May 14, 2020

Sicily Journal

From Immigrants to Leaders

Sicilian Contribution Markers rejected for New Orleans French Quarter

Efforts are still underway requesting the City of New Orleans to allow marker in the French Quarter which focus on the Sicilian Contributions. However since September, New Orleans has refused to proposed markers to be installed in Jackson Square, any other city land, or the river walk in the French Quarter.

After the Dingley Tariff was passed in 1897 on imported pasta, the Sicilians responded by erected eleven pasta factories in the French Quarter. One was Taormina’s which is now the site of Muriel’s located to the east of the Presbytere.

Proposed marker for Jackson Square on Sicilian Economic Contributions to the French Quarter. If approved the marker and post would be installed in Jackson Square.

Although the State of Louisiana reviewed the proposed Sicilian Heritage markers at three levels including two months for the LSU History Department to review during July and August 2019, the City of New Orleans is denying the erection of Sicilian Contribution Marker in Jackson Square.

Proposed marker for Jackson Square on Sicilian First Responder Contributions to the French Quarter. The marker cost $2,800.00 and sits in storage.

Honoring the Italian Brigade of April 25-May 1st, 1862. The Confederates left New Orleans upon the arrival of the Union Navy on April 24, 1862. This was designed to prevent the city from being burned down in a battle. The French Quarter had twice been destroyed by major fires in the 1700s.

Cabildo Fire of 1988.
French Quarter fires of 1788 and 1794.
Algiers was badly burned and looted during April 24- May 1st 1862. Thanks to the Italian Brigade, New Orleans had a peaceful transfer to the Union Army.

Honoring Military at Jackson Square

Jackson Square has been used to honor military for centuries. Orginally named the Plaza d’ Arms by the Spanish and later the site for honoring the Battle of New Orleans. For years, a parade was led by Jordon Noble, who played a drum during the battle of New Orleans. This topic was covered by Council Member Palmer in October 2019.

Jordon Noble, a slave freed in the 1830s, led an annual parade to Jackson Square to honor the veterans of the Battle of New Orleans.

Currently two annual ceremonies are held in Jackson Square to honor those who fought in the Battle of New Orleans. Link to video on celebrating the Battle of New Orleans.

January 8th memorial for the veterans of the Battle of New Orleans.

Mayor Cantrell has proposed a Cultural Fund to award over $3,000,000.00 to Cultural Non-Profits to promote tourism in New Orleans, it is hoped that this change will inspire other city officials to approve the request for locations for Sicilian Heritage markers.

Letter to Editor of The Advocate

Suggested Title: City should leverage Sicilian History for Cultural Tourism

Dear Editor,

Several anniversaries of Sicilian & Italian contributions to New Orleans occur during late April to early Summer.  The residents of New Orleans should be aware of these contributions and the City should leverage them for Cultural Tourism.

The most significant occurred during April 25th to May 1st, 1862, when approximately 280 members of the Italian Brigade were peacekeepers for the transition of New Orleans back to the Union without looting or a devastating fire as happened in Algiers. The French Quarter was devastated by fires in 1788 and 1794.

On April 24, 1862 the Union Navy pushed through River Forts in Buras Louisiana. On April 25th Admiral Farragut asked Mayor Monroe to surrender the city. The Confederate Army had already left for Camp Moore. The Sicilians were viewed as neutral and accepted by Farragut to police the city until the Union Army. During the last week of April 1862, Algiers was being looted and warehouses burned by citizens.   The efforts of the Italian Brigade spared the French Quarter this same fate.

The LSU mascot is the “Fighting Tigers,” taken in honor of Mayor Roberdeau Wheat’s Fighting Tigers from New Orleans in the Civil War.  Wheat was a US Army Major during the Mexican-American War. He was with the freedom fighter General Giuseppe Garibaldi during the 1860-1861 war of Italian Unification. They landed in Marsala Sicily on May 11, 1860 and unified Italy by March 17, 1861.  At that point in time they had 12,000 Sicilians as POWs in Abruzzo, Italy.

Wheat proposed that Garibaldi release 2,000 of the POWs to return with him to New Orleans to fight for Louisiana. Garibaldi agreed and six ships of POWs left for New Orleans. During the war, the Tiger legend was enhanced when the unit ran out of bullets and held a supply bridge by throwing rocks at Union Soldiers, until ammunition arrived.

In October 1861, President Lincoln offered Garibaldi a Brigadier General position. Garibaldi replied with two conditions: make the war about ending slavery and that Garibaldi would be Commanding General.

April 19th is the Feast Day of St. Expeditus. There is a statue of him at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, built in 1827 for Yellow Fever victims. A mural of St. Expeditus in Palermo portrays people praying at the bed of a sick person. 

After the remains of St. Rosalia were carried around Palermo three times, the plague of 1624 ceased, and the Jesuits began advocating for her worldwide. Her Feast Day is July 14th .

Historic markers have been donated with one already erected on state land. Hopefully, the city responds as favorably.   The free New Orleans Insiders Tour App “Little Palermo” works with these markers.

Regards,

Charles Marsala

President

American-Italian Federation of the Southeast