The Mafia, a well-known crime organization, is still prevalent in society today. In the past five years the Sicilian Mafia has taken some heavy hits, with the murders of two leading prosecutors in Mafia-related trials (Coming back). The prosecutors were Giovanni Falcone ( see picture), and Paulo Borsellino. Their successors have managed to put behind bars their murderers and an entire Mafia “cupola” ( Coming Back).
So what exactly is the Mafia? And where did it originate?
The word “Mafia” has two meanings, one is that it means “manly” and the other is “ Morte alla Franca Italia Anela” which means, “ death to France is Italy’s cry” ( Mafia History). The meaning came from the fact that Italians more specifically Sicilians, had to adapt to numerous invasions from Arabs, Norman’s and the French. The word Mafia in Arab also means refuge. The original inhabitants of Sicily were oppressed and had to seek places of shelter and refuge ( Arlacchi ).
The Norman’s when invading Sicily in the 11th century; the native people were forced into labor on the large estates their rulers made. Their only way of escape was to seek shelter in the hills on the island of Sicily ( refer to picture of Corleone).
There in the hills the natives formed
“ Secret societies “ that were meant to unify the natives against their enemies. The societies created a bond or strong sense of family based on their Sicilian heritage ( Mafia History).
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Their societies began to form structure and the idea of family was carried out through this framework. The layout was strongly hierarchical. At the head of the organizations were Dons or chiefs, who were in supreme control of the Mafia chapters in each village ( Coming Back ).
They however reported to the “ don of dons” who lived in the capital of Sicily, the city of Palermo. Mafia leadership is the “Cupola” much like a board of directors ( blumenthal p14). The Mafia Dons never really got into the actual “business” they were involved in as not to get their hands dirty. They formed individual units called Caporegime that answered to the Don. The Caporegime controlled the “soldiers” or workers that did the dirty work of collecting debts and even murder (Arlacchi 23). “ Joining the Mafia is a lifetime commitment stronger than family from which you cannot retire, you are bound by blood and sworn by secrecy ( Mafia History).” To join the Mafia you must take an oath based on five principals. The Omerta, is the first principal it is the code of silence that no matter what, even under the threat of torture or death, you will reveal no secrets. Second you must pledge total obedience to your don. Third you must lend assistance to any befriended Mafia faction. Fourth you must vow to avenge any attack on members of the family, “ an attack on one is an attack on all.” Fifthly and the most important is to avoid any and all contact with the law ( Mafia History).
By the 19th century the Mafia had grown vast and strong. It had once been a small group of rebels that had turned into a large criminal society ( I.O.C.G).
In these early times of the Mafia the most common form of extortion was the handing out of “Black Hand Notes.” These notes were handed to wealthy citizens, and were sincere requests for large sums of money in exchange for some form of protection. If the victims did not comply with the note, they could expect bombings, kidnappings, and murders to help convince them ( Mafia History).
In 1876 a Mafia don Raffeale Palizzo ran for political office to infiltrate Sicilian government, and run it from inside and outside the law. He succeeded in getting elected by holding many voters under gunpoint. Inside the government he had Don Crispi of Sicily elected Prime minister. Twenty-six hundred public administrators were indicted for corruption and other crimes in Sicily ( Arlacchi 28-29).
... being part of the Corleone family. They also reflect the feeling that Michael has for Appolonia, the Sicilian girl that he marries ... century. Another major theme in the movie is loyalty. While Don Corleone is in the hospital recovering from the shooting, his ... the members of the Corleone family. In fact, this film could probably work even without the Mafia themes. At heart it is ...
The whole island had come under Mafia control and they began to suck national funds into their hands.
Yet the Mafia was and always will be opposed by some people or organizations. Opposition to the Mafia was always met with violence ( Blumenthal 7).
A well-known example of this, is the case of a man Emanuel Notarbartolo who was the director of the bank in Sicily. Emanuel publicly announced that he promised to rid the land of the Mafia once and for all. In 1893 he was assassinated, and don Palizzo took over his position. This was not the end though, Notarbartolo’s son vowed to bring his father’s killers to justice. He managed to get Palizzo indicted, but however the don’s control was so vast that he was released ( Mafia History). Witnesses had been unwilling to cooperate and even police documents somehow disappeared ( Mafia History).
“ By the 1980’s in Italy the growth and expansion of the Mafia in the businesses of drugs and such had reached the point of National emergency, and it didn’t stop there ( arlacchi 38).”
The growth of the Mafia had also extended overseas. When people from all over Europe started moving to America for a new and better life, the Mafia saw it is a way to expand and escape persecution ( I.O.C.G). The Mafia thrived in the small Italian neighborhoods of America. During this early period New Orleans was the largest Mafia base in the country ( Mafia History).
A New Orleans Police Chief David Hennesey began investigating a murder of an Italian Mafia member, he began to learn a lot about the “ secret society” operating in his city( Mafia History). He then set out to eliminate it, and was murdered by the don’s of the city. In 1957 in Palermo (see map), the Sicilian Mafia met with the American branch of the Mafia known as La Cosa Nostra, to set up drug trade(Blumenthal 47-48).
La Cosa Nostra means in Sicilian “our thing.” The Sicilians would run the drugs into the United States and Canada and the La Cosa Nostra, would sell the drugs. Profit made by one Mafia family always gave a margin of it to don’s of other families as gratitude( Blumenthal 47-48).
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They also would let other families share a part of a successful business as to “wet their beaks.”
In conclusion the Sicilian Mafia which started out as a small group of the oppressed fighting back against the invading Norman’s and French, has grown into a vast criminal empire. The Mafia is still active to this day in Europe and America. The current head of the Mafia in Sicily is thought to be Salvatore “Toto” Riina, who is currently in jail for the Falcone murders. Many more Mafia members were indicted for the murders, yet others remain at large. The American Mafia had seemed to be broken with the arrests this trial made. But there is talk of La Cosa Nouva a “New thing” or Mafia regrouping, going back to the less violent days of secret deals in backrooms with friends in political circles( I.O.C.G.).
Opinion: My opinion on the Mafia is that they are good men at heart but go about everything in the wrong ways. I think it was a good thing to band together to fight off invading armies, and I also believe strongly in family and heritage. But what’s wrong is the selling of drugs and murder. I believe that gambling is harmless and they shouldn’t be punished for that, but killing and selling drugs are different. Murder explains itself, and drugs can hurt people, their families and children. Also I think children raised in the Mafia will grow to be Mafia involved as Italians have strong values of heritage, and if this continues the Mafia may always be in society throughout the future.