Italy and New Mexico, an Enchanted Exchange

Dec 30, 2015 783

by Italian Culture Center of New Mexico

When Pia Lima came to New Mexico from California in 2012 she thought she would be vacationing for 3 months in Taos before proceeding to the East Coast - little did she know that 4 years later, two cultural associations and a score of International exchange agreements would translate into a mega-effort of many for the creation of the Italian Culture Center of New Mexico. Lima had worked for over 40 years in Regional Development projects in Italy and the EU and with Italian-American Chamber of Commerces in the U.S. so after seeing the piqued interest in all things Italian by the Taoseni, it was natural to start language
classes, give information on citizenship and organize culture seminars and tourism promotions.

With the help of contacts in Italian government offices from Veneto to Molise, Regions, Provinces and cities sent promotion and tourism materials to the initial members of the Italian Cultural Society of Taos, not a town known for a strong Italian presence. After a lunch meeting in Santa Fe with several members of the Italian and Italian-American community of New Mexico, Lima couldn't understand why local associations didn't work more closely with the Italian government agencies especially the Consulate General of Los Angeles.

New Mexico had a Consular Agent, Rosalba Maniaci, who had been working to assist citizens for years
but with no formal office or financial support from the Italian government. Former Los Angeles Consul General Giuseppe Perrone had instead been a great proponent of ICS Taos and recognized the potential for Italy-New Mexico culture and business exchanges of the State when he came for the official opening of ICS Taos with the Exhibit of "Italian Artists in New Mexico" and meet with the Governor and local authorities. The CG, together with Acting Director Michela Macri' of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of LA, was key to helping ICS expand membership to over 350 people, send more than 200 people to visit Italy and give
Italian conversation and language lessons to 88 italophites in the first two years of operation. ICS Taos asked for his help in getting New Mexico on the Los Angeles radar and consular support which had previously shown little or no interest in this State of their juristiction.


Product of CG Perrone's visit to New Mexico was the appointing of Cav. Lino Pertusini as the Honorary Consul of Santa Fe, but after Perrone's recall to Italy to work for the Italian President, New Mexico still had no financial or office support for a Consulate. The more ICS Taos grew and worked directly with Italian Regions and provinces, the more New Mexican Italian organizations contacted them to be included in a network (mailing list grew to over 3,000) - and Lima and Consular Agent Rosalba Maniaci realized the need for a physical center in New Mexico as a venue for events, products, classes and business exchanges with Italy - and a home for the Italian Consulate. They began toying with the idea of creating a "Little Italy" where Italian companies could invest in restaurants, stores, galleries and local governments could nuture a tourism destination. With the help of Dr. Salvatore Messina, President of Fondacioni Europa (a network of universities working in EU tourism and economic development particularly in UNESCO Heritage Site areas) with whom Lima collaborated as a consultant, the Italian Culture Center of New Mexico was created.

Lima and Messina did a month tour of Italian Regions to see the interest in helping ICC promote Italy in New Mexico and New Mexico in Italy. Having been enchanted by NM, they wanted to share this unique experience with the travel-savvy Italians always curious for new destinations and heritage experience while helping both economies. The rich culture and opportunities offered by New Mexico not only attracted potential business investors but got the patronage of the cities of Mazara del Vallo and Treviso and the Region of Puglia with whom ICC signed agreements for cultural and business exchanges in 2016 and MOUs with 4 other regions and government agencies for 2017. They were also asked if ICC could implement and manage internet sales for commercial and tourism products working together with Italian chamber of commerces and business associations. Also part of the agreements was to promote New Mexican history, culture, tourism and products in Italy through events and bi-lateral promotions, particularly through the expression of Native American art and history.


After an exploratory visit to New Mexico by Dr. Messina who represented companies, government entities and investors it was decided that ICC would be located in Rio Rancho, with cultural events held in Santa Fe, Taos and other cities. The support of the Mayor of Rio Rancho and the Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in this decision, and ICC is actively working to inaugurate the Culture Center, International business office and Consulate by October 2016. As ICC is planning the New Mexico event in Italy, collaboration for its success was agreed upon with Tourism of Taos Pueblo, Taos Ski Valley, Taos Ski Valley Chamber of Commerce, Santa Fe Tourism, Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce and businesses and sponsors in both the State and Washington, D.C.

New Mexico art and history will be the attraction for presentations to promote export of products and
import of tourists to the State. On the U.S. side, Consular Agent Rosalba Maniaci, also President of ICC, and ICC General Manager Cristian Pontiggia sought to create an anchor annual event to promote Italy and the Center. ICC embraced the "Cinefesta Italia in Santa Fe" project uniting with Santa Fe's Honorary Consul Pertusini and Lisa Contarino, Co-Chair and appointed Executive Director after her success as
coordinator of the Santa Fe edition of the New Mexico Italian Film Festival in 2015. The 5-day film festival became the major attraction of a month of exhibit, events and products in celebration of June 2nd's Festa della Repubblica, to inform both New Mexicans and tourists to the uniqueness of the many diverse Italian cultures highlighting one Region and one City annually.


Cinefesta would work with ICC and the Tourism Dept. of the City of Santa Fe to become the primary of many events to inform the public and attract support for the physical permanent New Mexico presence of Italy - the Italian Culture Center. 

The Italian contribution to New Mexico has been a great asset to the State's historical and cultural heritage and it is with great pride that ICC has been gaining steady support to achieve its mission to offer the best of Italy. With the steady increase of new members, corporate sponsors and government collaboration, Lima is certain that in a short time ICC will achieve its goal to assist Italian-American organizations, give information on Italy's history, culture and products to the public and finally host a home for Italy in New Mexico.


CineFesta Italia will be from June 1-30, 2016 in Santa Fe with Mayor Nicola Cristaldi of Mazara del Vallo opening an exhibit of Sicilian Ceramics and hosting a dinner to benefit local Santa Fe charities "Cooking with Kids" and "Communities in Schools". The Region of Puglia will have food tastings, consumer products and tour information together with musical events and seminars during the CineFesta Italia in Santa Fe (www.cinefestaitalia.org). Special 5-day tours to Santa Fe and Taos will be available for travelers to the event.


"New Mexico in Italy" a week-long event of music, art and products will open in Mazara del Vallo on August 28th, 2016 and then travel to Treviso and Taranto. Special tours of Sicily, Veneto and Puglia to the events will be offered by the Italian tourist offices (www.italianculturalsocietyoftaos.org). The Italian Culture Center of New Mexico and the Italian Cultural Society of Taos will hold the next courses, Italian language

lessons and events in Taos, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho starting in March 2016.

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