Connect to share and comment

Italian food: now mafia free!

The Libera Terra label guarantees that wine, olive oil and pasta are free of mob connections.

Organized crime in Sicily has definitely lost ground over the last 15 years. No proper “boss of bosses” has yet replaced Bernardo Provenzano, who was captured in 2006, and a series of successful police operations throughout 2008 culminated in the arrest of about a hundred mafiosi last December. To add insult to injury, the Neapolitan Camorra has surpassed Cosa Nostra and is now by far the most powerful and feared mob organization in Italy.

Although the initial acts of retaliation against Cooperativa Placido Rizzotto — such as the theft of a tractor that used to belong to former “boss of bosses” Toto Riina and the arson of several crops — seem to have ended, its members cannot afford to be completely carefree and relaxed at work.

“Denying that there is some degree of fear would not be right,” said Galante, after a pause. “Our people go to work in the fields at five o’clock in the morning: they are alone, isolated, and they know all too well who used to own that land.”

For a high-ranking mafioso, having his property confiscated is worse than being deprived of his personal freedom, Galante explained. In fact, spending a term in jail can even be a source of prestige, something to brag about, while the seizure of property is the worst possible scenario. And when local people begin to work on those fields and earn “clean” money, that is an indisputable sign that his feudal power has reached an end.

But the real revolution is in attitudes. A new generation of Sicilians has finally decided to fight those traditions that are the Mafia’s lifeblood, and break the code of silence, known as omerta. About 400 businesses in Palermo have joined an organization, “Addio Pizzo,” set up in 2004, whose members refuse to pay protection money.

At the inauguration in November 2008 of the “Garden of memory,” a visitors’ center in and around the farm where di Matteo was held captive before being strangled, Don Luigi Ciotti said: “I will never forget what I saw when I first came here: There were toys and small bicycles strewn all over the place.

“While Giuseppe di Matteo’s life was coming to an end just a few meters away, his jailers were allowing their own children to play outside in the garden. People should make a pilgrimage to these places to understand what mafia really stands for, and how far its thirst for power and money, and it despise for human life can reach.”

With the Libera Terra cooperatives earning a joint turnover of $3 million, there is growing evidence that Italians want to avoid the mob and its ways.