When non-Italian citizens think about Mafia they picture huge villas in which bosses spend their entire time surrounded by bodyguards, beautiful women, and a lot of drug. Despite this scenario could resemble a perfect Hollywood movie, the Italian Mafia is all but showing one's power and wealth. One of the most powerful but at the same time more hidden Mafias, is the Ndrangheta, the Calabrian one.
To reflect briefly on the etymology of the word "Ndrangheta" is not merely an academic exercise, but could instead give us important cues on its historical analysis. The most convincing etymological hypothesis is that the word Ndrangheta derives form the ancient Greek term ἀνδραγαθία, or andragathia, that means "virile virtue, courage" (La Piccola Treccani). the andragathia is the quality of a man that is brave, noble, and worthy of respect, and the Ndrangheta had historically wanted to create consent boasting to be the holder of these popular values; in particular, the Ndrangheta claimed to hold the belief in justice and social order that the legal powers couldn't assure, manipulating people's trust to turn it against the State and the other institutions. Since some decades ago, the term Ndrangheta was used in Calabria even to indicate a high level of heroism and virtue embodied in an elite of superior men, or ndranghetisti. In Calabrian dialect, the word ndranghetista identified a talented man, capable of protecting and let his honor to be respected (La Piccola Treccani).
According to the myth, at the end of the seventeen century, three knights sailed from Spain for an affair of honor and landed in Italy. Their name were Osso, Mastrosso, and Carcagnosso. The first one, devoting himself to Saint George, decided to stay in Sicily and to found Cosa Nostra; the second one, devoting to the Virgin Mary, choose Campania and gave birth to the Camorra; the third, praying Saint Michael the Archangel, decided to move to Calabria where invented the Ndrangheta. ( "Vieni via con me- Puntana Intera").
In reality, the Ndrangheta was born in the second half of the Nineteen century in Calabria, the region that resembles the toe of the Italian boot. Calabria was always a very poor region, with a fragile economy, a weak industrial apparatus, and small enterprises; but the very hint to its expansion was the lack of legal authorities on the Calabrian territory, that let Ndrangheta grow bigger for the further 50 years. From 1861 Ndrangheta started to be mentioned in official documents that denounced the appearance of organized crimes (Gratteri e Nicaso 21). During the Fascist era, the Ndrangheta lost a little bit of its power, because all the rural people that supported it where now protected by the Fascist regime, and some peasants managed to rebel and denounce this criminal activities. Nonetheless, the Ndrangheta managed to infiltrate its members within the Fascist ruling class, and at the end of World War II many Ndranghetisti were appointed mayors by the Allies landed in the south of Italy. In 1955 the Italian journalist and writer Corrado Alvari mentioned the Ndrangheta for the first time outside of Calabria, describing it on his article on Corriere della Sera as something not shameful to be with, since it helped managing the chaos generated by the lack of government ("Breve Storia della Ndrangheta 1/3"). After few months from the Alvari's article, the first official operation against Ndrangheta was leaded in Calabria by the police commissioner Marzano who managed to imprison 261 people and to remove from office many others (Gratteri e Nicaso 39).
During the 1960s, the Ndrangheta moved to the north of Italy where it started operating in the tenders and drug business, while keeping enriching itself thanks to a series of kidnapping operations that boomed during the 1970s. In 1975 the first Ndrangheta war started with the assassination of the boss Antonio Macrì. About 300 people were killed and more wounded, in what was...
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