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Easy Going

Travel stories + tips from seasoned explorers

Anti-Mafia Museum – YES!

October 29, 2016

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Travelling over rolling hills through northwestern Sicily, you may find yourself in the countryside of Corleone. The unassuming town is set in a dramatic valley of stunning beauty 70 km south of Sicily’s capital, Palermo. Corleone is synonymous with the gory, dark history of the Mafia. Once the stronghold of the princes of organized crime, the town has outlasted the reign of terror and in fact now hosts a worthwhile museum dedicated to transparency about the horrors of the Mafia, as well as paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the battle of justice over evil.

The Centro Internazionale di Documentazione sulla Mafia e del Movimento Antimafia (“CIDMA”) is a museum created to display the horrific acts of the Mafia and the antimafia movement, as well as to highlight the major crime families in that area. (The Corleone Family, who will live forever through their starring role in The Godfather series, is a fictitious family probably based on the 15th century Borgia family during the Renaissance.) The CIDMA opened its doors in 2000, with the blessing of the Italian President and the United Nations. The museum can be visited only by appointment, and with the guidance of a capable and enthusiastic English-speaking guide.

The CIDMA’s first highlight is a room filled from floor to ceiling with copies of the “Maxi-Trial documents”, testimony to the work of magistrates like Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who paid with their lives for their commitment to the fight against the Mafia. While the documents in and of themselves are not of interest to non-Italian speakers, the sheer volume of paper is stunning. The “Room of Messages”, on the other hand, is strikingly accessible to all. Here are the photos of Letizia Battaglia, well-known photographer in Sicily, who had the courage to go on site to capture tragic Mafia murders: the photographer was able to portray significant details that make her shots real documents of the mode of action of the Mafia in the 70s – 80s. The different positions of the bodies allow us to reconstruct the communicative strategy of the Mafia. I found an insightful 2016 interview with the elderly Battaglia, conducted just before the publication of her Anthology last month. The book has over 300 descriptive (and disturbing) pictures of her home town and the effects of the Mafia over time. The photographer’s goal was simple: ”I dealt with crime in Palermo for nineteen years, so my style came out of that alone. I photographed with passion. I wanted to document everything I felt acted as testimony against the Mafia.”

The CIDMA’s Room of Pain houses a permanent exhibition of Shobha, Letizia Battaglia’s daughter. Shobha followed in her mother’s footsteps, capturing the dismay, the helplessness, the despair felt by those who have lost someone to Mafia. In the room there are also photos of Letizia Battaglia documenting crimes of the Mafia, depicted in their dramatic rawness. The approach allows us to understand the cause-effect relationships that exist between the crimes and the consequences they produce in the lives of affected families and of the entire community.

If we believe that the Mafia is fueled by fear — others fear for their lives, businesses, money, and loved ones — then the transparency touted by the CIDMA is to be applauded. Without that fear, the Mafia can´t function. Serious Mafia “attacks” haven’t occurred in many years, and paying tribute to those who have contributed most to the anti-Mafia battle is important. Travelers and locals alike need to be informed of what the Mafia have done over the decades, and a touching, emotional museum is an excellent way to do that.

Want to join us in Sicily next spring?