Her death in October underlined what prosecutors in Naples have long been saying: more and more women are taking over mafia groups as their husbands and brothers are jailed or murdered.
Even Sicily’s traditionalist Cosa Nostra crime organisation is embracing equal opportunities, with news this week that the treasurer of the group’s notorious Porta Nuova clan is a woman – 38-year-old mother of five, Teresa Marino.
However, chaos and crime reigned across the island as the fledgling Italian government tried to establish itself.
In the 1870s, Roman officials even asked Sicilian Mafia clans to help them by going after dangerous, independent criminal bands; in exchange, officials would look the other way as the Mafia continued its protection shakedowns of landowners.
By the start of the 21st century, after hundreds of high-profile arrests over the course of several decades, the Mafia appeared to be weakened in both countries; however, it was not eliminated completely and remains in business today.
As Nunzia D’Amico pushed her baby in a pram near her home in an eastern suburb of Naples, she probably looked much liked like any other mother.
The residents of this island, which measures almost 10,000 square feet, formed groups to protect themselves from the often-hostile occupying forces, as well as from other regional groups of Sicilians.
These groups, which later became known as clans or families, developed their own system for justice and retribution, carrying out their actions in secret.In Sicily, the term “mafioso,” or Mafia member, initially had no criminal connotations and was used to refer to a person who was suspicious of central authority.By the 19th century, some of these groups emerged as private armies, or “mafie,” who extorted protection money from landowners and eventually became the violent criminal organization known today as the Sicilian Mafia.Laden with shopping, the 37-year-old was killed in a hail of bullets, yards from her front door.Her brothers, Salvatore, Giuseppe and Antonio, the three heads of the D’Amico clan, had been arrested.In the 1860s, a play called “I Mafiusi della Vicaria” (“Heroes of the Penitentiary”), about a group of inmates at a Sicilian prison who maintained their own hierarchy and rituals, toured Italy and helped popularize the term Mafia in the Italian language.