Sicilian Culture

The People, The History, The Culture

The Brief History and A Word
About The Sicilian People

Sicily is a small island off the coast of Italy and close to Northern African country of Tunisia. When people define themselves as Italians or Sicilians, the person listening usually asks "what's the difference?" Well, while the answer can be simple, the history behind the reasoning is quite complex.

The simplest explanation to this question "What's the difference?" is, Sicily was not a part of Italy until after World War I. Its almost like assuming that Hawaiians are American, or Puerto Rico is a state. While Sicily is now part of Italy, and Hawaii and Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands are now part of the United States, you would never think to say "Puerto Rican, isn't that American". Things between empires have not changed much from Ancient and Medieval history. While India was British occupied and while Rome ruled the world, each culture, nation and region still had their own identity.

Back to Sicily. Sicilian culture and language comprise of Arabic, Greek and Italian influences. The word often associated most with Sicilians, "Mafia" is actually an Arabic word for refuge when the Sicilians hid in the mountains from both the Arabs and the Normands.

Crime is always born out of poverty. Whether its the Japanese Yakuza, the Colombian Cartel, Irish Westies, or the the common American mob made up of crack dealers, bookies, pimps and counterfieters, or even the newest Russian Organiskya, no matter what the name, or organization, All cultures have their form of organized crime. But so many times the Sicilian people are singled out as "the" source of organized crime. Is anyone ever naive enough to believe that any one sect of organized crime could work soley on one nationality alone? Of course not. It take the cooperation of local and national governments and businesses to help it succeed. As much as the Italians and Irish say they hated each other in the old days or the Colombians and Blacks, organized crime always succeeded due to their mutual cooperation. Just look at the names that founded the Mafia in the United States: Luciano, Lansky, Capone, Siegel, Shultz - - three out of those five names are not Italian.

In the earliest days, the Sicilians and Italians came to this country from Europe. Valentino, who was the most famous actor of the silent era, came from Europe. Charles "Lucky" Luciano came from Sicily as a young boy. Meyer Lansky was a Hebrew living in a very rough and impoverished time in Russia.   However, once in the United States, they both grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan, New York which is now Little Italy and mostly Chinatown.  They opposed each other, fought and even drew blood, but soon Luciano's muscle was backed up by Lansky's brains and it was ultimately Lansky's intelligence which brought them to the top and it was his plan and outline that brought the structure to organized crime based on the corporate model.

What brought them to the top? Things the Americans could not have which they wanted: Alcohol during prohibition and gambling when it was still illegal. Who could not succeed at this during this era?


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