Category: Rural Entrepreneurs

Categories: Corleone Mafia | Mafia


The class of rural entrepreneurs in Sicily is strongly linked to mafia activity.

After 1769-72, gabellotto (farm managers, aka agricoltore, and field guards, i.e. guardia campestre) emerged from the peasant class in Sicily to manage the estates of barons living in Palermo. The necessity of field guards was recognized by the government, in that the king, and not his barons, had to pay for these private armies. In the feudal backwaters of central Sicily, the guardia was a recession-proof employment opportunity with growth potential. “Becoming a field guard was a familiar way of acquiring local power and influence,” writes Denis Mack Smith in his "History of Sicily."

Rural entrepreneurs include farm managers and field guards, as well as professional mule drivers, herdsmen, and others with a great deal of autonomy and familiarity with the landscape. In a poorly governed region, rural entrepreneurs are best positioned to engage in organized crime. In "Culture and Political Economy in Western Sicily" by Jane Schneider and Peter Schneider, the authors write that "Most, if not all, of the first mafiosi were rural entrepreneurs." The most common crimes in 19th century Sicily are cattle theft, extortion, and smuggling.

Violent crimes create reputations and the resume critical to further success in this field, but violent crime is dominated by the youngest and strongest. Some professions, such as "middle man," (mezrano) are a direct outgrowth of criminal activity. Priests often functioned in this role, being among the few literate members of society. Violent criminals desiring continued job security through middle age might attempt to gain the protection of a noble, or secure a lucrative position, such as a tax collector or gabellotto. Nobles, clustered in Palermo and Bagheria, competed among themselves to keep company with the most notorious and dangerous criminals: in order to look tough to their friends, and let their enemies know they have murderous, vengeful employees who have sworn oaths of personal allegiance.

Although most rural entrepreneurs are not from noble families, they and their immediate family members may be styled don or donna in Church records. This is the title of respect given to nobles, priests, and other authority figures. Cascio-10 10:19, 8 November 2015 (EST)


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