Several decades before the exodus began, while the southern Italians, as subjects of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, were still firmly in the grip of Bourbon rule, the dream of America was thriving as a quasi-religious vision of a paradise on earth–a comfort for the miseria (misery) of their lot. First inspired by the travels of Columbus, the dream grew into a myth fueled by other travelers: the occasional returning immigrant who gave it substance and shape through stories that became increasingly elaborate and vivid with each retelling. As more Italians returned from the United States, the myth became so Americanized as to incorporate the Statue of Liberty as the Madonna of Liberation, and the American dollar bill as a sacred object to be pinned to the garments of their most cherished religious statues. Adding to the weight of the myth were the legendary deeds of Garibaldi, the apotheosis of Italian heroes, who himself had been an immigrants both in South America and the United States.
Jerry Mangione and Ben Morreale, La Storia: Five Centures of the Italian American Experience, 45.