Three coasts

Three coasts

There were three men named Marino, on both sides of the Leggio-Navarra war in Corleone. One is related to two Mafia bosses.

In my first post on the relations among defendants at the 1969 Corleonesi trial, I focused on the Leggio-Riina connections. Another set of defendants with a common surname are the Marinos, whose paternal lines I’ve traced to three different couples who lived in the 1600s. One of these are the ancestors of both Dr. Navarra and of Toto Riina.

In Italian, “marino” refers to the sea or the coast. The triangular island of Sicily has three coastlines, with the closest to Corleone being to the north. In mountainous, inland Corleone, the name “Marino” suggests an origin elsewhere, on one of those coasts. It’s not yet known where the family got their name, when they came to Corleone, or even if they share a common ancestor.

Of the men named Marino who were involved in the Leggio-Navarra war of the 1950s, there were associates of both cosci. I’ve traced their roots to three different men who lived in Corleone in the 1600s. Of two of their families, little is known, but the third is rich in mafia connections.

Some background on the war: Luciano Leggio was recruited by Dr. Michele Navarra in 1945. By that time, he’d already served a six month prison sentence for murder, when he was still a teenager. He was imprisoned again in the late 1940s, where he met Toto Riina, who would become his criminal accomplice back in Corleone.

Leggio is described as an arrogant and volatile man. The kidnapping and murder of the trade unionist Placido Rizzotto, which Leggio was seen participating in, happened in broad daylight, yet Leggio was acquitted twice in the murder. He was clearly already a powerful mafioso when he began building a close group of associates who were loyal to him alone, and not to Navarra.

In 1956, Leggio’s men (sometimes called the “cosca leggiana” or the Liggiani) went to war against the Navarriani. An attempt was made on Leggio’s life two years later, which he escaped with slight injury. He retaliated, killing the brothers Marco and Giovanni Marino, and Pietro Maiuri, another associate of Navarra, on 6 September 1958.

The assassinated brothers are identified as the sons of Paola Pomilla in Zingales’ book on the life of Bernardo Provenzano. Paola is the wife of Salvatore Marino: they married in 1924. Marco is named after his paternal grandfather, and so is presumably the elder. I’ve traced the brothers’ male line back to (Carlo Marino‘s parents) their fifth great grandparents Antonino and Rosa, who I estimate were born around 1651.

Two of Leggio’s men were also named Marino, Bernardo and Leoluca. Because they appear at Bari, their birthdates and parents’ names are known from the trial record. They’re of no known relation to one another, or to the brothers from the navarriana cosca.

As part of the violence of Leggio’s war for dominance of the mafia in Corleone, one of his targets was Francesco Paolo Streva, Dr. Navarra’s fearsome, ambidextrous hit man. Bernardo Marino was one of the assassins. Streva’s face was disfigured, according to the farmer who found his body, and a finger from Streva’s left hand was removed. Bernardo is named in connection with the top members of Luciano Leggio’s cosca, including Bernardo Provenzano, Calogero Bagarella, Salvatore Riina, and Leggio himself. I’ve traced Bernardo Marino’s male line back to his fifth great grandparents (Onofrio Marino‘s parents) Antonino and Anna, who I estimate were born around 1668.

Leoluca Leggio, who was on trial at Bari with three of his brothers, his father, and his uncle, is Toto Riina’s third cousin. (The large Leggio family, of which there were so many members on trial, and Luciano Leggio, their leader, do not have a common ancestor, going back at least five generations.) Riina would take over from Leggio, upon his arrest.

There is no known relation between the brothers who were killed on Luciano Leggio’s orders, and his brother in law, Leoluca Marino. Marino was a defendant at Bari along with his wife, Carmela Leggio, the sister of the boss. Marino’s parents were first cousins, once removed. (Endogamy is very common among mafia families.) I’ve traced Leoluca’s paternal line back to his fifth great-grandparents, Nunzio Marino and his wife, Maria, who I estimate were born around 1649. Through Nunzio, Leoluca Marino is also related to Toto Riina: they are sixth cousins, once removed.

Nunzio is also the ancestor of fourth cousins Michele Navarra and Toto Riina. One of Nunzio’s twice great grandchildren was Maria Marino, who married Puntillo, an associate of Rapanzino. Another is Lucia Marino, who married Gioachino Riina: they are the third great grandparents of Toto Riina. Nunzio Marino is the sixth-great grandfather of both Toto Riina, who took over leadership from Luciano Leggio, and of Dr. Navarra, their murdered rival.

 

Sources

Attilio Bolzoni and Francesco Viviano. “Provenzano fantasma di Corleone che da 40 anni vive in latitanza.” Published in La Repubblica 17 September 2003. Accessed http://www.repubblica.it/2003/i/sezioni/cronaca/provenzano/provenzano/provenzano.html 16 June 2016.

Luciano Leggio entry on Wikipedia. Accessed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luciano_Leggio 16 June 2016.

Leone Zingales. Provenzano: Il Re di Cosa Nostra. Pellegrini Editore, 2001.

A family business

A family business

Mafia leadership for the past hundred years in Corleone have all been related to one another, through blood and marriage.

Cattle theft in Sicily, before the twentieth century, was like car theft today, in that it was a crime that required a village. A thief who takes a car needs a network of criminals to help conceal the crime and profit from it. There are chop shops and resellers, those who strip it down for parts or sell it whole. And there are other people who will tow your car away to a lot, and guard it there until you come and pay a fee to get it back. In either scenario, criminals need places large enough to secure large items away from their owners, until such time as they can be liquidated or redeemed.

Paolino Streva, with the help of one of his subordinates, Giuseppe Morello, was stealing cattle, using his network of resources for this complicated crime. The job of the guard Giovanni Vella, was to find the stolen cattle and deal with the thieves. He might do this by negotiating a return of the cattle to their owner—this was a standard practice—or by killing the thief. Vella believed Streva and Morello were behind the large number of cattle thefts that year in Corleone. Given Streva’s social position, however, murdering him was out of the question.

The Mafia boss at that time, Salvatore Cutrera, and his nephew, Paolino Streva, were among an elite of landowners in Corleone in the late 1880s. Despite his age—Streva was only nineteen in 1889—he was one of his his uncle’s chief subordinates. When Giuseppe Morello rose in the Corleonesi mob, it was under Paolino and Cutrera. According to William J. Flynn, Morello killed the guard, Vella, and following that, killed again, to silence a witness to his crime. 

When Paolino was 23, he married his first cousin once removed, Anna Giovanna Streva. Anna was just fifteen, and an orphan, the ward of her uncle Angelo. Anna’s father, who was also called Don Paolo Streva, married the mother of his children on his deathbed. Four years later, the witnesses at Anna and Paolino’s marriage were a student, Filippo Bentivegna, who would become a doctor, and Giuseppe Battaglia, the new boss in Corleone.

record-image_3QS7-897B-VF42
Paolo Streva’s marriage record, signed by himself, his uncle, his father, and two witnesses, including Giuseppe Battaglia

Battaglia is distantly related to future bosses Angelo Gagliano and Michele Navarra through his wife, Maria Rosa di Miceli, a second cousin of Gagliano’s mother, Leoluchina lo Bosco. Battaglia was boss until 1920, when he was succeeded by Michelangelo Gennaro. Michelangelo Gennaro is related to known mafiosi through both of his parents. On his father’s side, he’s the nephew of Cutrera by marriage. On his mother’s, he’s the first cousin of Don Antonino Cascio.

Don Antonino comes from a line of landowners. He was a witness at the wedding of Dr. Michele Navarra’s parents. And he is called a “capofamiglia” in a 1962 Italian Senate hearing. His daughter, Tommasa, married Dr. Navarra in 1936.

Antonino’s wife, Rosalia di Miceli, is his first cousin, once removed. Rosalia’s sister, Giovanna, was married to Angelo Gagliano, a powerful, and violent, mafioso with business on both sides of the Atlantic. He’s also the uncle of Michele Navarra.

Gennaro served for four years as the head of the Corleonesi Mafia, and was followed by Angelo Gagliano, who was killed in 1930. Before his death, it’s possible there was another boss, Dr. Marcellino Benenti. After 1930, the boss in Corleone was Don Calogero lo Bue, gabellotto of the Donna Beatrice estate. Calogero was married to Giovanna Lampo, who was a second cousin of the di Miceli sisters, and the third cousin of Michele Navarra. He ruled until his natural death, from diabetes complications, in 1943. Thereafter the boss was the hospital director and son of a teacher, Dr. Michele Navarra. Through Navarra’s second cousin, once removed, Lucia Cannaliato, he is related, somewhat distantly, both to Michelangelo Gennaro, another second cousin, once removed, from Lucia, and to Toto Riina. Lucia’s husband, Giacomo Riina, was Toto’s great uncle. Navarra was assassinated in 1958 on the orders of his successor, Luciano Leggio.

Luciano Leggio’s grandfather, Girolamo, had a sister in law, Biagia Cascio, who was a second cousin of Michelangelo Gennaro and Antonino Cascio. Leggio ran the mafia in Corleone until he was imprisoned in 1974. From then until his 1993 capture, Toto Riina was the boss. Toto’s brother, Gaetano, assumed leadership, and was himself arrested in 2011, at the age of 79.

Sources

Mike Dash. “The First Family: Terror, Extortion and the Birth of the American Mafia.” Random House, 2009.

William J. Flynn. “The Barrel Mystery.” New York: The James A. McCann Co., 1919.

Henner Hess. “Mafia and Mafiosi: Origin, Power and Myth.” NYU Press, 1988.

Nick Squires. “Head of Mafia in ‘The Godfather’ town arrested.” Telegraph. Published 1 July 2011. Accessed http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/8610833/Head-of-Mafia-in-The-Godfather-town-arrested.html 19 May 2016.

Senato della Repubblica, V Legislatura, Doc. XXIII. “Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta sul fenomeno della mafia in Sicilia.” 20 December 1962. Accessed http://en.calameo.com/read/0012258332ab89457a3a8 29 February 2016.

The physician and the patient

The physician and the patient

Dr. Michele Navarra and his successor, Luciano Leggio, dominated the Corleonesi Mafia after World War II.

A few months before Domenico Liggio married, in the summer of 1834, he lived with his widowed mother and an older brother, Salvatore, near the ancient Ospedale dei Bianchi in Corleone: the same hospital Dr. Michele Navarra would run, a hundred years later.

Even in a place known for its poverty, misery is not evenly distributed. To one side of the hospital, in the 1834 census, live the families of the more fortunate: the skilled artisans, petty nobles, and priests. Meanwhile, on the other side, beyond the arch, Domenico Liggio and his family live among peasant farmers and their widows. One of his neighbors was my first cousin, seven times removed, Gaspare Cascio.

Ninety-one years after this census was taken by the local priests, Domenico’s great-grandson Luciano Leggio was born, a ten minute walk south of the center of town, on via Lanza.

Though some sources claim Leggio’s name is misspelled “Liggio” due to a court reporter’s error, in fact both are common spellings of this surname in Corleone. Luciano’s grandfather and great-grandfather both appear in Church records as “Liggio.” Sometimes the name is “lo Liggio.” In 1834, there was a courtyard named after Maestro Pasquale lo Liggio, near via Macaluso, in the southeast of town.

Genealogists would not be surprised to find multiple spellings of a Sicilian surname, in records maintained on behalf of illiterate peasants, which were kept in ecclesiastical Latin by the Catholic Church. My own family’s surname appears variously as Cascio, lo Cascio, and most confusingly, as Castro, in both church and civil records. There is another family in Corleone called Castro, from which I am also descended.

My last name, Corleone natives tell me, is most likely related to cacio, or cheese. “Castro” is Latin for “castle,” of which there are the remains of two in town, and probably the descendants of those who worked there are called by this name. Other surnames in town include Palazzo and Palazotto. There are a wealth of names related to apples (pomo, or mele) in my family tree: Pomara, Pomilla, and di Puma; Mangiameli, which means “apple eater.” A “leggio” is a lectern or music stand.

Luciano’s early life story is marked by tragedy and poverty. Thom L. Jones describes Luciano’s childhood home as a “hovel” near the police barracks. If you look at it today on Google Maps, it’s an undistinguished, shabby building on a narrow street, like many others in Corleone. In 1834, via Lanza would have been just beyond the southern limits of the city. When Luciano lived there, the animals would have lived inside the house with them, just as people have done there for centuries. Luciano suffered from Pott’s disease, a form of tuberculosis that attacks the bones, and gave him the ingiuriamulacciuni,” or hunchback. His condition was probably contracted in early childhood, from drinking unpasteurized goat’s milk. Even while on the run, Luciano frequently sought treatment for his symptoms, running successful criminal operations in mainland Italy while checked into hospitals under assumed names.

When Luciano went to prison, he left his associate, Toto Riina, in charge. Toto, born Salvatore Riina, grew up in Corleone, poor like Luciano. Toto’s father, Giovanni, was a poor farmer with seven children. After World War II, the countryside was littered with unexploded ordnance. One day, he brought home a bomb on mule back, to harvest the gunpowder. The explosion killed Giovanni, leaving young Toto, just thirteen, as the man of the house. His youngest sister was born a month later.

Despite his physical frailty, Luciano Leggio made a reputation for himself, first in the 19th century trade of cattle theft. His first conviction, at age 18 or 19, was for stealing wheat. Ultimately, he would succeed, not only in the traditional activities of the Mafia, but by dramatically altering the tenor and scope of the organization. Liggio’s use of violence, and his disregard for traditional values, were as much a part of his legacy as his expansion into international drug trafficking.

SC250_bomb_at_National_Museum_of_the_United_States_Air_Force
The SC 250 was one of the most common bombs dropped by the Germans in WWII. It weighed 250 kg (over 550 lbs). (Source: Wikipedia.) Smaller bombs were also used, sometimes in combinations. See Days of Glory: Luftwaffe bombs.

Corleone was an early seat of the Italian labor movement. In 1893, Bernardino Verro was killed for opposing the landowning class—and more importantly, their protectors, the Mafia—through his organizing. Fifty-five years later, on a March day in 1948, labor organizer Placido Rizzotto made plans to meet Dr. Navarra in Corleone, coming off the bus from Palermo. Instead, at the doctor’s orders, Rizzotto was bundled into the back of a car, taken to a deserted farmhouse, and shot. When his body was found, Rizzotto’s fiancee swore to eat the heart of his killer. Leggio was arrested, but the charges were dropped. Leggio is still widely regarded as Rizzotto’s murderer.

In 1963, thousands of mafiosi were being arrested. When the police found Leggio, he was in the home of Leoluchina Sorisi, the fiancee of the murdered Placido Rizzotto. She had been hiding the Mafia boss upon whom she’d sworn vengeance, in her home on the Mangiameli courtyard, a three minute walk from where Leggio was born. Upon his capture, she wept and stroked his hair.

There were murder trials, for Navarra’s killing and others, but Leggio and his associates were acquitted. The only crime the tubercular Leggio was ever convicted of, was the murder of the physician, his predecessor, Dr. Michele Navarra.

In addition to heading the Corleonesi Mafia, Navarra was the director of Corleone’s ancient hospital. According to John Follain, when a second hospital was built, Navarra was not made its director, so the vengeful physician successfully prevented the hospital from opening in his lifetime.

This was not the only development in whose way Navarra stood, and he’d already sensed the danger from his former underling. A foiled attempt on Leggio’s life by the doctor sealed his own death certificate.

Michele Navarra was violently assassinated by Leggio and his men. The physician’s body was torn apart by more than a hundred bullets, fired into his car. The attack came on an isolated country road, in the hottest part of the Sicilian summer. It must have been like a bomb going off.

Feature Image: “Operation Husky” Public domain.

Mamma Mafia and the Little Brothers

Mamma Mafia and the Little Brothers

“Mafia” is a feminine term that means beautiful and proud. Paradoxically, women are both essential to and excluded from the criminal organization.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the mafia in Corleone was led by members of a new agrarian bourgeoisie (“nuova borghesia agraria”) of estate managers for absentee landlords. Author and labor organizer Dino Paternostro names three dozen in leadership of the Fratuzzi (“little brothers” in local dialect) around 1900. Many of these men are closely related, often through maternal lines and marriages. Arguably, some of the most important relationships a Corleonese man had, in this time, were his in-laws and maternal uncles.

Under Giuseppe Battaglia, the boss around 1900, the Fratuzzi were headed by Michaelangelo Gennaro, who was the nephew of former boss Salvatore Cutrera. Sources vary in describing their relationship, with some calling him the grandson of Cutrera. Salvatore was, in fact, Michaelangelo’s uncle by marriage: to Maria Carmela Gennaro, Michaelangelo’s paternal aunt. They married in 1859, six years before Michaelangelo was born.

In the next generation, Gennaro was replaced by Luciano Labruzzo and Giuliano Riela, a man from San Giuseppe Jato. Riela married into a well connected family. Salvatrice Cascio, my first cousin three times removed, was related to power on both sides of her family. On her mother’s side, she was Michaelangelo Gennaro’s niece. 

Women have never been part of the formal organization except symbolically, but their real-life relationships are part of the essential glue that holds the mafia together. There’s a clear pattern of inheritance, not only from father to son, but through men’s maternal uncles. From one century to the next, even while the Sicilian mafia is evolving into an international crime syndicate, it remains traditional in this regard. This is one of the ways the mafia makes itself inextricable from daily life, by leveraging the power of family. One’s in-laws are also one’s sworn allies and business partners. They’re the people most likely to help you find a wife, further cementing loyalty. Even more common than cousin marriage, in my own family, are such double in-law marriages as those among Salvatrice Cascio’s siblings. Her sister, Angela, married Carlo Taverna, who is also named among mafia leadership in Corleone at this time. Their brother married Carlo’s sister. 

Dr. Michele Navarra, born in 1905, was the son of a teacher with no family history of mafia involvement. On his mother’s side, however, his uncle by marriage was Angelo Gagliano, who is also named in Paternostro’s article. Gagliano, an associate of Giuseppe Morello’s and a capo in the Corleone mafia, is described as a particularly violent criminal. He appears to have been a successful one: Angelo can be found traveling to New York in 1899, carrying $1,000, which is worth more than $28,000 today. In New York, he owned a car wash where Jack Dragna claimed to work. Before long, Angelo returned to Sicily and married the daughter of another known mafia leader, his godfather, Bernardo di Miceli.

Angelo was indicted for attempted murder in 1910, and acquitted of the murder of labor organizer, Socialist mayor—and Fratuzzi member—Bernardino Verro in 1915. In 1928, a time when the fascists were rounding up hundreds of suspected mafiosi, Gagliano was acquitted of Verro’s murder. Two years later he was killed, at age 68.

The mafia dynasties evident at the turn of the century, continue for at least another generation. In 1936, Navarra married his first cousin, Tommasa Cascio. Like Salvatrice and Angela, her second cousins, Tommasa was from the “new agrarian bourgeoisie” in Corleone.

Image: Detail from “Sicilian Vespers” by Francesco Hayez. Public Domain.

Kissing cousins

Kissing cousins

In the provinces of Palermo and Agrigento, in Sicily, around 1900, close to five percent of all marriages required dispensation due to consanguinity. As distantly related as the fourth degree, which is to say, second cousins, needed approval from the archbishop to marry. I’ve found more than a hundred dispensations for marriages in Corleone, but only a handful have been between first cousins.  One of those was my twice great uncle Francesco’s second marriage.

Uncle Francesco’s first wife was his second cousin, Maria Antonia Gennaro, a woman who was distinguished as being one of the few female merchants in Corleone. She was also the sister of Michaelangelo Gennaro, who was already active in mafia leadership by 1900, according to Dino Paternostro. Michaelangelo and Maria Antonia are Cascios on their mother’s side. Two more of their sisters also married cousins, all of them Cascios by blood. Maria Antonia died in 1890.

My twice-great grandfather, Francesco’s brother, Giuseppe Cascio, was too sick to report the birth of the sixth of his seven children, in 1894. Five years later, he was dead at the age of forty-six. His widow, Angela Grizzaffi, immigrated to New York not long afterward, with four of the children. The two youngest came two years later, accompanied by Angela’s brother. The second child, Biagia, stayed in Corleone and married her first cousin, a man with the same name as her father, Giuseppe Cascio.

In a traditional society like Corleone’s at the turn of the twentieth century, parents chose two kinds of relationships for their children: their godparents and their spouses. Both of these selections, when taken as a set, tell us who the parents trusted.

Commonly, godparents are aunts and uncles of their godchildren. Other times, godparents come from families that are more noble than the parents’, indicating a patronage relationship. A third kind of godparent relationship is among families who frequently intermarry. The bonds within a family, between the leadership and their followers, and among families, are cemented by marriages, and reinforced with the spiritual ties of godparents and their godchildren.

The choice to marry in (endogamy), is a trade off between the value of forging new marital alliances, against that of strengthening existing bonds. It’s said that up to a staggering 80% of all of our ancestors, were pairs of first cousins. Today, about ten percent of all marriages are between first cousins. The rate is higher in parts of Muslim North Africa, and in China. The marriage patterns that are most endogamous are endemic to the most tribal societies. Ladislav Holý writes in “Kinship, Honour, and Solidarity: Cousin Marriage in the Middle East” that marrying cousins reinforces the integration of “the minimal unit” and asserts the family’s distinction, purity, and traditional observance. Steve Sailer makes a connection, often repeated, on the practice of cousin marriage in Islam: “Muslim countries are usually known for warm, devoted extended family relationships, but also for weak patriotism.” The same can be said of Sicily around the turn of the twentieth century. After a century of revolution, the island found itself once again ruled, and neglected, by the mainland. Genuine authority and loyalty were local, rooted in the family and the Church.

There are natural limits to how much inbreeding a society can tolerate, so while cousin marriage can be quite high—it’s currently around 50% in Iran—it’s not an exclusive practice. A blogger who writes on human biodiversity points out that there are two ways cousin marriage leads to inbreeding. Because of how the Y chromosome is passed down, the sons of marriages between men and the daughters of their fathers’ brothers (what anthropologists call “fbd marriage”) have less genetic diversity. Also, fbd marriage leads to more double-first cousin marriages than other possible cousin pairings.

In a patriarchal society like Corleone’s, a man who marries a woman from his own patrilineage, such as his father’s brother’s daughter, is undivided in his loyalty. This kind of marriage is so sought after that it remains a strong tradition in Islamic countries, for men to have the right of first refusal in the marriages of their paternal cousins. Marriages between men and their mother’s brothers daughters (“mbd marriage”) is called “alliance building,” creating ties between different patrilineages. Of the handful of first cousin marriages I’ve found in Corleone, the most popular are msd marriages, between the children of sisters. Worldwide, this is the most uncommon.

In double in-law marriages, the children of both marriages are also double cousins: they have two common sets of grandparents, instead of one. My twice-great grandmother, Angela Grizzaffi, was the third of her siblings to marry into the same immediate family. Those strong bonds, as well as the one forged by her daughter, Biagia’s marriage to her first cousin, another Cascio, reinforced her safety net and may have been instrumental in her family’s successful immigration, after the death of her husband. While her own siblings provided clear support—by taking her in, and escorting her youngest children when they made the voyage—that Angela’s sister and brother were married to siblings of her late husband, would have provided more incentive for them to help. Like cousin marriage, double in-law marriages create additional ties to the family, increasing loyalty and the obligation for mutual aid.

After my great-uncle Francesco’s first wife died, he married one of his wife’s nieces, who was also his first cousin, thus maintaining and reinforcing his ties to the family of his brother-in-law, Michaelangelo Gennaro. In the first decade of the twentieth century, two of Francesco’s daughters married men in mafia leadership, Carlo Taverna and Giuliano Riela, and one of his sons married the sister of Taverna.

Dr. Michele Navarra, who would lead the Fratuzzi from shortly after WWII until his assassination in 1958, married the daughter of his mother’s sister, Tommasa Cascio, in 1936. She was descended from a line of landowners, and the second cousin, once removed, of my great-uncle.