According to The Mafia Site, the mafia is a secret society formed against Arab and French invaders. Because of its strategic location, the island of Sicily has been subjected to hostile forces which triggered a kind of defensive mistrust against law. Matters were being settled within the family level with no recourse to law and order. By the 19th century, collapse of the Feudal order resulted to lawlessness. Powerful figures known as capos emerged who extracted tributes from farmers and enforced authority by force. And thus the Sicilian mafia was born.
They become so powerful that crackdown by Mussolini in 1924 forced them to migrate to America. (Grabianowski) Yet it did not diminish the power and influence of Mafia. Jim Thomas, noted that “ When the Fascists fled Sicily during the Allied invasion of World War II, the Mafia--the only remaining governing structure--worked closely with U. S. forces. Today it dominates much of the business and industry in Sicily's cities. ” (Thomas) “ The mafiosi saw their opportunities and took them. In virtually every town they were named as mayors.
Vito Genovese, a New York capomafia, who had fled to Italy in 1936 to escape conviction, was the interpreter for Charles Poletti, the U. S. Army Superintendent for Sicilian Affairs. Genovese and other "men of honor" took to infiltrating the political sphere while moving into the rackets and black marketing. ” (La Sorte) Although the name Mafia (or the title Cosa Nostra, "our affair") is often used to encompass the entire spectrum of organized crime, the true Italian-descended Mafia is now only one component of a much larger criminal establishment. ” (Thomas) Through migration, they extended their operations to different parts of the world.
These groups however do not operate as a single entity with formal organizational structure. According to Ed Grabianowski “ the word Mafia is an umbrella term that refers to any of several groups of gangsters who can trace their roots to Italy or Sicily” .
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