Malta Diary Maltese blood in the US Washington White House? Could well be! Maltese diaspora rootin’ ‘n tootin’ for Pete Buttigieg
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Most of the world has now heard of Pete Buttigieg, the Democrat striving to win the Democrat Party’s nomination for the US Presidential Elections, if, when and where he will shoot off against incumbent President Donald Trump. Apparently he won the first Democrat Caucus with a slender lead in Iowa amidst all the poll confusion, and hopefully there may be more victories to follow, the next round being in New Hampshire.
HOWEVER, what most of the world has NOT heard of and does not know is that Buttigieg is of Maltese origin, with Maltese parents and therefore with Maltese-US blood pumping through his veins.
At the very start of his political career he had a number of things to explain, like how would a Yank pronounce his surname – does his surname mean anything – if he says his father is from a place called Malta, where the hell is Malta anyway?
Matching his character, he responded to these questions with a sense of humour.
Buttigieg is pronounced “boo-ti-gieg (the gs being soft gs as in gee whizz) and thus Buttigieg. In Maltese, the word “tigieg” means chickens – and that certainly raised some great cackles and chuckles of laughter. In Semitic Arabic, the word “bu” or “abu” means father, hence father of chickens and thus Buttigieg is “a father of chickens” which means that at some stage back his antecedents in Malta were chicken farmers or sold chickens.
At the very onset of his political career, Pete Buttigieg outed himself and declared he was of the gay persuasion and his early honest and upfront declaration has certainly not been working against him.
His academic career was a remarkable one.
Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg was born on 19th January 1982 in South Bend in the State of Indiana, the son of Maltese parents. He attended St Joseph High School, later Pembroke College and then went on to Harvard University College. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and thus went to Oxford University in England.
At the time he may or may have not been aware of preceding Maltese origin scholars who had won a similar Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford and then risen to great fame. One was the late Dominic Mintoff iconic Malta Prime Minister and Leader of the Malta Labour Party who in the late 1950s pressed for Malta’s independence from Britain, went on to declare Malta a Republic and then ended once and for all Malta’s foreign domination in 1979.
The other was the late Lino Spiteri who also rose to fame in the Malta Labour Party, went on to become a journalist, poet, writer and eventually Minister for Finance, as well as being a stalwart within the same Party.
Prior to his rise to the Democrat candidacy, Pete was Mayor of South Bend between 2012 and this year.
His father, Professor Joe Buttigieg who died last year, was a Professor of English and had emigrated to start a new life in the United States in 1970s – and herein lies a curiosity.
During one of his Caucus coffee meetings, Pete quipped if he eventually does become US President, it will be no big deal. Why – and he went on to explain.
His father Professor Buttigieg had left Malta from the town of Hamrun and his neighbour was one – Anton Buttigieg, although they were in no way related.
And who was Anton Buttigieg? Gozitan born, Anton Buttigieg had settled in Hamrun, a lawyer, a poet and an author and had early joined the Malta Labour Party, eventually to become MLP Deputy Leader and a Government Minister. More was to follow.
Malta’s declaration making it a Republic was in 1974. He became one Malta’s first Presidents and between 1976 and 1981 was President of the Republic of Malta having waved off HMS London in 1979, the last British Naval ship to leave the Valletta Grand Harbour.
Thus, contended Pete, the role of the Presidency in the Buttigieg family name will not be a novelty.
A further curiosity is that he is conversant in Maltese, even though early on his father had been told “to go back home”!
He has also visited Malta and he tells his audiences that Malta “is a beautiful place” and describes a number of top class films that have been filmed in the country, including episodes for ‘Game of Thrones’.
Little wonder therefore that Malta and the whole of the Maltese diaspora worldwide is rootin’ ‘n tootin’ for Pete Buttigieg to make it all the way to the White House – and if he does, it will dispense the curious looks and perplexity of those asking “Malta – and where the hell is that?”
“Malta first and foremost”
First coined by the late Dom Mintoff and became a national rallying point that Malta’s interests come before anything and everything else.