Monday, July 02, 2007

May 2006 - Corleone, Sicily - Post Mafia Rule

As we said earlier, Sicily has had many conquerors seeking to use the island's strategic position for economic gain. The mafia was a different kind of conqueror, one that came from within, capitalizing on being the same as the people it oppressed. The mafia, also called "cosa nostra", which translates to "our thing", understood the Sicilian culture and mindset. Its members knew that they could use the Sicilian value of family first, their distrust of outsiders (particularly, authority figures from the mainland), their natural tendency to bend the rules and their ability to look the other way to take economic control of their island. Organized crime gained momentum at the turn of the last century during a time when Sicily was economically devastated and experiencing a mass exodus of the lower class. Our own history shows that millions of Italians (mainly Sicilians) desperately fleeing poverty and Mafia control arrived in America through Ellis Island from the early to mid 1900s.
Italian politicians have unsuccessfully tried to gain control over the Mafia and infiltrate their organizations to put a stop to their criminal activites. But not even Mussolini was able to curtail such activities. Further, as you can see in the Palermo blog, the Sicilian government built a memorial to those that lost their lives combatting the Mafia, most are police officers, prosecutors and judges. Then in 1972, Sicily made a major breakthrough by arresting Mafia boss Tommaso Buscetta, the first mafioso to cooperate with Italian justice. It took 15 years, but in 1987, as a result of Buscetta's testimony, hundreds of mafiosi were convicted and sentenced to more than a total of 2,600 years in prison. Then in 1995, top Mafia boss Toto Riina was arrested. Finally, in 2006, after 43 years on the run, Mafia godfather Bernardo Provenzano was arrested in Sicily.

So what has become of the birthplace of the Mafia now that the major players have been arrested?
We headed there and found a quaint, hillside town, with old men sitting on stoops, widows dressed in black from head-to-toe, plenty of laundry hanging over the streets and hundreds of church bells ringing in unison.
Corleone has quite a bit of traffic caused by more new cars than we saw elsewhere in Sicily. We also noticed many satellite dishes mounted on terraces. This town is clearly modernizing and appears to be thriving economically. To our disappointment, we did not see anyone that looked like the "Godfather". Though we did see a couple of sharply-dressed young men in black silk shirts who could have been extras on the Sopranos. We exercised caution and did not photograph them.

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