"morte alla Francia Italia anelia!" (Italian for "death to the French is Italy's cry!"),
and if the first letters of the verse are taken, the anagram MAFIA is deciphered.
The word Mafia was first published
in 1862 in a play by Giuseppe Rizzuto, called "I Mafiosi della Vicaria"
(The Mafia in the Vicarage") about a secret criminal group in the prisons
Secret societies in the hills were needed
to resist foreign rulers. These societies were formed not only to try and
defeat the French rulers but also to protect and feed the Italian families
in the villages of Palermo and surrounding areas. Since most of the villagers
were related, each village picked a member to head their family.
These heads of families were called (capodecina or capos for short). The
capodecina would pick men from the village to take with him to the hills.
Before the men left for the hills they would have to pledge their loyalty,
support and Omertá . The oath in English sounded like this:
"I (NAME GIVEN) want to enter into this
secret organization to protect my family and to protect my brothers. ""morte
alla Francia Italia anelia!" With my blood. (A knife is used
to place a cut on the right index finger or hand) and the blood of all
the saints, and the souls of my children.
Once safe in the hills, all the capodecina's
would get together and pick someone to be in charge of all the members
of this secret society. The head of all the members was called (Capo di
tutti capi) the boss of all the families. Food was scarce, conditions
deplorable, the French controlled everything and if you didn't do what
the French Angevins wanted, they would torture and kill you. The members
of the society would raid supplies and weapons from the French and distribute
their wares throughout the villages. They had to operate in complete secrecy.
This was necessary to protect the members and their families from torture.
This was an honorable society in the fact that you had to believe totally
in the cause and be willing to die to protect the members. The villagers
also respected and honored the soldiers from the hills. They knew there
was a chance for freedom from the French but only if they remained silent
about their fellow Italians in the hills.
What Americans call Mafia in this country,
is believed to be started by Don Vito Cascio Ferro, who fled to New York
following the murder of banker Emanuele Notarbartolo in Sicily, in 1893.
More society members fled to America during the 1920's, when Mussolini
attempted to eradicate the Mafia in Sicily. When the Allies liberated Italy
in World War II, they freed anti Mussolini prisoners, including many society
members. Some were installed in positions of power, and thus began to interweave
politics and organized crime in Italy. The society moved from the rural
hills to the cities of Sicily. The Sicilians have developed co-operative
agreements with other secret Italian societies, the Camorra and Ndrangheta,
but remain the controlling organization. The Sicilians are flexible and
can work with many nationalities. The major threat to the Sicilians and
the society is their own periodic bloodletting feuds. If the society that
was called Mafia in the 12th century was alive and well today; there would
not be a need for government programs. All would prosper. Italians need
to look close at their families and friends. There is no Mafia, it does
not exist anymore, but there is a chance for Italians to work together
with their families and friends to make life better and more prosperous.