Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pizzo – Protection Money


We went to Antica Focacceria San Francesco in Palermo once (this last week) and passed through the piazza in front of it several times and noticed that there are always police out front. Why? Well we learned in time that they are guarding the famous eatery. But, why? Because its owner has refused to pay protection money and therefore is the target of the Cosa Nostra. What’s protection money? See here. How sad, but also how positive folks are standing up. In fact, here is a list of businesses refusing to pay “pizzo” or protection money: addiopizzo.org (literally “goodbye pizzo”). Please consult the list of businesses that support this effort and consider patronizing them when in Palermo.

I wonder about all the glamorization of mafia behavior in popular entertainment. I imagine it isn’t quite so much fun when you have to live with it for real. It’s not entertainment anymore, it’s life or death. More immediately apparent to the visitor is the bombed-out look of some parts of the oldest parts of Palermo, which is due, in no small part, to the Cosa Nostra’s involvement in city development post-WW II – i.e. “coaxing” everyone out into the periphery of the city. Again, there is hope because we were told it is coming back to life.

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