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La Cosa Nostra

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La Cosa Nostra Perhaps one of the most poignant moments in American cinema is the closing scene in the film “The Godfather” when Don Vito Corleone’s son Michael takes over his father’s position... and one of the most unforgettable moments, a severed horses’s head lies bloody in a man’s bed. It is this tradition and brutality that characterizes the Mafia, a secret Sicilian society that lives and functions just as much today on American soil as it did and does still in Italy. To understand this organized crime, one must begin to understand how it came to be organized in the first place. During the medieval times in Sicily, Arabs invaded the land and native Sicilians fled and took refuge in the hills. Some of these refugees formed a secret society that gave protection to the people in exchange for money. This group took their name, “Mafia” based on the Arabic word for refuge. In America today, one can hear it also be called “La Cosa Nostra”, or “This Thing of Ours.” In the 1700s,Wealthy people would receive a card with a black hand drawn on and if they did not pay the money, they could expect murder, theft, and violence. During the time Mussolini was ruling Italy, this secret society was under heavy persecution and many fled to the United States. “Don (term for the boss or head of a Mafia family) Vito Cascio Ferro fled to the United States in 1901 to escape arrest. He is known as the Father of American Mafia.” (La Cosa Nostra) Many Italian immigrants came to the United States through Ellis Island in New York, which is today the most important center of organized Mafia crime in the United States. The new American Mafia came to power during the Prohibition by organizing the sale of outlawed alcohol, but after Prohibition was revoked, the Mafia needed a new “racket.” During the war, the Mafia got government issued ration stamps and sold them on the black market. These days the Mafia is involved in running prostitution, unions, construction, and gambling. New York, also called the “City that never sleeps,” houses the Five Families of New York. These Families are highly influential and powerful crime families and each holds claim to certain “rackets.” The Five Families are: Gambino, Bonano, Lucchese, Colombo, and Genovese. While all people in the Mafia are required to maintain certain silence about the workings of the Family, a code of silence called “Omerta,” d...

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...si in America as it was in Sicily. “Say what you will about me, but don’t think it applies to my family.” (Godfather II) The Mafia, a group of stylized criminals, exists as a hidden power in our world today and shall remain to do so into the new millenium by controlling underground markets and making this world an offer they can’t refuse.

Bibliography

The Godfather. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan. Paramount, 1972. The Godfather, Part II. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Al Pacino, Robert Duvall. Paramount, 1974 “La Cosa Nostra.” Online. World Wide Web. 4 June 1999. Available http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/9880/index.html La Vien, Douglas and Papa, Juliet . (1993) The Mafia Handbook. Penguin Books. Machi, Mario. “Mario’s Mafia Page.” Online. World Wide Web. 4 June 1999. Available http://www.naxs.com/people/mmachi/mafia Malta, J. Geoff. “The Godfather Trilogy.” Online. World Wide Web. 1 June 1999. Available http://www.jgeoff.com/godfather.html Wiseguy & Company, Inc. “Unofficial Homepage of the New York Mafia.” Online. World Wide Web. 4 June 1999. Available http://www.users.aol.com/whizkid01/index.html

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