This You Can Refuse

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These souvenirs of “A Mafiusa” and “U Mafiusu” look cute. You can buy the woman “mafiosa” for your refrigerator to hold your weekly food shopping list or the “mafioso” to post up a coupon for a discount at the hardware store; however, there is nothing cute about the Mafia. This centuries-old crime organization pervades Sicily’s political and administrative systems and all but paralyses the region’s economic growth. To give you perspective, members of the Sicilian Mafia wear suits and ties. As an organization, it seeks power and hoards resources for its members. Their presence is felt by way of extorting “protection money” from business owners (a payment called the pizzo) or arranging that a town’s garbage remains uncollected for days and weeks at a time (a noxious way of convincing a populous to behave a certain way). These are just two examples of their “business” practices. As a tourist in Sicily, you will not be effected by the Mafia–they are not interested in petty crime or murderous violence–they are happy that you are spending money and supporting the local economy. Important to note, for the past 30 or so years, there has been a strong anti-mafia movement in Sicily. In fact, in Corleone, the town made famous by “The Godfather” films, there is a museum that champions the bravery of those who have challenged the mafia. You too can join the campaign, by bringing home something other than a Godfather T-shirt or these caricatures for your fridge.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks for telling part of this story that many people tend to romanticize, I believe, because of the Hollywood versions of the Mafia in the U.S. I think island nations tend to be more prone to developing “families” like these – I saw it in Hawaii, very obvious, too.

    1. In Hawaii? Wow, I hadn’t thought… Yes, well, places that have had a colonial past (or present!) tend to experience underground dealings that are unsavory, violent, and otherwise. Certainly, the Sicilian Mafia is a complex organization with a deep history. There’s so much I don’t know about it, and so much I don’t want to know too. The bottom line: it’s a real issue, and I have an issue with the glorification of it in the American entertainment industry.

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