From Castellammare with love
This tiny seaport in Sicily, Castellammare del Golfo, has played an extraordinarily outsized role in the history of global crime.
As Hidden Power: The Strategic Logic of Organized Crime explains, emigrants from Castellammare del Golfo became key figures in the early American mafia cosche (families). The struggle for power in New York between Castellammarese (as those from the seaport are known) and others in the late 1920s and early 1930s grew to such proportions that it came to be known as the 'Castellammarese War'. Nor was this just a short-hand idiom: as Hidden Power shows, the sides in the war were using force to compete for political power - not just within the American underworld, but stretching also into the American political 'upper world'. Eventually, the mafia cosche General Assembly set up a special Peace Commission to try to negotiate an end to the war. And it was the Castellammarese War that led to Lucky Luciano's ascendancy in the Mob, and to the mafia's colonization of the ties between the underworld and upperworld that had been pioneered in New York by Tammany Hall.
After World War II, Castellammarese del Golfo once again became a central node in the criminal networks stretching from the Sicilian interior out into trans-Atlantic trade. When the Italian government sought to negotiate a secret peace settlement with Sicilian separatists backed by the Sicilian mafia, Castellammare became a key site for these secret negotiations.
Anyone watching the criminal violence that has wracked Mexico and Central America over the last decade will not be surprised to learn that such a small place can wield such outsized influence. Often, it is small groups of people - usually men - located at these key nodal points between informal economies and cross-border trade that figure out the strategies needed to develop this kind of power. Hidden Power helps explain how and why that happens.