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Entries in Danilo Dolci (2)


News Muse 10.17.12

Updated on Saturday, October 20, 2012 by Registered CommenterCarl Russo

by Carl Russo

Only the biggest Mafia stories get the Time magazine news splash, so I was surprised to read, “Italy Dismisses Entire City Government over Suspected Mafia Ties.” The forced breakup of a regional capitol city—in this case, Reggio Calabria, the toenail in the Italian boot—is news, but not of the earth-shattering variety. With a population of 185,000, Reggio (as the locals call it) isn't much bigger than Providence, Rhode Island, or Knoxville, Tennessee.

Salvatore "Totò" CuffaroOn the island of Sicily alone, forty-four municipalities have been dissolved by the Interior Ministry for reasons of Mafia infiltration since 1991. My own list of such cities covers the last five years or so: Belmonte Mazzagno, Castellammare del Golfo, Roccamena, Salemi, Siculiana, and Terme Vigliatore.

And a list of cities whose leaders were investigated and/or arrested: Carini, Misilmeri, Palagonia, Palermo, and Villabate.

The aforementioned Roccamena is a typical Sicilian town, isolated from the others by vast plains of yellow barren fields. Its peaceful tangle of streets betray a turbulent past. Peasants there fought the Mafia’s brutal estate managers for the right to work the land. Nobel Peace Prize-nominated activist Danilo Dolci staged hunger strikes over construction jobs that drew news cameras to its tiny piazza.

I went to Roccamena in 2006, months after its mayor, Giuseppe Salvatore Gambino, was arrested for Mafia association along with Bartolomeo Cascio, the capomafia of the area. Despite a pistol found in Gambino’s desk, which he denied was his, and some incriminating phone taps, the ex-mayor was eventually absolved, avoiding a stiff ten-year sentence. I managed to snap a photo of the city hall before the Chief of Police stepped out of the building to stop me.

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Bigger Than the Mafia

by Bluto Ray

The poet from the north returned to Trappeto because he was haunted by memories. Haunted by images of emaciated children dying while government officials grew fat, images of people subsisting on beans and insects and wild greens, fathers forced into banditry to feed their families. He was incensed by the Mafia's feudal control of farms and water irrigation in a land where “sewer” didn’t exist in the local dialect.

Danilo DolciWhen Danilo Dolci stepped off the train in 1952, he was ready, as a peasant who knew him wrote, “to share the life of the poor.” As a teen he had seen these things while visiting his father who was posted as Trappeto’s wartime stationmaster. And now, at age twenty-eight, he was back to help.

Dolci arrived with five cents to his name but rich in experience. Though violently abused by his father as a youth, the wide-eyed poet grew up to be a full-time activist and committed pacifist. He cared for orphans in the north under the tutelage of a priest whose social work rankled the right-wing Church of the postwar years. His credo: “Participate in order to understand.”

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