'It Was a Damned Bad Day When Columbus Discovered America': Italian reception of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’s show and (Native)American reactions to the Cradle of Civilization

8th Biennial Symbiosis Conference, University of Glasgow, Scotland, June 23-26, 2011

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’s show could be envisaged as a pioneering attempt of exporting the newborn American Culture into the Old World, like a sort of backlash colonization. It can be therefore interpreted as an embryonic example of American transnationalism. The Italian stopovers of the Wild West’s tour, although sporadically tackled by previous scholarship, proved to be focal in the construction of a transnational awareness, especially considering the history of mass-migrations of the time. In particular this paper looks at one specific aspect of such perception, which is the two-sided understanding of ‘otherness’, showing the double point of view in which both the Italians and Western (and Native) Americans kept relationships with one another and defined their identities. I will focus my attention mainly on describing their reciprocal responses to the contact with different cultural customs, gender roles and racial diversity, giving significant space to the often overlooked Native perspective. By showing how the cultural exchange of the Wild West tour influenced and expanded the Italians’ previous knowledge of U.S. history and culture (leaving a long-lasting imprint on their society) whilst causing the opposite effect on the Americans, (leading some of them to reconsider the epic aura of Grandeur that surrounded the country of Columbus and in particular ‘The Eternal City’ Rome), I plan to shed light on the dawning of the Western American transnational phenomenon.