the other famiglia

“Inside the World of the ‘Ndrangheta”
“By Andreas Ulrich

“Encounters with the Calabrian Mafia

“The shadowy Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta, has become one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the Western world through its dominance of the European cocaine trade. For the first time, local syndicate bosses described their business model to SPIEGEL. It’s a mixture of entrepreneurial talent, skillful management and deadly ruthlessness….

“‘My German is better than my Italian,’ admits Carlo, who has been living in Germany for 30 years. He is wearing a black shirt, black trousers and black loafers — elegant Italian products, all made of high-quality materials. He was baptized at 18, he says.

“He is referring to the secret ritual in which he was accepted into the ‘onorata società,’ or ‘honored society,’ as the ‘Ndrangheta calls itself. His uncle brought him into the organization. This is often the case in such organizations, where cohesion is based on kinship and there are few traitors as a result….

“In its early days, the organization was little more than a loose collection of rural clans. Their activities centered around controlling their villages, protection money, hold-ups and public contracts….

“The experts with Germany’s BKA have studied the current structure of the ‘Ndrangheta. According to the BKA report, the syndicate is “no longer structured horizontally in individual family clans, but, like the Cosa Nostra, in the form of a pyramid.” In the province of Reggio Calabria, for example, the ‘Ndrangheta has divided itself into three so-called mandamenti. A ‘provincial commission,’ which rules over the entire organization, elects a ‘capo crimine,’ or chairman, each year….

“Although the ‘Ndrangheta operates worldwide, all important decisions are made in Calabria. In an era of globalization, the drug trade remains relatively anachronistic. Cocaine from South America arrives in southern Italy before it is distributed across the European continent. The clans feel safe on their home turf, which they treat as their territory….

“The Piromalli-Molé are among the most powerful ‘Ndrangheta clans in the region around Gioia Tauro. They are wholesalers in the international cocaine business. They have family connections in South America, and they have their agents in Germany, including people like Carlo….

To this day, strategic alliances are formed between families in the ‘Ndrangheta through marriage….

“”Gratteri is the anti-mafia prosecutor in Reggio Calabria. The prosecutor believes that the weakness of the state is also the strength of the ‘Ndrangheta. The mob bosses provide jobs, help people sort out problems with the government bureaucracy and recruit their young blood from the army of the unemployed and the hopeless. Gratteri also has no illusions about the police, which he says is already infiltrated by the ‘Ndrangheta, because of close family ties.

previously: la famiglia

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inbreeding in italy

ok. so, first we looked at all the outbreeding amongst the germanic folks in europe since the early medieval period. then i started looking at the inbreeding that continued for longer around the periphery of western europe — ireland, spain. and i promised to look at italy next. so here we go…

well, if the marriage practices of medieval spain were muy, muy complicado to understand, then italy is impossibile! native latins, lombards, ostrogoths, saracens, greeks — mamma mia! if you think i got a handle on all that after a couple of weeks of reading — was the matter wit you? fuggedaboutit!

i couldn’t even find any good books/articles on the topic of marriage/family/kinship in medieval italy (like i did for the germanics and spain and ireland). can it be that no one has studied la familia in italy in the middle ages?? maybe all the books are in italian, i dunno (if anyone has any good references, please let me know). ima gonna look back at jack goody’s books on the development of the family in europe to see what he had to say (if anything) about italy, but until then i ain’t got much to say about marriage in medieval italy, capiche?

what i do have for you, tho, are some numbers on cousin marriage in italy in the 20th century.

cavalli-sforza, et. al., took a look at the catholic church dispensations for cousin marriages throughout italy between 1910 and 1964. the data were published online back in ’04 but seem to have disappeared since then. but i found the webpages on the internet archive (three cheers for the wayback machine!).

below is a little chart i worked up of the percentages of first cousin marriages for all the regions for the first (1910-1914) and last (1960-64) of the time periods at which they looked. i included only the first cousin marriages since first-cousin-once-removed (1 1/2C) and second cousin (2C) marriages were not included for sicily and i wanted to be able to compare all the regions. note that the reason cavalli-sforza, et. al., didn’t include 1 1/2C and 2C marriages for sicily is that sicilians are exempt from having to get dispensations to marry those family members, so presumably the rates for those marriages are pretty high!

first, here’s a map of the regions and provinces of italy in the year 1961:

and the chart:

as you can see, the numbers for southern regions like sicily and calabria in the ’60s are ridiculously high! 48.74% in agrigento? — and 48.49% in reggio calabria? and that’s just first cousin marriages! those rates are like the rates for saudi arabia and pakistan today! i have no idea what the contemporary rates for italy are, but enquiring minds want to know.

(edit: i forgot to mention that i believe that the type of cousin marriage that is most common in sicily is cross-cousin marriage — that is either father’s sister’s daughter [fzd] or mother’s brother’s daughter [mbd] — but i’m not sure which one. i’m gonna put my money on mbd marriage since fzd is similar to the dreaded father’s brother’s daughter [fbd] marriage which seems to produce the extremely clannish/tribal/paternalistic societies like we find in saudi arabia and afghanistan. sicilians are a little macho and paternalistic, but sicilian women ain’t walkin’ around in burkas. fbd marriage is, of course, the common form in saudi arabia and pakistan.)

the lowest rates in the ’60s occurred further north in italy, like in emilia-romagna, which is described in wikipedia like this:

“Emilia–Romagna today is considered as one of the richest and most developed regions in Europe and has the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, the region’s capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life, and has highly advanced and modern social services. Emilia–Romagna is also a major cultural and touristic centre, being the home of the oldest university in the Western World, containing numerous Renaissance cities (such as Modena, Parma and Ferrara), being a major centre for food and automobile production (Emilia–Romagna is home of numerous iconic gastronomical and automotive industries, such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati)….”

somebody oughta compare these inbreeding rates, which are higher in southern italy than in the north, with italian iq scores … which are reportedly lower in southern italy than in north. (can you say: inbreeding depression?) hmmmmmmmmm.

ciao, miei amori!

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

update 11/11: see also m.g. miles’ map of average consanguinity (first-cousin marriage) rates in italy based on cavalli-sforza’s data in this post @those who can see.

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