Sunday, November 30, 2008

Facing the Mafia - La Mattanza (chapter II, part 1).


The tuna fishes, "Mattanza".

The word, "mattanza" how is related to Mafia and what it meant to me? I have to go back to a couple years after I had immigrated in the U.S. to answer to this question.

First off, the term, "mattanza" is an heritage left after different centuries of Spanish dominations of the Sicilian island, and it originated from word matar, meaning to kill. There are two specific contexts where the word, " mattanza" has been used like expressions in every day Sicilian life.

In first context, the word mattanza is used for the killing of tuna fishes in the Mediterranean Sea. For hundreds of years, fishermen in Sicily and Sardinia have used dense nets to capture the Mediterranean blue fin tuna (thunnus thinnus) in a quasi-spiritual procedure known as the mattanza (if you like to read more about it, here is the link for: Mattanza

In the second context, the word mattanza has been used for a different Sicilian expression. Even though, it still meant to kill something, this time the killing wasn't a tuna fish but a human being. And to be more exact, it meant to kill a lot of people with methods of ferocious assassinations, like the same ferocious methods used to kill a large number of tuna fishes in the Sicilian seas.

Now, going back to a couple years after I had immigrated in the U.S. and I learned a bad news by watching the TV. The bad news was that a man was brutally murdered by a Mafia's reprisal, and this man wasn't just a common man but he was also the embodiment of an ideal, a hope to finally defeat the Mafia. That man was, " Il generale Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa".

I cento giorni a Palermo di Dalla Chiesa.
( The one hundred days of Dalla Chiesa in Palermo.)

The general Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, was the new prefect of Palermo which was sent in Sicily by the Italian government after the premature death of Pio La Torre (of course, a premature death inflicted by the Mafia), to fight the Mafia.

Pio La Torre (Palermo, December 24, 1927 – Palermo, April 30, 1982) was a leader of the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI). He was killed by the Mafia after he initiated a law that introduced a new crime in the Italian legal system, mafia conspiracy, and the possibility for the courts to seize and to confiscate the assets of the persons belonging to the mafia conspiracy.

Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa was the man that had defeated the Italian terrorism, "the red brigades" and because of this success he was sent in Sicily with full powers granted to him, in the hope to defeat the Mafia. Unfortunately, in the paper was given to him full powers, but in reality was given to him none.

In fact, the Italian government was accused by many Italian citizens to have betrayed Dalla Chiesa's trust in the Italian institutions by leaving him alone to fight the Mafia. Consequently to this betrayal, he was left very vulnerable to the attacks of the Mafia that already had marked him as a dead man.

Before he was brutally slaughtered in his car together with his young wife Emanuela Setti Carraro by a Mafia's ambush on September 1982, had
just passed one hundred days of his takeover of the Palermo's prefecture. Also I wanted to remember here, in the same attack died, "Domenico Russo" who was a police agent in escort with his armored car to Dalla Chiesa. On the place of the massacre, an anonymous citizen had left to the wall a paperboard with written on it a few bitter words:

Here died the hope of the honest Sicilians.

I was tremendously shocked and angered by those few words because were accurately telling a truth. The truth that the Mafia had killed the only man capable that could have given back to the Sicilian people, a hope of rebirth from the miseries and the abuses of a Mafia's historical impositions.

Even though I was living in the U.S., I felt at the moment defeated because the Mafia had won once more, first by enforcing me to leave my Sicily and now by making me feel like I had betrayed my land because I fled from it without a real fight.

When the TV's news was parading in front of my eyes those cruel images of the Dalla Chiesa's assassination, I couldn't believe it! Those streets were so familiar to me. Indeed, those streets were the same streets from where I grew up. The same streets, where I used to play soccer in my adolescence. And now, those images were broadcasted around the world. I felt an increasing desperation as the news went on. At some point, I started to hit the wall with a couple fists to calm down my rage.

What I didn't realized that time was, the Mafia's killing spree had just started. In other words, the Mafia's mattanza hadn't finished its job but it was just beginning.


Next: Facing the Mafia - La Mattanza (chapter II, part 2).


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