Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mafia, Coppole, and Lupare. (part I)


What a trio of words! These words sound like they belong to a Mafia's movie title, or a Mafia's book tittle. What these words mean, or meant for the common Sicilian citizens at one time! Mafia not needs for its explanation, already we all know what Mafia means, it means an oriented family crime organization.

What about those other words?

Coppola (a traditional flat cap worn by men in Southern Italy and Sicily) wasn't just a common piece of vestiary for the ordinary Sicilian, but for a "Mafiusu" in particular, it meant something more than a simple hat... It had also, an occult meaning along the ordinary use of it.

The coppola, especially when this piece of vestiary was worn by twisting it to one side of the head, gave to those wearing it a status of respect, power, and belongings to a privileged caste. That twisted hat meant, the Mafiusu' was part of a Mafia clan organization.

When I was very young (before I came to live and work in the States), back on those days I recall how was viewed by the Sicilian those men wearing the
twisted hats. Those men were seen with fear, and therefore those so called men of honor got respect from the rest of the Sicilian communities not because of their good deeds, but the intimidation of their "persona".

Indeed those men, were (and are) the scums of the Sicilian societies, and unfortunately stereotypes of the Sicilians been seen as all "mafiusi" together with the saying, " Nenti sacciu, nenti vitti, nenti 'ntisi " (I don't know nothing, I didn't see anything, I didn't hear anything) has since stuck all over them as a blemish, especially
if they went for jobs in the North of Italy.

I don't hear, I don't see, I don't talk.
Uomini di panza "Men of honor".

The "Nenti sacciu, nenti vitti, nenti 'ntisi" saying, it's associated with the code of silence (also known as omerta'). The omerta' (a refusal to give evidences and to cooperate with the police about criminal activities) is practiced by the Mafia itself (naturally) and by the common citizens for fears of the Mafia's retaliations. The men that make use of this code of silence are named, "uomini di panza" (men with big stomach). The term "uomini di panza" means that these men have enough stomach to keep Mafia's secrets inside, without revealing them to the police. Be a "uomo di panza" (man with a big stomach) in the same time means: to be an honorable man. I hope, you are now getting how distorted and wicked are the Mafia's rules, for being a (not) honorable man.

Luckily today, in Sicily many things have changed. If you go there for a visit, you wont see anymore those, "coppole" (except in very few small towns, with very few old men), and those men of honor will get less respect from the people, than back the old days of the coppolas.

Finally, the word lupara what it means?

Lupara means: violent death to those who dared to challenge the Mafia laws. The "lupara" was a sawed-off shotgun used particularly for the Mafia's vendettas. The word 'lupara' means literally 'wolf-shot', reflecting its lethal power and its history of use in Mafia killings. Another expression of the lupara is -the lupara bianca (white lupara)- a term which was, and it is still used, after someone has been murdered by the Mafia, and his body can't be found anywhere.


Next: Mafia, Coppole, and Lupare. (part II) Mafia's war.

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Fred said...

I love the image of the silhouetted man with a clear and detailed shotgun facing the reader

battlingcollegestudent said...

I am fascinated by your experiences. My dad's side of the family emigrated from Cianciana, Sicily in 1900 to the U.S.
I am planning on studying abroad in Italy. Could you shed some light for me on how Northern Italy views Southern Italy today and the differences between the two?
Thanks so much!

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