CALABRIA AND CRIMINALITY
When I set out to write Calabria: The Other Italy, my goal was to give a contemporary picture of the region, which like any place, included the good and the not so good. I documented my experiences as well as current and past events that had affected and shaped the people and their environment.
When my book came out, Calabrians began to cautiously ask me, “Did you write about the ‘Ndrangheta?” They were very sensitive as to how the region was portrayed to outsiders and didn’t want people to think that all Calabrians were associated with this criminal organization. It’s understandable, as when Calabria makes national or European news reports, the ‘Ndrangheta is very often at the heart of the story, and that is quite sad, indeed.
WHAT IS THE ‘NDRANGHETA?
The ‘Ndrangheta is to Calabria what the Cosa Nostra is to Sicily, the Camorra is to Campania (the region with Naples as its capital) and the Sacra Corona Unita is to Apulia (the region in the heel). These are the major Italian Mafia organizations with origins in southern Italy. They operate independently in all of the usual activities, including drugs, commercial enterprise and public contracts, extortion, prostitution and arms trafficking.
While Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta may not be as well known or even recognizable to Americans and other English speakers outside of Europe, it is one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world. Begun in the province of Reggio Calabria, the crime syndicate extends throughout Calabria and wherever Calabrians have emigrated—from northern Italy, to other European countries, the Americas, Australia and even Africa. Its tentacles are far-reaching, and the organization’s presence is increasingly being discovered in criminal operations all over Italy.
While fingers are pointed at Calabria, the realization is also beginning to set in that the ‘Ndrangheta has found collaborators, many quite willing, all around the world. With their business volume estimated by many to be about 3% of Italy’s Gross Domestic Product, the greedy are forming lines to get their hands on some of that money, and Italian newspapers are full of the scandals.
ALL CALABRIANS AREN’T ‘NDRANGHETISTI
It would seem obvious and therefore unnecessary to affirm that all Calabrians are not ‘Ndranghetisti; however, with the amount of blame directed at the citizens of the region, it probably can’t be repeated enough that the vast majority of Calabrians are good people.
About a year ago, there was a television report speculating the ‘Ndrangheta’s infiltration into Verona’s government. The mayor responded by issuing an ordinance prohibiting all citizens of Verona from associating with Calabrians and those of Calabrian descent. This “decree” included visiting Calabria as a tourist and even banned so-called mixed marriages—positively Shakespearean and more than a bit ironic from the city that gave birth to Romeo and Juliet.
Methinks thou dost protest too much… The absurd posturing was seen for what it was.
THE ‘NDRANGHETA ON YOUTUBE
The impetus for this blog post was a recent YouTube video entitled “Finalmente l’Europa si accorge di noi” (Finally, Europe is noticing us). This 3½-minute satire is presented like a commercial for the ‘Ndrangheta. Written and interpreted by Andrea Di Marco, an entertainer from Genova, the short film hits the criminal organization’s “selling points” from an angle of big business: profits of more than 53 billion Euros a year with expertise in politics, finance and building. It could have been a promo for many a multi-national with dubious dealings.
This is all scary stuff, but the video is very well done. I found myself wondering if this sort of exposure was good or bad. I noticed an anti-mafia group amongst the many “shares.” Comments on Facebook ran mostly pro, but some cons by those Italians adverse to airing their dirty laundry in public.
I think the video’s cleverness may reach many people. And if nothing else, English speakers will learn how to pronounce the word ‘Ndrangheta. The video is in English with Italian subtitles and can be viewed here: Finalmente l’Europa…
What do you think?
Read more about the ‘Ndrangheta, Italian politics and culture in the award-winning Calabria: The Other Italy, my non-fiction book about daily life, history, culture, art, food and society in this fascinating region in the toe of the boot. More on Italian politics on the blogposts Reflection: The New Yorker and the ‘Ndrangheta, Reflection: Drills and Politics in Italy and Elections in Calabria.
A new museum opened in Reggio Calabria with a large collection of art confiscated from a ‘Ndrangheta boss – find out about it and see some of the artworks on the post The Palazzo della Cultura in Reggio Calabria.
Interested in contemporary life and travel in South Italy? Sign up for my in-depth cultural tour of the region. Click here for a detailed itinerary of my Calabria tour.
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CALABRIA: THE OTHER ITALY makes a great gift!