Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Addio Pizzo

Pizzo, not pizza. What is pizzo? It is the protection money extracted by the mafia or Cosa Nostra. The Cosa Nostra is alive and well in Italy and especially Sicily. While as tourists, we don't come in contact with the mafia, in Sicilian businesses, it is very much a part of the culture- still! These days, mothers and sisters of those affected and the young people have teamed up to form the association, Addio Pizzo ( to say no to the demands of Cosa Nostra. Among the prominent women in this fight are Letizia Battaglia and Rita Borsellino (I read she is a pharmacist), sister of the slain Magistrate, Paolo Borsellino.
Imagine the scenario, ' a group of young entrepreneurs getting together to open a club.... a very good idea, one of them say,''what about pizzo?" Yes, do we pay pizzo and be unmolested or do we not pay and risk the place going up in flames or even the simple annoyance of having glue squirted into the keyhole of your door!'
I remember reading last year about the farms and tractors confiscated from known Cosa Nostra members in Sicily and given to local farmers. They couldn't use the tractors because the Cosa Nostra made them unusable and they threw rocks into the farmlands to prevent them from being cultivated.
Our trip to Sicily last March (2007) placed us in touch with young Sicilians. On Friday, the train was packed with young Sicilians going back to help out in the family farms. On Monday, the reverse took place, the same people were headed for jobs in Palermo. Everywhere, fields were being plowed for agriculture, it was a heartwarming sight.
These young people wants to change the culture in Sicily by saying 'Addio Pizzo' (down with extortion). I hope they succeed.
The story is different in Southern Italy, the mafia of Reggio Calabria are the most ruthless. They control the drug trade, among other things, like the trash business. They have not allowed more dumps and incinerators to be built. So Naples reeks of trash most of the year. The EU is stepping in. The old part of Naples is quite impressive but everywhere there's all kinds of construction going on forever. There are some famous piazzas, when you visit expecting some great photo ops, but instead all you see is a dumpy place. I still like Naples. I like the Neapolitan spirit. My visit to Naples was totally pleasant. I'd visit again.

No comments: