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History On The Mafia Essay

3912 words - 16 pages

IntroductionThe world the Mafia has always held such fascination for most of us, probably ever since the first time we saw gangster themed movies. The popular view of the Mafia, as prompted by the media, regards them as dangerous, mysterious, exciting, and held together by family ties which explains why we are inevitably drawn to them. To many, they represent the "American Dream" realized because they have managed to break free form their humble roots as migrant workers in the United States to being business owners. They are also regarded admirably as some sort of modern day hero because they have managed to rule the big city streets while at the same time still adhering to their traditional ...view middle of the document...

History of the MafiaIn Sicily, the word mafia can mean two things. One, it is an adjective that describes a state of mind, a sense of pride, a philosophy of life and a style or behavior which Sicilians recognize immediately in a man who is respected and will not allow the slightest hint of insult to go unpunished. Two, it is a noun that connotes an organization that is secret yet powerful. Though the latter meaning is the more common definition of the word today, Sicilians have always used the term both as an adjective and noun at the same time.The roots of the Mafia can be found as early as eighteenth century when landowners employed private armies to guard their lands and families against bandits and other Sicilians. These private armies were known as compagnie d'armi. Since there were no courts, prisons and laws enforced during that time, the compagnie d'armi ruled and maintained order by playing judge and jury over the lands. Death was the common punishment given to offenders. These compagnie ran the lands like vigilantes. And in the growing absence of their landowners, they soon began to amass power. Over time, they developed a system of coexistence with the bandits they were supposed to repel by allowing them to plunder other estates and taking sanctuary in their compagnia as long as they posed no problem to the compagnie. In return, the bandits gave them additional revenue from their spoils.In 1812, the Mafia began to emerge after the collapse of the feudal system during the Napoleonic victory. The compagnie d'armie became responsible for instilling political order in the land because of their organized structure. They acted as intermediaries between the landowners and the peasants by renting the land from the owners and re-renting them to the peasants. They were the new ruling class in the rural areas because they were more feared by than the police and more powerful than the law. The Sicilian society was held together by the enactment and enforcement of their code of conduct.Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the local mafia began to receive "protection money" from small independent landowners, in addition to the money they extort from their landlords and tenant farmers. Soon they expanded to control many other profit sources like the creation of new businesses and penetrating the political scene by joining parties.In the United States, they saw the largest influx of migrants from a single European nation from 1820-1930. There were an estimated number of 4.7 million Italians who emigrated to find work. Of the 4.7 million Italians, 2.1 million came from the southern part of Italy. The southern Italians were mostly male and came alone with the intention of just working to save enough to establish their own business or to buy a farm and return to their hometowns while the northerners came with their families with the intention of settling.The local Mafia leaders in Sicily had no reason to follow in the migration wave until the...

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