It is quite common that the first thing a person links to Sicily is mafia. Very sad, but very true. Mafia exists, it’s closer to us that we might think (independently from where we live) and at the same time it is so subtle that goes unnoticed to most.
Far for the romantic idea of being honourable men wearing Italian tailored-made suits, mafia people have ruined many lives and many places.
Pic courtesy of: “Piazza Chiesa San Giusseppe-Taormina-Sicilia-Italy – Creative Commons by gnuckx” by gnuckx is marked with CC0 1.0
The link mafia-Sicily is not something Sicilians go proud of. We prefer to be known for Falcone, Borsellino, Peppino Impastato: all people that fought mafia paying with their lives. Like them there are many, many more.
Sicilians wants to be known for Franca Viola, who fearlessly fought for women emancipations; Archimede, who went far beyond the triangles; Pirandello, who has translated into literature the secrets of the human essence.
Pic courtesy of: “Palermo – I mitici Giovanni Falcone e Paolo Borsellino” by Claudio Nichele – Twitter: @jihan65 / Instagram: c is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
In simple terms, mafia is a criminal organization. Who knows what they do, one can just guess. Anyone who can assert something specific should report names and surnames to the police. One thing that any Sicilian knows is that their attitude has ruined our beautiful island. But how did they do it? It’s quite simple: they scare people. Fear is the most effective weapon any not-so-good organisation uses to manipulate people and obtain whatever it wants (usually power and money).
To make things more clear, picture this. Wonder you want to open a shop in Sicily. You are very enthusiastic, what you want is just a simple life working with people and selling what you are passionate about. After going through the thousands of bureaucratic hoops, you finally open. One night a guy enters the shop. You address him politely. He asks you for money. If you’re Sicilian you know what is going on. But you are probably not Sicilian, so I’ll explain. You ask the reason why you owe him money. The man says that the money will protect your shop. “From who?”, you would ask. “From us”, the man would reply.
Mean, vile and simple.
You don’t pay, they set fire to your shop (and this is a not-too-bad scenario).
Still, some people manged to overcome this nasty situation. These are the people who deserved to be mentioned above and of whom not all names are not known. These are the people who said “NO” to mafia.
How did they do it? They simply put a sticker on their shop doors saying “Addio Pizzo” (goodbye extortion).
Addiopizzo is an organisation of businesspeople and consumers saying ‘NO’ to mafia. It’s that simple. The just say “NO” all together. What was not so simple was to mobilize the mass towards a no-fear attitude. It all started with 5 graduate guys from Palermo who wanted to open a coffee shop but didn’t want to pay pizzo. They chose dignity. You can read more about their story on addiopizzotravel.it. In this website you can find a way to contribute to eradicate mafia in Sicily by choosing the businesses who refuse to pay pizzo. Please, consider that there might be businesses not listed on addiopizzotravel website who don’t pay the mafia.
Mafia turned their back to the shops displaying the sticker as it would have represented too much hassle to deal with them. Sometimes, all it takes is to say “NO” all together.