Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Origin of the Italian Mafia in America

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The Origin of the Italian Mafia in America

The Mafia, the syndicate, the mob, whatever you choose to call it, has been part of America ever since the Italians emigrated here from the island of Sicily. Many Italians came to America to pursue a better life, being happy, and having stability. For others, the drive for power, fame, and success was too alluring to ignore.
In the late eighteen hundreds, many of the new Italians to America went to New Orleans. It was a quick pace life there with gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging. Soon after, most large cities had its own Mafia chapter. “Fleeing Italians from Sicily were well aware that there was money to be made in the United States through extortion, prostitution, gambling and bootlegging”. Many other people also went to New York City, just because they didn’t have to wait that long to start looking for work. Most of the Mafia Families you hear of are in New York because that is where many Italians went. Some Italians also went to Boston because like New York it is right on the harbor and they did not have to go far to find work.

Though not widely known throughout the United States until the nineteen twenties they have been here for much longer. Italians came here for many reasons but the number one reason was to escape the life they had in Italy. When the Italians got to New York the Irish had most of the control over much of the business in the parts where the Italians lived. It came down to the Italians against the Irish. Italians won that fight because there is one special thing that binds the Mafia together, family. “Italian organized crime differs from others in one important aspect they are organized around the family. Loyalty and confidentiality reside with relatives and the bonds are much stronger than those in other ethnic groups”. The Italians believe that if the ability to rely absolutely on one’s family, blood, or Mafia, is lacking successful fulfillment of the mission is not possible.

As the years past, many Italians became known for their association with top Mafia men. “Perhaps the most famous figure from prohibition is Al “Scarface” Capone, who dominated the Chicago bootlegging underground world”. Capone grew up in the Italian neighborhood of New York City. That is where he first got involved with mob activities. Acquainted with many men in his time in New York, it was Charles Luciano who took him under his wing and had him part of The Five Points Gang. Just a Mafia crew. Charles Luciano was another man who was known for being in the Mafia. “Charles Luciano, trained in the Five Points Gang, leader John Torrio”. Though never an initiated member of the Mafia, Myer Lansky was close with Charles Luciano and did many deeds for him. During the early years of the Twentieth century, Frankie Yale was the top Mafia man in Brooklyn. Frankie was one of the men that helped get rid of the Irish in New York.

Omerta was the tradition where men were initiated into the Mafia. “The Mafia ritual called “Omerta” originated in Sicily. It is translated as “manhood” but has evovled into the Mafia’s code of silence”. Many years have past and now it is call being “made.” This means they are now allowed to know what the family knows. Omerta is also the code of silence vow that the initiated member takes. In taking this vow, they promise they will never tell what happens within the family. Whether it be to other families or the law enforcement agencies. “Omerta forbids a made man from revealing any details of life in La Cosa Nostra to those outside of the organization”. If a member breaks his vow and discusses life in the Mafia with anybody outside family, especially law enforcement agencies, his penalty is death. Now ex-mobsters do not honor the code of silence and would rather make some money on their story than keep true to the family.

New York was the place for the families to live as the five families Gambino, Genovese, Colombo, Bonanno, and Luchese. Though separately they had their own ways of running the business, they were all under the same values of everyone around. The Gambino Family has had men that you have heard of in the organization such as John Gotti. “Gotti took control of the Gambino family in New York after killing former Don Paul Castellano, who made the mistake of openly trafficking drugs”. The families all originate in New York but are spread all over the country in places like Las Vegas, Miami, and many other big cities.

Power for the Mafia does not come easy. They use violence a lot to get the things they want. Violent actions, is where the Mafia gets its power. The constant drive for power has remained since the beginning. Power allows success and success is what they want any way they can get it. “Violence, and subsequently the mere threat of violence, was the means by which the Mob gained monopoly control over its various criminal enterprises”. The Mafia has a reputation for the use of violence as a means of achieving and maintaining their power. “Violence is used as a method of discouraging and eliminating competitors, while at the same time it reinforces their reputation”. Although they have had many successes most of the things you hear about the Mafia is bad.

Today the word Mafia is used to describe a number of criminal organizations. When people think about organized crime the Mafia always comes to mind. The Mafia has had a role in organized crime for more than one hundred years. “Crime has been around since the dawn of human kind, and organized crime has been around almost as long”. In the early nineteen hundreds, most immigrants that came to America were involved in organized crime. It was not just the Italians. “We hear a lot about crime on the streets but, not too much about organized crime- except when the Mafia comes out for a topic of a movie”. Men that are associated with organized crime know how to keep what they do a secret. “Organized crime rings are shrouded in secrecy and are often difficult to crack”.

With a show like The Sopranos and movies like The Godfather, you get a good idea of what life is like in the Mafia. The Sopranos is the most realistic mob show out there now. It shows life in the mob, and around family, how a man can separate the two and make mends with himself with how he lives his life. While The Godfather shows how life was in the earlier years of the Mafia during WWII. You meet a man Vito Corleone, who came right off the boat from Italy and made something of literally nothing. Vito did not want the Mafia life for his boys but he could not do anything about it. Hollywood does like to change the stories around to make it more appealing to the public, “We see the Mafia in all its sleazy splendor. We meet cast and characters that bear no resemblance to the Corleones”. Movies like Casino and Donny Brasco do not have much of a good effect on the life of a mobster. However, they chose that life. Many ex-mobsters now like to tell their stories to make movies when they swore they would keep their oath.

However, the Mafia has changed greatly since it first started in America they still are run by the same rules, which is stay true to your family. In the early years, there would have never been so many snitches; they knew where to stay true. Now they would rather get money then stay true to the oath they took in their initiation ceremony. As they say “what goes around comes around.” The reason why they came here was to make money. Now their fame and success has the best of them.




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