Avanti Camminanti is a mistranlation.
Although Spanish is our father’s native tongue, he picked up Italian as a young man when he emigrated to the Italian district in San Francisco, California.
While growing up, he would often try to teach my brother and I Italian. He would spend the day teaching us short, and often incorrect, sentences in Italian. Although he never succeeded in teaching us that language, I would always remember one thing he would always tell my brother and I when he wanted to encourage us:
Years later, while having a conversation with an elder Italian emigrant in Boston, I mentioned this phrase. The man found it funny. He explained that my father had confused the saying Avanti Comandante (“Come in, my general”) with what I can only assume to be a Spanish version of “Advance walker.”
This revelation caused me to love my father’s phrase even more.
Born from a mistranslation, the words Avanti Camminanti represent the triumph of improvisation over ability. Despite its flawed form, it succeeded in conveying a command, a plea that resounds beyond the limitations of its defects.
To us, Avanti Camminanti will always mean:
Traveler, keep on forward.