The Esperia Film Distributing Company

The Esperia Film Distributing Company

The Di Carlo family was persecuted by Italian Fascists in Sicily. That didn’t stop them from becoming propagandists for Mussolini.

A couple weeks ago on Mafia Genealogy, I introduced “Capitano” Angelo di Carlo. Calogero di Carlo, called “Lelio” or “Leo,” was the youngest child of the Di Carlo family, and Angelo’s business partner.

Seven brothers immigrated: Antonino (Nino), Giuseppe (Piddu), Giovanni (John), Angelo (Capitano), Francesco (Frank), Salvatore (Toto), and Calogero (Leo). Two sisters also immigrated: Marianna and Rosa. All but Angelo lived the rest of their lives in the United States, with several of the siblings settling together in Yonkers.

Their father was a butcher in Corleone, and at least two of the brothers, Nino and Toto, were butchers in the US. John owned a plastering business, and Frank worked with two of his brothers, sometimes with Toto as a butcher and other times with John as a plasterer. Lelio and his brother, Angelo, were entrepreneurs: before the war, as film importers, and after WWII, as travel agents. According to the Italian police, the brothers were suspected of international drug smuggling as early as the 1930s.

Angelo was in Sicily from 1937-39, having gone to assist their father, who died in Corleone in 1937. Angelo had a prior conviction for mafia association, and was unable to secure a visa, or even a driver’s license, under the Fascists. Despite these difficulties, Lelio says that Angelo may have helped acquire two of the first films Esperia distributed in the United States.

The Esperia Film Company was formed by Lelio in January 1939. He originally called Esperia the “Modern Film Company.” The company was called Esperia by March, when Angelo returned to New York. After two years in Italy, Angelo’s wife, Luisa, contacted a relative, a judge in Palermo, who secured visas for their return to New York. Angelo and Luisa lived with Angelo’s brother, John’s family in Yonkers. Angelo joined Esperia as a salaried employee.

According to IMDb, the films Esperia distributed were made between 1936-40, and distributed in the US between 1939-41. Other than those first two, Francesco Macaluso, Esperia’s president and general manager, selected all of the films Esperia licensed. He made a number of trips to Italy during the 1930s to obtain films for distribution. He is seen on manifests, returning to the US with his wife and two of their children in 1933, in 1936 with his adult daughter, who worked for Esperia as a bookkeeper, alone in 1937 and again in 1939. The records list Macaluso as a lawyer, until the last trip I found, in 1940, where “lawyer” is crossed out and replaced with “film merchant.”

Lelio claimed in a 1943 affidavit that all of the funds used to purchase the film licenses were his own, with some of those funds acquired from unspecified family members, and some quantity borrowed. But in 1942, when the FBI investigated Esperia, thirty percent of the stock was owned by Francesco Macaluso. The majority shareholder was Lelio, the treasurer, with sixty percent. His brother, John, owned the other ten percent.

According to the FBI, Esperia ceased operations in 1941. On 9 December, immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, several of the Di Carlo brothers were arrested. Angelo and Luisa were still living with John’s family. According to John’s son, Vincent, who was ten years old at the time, Angelo, Toto, Frank, and Leo were arrested, because they were not yet citizens.

John was also arrested, according to Leo’s affidavit. In fact, his letter suggests only Angelo, John, and Leo were arrested, not Toto and Frank. Angelo, Calogero (Leo), and Frank appear in a list of persons of Italian ancestry who were taken into custody during the war. Only Angelo appears in the list of those initially rounded up after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and he is also the only one interned. That Toto was also arrested, soon after his brothers, is confirmed in FBI Agent Burleson’s report from Ellis Island, the following month.

Calogero, who wrote in 1943 in an effort to have Angelo released from internment, downplayed his brother’s involvement in Esperia. Based on the contents of his affidavit, he understood the propaganda charges to be the main reason Angelo remained interned. He writes:

“My brother, Angelo di Carlo, came into the organization solely on a salary basis. He contributed no money to the company’s capital. His connection with the company was solely as a salaried employee, although he nominally held the title of Vice-President. He had no control over the bank account.”

John’s son, Vincent, who wrote a family history in 2013, and worked for his uncles as a teenager, provides a different impression of the brothers: “They were business partners but Angelo ran things and made all the major decisions.”

Though by the time of their 1943 affidavits, the Di Carlos and their supporters were careful to distance themselves from fascist governments abroad, domestic fascism enjoyed broad support in the 1930s, when Esperia began importing films. American heroes of the time included the pilot and widely known white supremacist and isolationist Charles Lindbergh, auto manufacturer and anti-Semite Henry Ford, and real life “Citizen Kane”: the yellow journalist William Randolph Hearst. “Hitler’s Mountain Home” was featured in the Hearst publication, “Better Homes and Gardens,” in 1938, the same year as Kristallnacht.

All 29 of Esperia’s 1940 releases “attempted to convince spectators that under the leadership of Mussolini Italy was a strong and mighty nation.” One feature film distributed by Esperia is described as propaganda in the book “Equivocal Subjects.” “Under the Southern Cross” (1938) (on YouTube) is seen to “naturalize” Italian occupation of Ethiopia, which began in 1898. A second Italo-Ethiopian War was fought in the years just before this film’s release. Recall that Angelo’s service to Italy, from which he derived his lifelong nickname, was in the occupation of Libya. His evident pride in his role in Italy’s colonial “Scramble for Africa” may have extended to the subject of his countrymen in Ethiopia. Angelo told FBI investigators, following his arrest, that he was not pro-Fascist, but he was still pro-Italian.

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Italy in Africa: Libya, Eritrea, Somalia, and Ethiopia (Map source: Ethiopian News)

Lelio calls Esperia “a private business venture, absolutely in no way connected with the political regime in Italy”. In their defense, Lelio notes that the films Esperia imported, were also shown in other theaters around the United States. Individual Esperia releases, reviewed in contemporary newspapers, are depicted as light entertainment, exotic dramas and comedies of variable artistic merit.

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(Image: Spanish language promotional poster for “Belle o brutte si sposan tutte” [English: Pretty or plain they all marry]. Source: IMDb)
The News Research Service, produced by Joseph Roos, describes Esperia as a propagandist specializing in short films. The typical distribution method was to screen a full-length feature along with two or three short pieces of propaganda. This article singles out two film houses in New York City, the Roma Cine Teatro at 1662 Broadway, which “flourished under the management of the notorious, one-time anarchist, Pietro Garofalo,” and the Cine Citta, at 250 W 54th St, managed by Signor Macaluso, a “widely known… Fascist agent.” The Rome Cine was one of the theaters in which Angelo di Carlo was invested.

By 1936, Francesco Macaluso had been active in American fascist leadership for almost two decades. The Di Carlo brothers were well aware of their business partner’s politics. Vincent knew Francesco personally. He visited his uncle Angelo during his internment, at two different camps. Vincent says of Macaluso: “His relationship with Angelo was strictly business. They were on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Macaluso was a hardcore Fascist. At my visit to Fort Meade I witnessed him trying to impress visiting family members of the POW with shouts of ‘Viva il Duce’ and making Nazi/Fascist salutes.” (Personal correspondence, 11 March 2016.)

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Italian internees at Ft. Missoula (Source)

Since internees were rated on their behavior in the camps, his association with Macaluso may have harmed Angelo’s chances of being released. Luckily for them both, the war was coming to an end.

Sources

Affidavit signed by Calogero di Carlo, 28 July 1943. Released electronically by NARA on 9 March 2016 to the author.

Vincent Angelo Di Carlo. 2013. “The Di Carlo Family: From Corleone, Sicily, Italy.” Accessed http://www.dicarlofamiglia.com/uploads/3/7/3/5/37352841/dicarlo_family_05_18_2013.pdf 11 November 2015.

“Fascismo Says It With Movies.” Research Supplement Published by News Research Service, Inc. Vol. 5. No. 142. 23 April 1941.

Federal Bureau of Investigation report made at New York, NY, on 23 January 1942 by J. Burleson regarding Angelo di Carlo. File no. NY 100-17523. Released electronically by NARA on 9 March 2016 to the author.

Francesco di Legge. “L’aquila e il littorio: direttive, strutture e strumenti della propaganda fascista negli Stati Uniti d’America (1922-1941).” Accessed http://road.unimol.it/bitstream/2192/306/1/Tesi_F_DiLegge.pdf on 19 February 2017.

XIII Legislatura – Disegni di Legge e Relazioni – Documenti. Legione Territoriale Carabinieri di Palermo. Oggetto: Vito Calogero Ciancimino gia’ Sindaco della Citta’ di Palermo. Senato della Repubblica. Camera dei deputati. N. 3209/1064-2 di prot.llo. Dated Palermo, 14 April 1971. Accessed at http://legislature.camera.it/_dati/leg13/lavori/doc/xxiii/015_RS/00000008.pdf on 24 January 2016.

Feature Image: Promotional poster for “Il Sogno di Butterfly” [English: “The Dream of Butterfly”], a 1941 Esperia release (Source: IMDb)

Francesco Macaluso and American Fascism

Francesco Macaluso and American Fascism

Before and during World War I, Giuseppe Morello was fighting his own war in New York, while in Africa, Captain Angelo di Carlo was fighting an aggressive war of colonial expansion in Libya, which Italy had recently wrested from the Turks. Angelo found himself on the other side when the Fascists rose to power in 1922, as it soon declared a war on the mafia in Sicily, nearly wiping them out, and forcing di Carlo to flee. Meanwhile, his future associate in the United States, an Italian Fascist propagandist, was making a name for himself in the United States.

Francesco Macaluso was born in Casteltermini (in Agrigento province) on 18 November 1886. (A poet and lawyer by the same name, born in the same province the previous year, was a socialist, and ardent opponent of fascism.) Francesco and his wife immigrated to New York in 1914, joining his sister there briefly before moving on to Boston, where their first two children were born. Francesco and his wife, Esmeralda, named their first child Ferdinando Antonio Americo Macaluso. It’s hard not to see the Macalusos as making a declaration of confidence in their new home, giving their first born son the name “Americo.” What can be more difficult to resolve is the simultaneous regard Macaluso held for fascism and for the United States.

Fascism was not only a European phenomenon. The ideas of eugenics, social darwinism, and “Nordicism,” a set of myths about the aggressive, colonizing nature of Aryan people, were in powerful circulation in the US, from at least the 1890s, the same time it was galvanizing Europe. The Fascist League of North America had an active chapter in Boston by the late 1910s, with Macaluso at its head. As part of his political organizing, he published a monthly journal, called “Giovinezza,” the first openly fascist publication in the US.

While World War I raged in Europe, Giuseppe Morello, one of the original bosses of the Sicilian Mafia in New York, was fighting the Mafia-Camorra War against a Neapolitan gang based in Brooklyn. In 1906, Morello’s former captain, Gaetano “Tommy” Reina, married a woman from Corleone, Angelina Oliveri, whose mother was a Streva. Angelina is a second cousin of Paolino Streva, the captain under which Giuseppe Morello worked in Corleone as a cattle thief, in the 1890s.

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Masseria and Maranzano. by Schreibwerkzeug.

Reina formed his own family, and managed to avoid the conflict, enjoying the protection of Joseph Masseria, who would figure prominently in the next mafia war, the Castellammarese. Tommy and Angelina’s daughter, Carmela “Millie” Reina, would marry Joe Valachi, a Lucchese gangster, at that war’s conclusion in what is described as a “union of underworld convenience,” in 1932. (Valachi famously turns pentiti before the US Senate in 1963, and brings down the crime family his father-in-law originated.)

Italy entered the war against Austria-Hungary on 23 May 1915, in order to annex two historically contested regions, the Austrian Littoral (Trentino) and Dalmatia (South Tyrol). However, at the end of the war, Italy did not receive the territories, a “mutilated victory” that would become an important part of Italian Fascist propaganda.

The US finally entered WWI by declaring war on Germany in 1917. The following year, large numbers of American troops deployed to Europe. Doctor of Italian law Francesco Macaluso, an Italian national, working for the Italian bank, Banco Stabile, in Boston at this time, requested an exemption from the US draft, because he was supporting a family. By this time, he and Esmeralda also had a daughter, Rose.

The end of WWI saw the beginning of another worldwide catastrophe, a flu pandemic that killed between three and five percent of the total population. Previously healthy young adults were its main victims. The US experienced a mild economic recession during the pandemic, followed by a more severe one that began in 1920. By that year, Francesco Macaluso and his family had returned to New York, where their third child, Armand, was born.

In one of the first scenes of the 1974 film, “The Great Gatsby,” set in 1922, Nick Carraway arrives at his cousin, Daisy’s rich estate on Long Island, and her boorish husband, Tom Buchanan, is spewing classic “Nordicism”: white supremacy, and its allied fascist mythology of world domination. It comes up three times in the film: everyone remembers the glasses on the billboard across the street from the filling station, but fascism is as essential to “Gatsby” as the Charleston. While white America was dancing to the new sound, jazz, Black Americans in the 1920s were being brutally repressed by their government, and through extralegal violence. The KKK was at the height of its power in 1925, when 400,000 members marched on Washington. It is no exaggeration to say that the Holocaust is descended from Jim Crow. Nazi Germany modeled its discrimination and segregation laws on America’s.

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Mussolini e Hitler in Berlim (Hungarian name of the book (Felvidékünk – Honvédségünk / Trianontól-Kassáig), publishers (Vitézi rend Zrinyi csoportjuának kiadása, Budapest, 1939) [Public domain].
In Italy, Fascist Benito Mussolini took power through use of the Blackshirts, paramilitary squads of First World War veterans and ex-socialists. He marched them on Rome in October 1922, and the king appointed Mussolini Prime Minister during their march, turning a military invasion into a victory parade. Under Mussolini’s orders to eradicate the Mafia in Sicily, Cesare Mori, Prefect of Palermo, arrested over 11,000 people between November 1925 and June 1929, and a countless number died in mysterious circumstances or simply disappeared while in police custody. Hundreds fled to America to avoid the purge, including “Capitano” Angelo di Carlo.

Angelo arrived in the United States for the first time in 1926, age 35. Although married, he traveled alone, arriving in New York on July 16, 1926. The manifest lists his occupation as Captain. Several of those traveling with him are stamped “Diplomat.” Angelo met his uncle Giovanni di Miceli, a banker living at 241 East 108th St, New York. One of Angelo’s brothers was staying with him, already.

Not much is known of Francesco Macaluso during the 1920s. Based on the census records, he lived near his sister in New York, and worked as a lawyer. It’s possible that he traveled back to Italy in 1928, calling himself a journalist at this time: a manifest matching his name, age, and birthplace is likely Macaluso. Evidence indicates he remained active in the American fascist movement: in the 1930s, his propaganda would shift from print to film, in partnership with the di Carlo brothers.

By the late Twenties, there was already notable tension between the two factions who would fight the Castellammarese War, the gangs of Joe Masseria (the future Genovese family) and Salvatore Maranzano (the future Bonanno family). Maranzano, born in Castellammare, Sicily, was sent by Don Vito Cascio Ferro (a Palermitan who lived for a time in Corleone) to take over Masseria’s operations in New York.

Tommy Reina had become successful under Masseria’s protection, but now the boss began demanding a portion of Reina’s profits, prompting him to consider defecting to Maranzano. Masseria, learning of this, arranged with Reina lieutenant Tommy Gagliano to have Reina killed. (Gagliano and Reina are related through Reina’s wife: they are second cousins, once removed.) On February 26, 1930, Vito Genovese murdered Reina, on Masseria’s order. The hit is widely considered the opening salvo in the Castellammarese War between the exported mafias of Corleone and Castellamare del Golfo: the “Mustache Petes” of the Old Country and the “Young Turks” of the New World. That August, Giuseppe Morello, the first mafia boss of New York, was killed.

Feature Image: Still from “The Great Gatsby” (1974)

The First Great Wars

The First Great Wars

The story of Captain Angelo di Carlo’s life takes us through a turbulent period in world history, and in the history of the Sicilian Mafia: through two world wars, and two more for domination of New York City by competing mafia organizations. In his lifetime, Italy would fight its old enemy, Austria-Hungary, in World War I, but before doing so, would fight a colonial war in Libya against the Ottoman Empire. The rise of fascism in Italy nearly destroyed the Sicilian Mafia before the end of WWII, but due to the political blunders of the Allies following Operation Husky, the Mafia was able to reform itself under their protection. Angelo di Carlo is considered one of the architects of this renaissance.

The Turbulent 1890s

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Captain Angelo di Carlo

Angelo was born in February 1891 in Corleone,the eighth of thirteen children. According to the family historian, Angelo’s nephew and godson, Vincent di Carlo, their family was distinguished in Corleone by its very tall, fair, and beautiful members. Vincent reports that DNA evidence shows the family is descended from Normans, part of the Lombard resettlement of Corleone beginning in the 11th century.

The month after his birth, eleven men, most of them Sicilian immigrants, would be killed in a New Orleans prison in the largest mass lynching incident in American history.

The decade of Angelo di Carlo’s birth would see an Italian banking crisis unseat its prime minister, and the birth of a powerful worker’s movement, the Fasci Siciliani, with one of its most notable leaders, Bernardino Verro, organizing in their native Corleone. Verro would join the Fratuzzi, the local mafia, in 1893, and die at their hands in 1915. In 1930, when Angelo di Carlo lives in New York, Morello and Ferro battled for dominance over the gambling dens of Manhattan, in a war that would take Morello’s life.

In the late 1880s, Giuseppe Morello made a name for himself as a vicious cattle rustler, working with Paolino Streva, under the protection of Fratuzzi boss Giuseppe Battaglia. Morello and Gioachino Lima both fled the country in 1892, following a series of murders, including that of the Sylvan Guard, Giovanni Vella, who was investigating Morello’s crimes. The Morello-Terranova family would spend most of the next decade as agricultural laborers in the American South.

In Sicily, Angelo di Carlo received a good education: a total of ten years in public school and gymnasium, the European equivalent of American high school, followed by a year in lyceum (college), and one year in officer military school. He graduated from military academy and became an officer in the Italian Army. As an adult, Angelo was tall and strongly built, distinguished and yet physically imposing. His military rank of “Capitano” became a lifelong nickname.

Living Space

Like Germany, Italy saw itself as a natural heir of the Roman Empire. In the years leading up to Angelo’s military service, the Italian elite embraced a philosophy termed “Unredeemed Italy” (“Italia Irredenta”) that dovetailed with a fascist belief in Aryan expansionism, called “Lebensraum” in German and “spazio vitale” in Italian. Not unlike the American myth of “Manifest Destiny,” fascist doctrine included the notion that man was a species continually at war. All three movements put varying degrees of emphasis on the primacy of Nordic people, and traced their political lineage to ancient Rome. To avoid stagnation, fascists argued that Italy would once again have to expand its borders, through reclamation of lands historically occupied by culturally Italian people, and through colonization. The “Spazio vitale” effort was particularly concentrated in the Mediterranean and in Africa.

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Italian troops entrenched behind the Tripoli zone, in the Italo-Turkish War (circa 1911). (Public domain)
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Ataturk commanding Libyan fighters against Italian occupation, 1911 (Public domain)

It was in pursuit of this nationalist effort that Italy declared war in 1911 on the Ottoman Empire, and Angelo di Carlo saw military service as an artillery captain in the 3rd mobile battalion of the 40th infantry, in the Italo-Turkish War, in Libya. The Italians took Libya, held at that time by the Turks, in response to losing their own territory in Eritrea. Angelo would remain in active service until 1915, just before Italian entrance into World War I, and in the reserves until 1932.

The Mafia-Camorra War

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Giuseppe Morello

In the early years of the Great War in Europe, Italian mafias in New York were beginning to fight one another for dominance. Following the New York Stock Exchange crash of 1901, Giuseppe Morello returned north to the city, where he remarried to another Corleone native, and began a counterfeiting operation. One of Morello’s captains, Gaetano “Tommy” Reina, eventually left Morello’s organization to form his own. While Reina’s family built a reputably peaceful ice trade empire in the Bronx, the Morello organization was drawn into a bloody war for dominance over gambling in Manhattan. The Sicilians, clustered around Spanish Harlem and the Bronx, and the Napolitani Camorra, based in Brooklyn, both wanted the monopoly. This prudent neutrality would benefit Reina right up to the eve of the second great mafia war, which began with his assassination in 1930.

On the national scene at this time, Woodrow Wilson, presiding over a small, unready military, remained publicly committed to American neutrality. German submarines sank the Lusitania, a passenger vessel, killing more than a hundred American citizens, but failed to lure America into the conflict.

Reina’s former associate Nicolo’ Terranova, Giuseppe Morello’s half-brother, was killed in the Mafia-Camorra War against the Napolitani, in 1916. That year Steve LaSalle, born Stefano la Sala, was with the Terranova brothers in a plot to kill Joseph DeMarco, one of the Camorra, in retaliation for Nick’s murder. LaSalle turns up later in support of Angelo di Carlo’s release from internment during WWII.

One of the last efforts of the Camorra, when assassinations proved ineffective, was to go after Ciro Terranova’s legitimate business interests, including artichokes (Ciro’s nickname was “the Artichoke King”) and coal. These were not successful, either. Participants in the murders turned informant, including Rocco Valenti and Ralph Daniello, the latter murdered after his release from prison in 1925. Mafia-Camorra War trials continued through the 1920s for Frank Fevrola and Antonio Paretti, with the latter executed at Sing Sing in 1927.

Fasci Siciliani

Meanwhile in Sicily, Bernardino Verro, the first Socialist mayor of Corleone, was increasingly at odds with the mafia’s primary clients, the large landowners, through his organization of peasant labor. Verro was killed by his fellow Fratuzzi in 1915 and replaced with another Socialist, Antonino lo Cascio. His worker’s movement, the Fasci Siciliani, would be subverted by right-wing nationalists who would become known as the Fascists.

The following year Angelo di Carlo, recently retired from active service and still living in Italy, married his first cousin, Luisa Castro.

In the years following the Mafia-Camorra War, the US would enter WWI and help bring about a victory for the Allies on the Western Front. Turbulence—economic, political, and social—would rock both sides of the Atlantic through the 1920s, and persecution by the Fascists would send suspected mafiosi to the US in the hundreds, among them, one reserve Italian Army captain by the name of Angelo di Carlo, pursued by charges of killing a Fascist in Palermo.

Feature image credit: Italian marine troops landing on Tripoli. (Public domain)

The Mafia without godfathers

The Mafia without godfathers

In a controlled study of Mafia marriages in Corleone, I found that Mafia members are historically more closely related to their brides than their non-mafiosi neighbors in Corleone. What are the implications, genetic and otherwise?

The rates of consanguinity among Corleone’s families, even its Mafia families, are not likely to represent an existential threat due to inbreeding. According to Cavalli-Sforza and his co-authors, nowhere in human civilization do we find sufficient rates of consanguineous marriage to threaten a population from pedigree collapse, even one as small and insular as Mafia families in Corleone. While the rate of consanguineous marriage approaches 50% in some populations today, in Sicily, it has not risen above ten percent. (Cavalli-Sforza 2004)

On the other hand, cousin marriage could represent a different kind of danger to a free society. Jonathan F. Shulz (2016) has shown that not only is consanguineous marriage highly significantly correlated with mafia activity, “cousin marriage is a highly significant and robust predictor of democracy.” Even controlling for a variety of other factors, including the year of onset of the Neolithic revolution, and duration of Church bans on consanguineous marriage, a ten percentage point higher rate of cousin marriage is associated with an approximately three points lower score on the Polity democracy index (a 21 point scale, from -10 to 10). This is equivalent to the difference between the “full” democracies of Italy and the United States (which both scored a “10” in 2015), and the more limited democracy found in countries like Bolivia, Kyrgystan, and Nigeria (which scored a “7” that year).

Another way of looking at it would be to compare the United States’ score in 2015, under Democratic President Barack Obama, and the current rating (2016) as a “Flawed Democracy” on The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index under Republican Donald Trump, who won the electoral vote in November. (Data for 2016 are not yet available from Polity IV.)

The Mafia has cultivated an image of itself that is indivisible from Catholicism and Sicilian culture. One way the two institutions are allied, is in sharing authoritarian values—which is to say, undemocratic ones. The Church authors and then reinforces the religious values and rituals which bind together Sicilians from different families and towns, even those living halfway around the world. And it does so while at the same time, honoring the local: the daily miracle of transubstantiation, the vision, the miracle, the saint who lived close by. The Cursa Santu Luca, celebrating the anniversary of a miraculous retreat by Bourbon forces at Corleone, is one such local, religious celebration.

Another local ritual reinforced by the Church is the “inchino,” where the effigies of saints are made to curtsy or bow, by the confraternity members holding them, in front of the homes of honored families. Not infrequently in Italy, the honorees are at the top echelons of local mafias. When the San Giovann’Battista confraternity in Corleone conducted the inchino in front of the home of Toto Riina’s wife, Ninetta Bagarella, last year, the resulting investigation brought down the corrupt city government, and dissolved the city council.

Collusion between members of the Catholic Church and the Mafia in Sicily has existed, and been overlooked, for decades. Toto Riina was married by a priest in a Palermo church, while living as a fugitive. Rome’s position on organized crime began to change in 1993, when the Pope denounced the Mafia. In 2014, the Vatican declared that Mafia members are to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Yet this has not completely severed relations between Church and Mafia, as recent events in Corleone demonstrate.

Complicating these institutional associations are the most personal of connections, those among family members. The Catholic Church holds a monopoly on the sacraments that quite literally create Catholic families. Exercising its right to refuse the sacraments could strike a mortal blow to the organization whose own mythology centers the Catholic family. After all, what is the mafia without godfathers?

The recent objection of the archbishop in Monreale, to a known mafia associate standing as godfather to his niece, may be part of a growing movement to uphold the 2014 Vatican position against mafia activity. Giuseppe Salvatore “Salvo” Riina, the son of Toto Riina, has served an eight-year sentence for Mafia association. Yet last December, Salvo stood as godfather to his niece, an honor Archbishop of Monreale Michele Pennisi has since publicly opposed. It is well understood by Catholics that godparents are obliged to uphold the faith and set an example for their godchildren, facts the archbishop repeated in his objections. “I am not aware that the young man has ever expressed words of repentance for his conduct,” Pennisi says of Riina.

People marry in for reasons other than a lack of opportunity to marry outside one’s extended family. And people who marry their close kin at higher than average rates, do not do so randomly. People who marry their cousins do so not in ignorance, but in concert with their own values, and they do so for legitimate social and economic reasons, such as to preserve inherited wealth, strengthen family ties, and increase one’s personal prospects. One reason for marrying in that cannot be casually discounted, is to preserve power accumulated through generations of mafia activity.

Marriages between close relations are not normally permitted by the Church. For first and second cousins to marry in Sicily requires dispensation from the local archbishop. In the past, dispensations were granted whenever possible: the lack of a dowry, the danger of unmarried cohabitation, and even the risk of social embarrassment to a family at having to break an engagement, were all considered valid reasons to permit a marriage that would otherwise be prohibited due to consanguinity. Unlike the selection of a godparent, which is approved by the local priests, the dispensation process puts each archbishop in position to decide, on a case by case basis, whether a marriage might go forward. While dowry is, hopefully, no longer a deciding factor in granting dispensations to marry, perhaps mafia association will soon become one.

 

Cited:

  1. Colleen Barry. “Italy: Mafia stronghold of Corleone has new ‘godfather’ saga.” Published 2 February 2017. Accessed 3 February 2017 at http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Italy-Mafia-stronghold-of-Corleone-has-new-10903127.php
  2. Colleen Barry. “Italy: Mafia stronghold of Corleone has new ‘godfather’ saga.” Published and accessed 5 February 2017 at http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/weird-news/italy-mafia-stronghold-of-corleone-has-new-godfather-saga/article_6265cfb9-8275-5823-8249-6f1cf9867f69.html
  3. Jonathan F. Schulz. The Churches’ Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-Networks and Democracy (December 14, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2877828 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2877828
  4. Alexander Stille. The Pope Excommunicates the Mafia, Finally. Published 24 June 2014. Accessed 8 February 2017 at http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-pope-excommunicates-the-mafia-finally

 

Image credit: Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–1464). “Baptism, Confirmation, Penance.”

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 4

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 4

 

In a controlled study of Mafia marriages in Corleone, I find evidence supporting the hypothesis that Mafia members are more closely related to their brides than their non-mafiosi neighbors in Corleone.

See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series.

Conclusions

On average, Mafia members and their wives in this study are more than twice as closely related as the control group grooms and their brides.

Average coefficient of relationship and rate of consanguineous marriage

Average coefficient of relationship between bride and groom, out to fourth cousins Percent of marriages that are consanguineous in this set, out to third cousins
Mafia couples 0.008 0.147
Control couples 0.003 0.059
Difference 0.005 0.088
Average 0.005 0.103

The differences in marital consanguinity between the two groups are pronounced. Compared to the control group, Mafia couples are almost three times as likely to have a close degree of kinship: third cousins or closer, which is to say, having in common at least one set of twice-great grandparents or a nearer direct ancestor.

Although the coefficient of relationship (CoR) of the control group, on average, is less than half of the average CoR for the Mafia group, the difference between these two figures is slight, in genealogical terms. A coefficient of relationship of 0.008, the average for Mafia couples in this study, is between that of a fourth cousin, once removed (0.1) and the CoR of fifth cousins (0.0004). (See the table in Part 1.) This is as good an illustration as any, of the practicality of researching only three or four generations to determine CoR. The decrease in CoR is exponential, and becomes vanishingly small beyond the degree of fourth cousins.

Relationships more distant than fourth cousins are not included in calculations of average CoR or in the percentage of consanguineous marriages. One Mafia marriage (Marco Maggiore, 1908) is between fifth cousins, and one marriage from each set, the Mafia group and the control group, are between fifth cousins, once removed (Giuseppe Morello, 1903, and Giuseppe Verro, 1902).

Out of the 35 marriages of Mafia members (named in Part 2), five are consanguineous. Nicolo’ Ciravolo  and his second wife (married in 1834) are third cousins. Paolino Streva married his first cousin, once removed, in 1894, as did Antonino Cascio in 1906. Luciano Labruzzo and his wife, who married in 1897, are in a double in law marriage and are both first and third cousins, for a CoR of 13.28%. Luciano Gagliano (1880) and Carlo Taverna (1904) are also in double in law marriages, though not related by common ancestry to their wives. Luciano Crapisi, who married in 1880, is related to his wife three different ways: they are fourth cousins, fifth cousins, and fifth cousins, once removed, for a CoF of .20%.

Among the 35 control marriages, the most closely related are Salvatore Pomilla (1893) and his wife, who are are first cousins, once removed. Carmelo d’Anna and his wife (1880) are both second and third cousins. Calogero Pecoraro marries twice, to sisters who are his third cousins, once removed. If Calogero had children with each of his wives, they would be more closely related than typical half-siblings, with a CoR of 37.5%.

Next week, a discussion of the implications of this research.

 

Feature image: Interior of Monreale Cathedral, by Bernhard J. Scheuvens aka Bjs [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 3

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 3

Do members of the Mafia share more common ancestors with their brides than their non-mafiosi neighbors in Corleone? To answer this question, I created a study of Mafia marriages with a control group of randomly selected marriages performed in Corleone. I hypothesized that the control group would have a rate of consanguineous marriage close to that found throughout Sicily by Cavalli-Sforza et al (2004), and that the study group would have a higher rate than the control.

See Part 1 of this series here, and Part 2 here.

Control Group Selection

For each marriage in the study group, a marriage was randomly selected from those performed by the Catholic Church in Corleone in the same year. On average, there were 115 marriages per year. To generate one or more random record numbers for the control group, the range of record numbers used in the year a Mafia couple married was entered into an online random series generator, random.org, and the number of records needed for the control group from that year (either one or two) were returned. None of the random numbers generated matched the marriage record number of a Mafia couple already being studied.

The grooms from the control set of marriages appear in the table below:

Control grooms with profile IDs

Groom Wikitree ID Year of Marriage
Sebastiano Ciravolo Ciravolo-38 1815
Salvatore Fratello Fratello-66 1834
Mariano Cutrone Cutrone-76 1843
Biagio Saporito Saporito-34 1852
Luciano Provenzano Provenzano-178 1859
Giovanni Catania Catania-80 1862
Biagio Provenzano Provenzano-191 1870
Antonio Ala Ala-4 1872
Giovanni Costantino Costantino-41 1873
Carmelo d’Anna D’Anna-50 1880
Matteo Mangiameli Mangiameli-67 1880
Domenico Zangara Zangara-39 1881
Francesco di Puma Di_Puma-1 1883
Antonino Grizzaffi Grizzaffi-182 1884
Antonio Sartella Sartella-1 1884
Giuseppe Cimino Cimino-84 1887
Pietro d’Anna D’Anna-74 1889
Giuseppe Trombaturi Trombaturi-11 1889
Giuseppe la Cava La_Cava-2 1893
Salvatore Pomilla Pomilla-60 1893
Leoluca Morello Morello-72 1894
Giuseppe Carlino Carlino-37 1895
Bernardo Cutrone Cutrone-79 1897
Nicolo’ di Gregorio Di_Gregorio-26 1897
Mariano Provenzano Provenzano-192 1898
Calogero Pecoraro Pecoraro-32 1900
Silvestre Vajana Vajana-1 1902
Giuseppe Verro Verro-46 1902
Onofrio Azzara Azzara-3 1903
Gaetano Mangano Mangano-57 1904
Giuseppe Labruzzo Labruzzo-39 1906
Rocco Rao Rao-299 1906
Giuseppe di Vita Di_Vita-2 1908
Andrea Coniglio Coniglio-67 1909

Although some of these men and their brides married multiple times, for the purposes of this study, only one of their marriages is being compared to the study group.

Of note, Sebastiano Ciravolo (Ciravolo-38), the first groom listed in the table above, is the brother of Nicolo’ “Puntillo” Ciravolo (Ciravolo-20), from Rapanzino’s gang, and a member of the study group. Leoluca Morello (Morello-72) is a third cousin of gang leader Giuseppe Morello (Morello-35), whose two marriages are both included in the study group. Giuseppe Verro (Verro-46) is a third cousin of the trade unionist, Bernardino Verro (Verro-22), who did not marry before his assassination in 1915, and so is not a part of this study.

Family Trees

The next challenge was to create family trees for the bride and groom in each marriage being studied, in both the study and control groups. Typically a family’s genealogy is only traced 3-4 generations to determine the coefficient of relationship, a convention initially established for reasons of convenience. (Vogel and Motulsky 2010) Dispensations for marriage between closely related individuals were only required out to the degree of second cousins, who share great-grandparents, three generations back. Cavalli-Sforza et al (2004) note that the Church’s documentation, used to determine degree of consanguinity, would typically only chart family trees going back three generations. However, their published results combine all consanguineous marriages out to the degree of third cousins, who share a common ancestor four generations back, among their twice-great grandparents (great-great grandparents, or 2GG).

For each marriage in this study, family trees were built for the bride and the groom, to the fourth generation, in order to match the results of Cavalli-Sforza. Using vital records, primarily marriage records kept by the Catholic Church, individual profiles for brides, grooms, and their ancestors, have been maintained on Wikitree.com, an open source genealogy website. The Wikitree Relationship Finder was used to find common lines of descent.

Limitations

Not all family trees could be completed. The supporting documentation that Cavalli-Sforza et al used for their study are unindexed, making them unsuitable for this research project. Instead, matrimonial records for Corleone, which are indexed (and which were presumably consulted in constructing the supporting documentation), were the primary resource. Other records consulted include a Church census, baptismal and death records, immigration records, contemporary newspapers of record, and the Italian Senate and trial records mentioned in Part 2.

In some cases, the bride, groom, or one of their direct ancestors is officially illegitimate, or has moved to Corleone from another town. In other cases, the parents of the bride, groom, or one of their direct ancestors, cannot be identified, because their vital records have not been found in a diligent search.

Parents % known Grandparents % known G-Grandparents % known 2GG % known
Mafia couples 1.000 0.868 0.790 0.680
Control couples 0.971 0.827 0.733 0.594
Difference 0.029 0.040 0.057 0.086
Average 0.985 0.847 0.762 0.637

In theory, 100% completion of this study, as designed, would mean finding 1,050 marriage records: fifteen ancestral marriages for of each of the seventy marriages in the study. In reality, that number is somewhat lower than 1,050, because some of the individuals in the study share common ancestors.

Overall, 98.5% of parents, and close to two-thirds of great-great grandparents are known.The rate of completion is slightly higher for the family trees of Mafia couples compared with the control group. The most common reason for an ancestor being unknown was because they were born outside of Corleone. The other two reasons were formal illegitimacy and other genealogical “brick walls.”

Next week, I will share the results.

Sources:

  1. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Antonio Moroni, and Gianna Zei. Consanguinity, Inbreeding, and Genetic Drift in Italy. Princeton University Press, 2004.
  2. Michael Speicher et al, Eds. Vogel and Motulsky’s Human Genetics: Problems and Approaches. 4th Ed. Springer, 2010.

 

Image credit: Il Pozzoserrato, Pleasure garden with a maze

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 2

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 2

To study mafia marriages, first, you need to find the mafiosi.

See Part 1 of this series.

To study the marriages of Mafia members requires several steps. First, there is the identification of members of a secret, criminal organization. A few, like members of Giuseppe Morello’s family, and the bosses of Corleone, have been written about many times, and a wealth of biographical information is available on them.

The identities of some members of the Mafia are unambiguous: they are named in trial records that give the defendants’ birthdates, hometowns, and parents’ names. Adding to the names of known members are Mafia historians Dino Paternostro, John Alcorn, and Richard Wagner, and others, who have named dozens of mafiosi from Corleone, and the time periods during which they were active, both in Sicily and in the United States.

Following accepted genealogical standards, I have built cases for the identities of over a hundred individuals named in connection to the mafia in Corleone. You can find them on Wikitree, categorized as “Corleone Mafia.” Occasionally, my work overlaps with that of other “Arborists” on the site. I am not the only one who has done genealogical research on, and written biographies for, the many thousands of people from Corleone on Wikitree, but I have done a lot of it. Each profile has a history, so if you’re curious, and a Wikitree member (it’s free to join), you can find out exactly what I contributed and when on the “Changes” tab of any profile. You can also see what I’ve been doing most recently on Wikitree, on my activity feed. For the last several months, much of my activity has been the genealogical research for this consanguinity study.

Of the Mafia members who were either born or married in Corleone, thirty-five of their marriages, performed between 1815 and 1909, were selected for this study. I cut off the study at 1909 because after that year, full marriage records are not available online, making the selection of controls a degree more difficult. The earliest marriages come from the first documented, organized criminals from Corleone that I’ve yet found.

The median year of marriage is 1889. Three of the mafiosi (Nicolo’ Ciravolo, Marco Maggiore, and Giuseppe Morello) married twice, and in each case, both of their marriages are included, so they each appear twice in the test group, below.

Mafia members included in study, with profile IDs on Wikitree

Mafia Member Wikitree ID Year of Marriage
Giuseppe Battaglia Battaglia-103 1870
Antonino Cascio Cascio-157 1906
Carmelo Cascio Cascio-432 1902
Biagio Ciancimino Ciancimino-10 1852
Nicolo’ Ciravolo Ciravolo-20 1815
Nicolo’ Ciravolo Ciravolo-20 1834
Mariano Colletto Colletto-38 1898
Luciano Crapisi Crapisi-12 1880
Salvatore Cutrera Cutrera-34 1859
Bernardo di Miceli Di_Miceli-100 1862
Domenico di Miceli Di_Miceli-128 1881
Angelo Gagliano Gagliano-50 1902
Calogero Gagliano Gagliano-52 1906
Luciano Gagliano Gagliano-9 1880
Michaelangelo Gennaro Gennaro-85 1884
Biagio Jannazzo Jannazzo-1 1843
Luciano Labruzzo Labruzzo-55 1897
Antonino lo Jacono Lo_Jacono-16 1872
Calogero lo Jacono Lo_Jacono-18 1884
Marco Maggiore Maggiore-8 1893
Marco Maggiore Maggiore-8 1908
Calogero Majuri Majuri-23 1893
Pietro Majuri Majuri-6 1897
Giovanni Mancuso Mancuso-307 1887
Francesco Mancuso Mancuso-313 1883
Antonio Mariano Mancuso Mancuso-77 1889
Giuseppe Morello Morello-35 1889
Giuseppe Morello Morello-35 1903
Paolino Streva Streva-64 1894
Carlo Taverna Taverna-7 1904
Bernardo Terranova Terranova-29 1873
Ciro Terranova Terranova-31 1909
Pasquale Vasi Vasi-2 1895
Francesco Zito Zito-78 1900

Of the Mafia members included in this study, the oldest are Nicolo’ Ciravolo and Biagio Jannazzo, members of Rapanzino’s gang of cattle rustlers who were nearly all killed by police in 1835. (Real 1836)

Biagio Ciancimino; Luciano Crapisi; Salvatore Cutrera; brothers Antonino and Calogero lo Jacono; Marco Maggiore and his uncle Calogero Majuri (note the two spellings of the same surname); Francesco, Giovanni, and Mariano Mancuso (all three of no known relation); first cousins Bernardo and Domenico di Miceli; and Carlo Taverna; are all named among Fratuzzi membership around 1900, by the journalist Dino Paternostro. (2004)

Giuseppe Morello, his stepfather Bernardo Terranova, and his stepbrother Ciro Terranova, all founding members of the Morello gang in New York, a predecessor of the Genovese crime family, are well documented, most famously by William J. Flynn in “The Barrel Mystery.” (Flynn 1919) Other New York City gangsters from Corleone include the counterfeiter Pasquale Vasi, who is described by Richard Wagner et al (2014), and in contemporary newspapers.

The criminal activities of Carmelo Cascio, Mariano Colletto, and brothers Calogero and Luciano Gagliano, contemporaries of Bernardino Verro, have been written about by John Alcorn and Dino Paternostro.

Fratuzzi bosses Giuseppe Battaglia, Angelo Gagliano, Michaelangelo Gennaro, and Luciano Labruzzo are known from multiple sources, including Flynn (1919) and Paternostro, and from Italian Senate inquest and trial records, which also name Antonino Cascio (a distant cousin of Carmelo) and Francesco Zito. Flynn also describes the young Mafia captain, Paolino Streva, who collaborates as a cattle thief with Morello in Corleone, under Battaglia’s leadership.

Next week, this series continues with more on my methods, including selection of a control group.

Sources

  1. John Alcorn. “Revolutionary Mafiosi: Voice and Exit in the 1890s.” Accessed http://www.comune.corleone.pa.it/file%20da%20scaricare/Saggi%20palermo1_Saggi%20palermo1.pdf 5 May 2016.
  2. Archivio di Stato di Palermo, GP, aa. 1906-1925, b. 267, f. 3, Associazione per delinquere scopertosi in Corleone, 13 Agosto 1916.
  3. Dino Paternostro. «Fratuzzi», antenati di Liggio e Riina. La Sicilia: 8 August 2004.
  4. Dino Paternostro. La «punciuta» di Bernardino Verro. La Sicilia: 1 August 2004.
  5. William J. Flynn. The Barrel Mystery. The James A. McCann Co.: New York, 1919.
  6. Real Segreteria di Stato presso il Luogotenente Generale in Sicilia Ripartimento Polizia Repertorio anno 1836. Accessed http://archiviodistatodipalermo.it/files/inventari/file/1263903377anno1836.pdf 6 August 2015.
  7. Senato della Repubblica VII Legislatura. Documentazione allegata alla relazione conclusiva della commissione parlamentare d’inchiesta sul fenomeno della mafia in Sicilia. Accessed http://legislature.camera.it/_dati/leg08/lavori/stampati/pdf/023_001011.pdf 13 May 2016.
  8. Richard Wagner, Angelo Santino, and Lennert Van ‘t Riet. “The Early New York Mafia: An Alternative Theory.” The Informer: May 2014. Accessed https://www.scribd.com/doc/222924210/2014-02-Informer-May-2014 11 January 2016.

Feature image: Giorgio Sommer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons