The family of the new first lady comes from a small town in Sicily and several distant relatives have invited the presidential couple to get to know the island and Italian gastronomy
The story of Jill Biden, the new first lady of the United States, has Italian roots. Her maiden name, Jacobs, was one day Giacoppo, before adjusting to English. Placido Giacoppo, the paternal great-grandfather of President-elect Joe Biden’s wife, was originally from a small Sicilian town, Gesso, which today has just under 500 souls, in the province of Messina. He left in 1900 on the ship Homeland from Naples to New York, as did thousands of Italians in search of the American dream. Some time later, his wife Angela and their four children joined him, including little Domenico, who was just two years old at the time, who was Jill’s grandfather. Once settled in Pennsylvania, the family transformed their family names and names and began a new life on the other side of the Atlantic.
The mayor of Messina, Cateno De Luca, has explained that the Jacobs’ family memories are “a symbol of those significant stories of humble families that left Sicily and modest contexts like Gesso’s, and that managed to establish themselves in North America. and guaranteeing their children and grandchildren financial peace of mind ”. And he also stressed that it is “one of the thousands of Italian-American families that in the last century embarked on a journey of hope and that for generations represented the dream of freedom and social and economic liberation.”
The details of Jill Biden’s Italian origins have been revealed thanks to the research work of Antonio Federico, a Gesso scholar who has dedicated himself to recreating the genealogical trees of all the families in the town. To achieve this he has dived for years among archives, church records, libraries and websites around the world. He has recounted that he began to follow this particular case after reading an interview with Biden’s wife in which she spoke of her Sicilian roots and that is how it came to the Giacoppo family. The scholar regrets that this town, nestled in the Peloritan mountains, near the Tyrrhenian Sea, has become depopulated: “In 1900 3,500 inhabitants lived here, now only 450 people,” he said.
The new first lady, 69, an English teacher at Virginia Community College, has once acknowledged that her Italian upbringing has inspired her values about family. He has also evoked in an interview the passion of his grandparents for Italian gastronomy.
Several local media have moved to the small Sicilian town in search of possible relatives of the first lady and have found a distant cousin who was completely unaware of his relationship with the wife of the president-elect. It is about Caterina Giacoppo, a sixty-year-old housewife who lives next to the church where Jill Biden’s great-grandparents were married. “I would like to invite her to the town to meet her in person, I would welcome her here so that she can learn about her roots and I would prepare her meatballs in sauce and baked pasta, I am very good at it,” she told the Adnkronos agency. He has also sponsored that the future president can “help those most in need, which are many.” Caterina has a sister, Felicia, who lives in another nearby town and who remembers that when she was little her “American relatives,” as she calls them, would return to town in the summer from time to time.
The news of the future first lady’s bond with this corner of Sicily has caused a stir and much satisfaction in the area. In some windows they have hung posters with phrases of support to celebrate the victory of Joe Biden in the elections. In addition, the presidential couple are receiving invitations to discover the island and its charms, especially its rich gastronomy, a kind of national pride for Italians. “I hope there is a possibility that on a trip to Italy by President Biden they can come to Messina. I will show the president and the first lady the origins of their family, visiting Gesso, and thus they will be able to know the cultural, culinary and artistic traditions of their land of origin ”, said the mayor of Messina.
Tonino Macrì, president of the Gesso cultural Association, the pearl of the Perolitans, and who has also helped to trace the town’s genealogy, has joined the invitations. “We are ready to organize a great party,” he said. And he recalled that every year, in September, many Americans come to town to dive into its origins. “We are at your disposal to help you, we want to value our territory and promote it as best as possible,” he said.