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Entries in Villalba (2)

Sunday
Feb132011

Big and Little Wars

by Bluto Ray

A tiny dot on the map of Sicily called Villalba was a locus of Mafia activity thanks, in no small part, to the American Allied occupation of the island during World War II. With the Fascists in retreat, local Mafia bosses--effectively stifled under Mussolini--were being tapped by US commanders to fill the power vacuum and restore order. In rural Villalba the mayoral post was given to Calogero Vizzini, known to the peasants who kissed his hands as Don Calò.

Don Calogero VizziniThis barely-literate, cartoon-like mafioso with rubber features, fedora, and balloon pants hiked over his enormous belly had nevertheless been the territory’s most skilled powerbroker since the early twentieth century. The archetypal estate boss, who deftly manipulated the black markets in both world wars, was legitimized by a family of Catholic priests entrenched in local politics.

Though accused of dozens of murders and lesser crimes, Don Calò was reliably cleared with clergy support. (Part of his sizable fortune came from a land sale he brokered for a Parisian nobleman and a local bank run by his uncle, a priest. Don Calò kept five hundred acres as commission.) He was equally at ease cutting deals with industrialists in London or providing marital counsel to neighbors in Villalba, where he was respected, loved and feared

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Sunday
Dec122010

Dead or Alive

by Bluto Ray

Salvatore Giuliano

Mafia Exposed’s inaugural blog post concerns one of the Mafia’s most enduring mysteries, the life and death of Salvatore Giuliano. He is commonly referred to as Sicily’s most famous bandit, but in his home town of Montelepre, many still regard him as a hero sixty years after his death.

Giuliano’s early career as a wartime black marketer led to deadly confrontations with carabinieri forces, so he took to the foggy mountains around Montelepre with a gang recruited from the dirt-poor field workers and army deserters of the impoverished region. This is the point at which opinions about dashing young “Turiddu,” as he was called, divide.

Turiddu epitomizes the idea that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Reporters from around the world descended on tiny Montelepre in hopes of scooping an interview with the Sicilian Robin Hood famed for his daring robberies and romantic peccadilloes. But his involvement with a radical separatist group eager to see Sicily made into United States territory led to a murderous bombing campaign against the police.

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