Sicily’s history offers us many lessons.
Since the 13th century Modica (pictured) has been a prosperous and important city. For centuries it was the seat of its own county that enjoyed political independence and economic and cultural influence. The resource-rich surrounding landscape with agriculture as its economic engine has made Modica and Ragusa province wealthy and importantly, mafia-free. This reality comes from a mindset that dates back many centuries. According to the Blue Guide Sicily, Modica “owed its prosperity to a particular custom of renting out the land to the peasants on a long-term basis, which was to prove extremely profitable both for the landowners, who were assured of a regular income, and for the farm workers themselves, who found they could make improvements and invest for the future.” In other words, a strong, proud working class thrived.
This is an important contrast to other parts of Sicily that operated under a feudal system for centuries — a system that subjugated the working masses, kept them uneducated, heavily taxed them, created an environment of fear and insecurity, and limited their free movement. Its from this severe class system, where royals and a minority of very wealthy nobles controlled a large peasant population (AKA serfs), that corruption and organized crime sprung.