“First of all, I need to lose at least ten pounds,” he says, chuckling.
To do so, he might not need to look too far. In fact, Pastorelli and the Consulate staff have managed over the past year to put many Consular procedures on a diet, speeding up filing times and creating a friendlier environment.
“When I came in late 2010, I decided to focus on better services to the community,” he says. “I felt we needed to become more customer-friendly. For example, it used to take two and a half minutes to speak to someone on the phone. Now when you call you are speaking with a human being in 30 seconds. We have also reduced the time it takes to file documents and forms. We’ve gone from 30 days to seven.”
This more efficient Consulate is due in part to how Pastorelli views his New England appointment.
“We are here to serve the community. We need to facilitate access to whatever needs the community has and we need to maintain a connection with it, continuing to participate in as many events as possible.”
Although the new year won’t be carrying the weight of the 150th anniversary of Italy’s Unification, Pastorelli is determined to maintain a high level of activity throughout 2012.
“Last year we participated in more than 20 initiatives celebrating Italy’s 150th anniversary,” he says. “We had many successes and I am very satisfied with our accomplishments. The challenge now is to create the right format to keep events sustainable through the years. Something that is good one year might not be as good the next. Some events might be smaller, some might need different venues. In other words, we need to renew ourselves while maintaining traditions.”
In Pastorelli’s view, collaborating with other local institutions is key to achieving his main goal for 2012: Promoting Italian language and culture.
“We’ve established long-term collaborations with many institutions to get more people to appreciate all that Italian culture has to offer. With the Harvard Film Archive we want to present a film series every year. In 2012 we will present together a series celebrating the 100th anniversary since the birth of director Michelangelo Antonioni. We also want to present a yearly event with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, which will perform Verdi’s Falstaff on January 22. We’re also looking to organize a series of cooking classes with the help of the magazine Cucina Italiana. It will be an opportunity to learn how to cook an authentic Italian meal while having fun.”
The promotion of Italian language is also one of Pastorelli’s main objectives.
“Thanks to the work of groups like CASIT we managed to keep up the number of students learning Italian, despite facing a 40 percent reduction in budget from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the past several years. We can do more, though, and I’d like to see the number of students learning Italian increase, as well as improve access to the language by getting more books and learning materials. We also need to make learning Italian more attractive, showing the potential of using the language for work. We asked the group Professionisti Italian a Boston (Italian Professionals in Boston) to create a sort of “dream team” of professionals who can showcase what a difference some Italians are making. We’re also partnering with the Children’s Museum on March 9, when we will offer an Italian language event geared especially towards children.”
In the end, what Pastorelli seems to be aiming at is the creation of a sense of community that can continue to grow in the years ahead. By presenting a wide range of events and initiatives, the Consul is now finding a way to weave together individuals and groups who have been going their separate ways for a long time.
Proof of this vision is Memory Traces, a project Pastorelli has championed all throughout his first year in office.
“In a way I feel like it’s my child,” he says. The website — developed by MIT’s Media Lab — represents a collection of personal stories told by some of Boston’s most successful Italians and Italian Americans. “Memory Traces is a virtual home,” says Pastorelli. “It’s part of a path that hopefully will lead to the creation of a common place where the entire community can feel at home and where Italian heritage can be nurtured.”
Whatever the result, the Consul has laid the foundation for creating a larger community of people passionate about their Italian heritage. Pastorelli has made it clear that the Consulate wants to play an active role in the community’s continued efforts to promote Italian heritage, language and culture, by meeting regularly with the heads of local organizations and institutions. Through the collaborative effort, he says, the work will be much easier.
As for losing those ten pounds, though, Pastorelli is pretty much on his own.