Before the carnages of the anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992, and before the carnage of Gen. Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa in 1982, and even before many other carnages that happened over there, there was a time in which Palermo was living in an apparent state of optimism while the Mafia was having very good times!
Those were the years of when the Sicilian's Mafia families were dictating their laws, the years where legality and national institutions were partially active in Sicily, the years of the Mafia's illegal building constructions, rampant misappropriations, and corrupted mayors.
The years of Palermo's sack.
Thanks to the Mafia, there was for Palermo a partial era of economic boom (the only one I could ever recall from the years of my growing up in Palermo). All over the city of Palermo there was a frenetic activity of constructions. Construction buildings were springing up all over the city, like they were malefic mushrooms. I remember those years as the, "Sack of Palermo".
I still have in my memories of a much smaller Palermo than it's today. From up above the mountains that are surrounding it, you could have had an astounding panoramic view. Palermo looked like was made of gold because of all its lemon's trees cultivations, and for that specific reason Palermo's valley was named, "La Conca D'oro" (the golden valley). From where I lived, my father to get in the city's center for work, he had only one small street available to reach his destination. Along this single street there was nothing but trees, interminable lines of lemon's trees and a few old buildings scattered all over.
La Conca d’Oro - (golden valley)
Oil painting of, "Francesco Lo Jacono' (1838-1915)
In a very short time everything was destroyed and replaced by a process of savage urbanization, even thanks to little controls from the competent authorities. I remember, a few of those Liberty stile Villas at the corner of viale della Liberta and viale Lazio, been bulldozed down just for speculative interests. I was too little to figure out why those marvelous Villas were demolished. The penetration from the Mafia of the public administrations was so deep, that they did find very little oppositions to their devastating pillages to the city. The Mafia sacked Palermo the same way the barbarians did to Rome. That's why that devastation is still remembered till these days as the, "Sack of Palermo".
The sack of Palermo was, the construction boom from the 1950s through the mid 1980s. The high point of the sack happened under the Christian Democrat Mayor Salvo Lima. Vito Calogero Ciancimino (born in Corleone) also a Christian Democrat, became assessor for public works and building permits under Salvo Lima. At some point Ciancimino himself became mayor of Palermo, and he gave out a record number of licenses for building constructions, which all of them were managed from the Corleonese's Mafia. Who was Ciancimino? He was an Italian politician and in the same time a criminal!
I remember from those times, the people of Palermo were much happier because there were more jobs availability (thanks to all the illegal construction buildings that were going on around all the city), and more jobs meant more cash were flowing into their packets. I remember that even my father was happy, because he was doing businesses in his shop with people in a hurry to spend their money.
The Mafiosi are the bad guys!
Unfortunately for the Palermitans that were wrongly believing that Mafia with its thriving and lucrative businesses of the cement coupled with cigarette smuggling and heroin trafficking (and believe me, some Palermitans knew back then, who really had the hands firmly on the power of command) were really bringing jobs for everyone...
Naturally, their dreams of better lives were easily shattered once the Italian State decided to put a stronghold to the Mafia's unrestrained criminal activities with the cement, by closing down all the building constructions and starting penal processes to the Mafia and all of the corrupted politicians accused of Mafia association.
Consequentially to the Italian State's actions, a darker and deeper depression came back more revengeful than before by rolling down on a once green city, and now silent, exhausted, and cemented with its citizens left at the top of their desperations and drained from their energies and hopes.
There was in those years, unattainable social peace for Sicily because of (besides the criminal organizations) inept and sometimes corrupted politicians. I don't know right now, but back then there were politicians very easily corruptible in exchange for votes, and the Mafia knew very well all that. Politicians were colluding together with the local Mafia's boss by plaguing the well-being of Sicilians, and overall, the same was happening to the rest of the south's Italian regions with their local 'Ndrangheta/Cammorra/Sacra Corona Unita/Stidda's bosses and their illicit activities!
I would like to dedicate this post to one of the few good men left in Palermo, because of his activities in understanding, fighting, and sharing awareness on the pervasiveness of the Mafia in Sicilian society. This man is Leoluca Orlando, a former (and very honest and uncorrupted politician) mayor of Palermo.