband’s italian one. I specifically used it because, to English people, Italian means cultured, artistic and dead sexy. She said Americans don’t have the same asssociations.
      Wouldn’t it be good if that British part meant you had part ownership of one of those breweries?!! 😛

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      1. It’s not as much prejudice against Italians as an extremely, almost insanely irrational prejudice in favour of the Irish. The Irish can do no wrong in America: the Irish are perfect, holy, Godlike supermen and the greatest victims the world has ever seen. It’s so bizarre as to be nauseating.

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      2. I guessed that when looking at US census results a while ago, in which about a third of Americans claimed predominantly Irish ancestry, which makes no sense because the majority of Americans have German surnames whilst Irish ones are relatively unusual outside New England, and not actually all that common in it either. It doesn’t add up!

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      3. Gee, I live in “the heartland” where there are few Irish, and they were referred to as Black Irish or Lace Curtain Irish when I was younger. (And I am NOT young anymore!) Bet there aren’t many who claim Irish heritage in the middle of the US; but maybe because they emigrated to the cities of the East Coast?

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      4. Whoaaaa. I just had to post in response to “the Irish can do no wrong in America”. That is completely and utterly untrue. I am half Italian (I am adopted, but I think I am part Sicilian and I know I am part Abruzzese from Civitella Messer Raimondo) and half Irish for what it is worth (although DNA tells me almost 25% middle eastern as well, I am sure from Sicily – which is how I ended up on this great blog). There was Irish slavery in America. There were signs that said “no Irish need apply” for work. I’ve been called a “mick” twice in my life (I’m 34)! I have overheard someone talking crap about a group of firemen who came to check on a false alarm in my college dorm (in upstate NY) call them “dumb and lazy Irish micks” and that was from a South Indian person in 2003. The Irish as indentured servants were in fact valued less than African slaves and were treated worse bc no one really cared if they died bc they “cost less” money. I’ve heard awful things said about Catholics (which is where a large majority of the anti-Irish AND Italian prejudice comes from- because of the English and Germans who were here first). I am sorry but Charlene in these comments is a flat out racist masquerading as some enlightened person! The biggest victims the world has ever seen?? The Irish in America didn’t ask for anything from anyone. There were Irish who got off the boat, were handed a uniform, and went and fought against slavery in this country! The Italians, when they came to America a bit later – aside from being darker bc so many were from the South- were in fact known as less hard workers ( a stereotype I have heard repeated MANY times by Europeans and other non-Americans including northern Italians about southern ones- which is where most of the Italian immigrants came from in the states (probably not a coincidence this absurd stereotype transferred – Even the English write about it! http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/70791/Lazy-Italians-get-wake-up-call) and often ended up in crime (as did the Irish) and had no immigration papers (hence the derogatory term WOP With Out Papers) That’s just one reason they got a bad rep. The other was that all newcomers usually face some sort of backlash. The Irish did, then the Italians, and it’s been going on for awhile now. That is what happens in a nation of immigrants, and you are seeing it in Europe too. I’ve heard awful comments about the Irish MANY times in England as well (My family in fact had friends who died on Bloody Sunday) so I have no idea why so many Europeans here are conveniently ignoring the racial/religious problems that have been going on there for years.

        I would agree that in most urban areas there aren’t as many bad associated with Italians anymore really. Stereotypical NY Italians of which there are many (I am from NYC) can have a certain way about them that that most Euro Italians wouldn’t recognize (and is what you see in the movies), and would probably be embarrassed by to be honest – which is why Euro Italians cannot understand why they aren’t considered “cultured and sexy” here too. We aren’t the same people anymore. Even the American Italian food has been bastardized into something much heavier and less healthy than real Italian food. We are Americans and have now had over 100 years of a different history and experiences. Also- I lived in Ireland, and have been to England and Spain numerous times, and can tell you that the few comments I did hear about Italians were not that they were “cultured and sophisticated” (quite the opposite unfortunately), so claiming that America is different – in my experience- isn’t entirely true at all. My husband’s Argentine father loved everyone- except the Italians (lots of Italians in Argentina too) – and he was Hispanic (which by the way does not really refer to anyone from SPAIN- but more from Latin America)- again he wasn’t American. I will also point out that all the generalizations here about Americans and our educational system etc make people no different than those who presumed things about the Italians OR the Irish. These assumptions do no good for anyone, and after all -last time I checked- we haven’t been bailed out by Germany yet, we have a 5% unemployment rate (as opposed to 12% and 22% for places like Italy and Spain) which is more than we can say for the Europeans who like to criticize everything about us evidently! What I have learned through ancestry is that there is no real race (the differences, in fact, are more culture, not race) we are all mutts in one way or another, and we shouldn’t judge anyone based on race, ethnicity, country of origin or false information made up by people who are intent on division – no matter what country you are from!

        As for a third of Americans claiming Irish ancestry- it is only about 10% https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Americans and it includes those who aren’t full Irish American- which obviously- is most if not all people since the Irish have been intermarrying (with Germans and Italians especially) for decades now. I can say with confidence though that while I knew all the things here about Europeans from my own education – maybe it’s Europe needs to have their kids brush up on their American history! Also I want to be clear, America certainly does focus too much on race and there are issues, but when you are a country that is 250 years old as opposed to 3000- things are a bit different. After all, the Europeans were in fact pillaging each other for thousands of years (hence the intermixing you talk about) but let’s be real- they weren’t waging war because they considered the other people they were conquering equals or liked them, quite the opposite- its just how history has worked now for literally thousands of years – to think it would change overnight in any country- if it changes at all, unfortunately – is naive.

        I won’t even get into the INCREDIBLE racism that is FAR more prevalent all over Asia, and far more in your face.

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    3. The prejudice in America toward Italians has probable mellowed somewhat. My mother and her siblings were 100% and yet in Columbus, Ohio they anglocized their surnames when seeking employment or getting marriage licenses. Because I have a surname that is more Celtic, some people not knowing otherwise expressed their anti-Italian opinion in front of me to my offense. We get over it over a period of time.
      My mother-in-law had black prejudice and it turns out that one of her ancestors was a mulato. She died not knowing her own genetics. I find that interesting.

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    4. Well, Calabrians are closely related to Sicilians and Calabria was part of the kingdom of Sicily for Centuries, since medieval times, even the language of Siculo-Calabrian is closely related to our language

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  6. My nonna/nonno from Messina (Meri) and Palermo both medium olive skin had very fair children and grandchildren. People don’t believe I’m even italiana. Maybe the crazy amiericans need to get out more?

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    1. I think Americans perhaps imagine Europe is neatly divided into countries with a distinctive skin colour, hair colour and eye colour. I agere they probably need to get out more, and find out we’re all very mixed up.
      If Americans studied a bit of European history at school (any bit, literally any bit of the last 2,000 years) they’d realise that all we’ve been doing in Europe is invading each other literally non-stop! There’s no pure nation in Europe.

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      1. So true about studying or actually paying attention during western civilization class b/c they do make us study it but don’t make it very interesting.

        All they (the ones who’s ancestors have been here for 3-4+ generations) really need to do is be aware of their own environment actually because it’s a huge melting pot. Awareness is hard for a lot of people :).

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      2. American school children DO study world history. Having been one and raised two children who went through the public school system right here, I can safely assure you of this. Having also travelled and actually lived all over the world myself, I can also state that prejudice and preconceived ideas exist wherever humans congregate, even in more educated bastions of Europe. Witness: the comments right here in this post.

        As for myself, I’ve listened to Englishmen hurl insults to the Irish, Spaniards sneering at the Portuguese, don’t get me started on how the Germans and French despise each other, the Scandinavians bristle when you incorrectly ask if they are Swedish and find out, NEJ! They are NORWEGIAN!!! Japanese holding themselves as above everyone else in the area of hygiene, and interestingly enough, the Napolianos looking down on the Sicilians as barbaric in comparison.

        Some of the statements I read here about “Americans” are so broadly stated and so generally dismissive, I have to wonder where the writers get their information.

        But, besides all that, y’all come on over and down to Louisiana and pass a good time with us. You’ll find we embrace humanity (one person at a time), love our neighbors all swimming in a vast gene-pool of DNA diversity and basically just trying to get along and have a nice day. And you’ll just love seeing all the shades of Benneton living together….. Like Humans…… Sharing recipes for the most part. We do enjoy good food.

        Not that it matters: Half Swedish (Goteborg) quarter Italian (Naples) quarter Sicilian (Racalmuto) yet all (first generation) Murican. Our daughter did the 23andme test….
        Very interesting.

        Ciao

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  7. The mainland Calabrese show similar admixtures (since the invading Greeks, Moors, Lombards, Normans, Germans, and Spanish settled there too). For both Sicilians and Calabrese (and pretty much everyone south of Rome) they get the northern Italian prejudice against the “Arabs.” Settling into mixed Italian communities in America, Italian-Americans would have heard these prejudices repeated, with the addition of Americans’ own prejudices against those of darker hue. Meanwhile my aunts and my father tan as brown as nuts but one of my aunts and my father same the share hazel green/blue, light eyes (my eyes). My other aunt has my grandmother’s dark eyes. But Dad has to watch it with the tanning – he’s already had precancerous moles removed. So has my Irish/English mom. And that is why I don’t go out into the sun, plus the fact I burn rather than tan (thanks mom).

    Northern Italians have told me that I “don’t look Arab,” and when they hear my maiden name, they nod with satisfaction. “Lombarda,” they say, and that’s an end to it.

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    1. I think maybe the North Italians still in Italy have moved on a bit whilst the ones in America are stuck in the past (which often happens with small expat communities). Though there are still prejudices, they seem to focus on economics (Sicily is a black hole for taxpayers money) and crime (a bunch of crooks) rather than overt racism. At least I think so, I’ll have to ask my brother-in-law who lives up there.

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      1. That’s something i know about, the Italian unfication created these conditions in the south and Sicily, because of what they’d done to the south after the Kingdom of the two Sicilies was invaded in 1860. Northern Italians call us all these names, but when it’s time to vote they come to us with smiling faces and they say “let’s forget the past”. The past is not easily forgotten when still today we are looked done upon, it happened to me when i went through Milan.

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      2. Once when my English family came to visit in Sicily, a man walked past, heard us talking English, and said “I’m not a terrone, like these people, I’m from Milan”. As he said terrone (for non Italian speakers, that’s a very offensive term for peasant used by some North Italians to insult southerners) he was pointing his thumb at my husband.
        Can you imagine that?
        He seemed oblivious of the danger he was putting himself in.

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  8. What I like about this essay – beyond the very witty approach, as always – is that it underlies two fundamental truths about us humans – we are all connected, and we are each an individual… pretty great! Thanks, Vince

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ima only half Sicilian, so Ima still not sure who to blame the tall, blonde, blue eyes on.

    Ima not a big fan of the word ‘race’. I consider all humans one race. And Ima very grateful for diversity. Imagine if everyone looked like me, or say The Donald, or even Paris Hilton. Safe to say, we would ALL have wanted to kill ourselves by now.

    Go ahead and delete my comment, I dare ya 😋😚😋😚😋

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Until reading this post I never realized so many people think that Sicilians are all totally white. I thought racial variance was common knowledge. We Americans seem to think we’re the only “melting pot.”

    The whole concept of “race” is a social construction, anyway. Who’s “white” and who’s “black” and everything in between is arbitrary. Like you mentioned, your husband can get as dark as an African. I’ve met full-blooded Mexicans who were paler than I am (and I’m pretty damn pale). There was a time in US history when Japanese people were considered “white” but the Italians and Irish were not. It changes based on arbitrary opinion and social consensus.

    This is a great post. I learned some really interesting facts.

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    1. I get the impression that at least some Americans have made random decisions about who they would define as “white” based merely on calling people who are “in” white and people who are “out” not white.
      It reminds me of “The Sneeches” by Dr. Zeuss!!!

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  11. I’m an American living in Catania. I grew up in Middle America where there weren’t big Italian/Sicilian communities like what are common on the east coast. My best friend’s parents were second generation Sicilian (Palermo-Yanarella family) and never had an issue with bigotry. America definitely has it’s issues with race,(I’m embarrassed to say) but from my experience Italian/Irish discrimination has been a thing of the past for quite some time now. Although I’ve seen ignorant people creep out from all walks of life. I’ve heard Sicilians speak poorly of the the African refugees that are coming in. Understandably they’re creating a hardship on the locals, but I’ve heard racial comments made about them that have nothing to do with an economic perspective. I’ve heard derogatory comments about Americans, not realizing that this red haired, green eyed girl understands the language. Living in Guam, I was called names and given dirty looks because I was clearly a fair skinned American as opposed to an indigenous Chamorro. There is racism and bigotry in every country in the world. It just depends on what circles you run in. That being said, I love the Sicilian people and the kindness that has been shown to my family since being here. I would gladly live here forever. Oh, and I love your blog! Your sense of humor in your writing is refreshing, and it’s nice to see another expat’s perspective on this beautiful, sometimes silly culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it’s true, there’s racism everywhere and it depends who you mix with. I got quite a lot of it when I lived in Turkey and walked about with my glowing white skin.
      I’m a bit surprised about the racist comments you hear over the other side of Sicily, I can honestly say in 11 years I’ve only ever heard one anti foreigner comment (made to me by a woman who teaches children for their first communion at the churchm of all exemplary Christians!) but I’ve never heard racism against the Africans; the sentiment I hear expressed very often is empathy and pity at what a hard time they must be having.

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  12. Vince is right. Italy and Italians, from the food to the fashion to the language are in high demand and highly regarded in the US. I can vouch for that. Fifty years ago, not so much.

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  13. I’m glad I acame across your article! My husband and I are always talking about what my ancestry is. Both my parents are from Sicily (my dad from Lascari and my mom from Isnello). My dad is dark olive skin, brown eyes, dark hair; and my mom pale skin, light hazel eyes, and even though she has dark hair there’s a little red in it too. We think a lot about the history of Sicily and figure my dad is more Moor and my mom Viking, but we really have no idea.

    People are actually surprised when I tell them that I am 100% Sicilian because even though I have olive skin, I do have lighter hair and they expect dark hair. That’s when I tell them a bit about Sicily and that it was conquered by “everyone!” LOL I think people just don’t know the history and make their assumptions off of movies.

    It would be interesting to get a DNA test. Do you have any recommendations of places to do this?

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    1. The vast majority of people I meet who have never been to Sicily assume the people will be very dark, and short. They are surprised when I tell them there are far more fair-haired and green-eyed people in Sicily than there are in southern Italy. And also that most Sicilians are really quite big people.

      We had our DNA tests done by 23andme, it costs about 100 dollars and as far as I know it’s the cheapest option. They give you a DNA analysis but you can then upload your raw data to other websites and get more detail.
      https://www.23andme.com/

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    2. My father was Irish and my mother was Sicilian….one of my brothers bought a DNA kit from National Geographic and after approx. 6 to 8 weeks we had DNA results from both our parents. Fascinating, since my mother turned out to be more Greek than anything else (the Greeks were in Sicily for many years), along with Middle Eastern and some West Asian. There is a great deal of information included and even percentages of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA.
      Good luck to you!

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      1. Do you know which part of Sicily your mother was from? It seems the people from the eastern side often turn out to have a very large amount of Greek in them…. which makes sense when you think of the past Greek domination there.
        It’s fun testing DNA isn’t it? 😀

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  14. DeCarmine is a made up surname by a wet nurse in Cattolica Eraclea after my bisnonno was abandoned in a ruota. Never see anyone with that name. From the Sicilians, I received auburn hair and hazel eyes with yellow in them. No one in my family came out that way. So, as you’ve said before, it’s minority traits that express themselves sometimes. That said, I have a big nose and am most asked if I am jewish. I also have a ton of body hair–which no one in the media has anymore?? My DNA came back Italian/Greek but also high % West Asian (Caucasus). Online forums often discuss that Sicilians can have a high % West Asian. So? I’m 2nd generation USA, never had anyone discriminate against me (however I live in NY/NJ region–so a lot of us with weird names here). America is a scary place for black people. I have physician educated upper middle class black friends who are terrified of being stopped by the police here in 2015. America’s lack of gun laws and violent gun culture is worse than in the 1960s. I think ethnic whites were given a hard time in the 1940s, by the 2nd,3rd generation we are all pretty much integrated. For fun, do a story on body hair in Sicily? Has that changed like in America since Burt Reynolds and the 1970s??

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    1. Ha ha!!! A chest hair post!!! I need to find a way to sneakily photograph all the hairy doormat chests on the beach.
      A few of the younger guys here are falling to this weird American fashion for having no body hair. I find it very odd-looking. There was a fashion for men to pluck their eyebrows a few years ago, too, thank the Lord that is dying out. Some of the sights I saw gave me nightmares.
      Though someone did once point out that God must have a real sense of humour to put the world’s hairiest people in one of the world’s hottest places!!!

      Have you read “The Lady of the wheel” / “La Ruotaia” By Angelo Coniglio? He’s a Sicilian-American genealogist who wrote a little novella based on the practise of leaving babies in the wheel and the naming conventions people used for them. I interviewed him and that’s going to be published on my blog in about a week’s time. Probably very interesting for you as he has a lot of history in his book.

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      1. Ange, is my DNA relative on 23 and Me. He is an awesome resource for finding Sicilian family information. I bought his book also…fascinating!

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    2. You know, I haven’t had a DNA test done yet, but I’ve had a couple of people from the Caucasus region tell me that I “looked like them.” Apparently something in my facial features just strikes them as familiar. Humans are funny!

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  15. For some reason Catholics were hated in the US historically no matter what country they originated from. Why I don’t know, possibly because they had so many saints etc and it did not seem Christian? But my mother told me that she was shocked when John F. Kennedy was elected President of the US because he was Catholic. Wonder how many Christians know Christ was Jewish?

    Speaking of what color a people are and when a tan is involved some get nuts. Everyone originated in Africa, that is where life started. But here is a link on some Americans and how they freaked out when their DNA was tested and they found out they had African blood. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/melungeon-dna-study-origin_n_1544489.html

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    1. Maybe the Catholic thing started with the extreme Protestants who began colonising America from England and other parts of Europe? Their religious fanaticism made them so unpopular in their countries of origin it was their real reason for leaving. At that time Northern Europe was divided quite evenly between Catholics and Protestants and it was not a peaceful division. When people emigrate they tend to keep their outlook frozen in aspic adn fail to keep track of wo things have moved on in the mother country!
      That Melungeon article was interesting. To me, it just goes to show the human instinct is to make friends and mix no matter how much of a system there is trying to stop them!

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  16. Just read this quote from Andrea Camilleri in an article about Montalbano’s Island: “Sicilians… carry the blood of 13 different occupying powers. The result is that we have the intelligence of true bastards, their vivacity, richness and cunning”. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/italy/southernitalyandsicily/10289051/Sicily-Montalbanos-island.html)
    What’s interesting is that Sicily inherited the genes of the daring souls who left their homelands, not the ones who stayed behind. I assume that made a difference?

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    1. That’s a great quote! Wow!
      Very interesting observation about the DNA being from conquerors. It’s true that Sicilians are amazingly inventive and geniuses as improvising solutions to any challenge.
      Hadn’t thought of that at all…deserves a lot of thought and probably a new blog post all of its own!

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  17. In the twentieth century there really was significant prejudice towards Italians in the U.S., especially earlier on. As for now, there’s much less but there’s also massive variations in attitudes between states and between city and country. As DeCarmine said, most people considered “white” have integrated and the U.S. is still a scary place to be black. But I live in the New York area as well and there is a large Italian-American population here. Anyway, I am enjoying your book and a lot of my friends growing up were of Sicilian descent. And now I’m really curious about my own ancestry and I have yet another reason to stop procrastinating doing the 23andme test. 🙂

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  18. I am 100% Sicilian in that all 4 of my grandparents were from Sicily. 2 were from Lentini, 1 from Modica and 1 from Agrigento. My dad was a pale freckled red head with what my mom called “African hair”. His brothers looked like blue eyed Libyans with black “African hair”. Mom’s dad looked Greek and her mom looked like Venus in Bottecelli’s The Birth of Venus, pale, red hair and green eyes. One of your commenters mentioned how in the US we have to check boxes for ethnicity for everything. Regarding that, we second generation Sicilians were raised with the “white privilege” so frequently talked about these days. But lately, finding out about my Sicilian heritage has stopped me in my tracks whenever I fill out those forms in the doctor’s offices or anywhere else. I write in “Sicilian” rather than check one of the 5 narrow choices given. Frequently I see that the “white” box has been checked for me by someone on the staff after I hand the paperwork back. How can I check that myself knowing that the long red hair at the nape of my neck, when exposed, will show off its anti gravitational DNA, and curl as if it writing something in cursive through the air. It’s my badge of having half of my genetic roots coming from the boy in Modica and the girl in Agrigento,

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  19. I just discovered your website and Facebook page and it is wonderful! I have visited Sicily and am fascinated with the people, culture, and their incredible history. I was asked and found the family of a fellow American with whom I worked. His family roots are in Buccheri. Interestingly, his family is fair skinned and blue eyed for the most part. Fast forward 11 years and I find myself in a longterm relationship with an American with 100% Sicilian heritage. His family is both dark eyed and dark haired and also green eyed and fair haired. It is and they are beautiful and fascinating. They have traced their lineage to the 1500’s in Palermo (Bay of St. Elia). A proud, close knit family who enjoy their heritage and express it in every way imaginable. I love it! The only racism I have witnessed is from Italians, who look down on Sicilians (which disgusts me). The Sicilians are the best! My guy has never been to Sicily like his cousins have, so we must go! Thank you for your writings!

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  20. I’ve always found this topic very interesting. My mother’s family is all Sicilian. My grandfathers father was from Vilguarnera. He had blue eyes and reddish hair. Most of my grandfather’s family that emigrated here from Sicily had blue eyes. His mother’s family were all above 6′ tall. My grandmother’s family was from San Giuseppe Jato, they fit what everyone considers the typical Sicilian stereotype of short, dark skin, hair and eyes. My mom and I have talked about how interesting it would be to get a DNA test to find out how varied our ancestors were.

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  21. Sicilians are white. They have less than 2 percent Arab DNA and NO sub-Saharan African. There are many blue-green eyed Sicilians with dishwater blonde hair, like several of my cousins. In central Sicily, there are several towns with Piemontese people, who migrated to Sicily 500 years ago, towns like Nicosia, Sperlinga, Piazza Armerina and Valguarnera Caropepe. There are also people of Albanian descent in Palermo Province. Of course, there is also French, Spanish and Greek in Sicilians, more Greek in Eastern Sicily. The small percentage of Arab tends to be found in Western Sicily, in towns like Alcamo, as it was founded by An Arab named Al Kamouk in the 9th century.

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  22. My family name, Rinaldi, is Northern Italian, and it’s the Italian translation of the German name Reinhardt. I have several blonde, blue eyed Sicilian cousins, so chances are my ancestors were Northern Italians and probably Germanic. Central Sicily has many towns where the people are fair complected and blue eyed, these towns were colonized from people of the Piemonte region 500 years ago, towns like Nicosia, Sperlinga, Piazza Armerina and Valguarnera Caropepe. I have been to Sicily five times and I have never seen a very dark Sicilian, and no black. Sicilians look like Italians, as they are the same people, Mediterranean.

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    1. You seem pretty disturbed by the idea you might not be completely “white.” As for the laughably small amount of middle eastern you claim Sicilians have – you are incorrect. Considering there ARE ethnic African immigrants in Sicily, I’m going to assume you asked every single person you saw who was “very dark” if they were in fact Sicilian, and let out a dramatic sigh of relief when they weren’t.

      I’m Sicilian and the idea I’m mixed doesn’t bother me. Given the terrible things going on in terms of how both Muslims and Jews are treated it increases the empathy I have towards those who are suffering. Even though it’s likely some of them would consider it laughable I feel connected based on shared ancestry, I don’t really care. Rather than allow your ego, which is influenced by the myth of the “white race,” why not recognize you’re distancing yourself from your own family when denying the reality of your blood?

      I also sometimes wonder if any nationalistic or racist tendencies manipulate the genetic studies on populations. I hope that isn’t the case.

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  23. This is my father’s DNA result. He is 100% Sicilian with all four grandparents born in Valledolmo, Sicily-near Palermo.

    European

    Southern European
    69.8%
    Italian
    3.4%
    Balkan
    0.1%
    Iberian
    10.1%
    Broadly Southern European
    1.0%
    Ashkenazi

    Northwestern European
    0.1%
    French & German
    0.2%
    Broadly Northwestern European
    0.2%
    Eastern European
    3.2%
    Broadly European
    11.5%
    Middle Eastern & North African
    9.1%
    Middle Eastern
    2.4%
    North African
    < 0.1%
    Broadly Middle Eastern & North African
    0.3%
    Sub-Saharan African
    0.3%
    West African
    0.1%
    Unassigned
    100%
    Anthony Andolino

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  24. So you consider British ancestry “boring”? Britain which gave the world Shakespeare, Dickens, Newton, Fleming, the Brontes and Bacon. Britain which gave the world The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the late great David Bowie. Britain whose inventions include the television, telephone, the train and the Internet. Not to mention Mary Quant who gave us the miniskirt. Then there is the Britain whose empire once ruled three quarters of the world and whose former colonies are the richest, and most powerful in the world such as the USA. England which gave tbe world the Magna Carta, Henry VIII and his six wives and the universal language. All are soooo boring.

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  25. I am half Irish and Half Italian by ancestry. My mom families came from Sicily and Naples. She never came across many people who did not like Italians. She married into an Irish American family that loved her. I would say more accurately since I love researching history. When immigrants came to America 100 years ago, they came across many other groups. Even Italians came to NY where I come from had distrust for other Italians. For example. People from Naples did not like people from Sicily. Not all! Even some from Sicily. People from Palermo did not trust people from Messina. This was from the 1870s to about 1910s. They needed time to get used to others. Most cultures around the world went to war over and over again so some people did not trust other from outside their villages or towns especially in Europe since we can all understand why. There were so many wars. In NY, you would have many streets who are Italian, peoples ancestry came from Palermo and then several streets away were people from Messina and so on. Then they met people who were Irish. Some thought who are they? It was normal for these groups because they did not know each other. Most Italians groups started to get used to each other by the 1920s and 1930s and 40s. They merged with other Italians. A few had prejudices from other parts of Italy still but most didn’t. Many were becoming American now more in identity since the USA closed the door to immigration in 1928. This was to make almost 20 percent of Americans were foreign born. Today, there are 10- 12 percent foreign born in the USA. Not as big as then in the 1920s. All groups had problems. Mainly 1st and 2nd generations. I find it funny. You see it in My Greek Fat Greek Wedding. All ethnics from Europe were like this! Mainly 100 years ago. You think who she was going to marry. (a teacher who probably English Scotch Irish type of Americans who are educated grew up with many like themselves. In America their families going back to the early 1800s or before. I found them nice and you see that at the end of the film because they like the Greek family but they did not know them. Ignorance is so funny to me about them. Harmless. People who seem so smart in so many ways can be stupid too at times being ignorant of other cultures. Most people are like that. right? In the 30s 40s and 50s, NY the problems sometimes were from Irish Italians and Jewish that made up of 90 percent of NYC. My parents married in 1959. That time it was rare. Then half the Italian by ancestry and the Irish by Ancestry started to marry each other in huge percentages in the 60s 70s and 80s. They were huge groups of NYC and moved to suburbs in the white flight. A lot to do with race yes but a lot because of economics and class. Yes Americans are conscience of it more than Europeans think and maybe much more that you all are now. 19th Century. 1860s 1870s. Most Americans were British Irish Scotch Irish types of Americans and most their families been there since before 1770s. Germans came in huge numbers 1840s to the 1890s. These groups had problems too because people did not know each other. Europeans did not trust each other too at this time. They were suspicious of each other. Films you see that I watched how these nice British upper class thinking of other peoples from other countries can be so funny to us today. Americans of every European ancestry were not used to each other eventually got used to each other. Traveling all over the USA, people found me being half Italian no problem and thought of good food. My mother as well. Of course they thought of us as Americans like themselves. The problem American is facing is class. Most Americans tend to live with similar economic areas. Children tend to go to school with children who are similar. If an area is upper middle class in NJ. Mostly everyone in that area are Upper Middle Class or struggling middle class. Most white area mainly Irish Italian American Christian mainly Catholic. Many White Hispanics who are married to other White Americans. 90 percent plus. The rest Many Asians are living there now plus some 4 percent plus can be black or Hispanic some other race. Black Americans most in suburbia are middle class. Some areas 80 percent white now. 12 percent Asian 8 percent black or other. Most middle class. Very few problems. Some areas who are lower economics. Ghettos people think of with parts of the central cities. It is really sad. Racially mostly non white. Black, mixed, Hispanic some other races. On welfare but the problem is this is becoming generational. They do trust anyone. Sadly kids growing up in these areas end up like the people around them. Sad. Some get out are move on to better places but most it is hard because they grow up in tough homes. They only know social hardships. Same in rural areas white lower economics. Has nothing to do with race, mainly economics. Middle Class people only interact with mostly suburbs. The population make up 50 to 60 percent plus of metro areas. 80 to 90 percent of the suburbs that make up large areas of the metro area are nice or very nice areas. Cities are divided inner and outer. Much of the outer parts of a city. 40 percent of city populations but they are urban. 50 to 60 percent of these areas can be like the suburbs. Lately some areas are changing to be poorer because of people moving out over the decades. So suburban people might interact with nice areas here. Then the inner cities in the USA are divided into two area. One half are where the Universities, Cultural and Financial parts. They can be so nice. Many Suburban people may work here and the Urban professionals or years ago Yuppies move to these places. The other half of the inner city is filled with ghettos and lower middle class working class or working poor. Many suburban or middle class people never go these areas. Many of the people in these ghettos hardly leave their areas. There Think about this. I believe the UK is going thought this now in London.

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  26. Interesting topic. As an Australian-born Sicilian, I was shocked when I was on an American Sicilian forum and the Americans kept talking about ‘white’ to refer to non-Sicilians. I just didn’t get it. Genetic make-up aside (and frankly, is anyone ‘pure’ anything) I consider myself of European background in general, as frankly, I look European – as opposed to African or Asian.
    As for the stereotyping of Sicilians … oh the rubbish I put up with as a child. Light brown hair, green eyes and freckles everywhere – the comments were along the lines of “You can’t be Italian”. My sister, on the other hand, is dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed. We don’t look anything like sisters. Our family is a mix of colours – red-heads, blondes, dark, green/blue/brown eyes. There is no one ‘look’ in our family.
    Even more interesting are my children. I married a Kurd – fair-skinned, green-eyed and blonde hair from a family of red-heads – not very Middle-Eastern. Eldest child is pale skinned, blue-eyed and blonde hair. Two middle children are brown-haired and green-eyed. Last child is a throw-back – dark skin and brown eyes (although the hair is medium brown). Would love to do DNA tests for them but it is still too expensive in Australia.

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  27. I’m an American but I totally get the your not this race because stuff too I’m a quarter Native American on my dads side but my moms Jewish mother and welsh dad, and my dads Germanic moms racial traits is all people see in me to the point I had to provide Dna evidence I am my fathers child when I registered with the tribe I’ve got dark brown hair pale olive undertone skin and green eyes and very full lips and a wide nose not typical native traits I reckon but since moving to Mexico all I hear shockingly is ” are you Italian?” Or are you Spanish? ” you can’t be a gringa your not blonde or pretty enough” 😦 yeah Mexico has serious racial issues too

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  28. The last laugh is mine, as the wise guy or gal said to me ” Oh your sicilian, that means your black” and replied with a smile ” why yes I am, yes… I… am ” a wink from me and then I say “ask my wife see can testify to that”. Hahaha, some many a$$holes so little time. God bless American.

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  29. I just came across this site, loved your article. I am 100% Sicilian, as far as I know my parents, grandparents and great grandparents are Sicilian from a town called Alessandria Della Rocca, Agrigento. I am what people label the typical Sicilian, when I say people, I mean non Italians that have only read about what typical Sicilians might look like. My best is also 100% Sicilian. We look like complete opposites, I am dark hair, dark eyes olive skin, she is light hair blue eyes, pale skin. The reaction is precious when we make the claim of being Sicilian 🙂 its very amusing, people are astonished and go on to say how very rare it is to meet a blue eyed Sicilian and how I the dark one is just typical.

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  30. Did my Dad he is 4% Italian. He always said his great grandmother was Italian and her name was Isabella. Today April 25th is DNA day. Here are two emails I received from Ancesty and Family Tree DNA

    oneSAVE 20% on AncestryDNA!
    Now only $79

    Are you curious about your ethnic mix? Have you hit a brick wall in your genealogy research and need a breakthrough?

    A DNA test could be the answer and right now, through Tuesday, April 26th, AncestryDNA is having is best sale of the year! Normally $99, you can now get your DNA text kit for $79.

    Join over 1 million other people who have tested with AncestryDNA and find connections and expand your genealogy research today!

    Click here for more information and don’t delay – this sale ends next Tuesday!

    DNA Day Sale April 21-26, 2016
    View this email in your browser

    Dear Valued Customer,

    We are excited to announce that our 2016 DNA Day Sale is starting now!
    As you may know, National DNA Day is April 25th and commemorates the day in 1953 when a paper detailing the structure of DNA was published in Nature magazine. It also recognizes the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003.

    At Family Tree DNA, we celebrate those accomplishments by having a sale on DNA tests for genealogy! Our much-anticipated DNA Day Sale is now under way and will extend through Tuesday, April 26, 2016 (11:59 PM U.S. Central).
    Sincerely,
    The Family Tree DNA Team
    Shop Sale Now
    Copyright © 2016 Family Tree DNA, All rights reserved.

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    1. According to 23 and Me-My father is about 76% Italian and the rest mostly Middle Eastern/North African with a splash of Sub Saharan African and Ashkenazi Jewish DNA= 100% Sicilian. I am on Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me, and Family Tree DNA. It is a wonderful way to find family links.

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      1. Yes! I have found quite a lot of relatives through it. It is fun working back to try to figure out the exact connection.

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    2. I took the AncestryDNA test in March, when it was $99, so I missed out on the sale. Darn it! Anyway, I was born in Sicily of Sicilian parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. I have fair skin and blue eyes. I can’t wait to get my DNA results in the next few weeks!

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  31. All i have to say is that i like everything you wrote and i agree, I have olive skin, but my ex-wife is much darker than me, our kids are my skin tone, well the little one looks a little lighter than myself. It’s wonderful that our people have such a variety, that variety is also reflected in my Mom’s and Dad’s Family back home in Sicily, I love it, it makes us unique, a place the Greek called “The land of the Sun”, I wouldn’t change for anything, also because it wasn’t my choice and I’m glad it is that way, there is more to us than our DNA or ethnicity or whatever. Oh by the way the Bourbons were a combination of French and Spanish rulers, but the Sicilians were ruled by the Spanish Bourbons, although the Bourbon dynasty started as french.

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  32. What a great read! I’m half Sicilian, 3/8 Irish and 1/8 German. I used to start out every summer with a sunburn (lol) and finish it out with a glorious dark tan. I have very dark eyes, as did everyone on my Sicilian side of the family. I think it’s fascinating the degree of diversity that went into creating us.

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  33. I enjoyed this post, I find it funny how-even today-race is a big subject of discussion. My belief is this; we are no different because of skin tone or ethnicities, we all bleed red and the rain will always be clear, we are the same species, race does not exist.

    Its like dogs; you can have a poodle, a bull dog, a chihuahua, but in the end, the arenr different breeds, you can get a mixture of any two or three or nine breeds, in the end, they arent even dogs, theyre just domesticated wolves.

    In the end, we arent even humans, we are just domesticated apes. Arguing over things that only apes would fight over. The only difference is that we-“humans”- have domesticated ourselves and therefore do not take on to violence as natural instinct would have us do. Again, we are just domesticated apes, arguing over things that only apes would.

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  34. By the way, i am of sicilian heritage living in america, i refuse to identify as white, black, or any race becaude race does not exist to me.

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  35. yeah, well in America I as a second generation 1/2 breed was beat up and called names for my Sicilian heritage, you see I fit the sterotypical dark Sicilian, Of course in the summer I get, are you Indian(Native American), Arab, “Hispanic” you name it. Its stupid. I too refuse to identify. Unfortunately, after the honeymoon of post civil war reconstruction ended a new class of poor whites in the south was born, these folks blamed the slaves for their losses and civil discrimination ensued.
    Resulting in as mentioned above a sort of legal and illegal apartied. Because of this an African American subculture has developed and full and complete assimilation just never occurred which makes the problems between the “races” worse. Unfortunately those who seek to “fix” have only offered up the idea of celebrating diversity. What an oxi moron. We should be celebrating what makes us the same, not different or diverse. The things that make us the same are what make tolerance and appreciation possible. Ah Oprah should have asked me. BTW my grandfather Geatano Angelo Ponte was born in Alcamo and immigrated to NYC in 1910. I feel I am neither white or black…I’m Sicilian and Scotch LOL.

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  36. Interesting post! My Paternal grandmother was a Sicilian immigrant to Louisiana and I only wish she was still alive to take a DNA test. I have taken one and have a mix very similar to what your husband has, plus a bunch of Scottish and Irish from my mom’s side of my family. I even have the 1% African which I’ve been curious about. I have some middle eastern and Greek and I have assumed it came from Sicily, as my grandmother’s mother was from Contessa Entellina which is an Albanian settlement from the 1500s, and the Albanian language is still spoken there even. Her father was from Chiusa Sclafani (both villages in the Palermo province). I actually visited both villages last week and observed the physical characteristics of the residents which ranged from like me (olive skin and very dark brown hair/eyes), to light brown hair and pale skin. I didn’t notice any blondes, and most people that I saw had dark brown hair and fair skin. My grandma actually had my dark hair, but fairer skin than I. I’m one of those who does not require sunscreen. I am glad you mentioned that your husband has the small African percentage as well as other Sicilians, as have been very curious as to where it came from and that gives me a new lead. I had my mom tested and it didn’t show up in her results, so I am now trying to talk my dad into it, as well as his first cousin from his non-Sicilian parent so I can try to narrow it down further.

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    1. That’s really interesting! I didn’t know there were other Albanian towns in Sicily: the only one I have been to is Piana degli Albanesi.
      Given that you had a similar mix to my husband, I am wondering if that is the typical profile for the Palermo area? It would be fascinating to do thorough testing of the population and see the patterns across the island.
      Also intereting that you noticed the generally dark hair in the Palermo area, which was dominated by the Arabs. If you head towards Siracusa, there are far more light-haired people.
      I hope you get more family members tested. It is so much fun finding out 🙂

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  37. My maternal grandparents were from the Provence of Catania and my paternal grandparents were from Calabria. I recently had my DNA tested from Ancestry.
    The results were interesting. Majority was Greek/Italian. There was Caucusus,
    European Jewish, and Middle Eastern.

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  38. I love your great ability to educate the people about the rich mixed culture of african; arabic greek; and italian. being Sicilian i have always known i was also african in some way i have olive skin and very kinky hair; being in America they tend to want to hide or white wash everything keep the dark skin stuff under raps so crazy nowa days it is not necassery but back in slavery days i can understand why did. So sad America has so many hangups lol

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  39. My brother in law had a DNA test done. His paternal grandfather was from Termini Imerese in the Palermo province and his paternal grandmother was American born also from Termini. His maternal grandparents were from Catanzaro, Calabria. His DNA test shows he is 30 percent Middle Eastern, with other European blood. Western Sicily was heavily populated by the Moors, from the 9th century until the Normans came in the 11th century, but many stayed for an additional 200 years. This family tends to be very dark with very dark eyes and dark brown hair. I am half Sicilian, my paternal grandparents were from the Enna Province in central Sicily. Several of my Sicilian cousins are blonde blue-eyed. Our surname Rinaldi has its origins in Northern Italy, and it’s the Italian translation of the German name Reinhardt. It’s safe to say I have Northern Italian and probably German blood. I have been to Sicily six times, to several areas, and the people in Sicily are white with slight to extreme olive complexions, but many also look Greek. as the Greeks ruled Sicily for centuries going back to 800 B.C. Central and Eastern Sicily as more Greek and Norman blood, while Western Sicily has more Arab blood. This is just how it is in Sicily, but there is no Sub Saharan African blood in the Sicilian people.

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    1. Except my husband!!! Who looks English but has a bit of Sub Saharan. All the north Africans do, so it makes sense they would contribut that to the Sicilian gene pool. You just can’t see it in most people because it is in very small amounts but I do know a lot of Sicilians with extremely curly hair! 😉

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    1. They have blonde people in Greece too, and I think that is why you see the blonde people of SIcily particularly concentrated in the Greek-dominated Siracusa area.

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  40. I am 100% Sicilian. My parents were born in Castellamara del Golfo (North West) and Palermo. I was born (as my father and grandfather (blond and blue eyed). My brothers are olive skin and very dark hair (almost black). My Dad’s side is a lighter (German looking family) and my mother’s is a more olive skinned and features of a more Arabic look. When I lived in Greece, the Greek thought I was a Grecian girl. This is the beauty of Sicily. We all speak the Sicilian dialect, eat the same ethnic foods and much of our traditions were born in Morocco (among many other exotic places. We are of all different looks, but we are Sicilian and we encompass the rich exotic history of our ancestors.

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    1. Great to see another Castellammarese post here! My paternal grandfather was born in Castellammare del Golfo and my maternal grandmother’s parents were born in Termini Imerese. I have long been fascinated by the Elymian lineage of the people of Castellammare del Golfo. I am anxiously awaiting my male cousin’s Y-DNA to come through to see if that Elymi marker is evident there. I can paper trace my family back to the late 1500s actually in Castellammare. My strong suspicion is that we trace all the way v
      back to the Trojan refugees. Anyone out there share a similar lineage? I would love to be able to be more certain of the Elymi connection! Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

      Thanks so much for this blog post! Love it!

      Liked by 1 person

  41. I recently had my DNA checked it came back 77% Italian /greek 19% Middle Eastern 3% Northern African and 1% Trace. My father was born in Sicily in a little town called San Cataldo as was his parents. My mother was born in Pennsylvania from parents who came directly from Sicily. I can definitely attest to the fact that in winter I’m as white as a ghost and as a child remembered turning as brown as my African-American friends whenever I was in the pool for an extended period of time. This past year I decided to buy a convertible for the first time in my life and so far this summer having had time off from work I’ve been doing a lot of driving with the top down and I am no longer as white as a ghost. I look in the mirror and hardly recognize myself. There are seven in my family. But one of my brothers, one of the middle children definitely has African American hair.. there’s no getting around it he has an afro and always has. so much so that we used to say that the nurse must have mixed up the babies in the hospital. That’s not to say that the rest of us have completely straight hair. In the seventies when afros were popular I could easily make mine look like an afro if I wanted to. Everyone in my extended family is short except for me and my twin brother and I’m about a half an inch taller than him. I’m 5’10”. Which I remind them of constantly that I am the tallest one in the extended family. Growing up I used to hear my parents say Italians are generally short and any Italian over 5’5″ is really a Turk.

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    1. I love the saying that a tall Italian must really be a Turk! Ha haaaa!
      Funny how there are quite a lot of extremely tall Sicilians these days. I think it must be the diet. The older generation grew up on wartime rations and I remember meeting an older lady in hospital who told me what they had to eat, and how her brother died of malnutrition. She was such a lovely lady and I cried to learn how awfully people suffered, especially the children.
      The younger generation get lots of fish and other healthy food and you really see the difference, as they stand head and shoulders above their parents and grandparents.

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    2. That is interesting that they said tall Italians must be Turks! I didn’t even know Turks were tall. Lol

      My grandmother was born in New Orleans but was 100% Sicilian (her parents were from near Corleone). She was only 5’2″! So was her mom and her dad was not much taller! But my grandma married a 6’2″ Irish/German so my dad is 6’3″ and height was introduced to the family.

      I am only 1/4 Sicilian but have that olive skin. I’m much more pale now (age 39) but tan very easily, and when I was young and swimming all summer I could almost compete with my black friends. Ha.

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      1. My paternal great grandparents were from Valledolmo, not too far from Corleone. My grandma had eight siblings and they were also very short and built very sturdy-lol! My father 100% Sicilian and is lucky if he is 5’9″. My English/German mother is taller than my father and says she is 5’9″. I am 5’2″ and carried the short gene on to my five children…one daughter is just 5’0″! My father is 81 and loves to mow my mother’s acreage…he still gets a very dark tan.

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  42. I have read that ”Italians” were treated with racism in the past…as a northern Italian, this is a very news. We look central European and our culture is tied to France and Austria, I can’t think about ”racism” towards us…

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      1. I also found it surprising to learn that the Arbereshe (Sicilians of Albanian descent) were treated that way by other Sicilians a long time ago. Apparently it wasn’t good when my great-grandmother married an Arbereshe from a neighboring town.

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      2. Some Sicilians are very distrusting of outsiders, so that doesn’t surprise me very much to be honest. Though it depends on what they did. I always found Sicilians respectful and civil, but some of them liked to keep me at a safe distance as far as friendship was concerned!

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      3. But the Albanians had been in that village for over 300 years before this happened so you wouldn’t think they’d consider them outsiders. But nevertheless, I guess they did in a way. They treated them like a different race. My dad thought his grandfather was Sicilian and his grandmother was from northern Italy because it was clear to him that they had a different Italian heritage. But it wasn’t until I started researching that we found out about the Albanian influence and realized what the difference he perceived probably was. Then I learned where each came from and visited the villages, and got some stories about how the 2 groups interacted back then, and then I realized what was going on. It’s all very interesting.

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  43. I say thank you for your insight. My grandfather was scilian and my mother pure german. I get tan quicker and have the most odd jade eye color. I say light weird green myself, but they go blue. People from school say I don’t remember you but definitely remember your eyes!! All my mother’s family has deep brown to almost black eyes. My hair is just beautiful and to my tush. Blonde is the color thr steaks in it, facial hair, arm n leg the same. My sister and brother almost black eyes n very dark hair streaked in gray. I’ve been blessed with never having to color my gray as I’m 48 with very few. I went to cosmetology and learned hair types and I have thick strands within my hair that could almost be African. I’m doing DNA soon and can’t wait to find out my history!!

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    1. Wow, I have hair envy! Mine is just Celtic fluff that’s impossible to style!

      Do let me know what you find in your DNA. It’s fascinating to find out the variations in the mix that each person has.

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  44. As my dad, born in Palermo in 1910, explained it to me, there are a few physical characteristics that are considerably more common in Sicilian men of a more ‘direct’ lineage, due to the fact of servitude throughout Sicily’s history. An ‘olive’ complexion (more revealed when tanned than not) which is more resistant to sun damage, and is attributed to the ‘blending’ by rulers seeking better workers. Additionally, short, stocky men could typically perform better at heavy labor, were easy to monitor by their ‘overseers’, and were frequently better trusted. Eye color tends to be lighter (tending more towards hazels than browns), because the ‘privileges’ accorded superior performance and trust granted preferential choices (including ‘mating’), and men have a very long history of preference to women of lighter eye colors.

    Up to and including World War II, Sicilian men of ‘servitude’ descent and Italian men had experienced an intense, almost inbred, distaste for one another. More recent causes of this ‘distaste’ were the abuses of the Italians in 2 world wars, in which many Sicilians (who were preeminently opposed) are clustered with in guilt by the uninformed. But ultimately, the separation has spanned millennia because of Italy’s leaders taking from the ‘best’ of Sicily to impose their ‘worst’ on the world (I cite the infamous Roman Legions of Sicily, who many feared and considered beyond defeat) – who battled with immense fierceness, strength, and passion – not for Caesar, but because of the threat of destruction which was hung over family and home. Sins against blood are not easily forgotten.

    As one of those stocky, olive-skinned, hazel-eyed descendants, I bear no malice to any in those regards. I have seen the hatred of my heritage in many eyes that were not Italian. I only recount what little I know that the mistakes are not forgotten.

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  45. This post is really interesting. I’m equadorian, and I’m a mixture of a bunch of races. By now I’m living in Brazil. Brazilians always say(a part of them): “I’m Italian!” and they start talking out loud to demonstrate “they’re italians”, and after they say “sorry I’m talking out loud, but I’m italian!”, because that makes them white people. Or they also say: “I’m german!”. And they believe they’re the colonizers of this region, but in the reality where the poor migrants who came here.
    In this region of America, is really difficult to find someone to have enough knowledge and personality to accept that being brazilian or itialian means being born in an other part of the world, and also that mixtures makes part of all. I like your post and thanks, is good to see that in other parts of the world people are updated in history and genetics.

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  46. My father is fully Sicilian with medium-olive skin that can go quite dark in the sun and doesn’t burn, and his siblings are mainly light olive toned, all of them medium height and quite stocky in build. Even within the family there is a range of hazel to dark eyes, and just wavy to my dad’s very curly dark hair! I got their build, and from him and my ‘European mix’ mother, a kind of odd skin tone– Nearly as pale as stereotypical nordic skin, but with olive undertones instead of pink or cool. Very hard to find makeup the right color :p

    The diversity in Sicilians is fascinating!

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  47. Thank you! This was very informative as well as humerous! I am a first generation Sicilian-American with blue eyes and fair seeming skin, that is, until summer comes around. I never seem to burn. I’ve always wondered my ancestry but have not been able to find much online. I don’t know much about my grandparents other than their names and the villages they came from.

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      1. I have tested my father’s DNA on Ancestry DNA and 23 and Me. I have also uploaded his info to Gedmatch. I see the Randazzo surname on his list of DNA relatives quite often. Were your parents from Palermo or Valledolmo, Sicily?

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  48. Not going to lie this post made me chuckle reading through seeing how true it all seems. No one is one set thing. To much pot stirring to be strictly one set of genes. Great post by the way. Have to look into the whole dna part.

    Like

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