All About the Italian Mafia

The Italian history is turbulent and full of drama, rebellions, blood, riots, wars and the internal conflicts created by mafia circles battling for territory and dominance.

Most of us know something about the mythic Italian mafia circles, as they have been featured in a variety of movies, talk shows, TV shows and and even songs.

The Secrets of Cosa Nostra

Image by the Telegraph

‘’Cosa Nostra’’ or  the way the Sicilian Mafia was referred too, is an organized crime activity with roots in Sicily, Italy. The Italian mafia has started with a few local  groups and their pursuit of ”justice” against the tyrannic wealthy circles and spread out throughout the world, with influence in major cities such as New York City and Paris.

What is Cosa Nostra really like? It consists of organized crime groups with targeted illegal activities, and all of these groups have a ‘’family’’ or ‘’clan’’ in common. The ”clan” dictates the general honor code for each small group segment, with defined criminal activities in a particular area.

The Italian mafia members call themselves men or women of honor, and each family or clan has its own territory to control. The mafia control was expressed in various forms in the territory they owned.   Most of the mafia obligations evolved around the division of assets, extortion, illegal activities and illegal transactions.

Some of the most intriguing facts associated with the Italian Mafia Include:

1.  The Italian mafia is known to have generated approximately 20 billion in revenue mostly through extortion and fraud.

2. They fiercely went after the people who fought them. One of the persons who expressed and openly published a letter from an extortionist , Libero Grassi, was murdered just 3 weeks after the fatal publication. The letter was published under the title ”Dear Extortionist,” and reveled the whole struggle and fight against the mafia circles which ruled in various regions of Italy.

Libero Grassi, Image by SlideShare

3. The government took action against the mafia as soon as two judges, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who had openly expressed their desire to fight against organized crime activity were found murdered.

Their murder caused uproar among the local communities who had already become completely aware of the ruthless nature of the Italian mafia that recognized no local or state authorities.

4.  The mafia in Italy had different names for different regions. While the Sicilians suffered from the Cosa Nostra, Italian crime has been spread throughout the country by the Camorra of Naples, the Ndrangheta of Calabria, and the Sacra Corona Unita, in Puglia.

5. Joining the mafia was marked with a special ritual – everyone who joined Cosa Nostra would have to stamp their blood on an image of a saint and swear the oath of honor while the image burst into fire flames. One of the ways to be accepted into the Sicilian mafia was to commit successfully a contract murder.

Image by Pequed Rivista

With this ritual, everyone who joined the Camorra swore into loyalty and promised to abide the honor code, that was marked by specific rules of honor, dictated by the head of the mafia and the clans which ran it.

6.  At some point, the mafia started focusing on more sophisticated, white-collar crimes hat were not associated with brutality or murder. The mafia designed effective economy strategies that discredited the competitors and led them into all the wrong decisions with negative impact on their own business strategy.

7. Telephones and e-mail were risky, and so was the safety of the information transmitted through them. The authorities could easily access those communications tools and the risk of leaking information was particularly high.  Because of those risks, messages were often produced by a type-writer and transmitted by hand to the appropriate source.

4.  In a town named Corleone residents have petitioned to obtain another town’s name because of its association with a criminal boss. The riots were present but not powerful enough to beat the tremendous power that the mafia had already established for itself.

Town of Corleone, Image by Sicily

5.  Small businesses were frequently the most  common victim of the mafia circles. About 80 per cent of small business owners in the capital of Sicily, Palermo, had to pay a fee to the mafia, or the so called pizzo,  protection money. Business owners who owed money to the mafia were either liquidated or threatened with death. No one who owed money to the criminal groups could easily get away with their threatening power.

6. Italian mafia members would only allow those with a pure Sicilian blood to join their crime groups. Later on, they would allow people with mixed blood to become a part of their dark crime world.

7. The Italian mafia transferred to the United States, and some of the well-known mafia bosses such as Al Capone gained tremendous popularity for their brutality. It was interesting that Al Capone committed numerous murders and illegal transactions – however, he was put in jail only because he avoided paying taxes for eleven years to the US government. He was also known as ”Scarface” because of the scars on his face, a result of a fight with the brother of a woman to whom he made inappropriate comments.

Image by EuroNews, Al Capone and his Miami Beach mansion

The Italian mafia is known for its disregard of the government and the rules that the region dictated. It had its own rules, its own power, and its own ”honor code,” which those who joined it had to abide to.

Those interested in unraveling the secrets in its past can resort to the numerous movies, documentaries and songs in which the mafia has been featured in.