City Hurt

The interests of a small group of privileged honorable people who today prefer to be called ‘businessmen’ are too influenced by the interests of a small group of privileged people in Sicily. In a small pastry shop at the Massimo Theater in Palermo I talk to Bruno, a young teacher and journalist who has spent the last few years researching the secrets of Cosa Nostra.

Turning off the motorway towards the center of the capital of Sicily, an uninitiated tourist quickly dies in a tangle of narrow, unidirectional streets. Knocking the keys around accidentally scattered concrete blocks, wondering where he made the mistake. Such a daily routine for the suburbs of Palermo has prepared the ‘businessmen’ of Cosa Nostra. In the early 1960s, two Mafia proteges, Salvo Lima and Vito Ciancimino, decided on the city’s affairs. The first of them, first mayor, then deputy minister of government and MEP, had everything a politician needed in the south of Europe. Class, power, silk suits and ruthless respect for the Sicilians.


When he entered the restaurant, there was silence. People bowed to the belt, kissing his manicured hand.

Cincimino, the son of a hairdresser from Corleone and the cone of Lima, was in charge of public contracts in the town hall. The time of government of this duo was named not without reason the period of ‘looting Palermo’. At that time, building permits were almost exclusively to five unknown age-old people. While seventeenth and seventeenth-century palazzi in the old town fell into ruin, Cosa Nostra flooded the suburbs with concrete. Lack of control and competition was not conducive to meaningful planning for housing investment or infrastructure. The friendly urban space, privacy and convenience of the locals were also not a priority for mafia investors. Between balconies of neighboring buildings at medium run you can jump, and the drive or parking requires inexhaustible patience and optimism. Roads, houses, hospitals, Schools and other public buildings, in an advanced stage of decay, are an ever-present, characteristic feature of the Sicilian landscape. Like Etna.


In the cafe at the Massimo Theater, a local journalist and teacher tells me about the current business and structures of the mafia. Bruno teaches mathematics at high school in the south, then devotes himself to his low-passivity passion, exploring and describing Cosa Nostra’s activities. While enjoying the cannolo, he mentions the words of the judge Falcone, who claimed that to find the mafia must follow the money. Today they are somewhere else than they were a hundred years ago, so the mafia need to look elsewhere. If someone else is still dealing with old, good pizzas from the street vendors of eggplants, then it is rather ‘sentimental’.

The new mafia opera is influenced and networking. It goes with the spirit of time, does not shoot, does not fire, does not blow up and without absolute necessity does not dirty hands.


Construction, infrastructure and real estate are just some of the industries that make Cosa Nostra. One of the most lucrative mafia businesses is the ‘fashionable’ immigration crisis today. Smugglers from North Africa organize their customers, equipment and services on the other side of the Mediterranean, Cosa Nostra takes care of the rest. Cash flow between the parties corresponds to a man called a cashier in the smuggling network. With amounts ranging between 2 and 6 thousand. Dollars from the customer, the vast majority of the mafia is collecting. This business does not end. Expatriates from the Libyan or Egyptian coasts are sent to camps in Sicily. There, humanitarian organizations and companies, often controlled by the mafia, provide shelter, food and education. For this purpose the government transfers from 40 to 80 euros a day, depending on the age of the migrant. A small percentage of the funds are actually spent on meeting these needs, the rest lands in the mafia’s pocket. The largest of these camps is located in Mineo, a small town in the Province of Catania, called the refugee ghetto. At one time the institution accepts 4 thousand. People and their maintenance budget is 98 million euros a year. What is happening to immigrants who leave camps in Sicily, you can read here. The budget for their maintenance is 98 million euros a year. What is happening to immigrants who leave camps in Sicily, you can read here . The budget for their maintenance is 98 million euros a year. What is happening to immigrants who leave camps in Sicily, you can read here .


The journalist tells me about those who in Sicily and Rome pull on strings. Matteo ‘Diabolik’ Denaro, second in the list of the most wanted criminals in the world, has been hiding in the hills of Castelvetrano for almost a quarter century. He is proud of the fact that the bodies of enemies filled the entire cemetery. How does he manage to avoid capture and survive in such an isolated place as Sicily? The reasons are obvious to those who understand the specifics of the mafia mentality, the importance of the omer, and the extent of Cosa Nostra’s influence. Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina has not lost any influence since the Second Mafia War, though since 1993 the ‘Beast’ has been steered from his home in Corleone, but from a carefully guarded prison in the vicinity of Parma. Behind the grates encrypted sheep’s pizzini with children’s hands are delivered to destinations. Maybe it’s not a long dish. Riina’s lawyer has requested that his client be able to complete his days dignified in his own bed, surrounded by his family. The victims are crying out that there was no boy that Riina had dissolved in acid. Not hundreds of others murdered by the famous capo.

Bruno continues the story of legendary bosses and their successors, contacts, business, politics and reach, far beyond the borders of the island and country. However, to find the Mafia in Sicily, it does not take long hours to interview journalists. You will be scared to look around carefully. The beauty of the island dumps tons of abandoned waste. Junk business is stable. It is based on change, crises and boom. The same applies to banks and hospitals. Security companies, supermarkets and insurance companies. Where the human need generates money, the hand of Cosa Nostra reaches. For 150 years, stable, invariably.

Text and Photos: Aleksander van den Born

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