A mafia is defined as an international organized body of criminals. The term mafia originally applied to the Sicilian Mafia only since the group started operations in Sicily. But are they still active?
The Sicilian Mafia is still active to this day. About 70% of businesses in Sicily still pay protection money to the mafia. Now that they are a collective of crime families, the FBI refers to them as the Italian Organized Crim (IOC).
Where Did The Term “Mafia” Come From?
The word mafia comes from the Sicilian word mafioso, which roughly translates to swagger or bravado. This was in reference to men who were arrogant and fearless in the 19th century. It wasn’t long until the public associated the word with the secret criminal society. It is believed to be influenced by Gaspare Mosca and Giuseppe Rizzotto’s play The Mafiosi of the Vicaria.
Nowadays, the term has been used closely to identify an organized crime network that followed similar interests, structure, and methods of the original Sicilian Mafia.
While there was a time when people were reluctant to pronounce the word “Mafia” … nowadays people have gone so far in the opposite direction that it has become an overused term … I am no longer willing to accept the habit of speaking of the Mafia in descriptive and all-inclusive terms that make it possible to stack up phenomena that are indeed related to the field of organised crime but that have little or nothing in common with the Mafia.Giovanni Falcone, Anti-Mafia Italian Magistrate
(Source: An Economic History of Organized Crime)
The Sicilian Mafia
The Sicilian Mafia’s name is actually Cosa Nostra which means Our Thing. This was confirmed by Joseph Valachi, an Italian-American mafioso who testified before the US Senate Committee on Government Operations. The FBI then acknowledges Cosa Nostra as the official name of the group.
In 1876, an Italian publicist named Leopoldo Franchetti described the Sicilian Mafia as an industry of violence, while the Italian sociologist Diego Gambetta described them as a cartel of private protection firms.
The mafia’s principal activities are settling disputes among other criminals, protecting them against each other’s cheating, and organizing and overseeing illicit agreements, often involving many agents, such as illicit cartel agreements in otherwise legal industries.Diego Gambetta, Codes of the Underworld
The very origin of Cosa Nostra is difficult to trace because of their secrecy. They do not keep any historical records of their own. However, they spread fallacies about their organization that sometimes stories come back to them, and they start believing their own myths. (Source: How Stuff Works?)
What Does A Mafia Do?
Mafias often engage in all sorts of businesses and illegalities. Some of which include; gambling, loan sharking, drug trafficking, prostitution, and fraud. In essence, the mafia is all about one thing: money.
One thing for sure is, mafias are, in their own right, a big family. To be part of this complicated family, you would need to adhere to their rules, secret rituals, and an extensive amount of loyalty. Members who turn the other way risk being ostracized or, worse, killed. (Source: How Stuff Works?)