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Entries in Accursio Miraglia (2)

Sunday
Mar202011

Mafia Party

by Bluto Ray

A devil’s triangle of Church, State and Mafia existed in Camporeale, a rural town outside Palermo, founded, as the name implies, on old royal grounds. The territory’s capomafia, Vanni Sacco, slipped back into power with Sicily’s political reshuffle following the Second World War. Though lacking blue blood, the shrewd and haughty boss descended from an old elite family of the area. Sacco kept a despotic grip on the affairs of Camporeale with the frequent help of the regional archbishop, Ernesto Eugenio Filippi, a scheming mafioso in his own right.

Calogero CangelosiA naive young parish priest named Vincenzo Ferranti learned a difficult lesson about the hidden power structure of his diocese. Entrusted with the souls of Camporeale’s eight thousand citizens, he railed against Sacco from the pulpit. The public denunciations appeared to be political: Father Ferranti opposed anyone outside the Christian Democratic party, and Sacco was a Liberal. But the priest was trying to block Mafia influence in his church. For this sin, the door of the rectory was shot up by submachine guns as he lay in bed inside.

Terrified, Ferranti fled with a young supporter to the gilded palace of Archbishop Filippi in Monreale. After calming the priest, Monsignor Filippi arranged a lunch with Sacco, brokering a truce with generous terms for the boss. Before long, a crowd was summoned to the piazza of Camporeale by a band playing religious hymns. A convertible automobile drove up the town's main street as in a procession. In it was the fearsome Sacco Vanni; seated next to him was a humiliated and chastened Father Ferranti. In accordance with the agreement, the new church bell was christened with the name of Sacco’s daughter, Giovanna.

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Thursday
Jan062011

To Die on Your Feet

by Bluto Ray

The baron versus the peasant. It was a plot that played out for centuries on the scorched plains of Sicily. The farms and grazing lands owned by the nobility fed its sumptuous lifestyle in Palermo and other rich cities, far from the dust of labor. Though European feudalism was officially abolished in the eighteenth century, the peasantry’s traditional right of common land use devolved into a dependent form of sharecropping that choked off much of its income and food supply.

Accursio MiragliaBut the plot changed. From the teeming pool of landless laborers arose what many have described as the prototypical mafioso known as the gabelloto, a lease-holding boss. He was selected for his ability to manage the lands and quell revolts with a heavy hand, usually one that held a shotgun. Those decadent absentee landlords often lost their lands to the monster they created. The gabelloto soon controlled both the property and its workers, as well as the politicians who curried his favor for ill-gotten votes.

Though land reform had been debated and decreed by Rome many times over this period, it was a law pushed through by the Communist deputy Fausto Gullo in 1944 that allowed peasants two chief rights: a greater share of the crops and the right to cultivate mismanaged land. A left-right struggle ensued across rural Sicily, where workers occupied farmlands as their own. This upset the power balance that benefitted the Mafia. In the southern city of Sciacca, a former banker named Accursio Miraglia led the radical charge.

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