When one thinks of Cosa Nostra, or better known as the Mafia, it
strikes fear in knowing that a ruthless criminal enterprise existed
and still thrives today. The Mafia is something that Hollywood movie
producers and Americans alike canít simply seem to get enough of.
The name Cosa Nostra, translated as "Our Thing," goes back hundreds of years
and was founded in Sicily to offer protection to the common people of that country from
police, bandits and even government agencies. Cosa Nostra, not surprisingly were treated
as folk heroes, saviors of the people. The practice of keeping your mouth shut was the
code and if you violated it, the wrath was swift and deadly not only to the culprit, but
to his own family as well.
This served as the power base for the American Mafia which was organized,
depending on who you ask, during the 1920s by several leaders, most notably Giuseppe
"Joe the Boss" Masseria and up and coming mobster, Salvatore
old style gangsters were known as "Mustache Petes" for their traditional and
conservative ways of doing business. To them, rapid change and too much ambition were out
of the question. In other words, they wanted their members to be complacent while they
reaped the fruits of others' dastardly deeds.
Salvatore Maranzano arrived in the United States in 1927. He came here not as
your ordinary Italian immigrant, but was sent by the Sicilian "Boss of Bosses"
Vito Cascio Ferro. Don Vito had a vision of organizing all the American crime families,
including non-Italians groups, under one leadership. Once on American soil,
Maranzanos authority was recognized by Gaetano Reina of Brooklyn and his capos,
Thomas Luchese and Gaetana Gagliano, by Joey Aiello, the boss of Chicago, and by Joe
Zerilli, underboss of the Detroit family. These men entered the United States illegally
and were identified by Italian police records as members of the Sicilian Mafia.
Other Sicilian Mafia members to arrive in this manner were Carlo Gambino, Joe Bonanno,
Stefano Maggadino and Joe Profaci. Collectively, these mobsters were known as the Twenties
Group. When these men hit the American coast, they took shelter in an organization called
Unione Siciliana which found them housing, jobs when they wanted them, and identities to
cover up their illegal activities. Unione Siciliana also afforded these men the
opportunity to learn English and the American way of life. This organization has received
a bad rap by history because it helped mobsters and was considered "Mafia
owned." This however was not true. Unione Siciliana also helped thousands of law
abiding Italian immigrants in adjusting to American life. Including the family of
Salvatore Lucania. Better known as Lucky Luciano.