The Mafia is a global criminal organization that originates from the lemon groves in Palermo, Sicily. 1860 was when Italy annexed Sicily and Sicilian land was taken and distributed among Italian nobles, these new landowners dispatched their private armies to protect their new found territories, however this was not enough to stop disputes arising. The men sent to protect these lands had no experience in protecting property rights, and were unable to deal with many of the situations that arose. Lack of manpower was also an issue, the police force in Sicily was relatively small amounting to no more than 350 officers, leaving many districts in Sicily without law enforcement,allowing criminals to operate without consequence.Because of the authorities lack of resources, the property owners resorted to employing gangs of local Sicilian men to protect their land. These local gangs eventually became the first Mafia clans.
Mafia Clans (Cosca)
The Mafia methods were honed during a period growth in the export of citrus fruits. Sicilian oranges and lemons had become a prized export, with London and New York importing millions of cases every year. To grow the lemons the wealthy landowners had to invest a small fortune in developing the land on which the lemons trees were to be cultivated. Even once the trees were planted it would be eight years before they bore fruit. These lemon trees were also highly vulnerable, if there was an interruption to the water supply it would be a disaster, and thieves and vandals were a constant threat. Despite these issues, the risk was worth it as the profits were enormous. It was also the combination of these risks that created the perfect environment for the Mafia to take advantage.
The Sicilian men protecting the landowners lemon trees from thieves, vandals,and bandits started to become an organization. To prevent competition the clans created territories, in which only one clan was able to operate, this created a monopoly in each territory, forcing the landowners to pay an extortionate rate for protection, if they didn’t pay, the lemon trees that had taken years to harvest, would be destroyed. Many landowners refused to accept these terms, and hired their own independent enforcers, but the now organised Sicilian clans retaliated with violence, and slaughtered any competition on their territory.
Birth Of The Mafia
The Mafia clans now controlled protection of the lemon groves, this involved installing a “man of honour” as a warden. While the Mafia clan protected the land, it was the warden’s duty to manage the property. They watered the trees, maintained the grounds, prepared the harvest and oversaw the export of the goods. For the landowners this was perfect as they were frequently absent and could not watch over their properties, but in their absence the Mafia took control of the business, creaming a percentage of the profits and stealing the citrus fruit, their intention was to drive down the price of the business so they could eventually buy the landowner out.
Under this business platform the Mafia flourished,