The Sicilian Heritage Festival: Tradition Reigns In Independence

Festivals are common in Louisiana – in the spring and the summer, especially. From oysters to rice, from frogs to music, everything finds a time to be celebrated. The joy of life is everywhere – even in Independence, Louisiana. Independence chooses to celebrate its Sicilian heritage. This year, March 9, 10, and 11 were the dates of remembering the legacies of my forefathers of the community of family, food, farming, and old-time religion at the Sicilian Heritage Festival.

According to the official website for the Sicilian Heritage Festival, we Italians who have roots in the heart of Tangipahoa Parish have been celebrating our southern Italian culture since 2008on the 2ndweekend in March officially. However, this same type of annual gathering for the community has been going on in Independence since 1890 ( Each year, we American-Italians of Independence increasingly make the legacy our own, adding new and meaningful activities to the previous line-up of nostalgic events.

Our writers can help you with any type of essay. For any subject

Order now

For example, this year, Italian dancing in traditional costume in the streets was added to the delight of all the visitors. City-Data’s website reveals that, inthe community of Independence, Italians outnumber all other ethnic groups by far ( Why the Italians immigrating to America back around the turn of the century came north from the New Orleans area has an amazing story behind it. Independence is still a small town of only 1,888 residents, but the greatness of Independence is not about numbers. It is about heart.

Many of the residents, like myself, are first, second, or third-generationItalian-Americans whose ancestors can be easily traced to southern Italy cultures – mostly from Sicily (Westbrook 2). In my case, the Piergiorgio and AnnamariaMitidierifamily came here in 1893 with a group of earnest and sweating Italian-American immigrantswilling to do back-breaking work, arriving in the port of New Orleans. Slavery had been abolished before the Civil War, but there were still fields to work. This tough and relentless group of immigrants and their willing children, including my great-grandparents, began to replace the freed slaves in the cane fields, located in the swamps in the parishes surrounding New Orleans. Someone must have told them about the lure of Tangipahoa Parish directly north.

The strawberry fields appealed to these folks – not only because land was cheaper in the rural areas north, but probably because raising strawberries was more similar to the homeland farming of grapes and olives. These immigrants set their sights on Independence, but they expanded the strawberry industry in a circle outside the small town to an area that extended from Amite all the way down to Hammond (Westbrook 1).

The tradition of the Sicilian Heritage Festival still represents memories of the original intentions of long ago in Italian family customs, such as distinctively Italian cooking, farming, and seriouslyreligious celebrations, although the new celebration continues with new angles and twists that show the influence of newer generations.

Italian families center around eating huge, delicious meals where everyone is involved. Italian cooking is at the heart of the Sicilian Heritage Festival. One of the most popular events is the Spaghetti Cook-off. No fewer than twenty family-team competitors demonstrate their nostalgic recipe skills from old Sicily or other communities of origin in south Italy. In Independence on the second weekend in March, the air filled with the aroma of fresh meatballs of secret combinations of veal, beef, and pork, as well as rich red sauces of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and Romano cheese. Besides the cooking contest, the corresponding spaghetti-eating contest is always a big draw.

Even the younger generation who have had to move to Baton Rouge or New Orleans to earn their livings return to Independence to feast with friends and family on this special weekend.Cooking takes place outside, just like the old days. Old folks stand around ruminating memories about the days from their children where each family had their own clay and brick ovens. Our family outdoor ovens are the sources for memorable stories about roasting whole pigs on Sundays or making five loves bread at one time for the week. The old people laugh and talk about putting sweet potatoes on the end of sticks and holding them in the hot coals to roast. The brick and clay ovens were not the only source of homemade foods. Our Italian elders chat endlessly about making their own pasta, their own tomato paste, and even their own cheeses from scratch.

The Sicilian Heritage Festival brings the food – brucciloni, pizza, and lasagna (Westbrook 4), but the food is special – made from the memories of tastes and images of days gone by. Every family member even today is involved in Italian food production every weekend, and, especially, during festival. I know that being Italian in Tangipahoa Parish and cooking Italian food go hand in hand. My family has its own secret variations of red sauce and pasta to please the visitors and the regular attendees at the festival. Going to the festival is like climbing into a time warp and eating the way people did over one hundred years ago. Not much has changed – and that is a good thing!

The bounty from farming is shared at the Sicilian Heritage Festival. American-Italians, like our family, love the challenge and the magic of farming. Family gardens are a big deal in Independence. Strawberry farming is still huge in Independence – and at the Sicilian Heritage Festival. Strawberry shortcake, strawberry jams and jellies, and strawberry wine are still part of the culture in this town where most of the surnames come straight from a telephone book in Italy – Casoni, Alessi, Lamonica, Guzzardo, Cali, to name just a few. Fruits can all be turned into wines – and it is! Italians love any kind of wine.

Wineries can be found in this little community, and all of them sporting their delicious and fragrant wares at the festival. One winemaker with local fame is John Labate, a good friend of my grandfather. Mr. Johnny never sells his wine, but chooses to give it away at the festival. This act shows the heart of the festival. Visitors stand amazed that he will accept no money, only a smile and a hug in payment. He specializes in Old World recipes from his ancestors of all kinds of fruit -blackberry, blueberry, raisin, and strawberry wines, but he can make wine from peaches, plums, pineapples, cherries, or figs, as well (Westbrook 6).Homemade fresh strawberry gelato, which tastes like ice cream, canbe purchased on every corner at the festival. Italian gardens grow more than strawberries, though.

Fresh pestos are featured at the festival from local Italian family gardens, which have generally mixed in their shrubbery, fresh herbs, peppers, parsley, okra, eggplant, snap beans, and green onions, as well as fruit from fruit trees or vines in the yard, like pears, muscadine, tomatoes, and figs. Some of the larger gardens and farms, like the Liuzzas, share at farmer’s markets far and wide – but they are always in abundance at the Sicilian Heritage Festival.

Besides exalting Italian cooking and farming, ethnic Italians in Independence raise up the Roman Catholic religious heritage like no other place in America during this festival.Roman Catholicism is at the hub of the social and cultural life in Independence all year long and the Sicilian Heritage Festival on this special weekend. An invocation by the local priest of the parish signals the beginning of the festival.

The Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church holds Mass several times daily, which is nearly inconceivable for such a small town. The church not only provides daily mass during the year, but it serves as the hub for the annual Sicilian festival. A new church has been built in the past few years, but the Old Mater Dolorosa sanctuary is now used as a museum with all sorts of artifacts and memorabilia of the Sicilian heritage of the Italian-Americans in Independence. The Knights of Columbus Men’s Club and the Ladies’ Auxiliary put together activities for the festival.

St. Joseph’s Day is very significant in Independence culture of tradition, and the St. Joseph’s altar, mirroring the Sicilian original, is a magnificent sight to see during the festival, melding family, fun, farming, and religion in a unique way. Men, women, and children of the community work together to amass the broad array of delicacies and specialties on the altar to give to the community. Feast days, copied from those in the old country, are common in Independence and heralded at the festival. Roman Catholic heritage is very important to the Italian-Americans in Independence.

My great grandmother, Sophia Frassati, told me the legend about the St. Joseph Feast Day fifteen years ago before her death. St. Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, was honored by being the patron saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Italians, in gratitude to St. Joseph for rain that nourished their farms, made an oath to feed the poor in exchange for the blessings. Now, altar-builders strive to give to others and feed the poor in return, bringing the tradition from Sicily to Independence (Westbrook 8).

Annie LauraAccardo, leader of the Italian rosary recitation for the Independence opening of the Sicilian Heritage Festival and my distant cousin, is quoted as saying about the altar at her home, “I never minded strangers coming into my house when I had an altar. My house doesn’t belong to me, anyway. I’m just borrowing my house from Jesus, and that means it’s open to everybody” (Westbrook 10).

The Sicilian Heritage Festival is a bridge from the past to the future, as Italian-American residents continue to share. Unique to the Independence area of Louisiana, this festival draws not only locals, but visitors from faraway places. Fun and family rules annually at the Sicilian Heritage Festival just as it did in the old days when this community met to celebrate with food, farming, and religion.

Works Cited

  1. “Independence, Louisiana.” Web. Retrieved Mar. 1, 2018.
  2. “The Independence Sicilian Festival.” Web. Retrieved Mar. 1, 2018.
  3. Westbrook, Laura. “Italian Traditions in Independence, Louisiana?” Web. Retrieved Feb. 24, 2018.

The Truth Behind Medical Marijuana

The truth behind medical marijuana is actually not surprising at all. Although medical marijuana has not always been a hot topic due to government laws, it is something medical researchers should be able to look into. Referencing “”Historical Timeline – Medical Marijuana”” (2017) it states that in 2700 BC, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung ordered his doctors to look into the healing properties of marijuana. It has been a type of medicine way before our time. In still referencing “”Historical Timeline – MedicalMarijuana”” (2017) 1911 was the year that America decided to outlaw cannabis. Massachusetts was the first state and the rest followed after. The reasoning for outlawing cannabis was to discourage future use, not because it was an abused drug.

The existence of cannabis, or marijuana, dates back to the ancient times. Introducing cannabis to the world meant trying to deconstruct the drug and figure out it components. Cannabis is a plant based medicine that can be deconstructed into other forms targeting the illness the patient is experiencing. Dating all the way back in 2700 B.C. with the Chinese trying to figure out the healing properties of the forbidden plant. It was also seen in 400 A.D. as evidence showed traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in ashes. Fast forward to the 1800s it was not seen as an abusive drug, but rather a drug to help those who were sick. In 1840, marijuana was added to United States Pharmacopeia. According to the United States Pharmacopeial Convention,. (1851), marijuana was used to treat an assortment of sicknesses. In 1906, was the turning point of cannabis use. The Pure Food and Drug Act, also known as the Wiley Act, required labelling of all medicines, which included cannabis. This meant that cannabis had to have a label, but that required in depth research that did not occur yet, so cannabis than became an outlawed drug. Massachusetts then became the first state to outlaw the drug in 1911. Then after many of the states decided to follow and outlaw the use of cannabis as a medicine. The use of cannabis was outlawed not for the harmful effects because there was no evidence that there was a hazard, but the fact that it was not labelled and could be a possible threat in the future.

Our writers can help you with any type of essay. For any subject

Order now

Marijuana by the federal government is still a CI controlled substance due to the fact that is unregulated. This means that anyone in a state without legal authorization, will be charged with a felony of possession. Although medical marijuana is legalized in forty-six states, it is still an illegal substance under federal law. In federal government law, any use of cannabis is prohibited. There is no fine line about what is accepted or not, cannabis is an illegal substance. These laws mostly go against people that posses, grow, or distribute extreme amounts of cannabis. Cannabis is a Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. According to an article by Americans For Safe Access, “”The federal government views cannabis as highly addictive and having no medical value.”” With the federal government continuing this mindset, cannabis is not safe to possess, even if there is authorization to possess. The use of medical marijuana as a recreational drug has distorted the view of the factual health care benefits for chronic pain and cancer pain by introducing the main problem of ability to comply by the federal government by federal laws and state laws.

Federal Law

Under federal law, if a person possesses a thousand kilograms or more or a thousand or more plants, a first offense is prison time that is not less than ten years and not more than life, if death or a serious injury occurs not less than twenty years and not not more than life, and the fine can not be more than four million of an individual and ten million if other than an individual. A second offense of possession of a thousand kilograms or more or a thousand or more plants, is prison time not less than twenty years, and not more than life, if there is death or serious injury to a life, the sentence is mandatory life in prison, and the fine is not more than eight million for an individual or twenty million for accomplices.

The federal laws and the local laws conflict greatly when it comes to this topic. According to the article by Americans For Safe Access, “”The United States Supreme Court held that the federal government has the constitutional authority to prohibit marijuana for all purposes. Thus, federal law enforcement officials may prosecute medical marijuana patients, even if they grow their own medicine and even if they reside in a state where medical marijuana use is protected under state law.”” This statement shows that anyone who has possession of medical marijuana will be taken into custody by the federal government and charged with a felony. Since the federal government trumps the state government, medical marijuana is still an illegal substance.

Since the federal government rules medical marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, any research on marijuana or any compounds within marijuana is not allowed. This law held by the federal government prohibits scientists from doing quality research required for FDA approval, and some earlier research does indicate that marijuana might be a promising alternative to other medicines or opioids. According to Taylor and Bailey, “”Underscoring the federal government’s position, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar recently pronounced that there was “”no such thing as medical marijuana.”””” This statement shows that the federal government is not planning on lifting the banned of marijuana because it is not deemed beneficial.

In the same article by the National Public Radio Incorporation, a patient, Ann Marie Owen, who turned to medical marijuana to treat her pain. Before using medical marijuana, her doctor prescribed her a variety of opioids. The opioids not only failed to soothe her symptoms, but she got addicted to them. When New York legalized marijuana for medicinal reasons, she decided it was time to switch over to cannabis. None of her doctors wanted to aid her to switch due to the fact that their practice would be compromised by the federal government.

State Law

In 1996 Proposition 215 was in place in California making California the first state to allow the used of medical cannabis. According to a report for Prop 215, “”Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs, primarily THC, for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation; smoked marijuana, however, is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances. The psychological effects of cannabinoids, such as anxiety reduction, sedation, and euphoria can influence their potential therapeutic value. Those effects are potentially undesirable for certain patients and situations and beneficial for others. In addition, psychological effects can complicate the interpretation of other aspects of the drug’s effect.”” This statement shows that even though the delivery system for cannabis is not desirable is has agents that can help patients who struggle with a variety of illnesses. Cannabis for medical use has only been discouraged because of the federal government’s rule. An article by the National Conference of State Legislature, or NCSL, states that advanced studies of medical cannabis is effective in relieving symptoms of HIV/AIDS, cancer, and chronic pain.

In 2009, the Obama Administration sent a memo to the federal government in regards to not prosecute businesses and patients for medical purposes in accordance with state law. This meant that while President Obama was in office, there was less prosecution for possession. Unfortunately when Obama’s term was at the end, the Attorney General Sessions issued a memorandum called Marijuana Enforcement that canceled out the Cole Memorandum which now allows federal prosecutors to decide the enforcement of cannabis laws.

Currently in the United States, there are thirty-three states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have enacted a public medicinal cannabis programs. State laws differ in each state when it comes to medical cannabis. The purpose of these programs are to protect patients from criminal penalties for using cannabis for medical purpose, access to cannabis through growing at home, dispensaries, or some other system that is in place, it allows multiple strains to be distributed, and it allows vaporization or smoking of cannabis products, material, or extract. States with medical cannabis laws have records for patients who are using the product, which provides minor protection against arrest for possession. These records are also dangerous for patients as well. Once they are places in the system as a cannabis user, the federal government has full control to see who is in possession. The state can not protect the patient from arrest if the federal government prosecutes them, because in the end the federal law overrules the state law. The only states that have not been involved with any medical cannabis programs are South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas,Wyoming, Texas, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Idaho.


In conclusion, medical marijuana should be accessible in any state in the United States. The amount of patients that it has been beneficial for with chronic pain and cancer pain is immense. The effective results of medical marijuana shows that it is helpful in many areas that treat pain. This interview is one of many patients who have multiple diagnosis and easily treated with one main type of medicine, cannabis. With opioid medications, it was shown that Ann Marie fell into opioid addiction. This goes for many other patients who have no other medicinal options that can support them. They are physically and emotionally dealing with excess amounts of a medicine that barely benefits them in the long term outcomes. The hold with the federal government should be lifted to protect the citizens rather than having them fall into addiction. In order to create a better society in which we can limit the use of dangerous chemicals and covert to natural remedies can better the world.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

× How can I help you?