Acculturation occurs when an immigrant community begins to adapt some of the behaviors of the majority, mainstream culture. Many of the traditions the community brought with them to America remain in force. What takes place is a blending of the cultures so that there is a bi-cultural aspect in the lives of the immigrants and their descendants. The cultural identity of the ancestral country is retained.
Assimilation is a by-product of acculturation. It occurs when members of the immigrant community accept the values of the mainstream culture to such an extent that they no longer bear the cultural identity which once differentiated them. The characteristics of the culture from which the family originated are replaced by those of the majority in their new homeland.
We used the 1940 Federal Census entries for the Muro and Carola families to see if we find acculturation and assimilation occurring in the lives of the second generation of these Italian-American families.
Sam and Josie (nee Muro) Serrapede were Sammy’s parents and EmilyAnn’s maternal grandparents.
Peter Muro was the younger brother of Josie Muro Serrapede.
Angie Carola Muro was Peter’s wife and mother of Nick, Robert and Peter. Angie’s name appears as Mary Angela Carola on her marriage license. In some Federal Census records it appears as Angeline. She was the daughter of Guy and Rose Carola. Angie’s siblings were Raffaele, Nicola (Nick), Christina, Antoinette, James, Ralph and George.
Family of Peter and Angie Muro in the 1940 Federal Census
Peter Muro answered the questions for his household when the enumerator visited to record his entry for the 1940 Federal Census. Peter and Angie had a 1 year old son named Nick. The family was living at 246 Albermarle Street in Baltimore, Maryland. Peter was working as a laborer in an aircraft company and had made $500 in 1939. He’d only worked 20 weeks that year. Rent on the apartment in Maryland was $12 a month.
In columns 17-20 the census enumerator had to enter where the family lived as of April 1, 1935. The answer recorded for Peter and Angie is “same place” meaning they were in the same house in Baltimore since 1935. This is incorrect because in 1936 we know Peter was working in Brooklyn, NY (link to Bergen Beach posting). When Peter and Angie applied for their marriage license in 1937 both lived in Wilmerding.
By accepting work out of state and in a different industry, Peter was no longer following the pattern of traditional behavior observed by the first generation. Peter was not working at Westinghouse Air Brake Company like his father did and he did not work in his father’s grocery store. He also did not stay in the same town after his marriage. By moving out of state with his wife and child Peter was adapting to life in America. We do not know if there were relatives in Baltimore but if not that was another change in lifestyle. Usually the second generation retained close ties to their relatives and paeasni. The social capital of a network of friends and relatives to secure employment and housing may or may not have remained strong. With the economic necessity to secure any kind of work as the Depression continued into the late 1930s, it was essential to put aside old world customs in favor of what was most expedient to secure a livelihood.