The mafia is overly romanticized in America

Romanticizing the mafia develops a stigma against Italian citizens and needs to stop

Chiara Puccia

A mural of Giovanni Falcone’s mouth and Paolo Borsellino’s eyes, (painted by on Instagram).

Chiara Puccia, Writer

Giovanni Falcone once said, “He who doesn’t fear death, dies only once.”

For those who don’t know who he is, Giovanni Falcone was a judge and a prosecuting magistrate of Italy. He was born in Palermo, Sicily on May 18, 1939, and he was assassinated at Capaci, Sicily on May 23, 1992 during an attack of Cosa Nostra (the mafia).

He was in Rome because he was just nominated anti-mafia attorney general and he was coming back to Palermo. Cosa Nostra had planted a bomb under the highway A29. Giovanni Brusca, who was part of the cosca of San Giuseppe Jato, activated the bomb while Giovanni Falcone was passing down the highway in the car.

This judge was one of the most popular judges at the time, as was Paolo Borsellino, who was another judge and magistrate, and was assassinated by the mafia as well. He died after Giovanni Falcone, less than two months later in Palermo on July 19, 1992. The mafia had planted a bomb under a car near the house of his mom and then Vincenzo Scarantino, a petty offender, activated the bomb while he was acting on the orders of Salvatore Riina, who was head of the Corleonesi Mafia Family and leader of Cosa Nostra at the time.

One problem that I discovered while traveling to the United States is that, oftentimes, Americans tend to romanticize the mafia. Sometimes it’s because people don’t really know what the mafia is truly about, and sometimes they do it only because it’s something that’s so awful that we need to make it better.

Scrolling through my social media, I find a new story every day where people are romanticizing the mafia; they make these fake scenarios about a girl — the daughter or the girlfriend of a mafia boss — and when someone annoys her, the boss shoots them.

First of all, I think that is a bad picture that the creator has just put out there, because not only is it disturbing to viewers, but it’s very inaccurate. You never know who your viewers are, and making light of something like that is insensitive. Your viewer could be someone who lost loved ones because of mafia violence.

There are so many movies and TV shows where being part of the mafia is portrayed as a good thing, something that keeps you safe. And people believe it because they don’t have the full picture, they don’t know about what Italy and so many people had been through at the fault of the mafia. 

And, unluckily, sometimes there are some prejudices. My father is a police officer and he is from Sicily. Every single time that a person finds out that he’s from Palermo they ask him if he is part of the mafia or if he is corrupted. It’s very annoying and offensive because one of my great-uncles was part of the police escort of Falcone, and he almost died because of the mafia.

I would like to say, with all of my heart, that the way Americans often view the mafia is just an old nightmare. In Sicily there is still the mafia, just like in Calabria there is the ‘Ndrangheta and in Campania there is the Camorra. It always will be if we don’t realize that it’s a real, awful problem and we don’t stop romanticizing it.

The mafia is real and it is terrible.

This is the memorial for Giovanni Falcone. People from all over the world bring a drawing or a piece of paper where they write a prayer. (Chiara Puccia)