The Sicilian Mafia
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Mafia & Sicily
The Mafia holds its roots firmly in Sicily, an island just south of Italy. The relationship between the birth of the Mafia and its homeland has strong connections, for locals it's often a mixture of emotion and pride, along with a history connected to political pain and struggle.
It was originally colonised by the Greeks on the east coast, but over the centuries has been heavily influenced by the Italian, Spanish and the Arabians. This mixture of cultures is very prominent in the buildings, language, culture and traditions of modern day Sicily.
The etymology of the word Mafia is not completely clear, due to Sicily being heavily influenced by varying cultures it is thought that the origin of todays word is a combination of meanings based on a few variations that finally became the modern word Mafia. Other variations are still used today such as Mafiosi & Mafioso as they have meaningful historical underpinnings to the people of Sicily.
Over history its meaning has been altered by local Sicilians and by those who invaded Sicily throughout the years. However the origin of word and its first use is generally accepted as Mafiusi.
It is thought that there was Arabic influence in some of the very first uses of the word during the early history of Sicily. The Arabic invaders used the word 'Mahias' to refer to a man who was bold, abrupt and aggressive toward authority.
Later down the line variations of this have also been documented.
One of the first documented uses of the word 'Mafia' in regard to a person who isn't desirable was noted in a list of heretics in 1668, in reference to a witch who did not hold feminine qualities and rejected the ideas of the accepted faith.
In 1861 the word 'Mafiosi' was coined by Italian General Garibaldi during his time in Sicily attempting unify it with the mainland Italy, he referred to the people hiding in the Mafie caves in resistance to unification as 'mafiosi'
We can see early on in history the word was used to describe a person who did not uphold the expected social norms and went against the grain so to speak, they were described as a person who did not have respect for authority and those who enforced law and would resist it often by making bold statements.
The identification of the mafia as an organised criminal entity did not happen immediately, early on they were generally just regarded as outsiders, gangs of thieves & undesirables or outlaws with no purpose or structure other than to resist the expectations of society, disrespect laws and steal from others.
Giuseppe Pitrè an Italian folklorist, medical doctor, professor, and also the senator for Sicily, documented and recorded his thoughts on what the Mafia was which was published in a series of reports during the mid 1800's.
Although he identified that these people were carrying out crimes such as theft, tax evasion and protection rackets just like your common outlaws were of the time he had also noticed differences between the mafia and other criminals such as thieves.
Early on he identified that the mafia were not like your regular everyday thieves who stood for nothing other than an opportunity, or to gain by taking from others. They were structured in the regard they had a common goal but ultimately thieves will still answer to the law of the land. They had no code of honour but still feared the law.
The Mafia however, were to answer to no law of the land like a thief would; they have no fear of the police; they were their own entity an example of the ego that lies within man of superiority, who consciously dismiss the arrogance of the law or any other man, they felt they were above that. They could not be ruled over by another. In that they could practice their own system of justice and enforcement. They would respect and be respected and when under suspicion or accusation by those in authority stay strong and silent to never jeopardize their idea of integrity. Their code of honour was in silence and secrecy. He speaks of them as a person rather than as a collective suggesting he did not think it was an organisation as such but more of a lifestyle that some chose to have.
"The mafia is the consciousness of one's being, the exaggerated concept of individual strength,
the one and only arbiter of each contrast, of any clash of interests and ideas; whence the intolerance of superiority and, worse still, of the arrogance of others. The mafia wants to be respected and almost always respects.
If he's offended, don't he resorts to Justice, he does not defer to the Law; if so if he did, he would show weakness, and would offend the omertà" - Giuseppe Pitrè
In this aspect, looking at Sicily's history regarding invasions, being governed over by in many instances by Governments that didn't protect them but still taxed them, who used violence and force to gain power were not to be trusted or respected. It is thought because of the social and political history that shaped Sicily the code of honour and silence that is omertà emerged from a great deal of suffering and mistrust of the authorities by the people of Sicily. Sicily is a place very rich in culture, and heritage it has a violent history at times one that's had generational impacts on the local people. Their survival has been a hard one so in turn they are a very proud culture, proud of their survival and traditions, proud of their achievements.
Pride and respect is a very important part of being in the Mafia, their standards are high and specific, and the rules must be respected and followed at all times, every person has a place and a role. It is a system of hierarchy. Although it did not start out this way, the structure and organisation happened over time.
Deeply rooted in the history of Sicily is Greek belief and tradition, the Greeks are extremely proud of their heritage and all they stand for. They saw themselves in the early centuries of their civilisation as superior and advanced in their ways of thinking and living. During the 8th century you were accepted and considered Greek if you could speak Greek, any other language was deemed the language of a barbarian someone they viewed as lesser than they.
Although it has been many centuries since the Greeks colonised Sicily it's presence remains in their culture vicariously via buildings, traditions and behaviours.
This is reflected in some of the heavily rooted beliefs and laws of the mafia, that have to this day remained at the forefront of their organisation. Any man that wasn't a 'made man' was a sucker, they do not speak the same language, they are an outsider not worthy of any acknowledgement or seen as being of the same caliber as a 'made man' was considered.
Being Sicilian means much more than just a nationality, it's a representation of a nation who have held their own against the odds, a community of people who throughout history have faced many sufferings and many successes. They have overcome times of hardship and war and stayed strong in retaining what they believe to be their traditions and their heritage.
Historian Michael Scott has travelled throughout Sicily and it's neighbouring islands to document its rich and often volatile history he asked local Sicilians what it means to be a true Sicilian.
A local man who owns a traditional salt business that had been part of his heritage for centuries explained -
"To be Sicilian is to be nursed by the land, to have been through everything, to have sicily in your blood, you must be in love with her and everything she has. Sicily is a beautiful country, the land, the skies, the mountains, we are attached and it flows in our blood. That's what it means to be Sicilian"
We can see from statements such as these that to be Sicilian is to be a part of Sicily, to involve yourself in it and live for it. To see its land as part of you and who you are, as a place that provides a home and a living, a place rich with beauty. It goes much deeper than just being born a nationality, it is a way of life, an understanding of history and a respect of the land.
The island has a volatile history since its humble beginnings with the first colonisers up until present day. A history that has shaped the islands, its inhabitants and its trading with the rest of the world.
To begin to understand how and why an organisation like the Mafia came to exist in Sicily a brief understanding of the islands colonisation, establishment and political history is needed.
Ancient Sicily Map Gallery
Over the centuries Sicily has been the home to many cultures from the Greeks and Romans all the way to north Africans such as the Carthaginians and the Moors.
Indigenous Sicilians are recognised in 3 groups -
Sicanians (Sicans, Sicani - the earliest inhabitants)
Elymians ( Elymi, Elimi, Elami)
Sicels (Sikels, Sikeloi)
These three groups are representative of the first known colonisers of the island and date back centuries.
Evidence of the Sicanians in Sicily can be dated back to roughly 8000 BC some speculate as early as 10000 BC, cave drawings have been found on the coast in Addaura (near Palermo) identifying the presence of these settlers. It was around this time that wheat and other grains had begun to be cultivated indicating they were a possible Neolithic farming population. Neolithic jewellery found on the island has been dated back to 7000 BC so it can be claimed that they had been there a significant amount of time before becoming a fully established community by 1800 BC they are the oldest colonisers of Sicily.
The Elymians arrived shortly after this around 1700 -1500 BC they are believed to of come from Asia Minor (Turkey) it is thought they were looking for places to settle with good access for trade routes and then settled in Sicily. The Elymians settled on the west of the island.
Last to arrive was the Sicels arriving around 1200 BC, there is evidence that the Sicels and the Sicanians got on well so easily assimilated into each others culture at that time. Out of the three indigenous peoples the Sicels were the most advanced due to this there is much more evidence of their historical progression in comparison to the Sicanians and Elymians, The Sicels were an Italic people thought to be Indo-European, they used a language called Siculan which has links to early latin.
Initially these 3 groups inhabited Sicily for the majority peacefully, they spread out in groupings (see image below) across the island, until the Greeks arrived.
Phoenicians, Carthaginians & Greeks
Around 800 BC the Ionians (Greeks) came to Sicily permanently and settled in the East making Syracuse their capital. The Greeks had driven the Sicanians out of Syracuse to establish a base, they planned to spread out and slowly take over Sicily taking advantage of its rich soil and trading routes.
Shortly before the Greeks settled the Phoenicians had colonised in the West assimilating with the Elymians, with them bought strong trade routes eventually establishing Sicily as a trading hub of the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians motive in Sicily was not to colonise but to build trading points around the mediterranean and surrounding areas, them settling in Sicily was just part of their plan to establish such routes.
When the Greeks arrived they came in large numbers, their motive was to make Sicily part of the Greek empire. At the time they arrived in Sicily they were looking for somewhere to settle where they could farm the land and build to expand their society. Initially when they arrived there wasn't to much friction between them and the Phoenicians as the Greeks settled to the east of the island and the Phoenicians to the West.
This later changed during the 4th century the Greek cities seemed to suddenly expand this was because around 339 BC there was a war happening between the Greeks and the Phoenicians central to Himera. As they fought over the land the Phoenicians began to loose control and eventually the Greeks won. This meant they were now a dominating force in sicily spanning across most of the island. Their population in Sicily had become so great at this point in time there were more Greeks in Sicily than there were in Greece.
Despite the Greeks taking over certain cities in Sicily; infringing on the land of the native Sicanians; dominating the trading cities of the Phoenicians, their actions didn't seem to negatively impact the trading relationship between them, the Phoenicians and Sicanians. This meant that Sicily was still able to become a well known trading hub of the mediterranean regardless of the political unrest that was happening and the fight for dominance of the island.
. . . more on this section coming soon . . .
The difference between Mafia Families and Blood Families
There are two distinct types of mafia member those who are born into the family and those who are initiated into the family.
In order to be a made member of the mafia you have to have blood ties to Sicily or Italy through your parents, this doesn't always apply to both parents as long as your father is of direct Sicilian or Italian descent.
Having only a Sicilian or Italian mother and a father of another heritage would not qualify you to become a made member.
Those with direct lineage to Sicily or Italy via their father can become made and initiated into the family specifically to carry out organised crime and will be active members for life they cannot leave once they have sworn in.
Having a blood tie alone does not mean you will be allowed to join either, to become a member you must also have someone already made vouch for you, as a sort of sponsor to say they trust you enough to put their name and status on the line to back you.
Once initiated they cannot discuss anything they do with the organisation outside of the organisation this includes with their family.
Those who are born into a mafia family are automatically deemed a member through blood but they are not classed as made members automatically. They still have to go through the same process as everyone else to become made.
Being born into a mafia family doesn't mean that the person participates in any criminal activities or that they are an active member of the mafia.
Many of them will not know anything about how the mafia operate nor will they have any involvement with it they are simply linked via their bloodline.
If their parent is a made member that parent is under strict rule not to discuss anything they do with their family at home, this includes all family members regardless of blood ties.
The Italian Mafia & Cosa Nostra
Many people confuse the Italian Mafia with Cosa Nostra, although these two things are connected in many ways, they are not the same.
The Italian Mafia
The Italian Mafia formed slowly over time in West Sicily just after 1700's, initially they were small gangs of thieves and extortionists.
They were first referred to as mafiusi and were not thought of as organised but instead as more opportunistic criminals that committed crime in groups these groups were later termed mafia coschi.
The first structure of the mafiusi noteworthy of being deemed organised criminals was linked with trade and local agriculture during the 1800's around Palermo. This was considered the property and trading hub of Sicily it had a dense population for that time and a strong market for trade. These factors made it one of the more wealthy places in Sicily with global connections to trade.
There was no strict governing by the state over Sicily's trade and land meaning various groups of people would try to take advantage of local farmers and traders. Crops would be sabotaged or stolen and at times destroyed. The local farmers knew the local coschi were feared and known for being tough and forceful so hired mafiusi to guard their land and crop, stopping others from sabotaging it. They would also negotiate deals for the farmers in the sale and trade of their produce.
"Neither the Bourbon regime (1816–1860), nor the newly formed government after Italian independence in 1861 had the strength or the means to effectively enforce private property rights. Lemon producers, therefore, resorted to hiring mafia affiliates for private protection and to act as intermediaries between the retailers and exporters in the harbors." Dimico, A. et al. (2017)
For a time this worked well, however this relationship between land owners and mafiusi wasn't always plain sailing. The land owners were taxed for this service this charge would increase as their business increased. If the landowners and farmers didn't pay their tax there would be repercussions at times severe ones. Farmers would have their crops destroyed for example meaning they were left with no income or any other way to sustain their living.
The Mafia didn't begin to gain power and influence until 1861 when they became allies of the Italian State, this was the time they started to become very structured and became more of an organisation rather than just a protection racket. The Mafias power had its biggest change during the unification of Italy with Sicily. During this unification the Italians needed a way to gain favour with the people in Sicily especially with those involved with trade and land ownership. Knowing the mafia did business with the locals and also had these land protection deals with farmers they knew they would make useful allies.
They made an agreement with the local mafia that they would turn a blind eye to their protection rackets in exchange for votes from the people to ensure unification. The mafia agreed to this and proceeded to influence the peoples vote for the Italian State.
There is a well known documented case of how the mafia at this time operated. The story of Dr Gaspare Galati an account from a surgeon who had seen the bad side of the mafia. This was documented by Dr Galati and then sent to the authorities as a formal complaint who then later verified it as a factual account.
In 1872 Dr Galatis family members inherited property in Malaspina just outside of Palermo. The property the Fondo Riella was a lemon and tangerine fruit farm a large amount of land belonged to the estate. The previous owner (Galatis brother in law) had died of a heart attack. Shortly before his death he was under a tremendous amount of stress and had been receiving threats in letters.
Upon further investigation Dr Galati found out the person who was threatening his brother in law was his employee, a site warden Benedetto Carollo who was hired as security to guard the land. Galati found out that this warden was in receipt of between 20-25% of the farms income. He also found out that over time Benedetto had been sabotaging the crop to run down the farms income and in turn affecting the properties value, his plan was to wait until the owners were in dire finances and then offer to buy the property from them.
Dr Galatis discovery of this prompted him to fire Carollo and rehire a new warden for the land, he did this despite locals and friends advising him not to. On the 2nd of July 1874 the man he hired was shot multiple times in the back along a dirt track that passed between the lemon groves of the property. Over time he received letters saying "he had been wrong to sack 'a man of honour' like Carollo and hire an ' abject spy' instead. They threatened that if he did not re-employ Carollo, he was going to meet the same end as his warden." Dickie, J. (2007)
People like Carollo give a good example of how the mafia differed to their previous identities as outlaws and thieves. He had a plan that was structured which he executed over time, he infiltrated himself into the business of the Fondo Riella, he influenced the trading deals of the farm and took a cut, he understood how the business operated and took financial advantage of the vulnerable people involved with the business such as the farmer. He established influence over the locals who clearly feared his reactions to things that went against him, this was seen when friends and locals warned Dr Galati to rehire him.
The Italian Mafias establishment, organisation and rise to power in Sicily was closely related to their political and state allies. Them building a relationship with those in powerful positions along with business and land owners inadvertently made them much more powerful and influential.
Before this the mafia had just been described as a clan of outlaws and thieves, their only structure was to the degree they operated in groups, had a common goal that they worked together over a period of time to achieve. Their overall success was a symptom of circumstance and opportunity offered by the Italian State although the states intention was to gain the vote, indirectly they gave the mafia the opportunity to become a strong influencing force in Sicily who at the time were both feared and respected by Sicilians.
The Cosa Nostra was formed officially in the 1930's during the time of Charles Luciano and the formation of the commision in New York, USA.
During the time of prohibition there was an opening for those like Luciano to take advantage of the production, distribution and sale of Alcohol from 1926 -1933 this propelled the Italian American Mafia into wealth and in turn giving them access to those who were more rich and powerful than the regular man on the street.
Again the rise to wealth and power of the Italian American Mafia inadvertently came from the actions of the state this time however it was the American Government. Their sudden law change prohibiting the production, distribution, sale and consumption of alcohol meant that almost overnight the demand for alcohol was overwhelming. This resulted in people like Luciano seeing a gap in the market and under the mentorship of other more experienced mafia members Luciano established an underground criminal empire of speakeasies (underground bars) and alcohol production.
During Luciano's time in America he rose in mafia ranks pretty rapidly, starting out his life of crime as a youngster he was already a well known name in the mafia underworld. Luciano became part of the Masseria Family the most established Italian Mafia family in New York at the time he worked directly under the boss Gieuseppi “Joe the Boss” Masseria. After the death of Salvatore Maranzano another powerful mafia boss, Joe the boss would eventually go on to be executed on April 15, 1931 and Luciano took his place as head of the Masseria family.
With both of the biggest names in American Italian mafia gone Luciano was boss of bosses he called a meeting to put into place the restructure and re-organisation of what is now known today as Cosa Nostra. At that current time the Italian Mafia had structured the American Italian mafia into 5 original New York families Maranzano, Profaci, Mangano, Luciano, and Gagliano families.
During this sit down Luciano proposed that instead of a capo di tutti i capi (boss of all the bosses) that the structure should be more like a company with a board of commissioners that make decisions collectively. Effectively eliminating a boss of all bosses and equalising the vote of the representatives (caporegime) of each family.
Each one of the 5 families would be represented by a caporegime (like a CEO) this person would be known as the capo and when big decisions had to be made there would be a vote of all the capos. The syndicate or commission would be made up of the 5 established Italian American Mafia families of that time.
The Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese families are what these 5 families are currently known as.
Other than these changes in structure Cosa Nostra maintained other traditions from the Italian/Sicilain mafia such as becoming made and being initiated, having bloodline links to Italy, practicing omertà and continuing to follow the ten commandments of the mafia.
In conclusion although the Italian Mafia and Cosa Nostra (Italian American Mafia) are closely related they are not one in the same and should be thought of as two separate organisations that are connected through history and circumstance. It is true that one would not exist without the other but the way they operate and the obvious move away from Italian traditions are an example that they are to be seen and want to be seen as different from one another.
Initiation into Cosa Nostra becoming a made member
As discussed above in order to become a fully fledged active member of cosa nostra specific criteria must be met. This does not mean you are made on that criteria alone, there are other things that must be done first to prove you are dedicated to "the life" you essentially become a "recruit" this is your pledge period during this time you are on call 24/7 the family come before anything else. You are given jobs during this time they will be a mix of serious jobs and more mundane tasks.
Anything you are told to do you do it no questions asked.
Once you get passed this initiation stage you will be called in to be sworn into the family, this pledge is for life.
During this ceremony a card of a saint is lit on fire and placed in the palm of the recruits hand, their finger is then pricked with a pin to draw blood these are symbolic acts to represent your oath and lifelong commitment to them.
The head of the family will explain if they ever violate the oath of cosa nostra they will burn in hell like the saint that burns in their hand. The allegiance to cosa nostra is bound in blood, their blood. Should they ever violate the oath they have taken their blood will be shed.
They are told they will obey the laws of omertà and not speak on the secrets, traditions or business of cosa nostra outside of cosa nostra. The ten commandments of the cosa nostra are then explained to them.
They will then be asked if they accept and understand the blood oath and blood tie of cosa nostra, once they accept they are deemed as born into the family and are referred to as amico nostro (a friend of ours).
The rules of the Italian Mafia aka "The ten commandments of the mafia"
During a property raid on suspected Italian Mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo's home in 2007 a document was recovered. On this document was a list of rules pertaining to cosa nostra, these rules specify what is and is not accepted of a member of the mafia.
These rules are part of the oath you take during the initiation ceremony into the mafia, breaking these rules can be punishable by death.
The transcript for the original document in Italian
Giuro di essere fedele "a cosa nostra' se dovessi tradire le mie carni devono bruciare - come brucia questa immagine.
Divieti e doveri.
Non ci si può presentare da soli ad un' altro amico nostro - si non e' un terzo a farlo.
Non si guardano mogli di amici nostri.
Non si fanno comparati con gli sbirri.
Non si frequentano ne' taverne e ne' circoli.
Si e' il dovere in qualsiasi momento di essere disponibile a cosa nostra anche se ce la moglie che sta per partorire.
Si rispettano in maniera categorica gli appuntamenti.
Si ci deve portare rispetto alla moglie.
Quando si e' chiamati a sapere qualcosa si dovrà' dire la verita' non ci si può' appropriare de soldi che sono di altri e di altre famiglie.
Chi non può entrare a far parte di cosa nostra.
Chi ha un parente stretto nelle varie forze dell' ordine.
Chi ha tradimenti sentimentali in famiglia.
Chi ha un comportamento pessimo - e che non tiene ai valori morali.
The transcript of the translated document in English
I swear to be faithful "to our thing" if I were to betray my flesh they must burn - how this image burns.
Prohibitions and duties.
You cannot introduce yourself to another friend of ours - yes, no third party does.
We don't look at wives of our friends.
They don't have involvement with cops.
We do not frequent taverns and clubs.
It is a duty at any time to be available for our own thing even if the wife is about to give birth.
Appointments are categorically respected.
You have to respect your wife.
When one is called to know something, one will have to 'tell the truth', one cannot 'appropriate money belonging to others and other families.
Who cannot become part of Cosa Nostra.
Who has a close relative in the various police forces.
Who has sentimental betrayals in the family.
Who has bad behavior - and who does not care for moral values.
Salvatore Lo Piccolo Ten Commandments of Cosa nostra
Dispersion of Mafia families across Sicily & Italy
Article 41-bis was introduced in Italy during 1975. It can only be applied in situations of emergency and/or prison/penitentiary revolt.
During 1992 using Anti-Mafia Laws the legislation was extended to apply to those in the Mafia and associates of mafia. This then allowed the Ministry of Justice to be able to enforce carcere duro (Hard Jailtime) allowing them to enforce stricter conditions of living for those incarcerated on charges relating to mafia activity. Although Article 41-bis was initially drawn up as emergency legislation to deal with prison revolts or riots, the adaptations of Article 41-bis when used in relation to organised crime effectively prevents those incarcerated to continue their crimes in jail, or to establish any power in the jail during their time incarcerated. It prevents those associated via crime families being able to communicate with one another. If a person is arrested and charged for organised crime under this act they will be taken to a specific section of the prison which is specifically designed to house offenders who are under the 41-bis regime keeping them under controlled watch prohibiting them from communication with other Mafioso.
To read Article 41-bis click one of the translations below
The Definition and legal outline of organised crime
Organised Crime is defined as premeditated, co-ordinated and structured criminal behaviour or conduct, carried out by a group of people working together continuously to reach a common goal.
The motivation is often, but not always, monetary, focusing solely on financial gain by profiting from the commision of crime.
Organised crime does not recognise national borders or national interests and adheres to no laws established by a legitimate governing body, other than the laws established by their own criminal organisation.
Organised crime is a global issue and is not confined to one place geographically, historically the underpinnings of organised crime are politically and economically driven.
Society founded by Organised Crime
What is understood about the definitions of such organised crime is that in many regards governments themselves fit into this category.
The only thing that separates them from organisations such as the mafia is the legitimacy, they make claim to. Which was only established through using the same techniques as the mafia used to gain power.
For example a ‘made man’ can order a hit on another man in retaliation to something such as an attack, This decision is law in the eyes of mafia. It is the person who has the ultimate say, the execution itself will be carried out by someone of a lower ranking status such as an associate.
Under the laws of the land imposed by the government the mafia associate that carried out the execution is now a murderer.
However a government can enforce the death penalty this is the act of killing a man in retaliation to the persons actions, this is the same situation as the man deemed a murderer. But in this instance that ‘made man’ becomes a faceless body (the court), which is a structured organisation built on hierarchy. The person that carries out the execution is not the person who gave the order for them to be put to death, it is an associate of the court and they are classed as someone just following orders they are not deemed a murderer despite the circumstances being the same as an ordered hit.
A man can be taxed by the government on his home, his business, his life. He will pay that tax, not because he wants to but because the risk is to great to him not to. The compliance comes from the fear of prosecution, the fear of a power greater than his, the fear of having his livelihood taken and his hard work to be destroyed. He knows if he pays his taxes those fears go away until the next time he is due to be taxed.
This is the same way the mafia operate, they tax a person and use the guise of protection, in that they claim they will protect the person but only as long as they are paying the tax, there is no choice in this if the tax isn't paid they will take his home, business or destroy it leaving him powerless and vulnerable, just like the government.
Because of societies historical conditioning so to speak this is now widely accepted that a courts decision holds more weight than the decision of an individual. Therefore the violence or punishment imposed by a court is also accepted as something that is ok because those dependant on the system are under the belief that its there to protect them but the individual is not, regardless of that individuals overall intention.
Just as the mafia claims territory through extortion, force and threat of violence so have Governments. States, Countries and Rule form upon the basis of invasion, extortion and violence. This has been mentioned in academic study in the past, people like Charles Tilly have identified the way in which the government operate like those within organised crime.
“If protection rackets represent organized crime at its smoothest, then war making and state making - quintessential protection rackets with the advantage of legitimacy - qualify as our largest examples of organized crime.” (Tilly 1985)
Taxes are used as a form of extortion; Governments enforce this using threats something they have perfected and written into law, they use the guise that they are doing what is best for the people to protect them while also laying the foundation for dependence and an unwanted un requested form of symbiosis in that they need people to rule over in order for their system to be profitable and gain. Without the people there is nothing to gain from, this is the same ideology the mafia use, without the little man there is no ‘made man’.
Therefore, the government must implement ways (laws) to maintain this power and gain. Henner Hess touched upon this in his work on structure and power of the state in regard to mafia and organised crime. He asserts that in order to understand the mafia, to first look at your own government and how it established rule and ultimately power.
“To understand the mafia phenomenon, it is useful to once again reverse the perspectives and, instead of seeing protection rackets in the process of government, to recognise government processes in protection rackets. The central purpose of a mafioso or a mafia cosca is always to gain a monopoly of power and protection in a designated territory and to maintain it.” – Hess (1973)
Just to note
The information on this page mentions names, places and companies that have not been altered or changed and is based on historical documentation, legal documentation, police records, news related articles along with direct testimony from those who have been involved over the years including testimony from made members, family members, law enforcement and victims of alleged crimes, therefore this is a factual based page for educational purposes it is not my opinion nor is it sensationalised for entertainment purposes.
All sources are referenced at the end of the article where possible. If no link is provided for example, quotes taken from direct interviews that I have personally carried out it is because they are not available on a public domain.
Words quoted from interviews, news articles or books will be referenced, in instances where records are old and events cannot be verified by a living person it is taken in good faith that the journalist or author at that time reported events as true and accurately as possible. These quotes do not reflect my opinion and merely provide examples and evidence of the activity of the mafia and/or law enforcement at that time.
Amico nostro - Italian for 'friend of ours' meaning a fully fledged member of cosa nostra the term is also used for introducing one made member to another made member see term friend of ours below.
Associate - considered as a type of affiliate, not a fully fledged or made member but a person who assists under the direction of a made man and will carry out jobs for the mafia usually in the hope of becoming made one day themselves.
Capo dei capi/Capo di tutti i capi - Italian in origin, meaning boss of bosses (capo dei capi) or boss of all the bosses (capo di tutti i capi) refers to the head of the mafia crime family. A more commonly known term for the capo di tutti i capi is the Godfather
Caporegime/Capodecina/Capo - In Sicily specifically its original use signified the head of a crime family. However the word has since evolved to mean a rank of Captain within a crime family it can only be applied to a made man.
Carcere duro - Hard Jail time under Italian Article 41-bis anti-mafia laws see legal explanation above.
Cosa Nostra - Specific to the American Italian Mafia a name meaning 'our thing' this was first used in the 1930's during the time of Charles Luciano.
Friend of mine - A made member will formally introduce any person in their company outside of cosa nostra as a "friend of mine" this indicates to other made members that this person is not part of cosa nostra and is just an associate of thiers. This lets the made members know to keep to the rules of omertà during conversation.
Friend of ours - A made member will formally introduce any person in their company who is a member of cosa nostra as a "friend of ours" this indicates to other made members that this person is a member of cosa nostra and it is safe to discuss the business of cosa nostra around them.
La Cosa Nostra - An adaptation of 'Cosa Nostra' altered and used by law enforcement in reference to 'Cosa Nostra - our thing' changing the literal translation to 'the our thing'.
'La Cosa Nostra' is not a phrase used or recognised by actual mafioso or their associates.
La Pentiti/Pentiti/Pentito/Pentita - A person who becomes an informant for law enforcement and in return receive immunity from prosecution for their personal crimes or involvement in organised crime. Pentiti literally translates to penitent - A person who repents for their wrong doing.
Made/Made man/to be "made" - A made man in the mafia refers to a fully fledged member who has blood ties to Sicily or Italy and been sponsored by another "made man " and initiated in to the mafia for life.
Mafia coschi/ mafia cosca – Coschi is Sicilian for clan, this term refers to the mafia as a group or clan it was one of the first terms used to describe them as an organisation. Cosca is the Italian variation and means the same thing.
Omertà - A code of silence and honour. Those involved in the mafia are not allowed to discuss what they or any other members do outside of the mafia itself including under police interrogation, breaking this rule is punishable by death. This is called omertà, the word is from Sicily and is believed to originate from Italy as a variation of umiltà, the latin being humble (humilis) - ground (humus) it has also been disputed that its origins are based in Spain as a variation of the word hombredad (manliness) in relation to a rational intelligent man of outstanding quality, strength and integrity.
Sucker - Any person who wasn't a 'made man'. It didn't matter who you were if you were not 'made' you were a sucker. A demonstration of superiority.
The life - Those who are involved with Cosa Nostra refer to it as "The life"
Wise-guy - A person who is involved with organised crime, a member or associate of a crime family.
Coming soon . . .
The history of Sicily
The structure of the mafia explained
The career of a Mafioso
New Orleans, the Mafia emerge in America
The Cosa Nostra
The FBI & RICO
Profiles on made men throughout the years
Modern Day mafia
A global affair
The Sociological outlook
The criminological viewpoint
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Campbell, D (2019). Underworld. The definitive history of Britain's organised crime. Penguin Random House UK
Dickie, J. (2007). The history of the Sicilian Mafia, Cosa Nostra. Hodder and Stoughton
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www.bestofsicily.com - Everything you need to know about Sicily. A website written and managed by true Sicilians the site features sections on the history of Sicily along with current affairs, tourist information, the local community and sicilian industry and trade.
A history of the Sicilian Mafia: Cosa Nostra - author John Dickie
A man of Honour: the autobiography of Joseph Bonanno
Blood Covenant - author Michael Franzese
Five Families: The rise, decline and resurgence of Americas most powerful Mafia Empires. - author Selwyn Raab
From the Godfather to God the father: The Michael Franzese Story - author Michael Franzese
Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the gangster life - author Robert Lacey
Mr. New Orleans: the life of a big easy underworld legend - author Matthew Randazzo V
The First Family: Terror, extortion and the birth of the American Mafia - author Mike Dash
Ultimate Hard Bastards - in memory of Ronnie Kray - the truth about the toughest men in the world author Kate Kray
Underworld: the definitive history of Britain's organised crime - author Duncan Campbell
Vito Genovese: The Godfather Series - author David Hanna