Castelvetrano, Ground Zero of Messina Denaro’s Kingpin clan

Castelvetrano, Ground Zero of Messina Denaro’s Kingpin clan

Giuseppe Cimarosa’s grandmother, who was in the kitchen at home on Wednesday morning, was the person who gave birth to Cosa Nostra boss Matteo Messina Denaro. That is, his matron. Giuseppe’s mother is in turn the cousin of the capo. In fact, the album of her wedding photos circulates through the house shelf with the wedding portraits, in which a then-young capo appears, skinny, with sunglasses and cigarette in hand. Giuseppe’s father, who today looks like a volcano about to explode, died a long time ago. But his father was the first and only repentant of the Messina-Denaro clan and dealt the biggest blow to the Castelvetrano chief’s organization. A source of pride for his son, but also a punishment for a family that has renounced its consanguinity with the Mafia in a town that for years has grown accustomed to being silent and avoiding the name. “I hope that the neighbors celebrate it today because they have a chance to save their dignity, their identity. And that happens once in a lifetime,” begins Giuseppe, 40, in the living room of his house.

Castelvetrano (30,893 inhabitants), a town in the province of Trapani (Sicily), whose town hall has been attacked for years because of mafia crimes, is ground zero of the mafia empire Messina Denaro, which has been on the run for 30 years. The last great boss of Cosa Nostra, 60 years old, arrested last Monday in a clinic in Palermo where he was being treated for cancer, built here a legend inherited from his father. Don Ciccio, the patriarch of the mafia family, was a capo who lived and died on the run from justice. The police couldn’t find him until he was already dead. His son Matteo, always afraid of ending up the same way, dressed him in a suit and left it spotless for the police to collect. A form of respect and the only way for the family to hold a funeral. On November 30th, the anniversary of Don Ciccio’s death, Il Giornale di Sicilia punctually publishes an obituary that always ends with the signature: “I tuoi cari [tus seres queridos]“. Nobody doubts who ordered it. It can be verified for the first time within 10 months.

Giuseppe Cimarosa, son of the only penitent of the Messina-Denaro clan and second nephew of the capo.Giuseppe Cimarosa, son of the only penitent of the Messina Denaro clan and second nephew of Capo Paolo Manzo

Castelvetrano and the entire territory of the province of Trapani, including the adjacent town where the boss was hiding before his arrest on Monday (Campobello di Mazara), continued to be governed in the shadow of the boss. For years, his sister Patrizia was responsible for terrorizing and extorting neighbors and businessmen. Also to the Cimarosa, who put up with the guy. In the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the mayor has called a demonstration this Wednesday morning to say that the people are renouncing the mafia and the stigma that has borne them in recent years. “We will have the freedom to express ourselves, to start businesses and to trade without fear,” Enzo Alfano (5 Star Movement) starts in front of a square full of children with placards and banners in favor of the victims and legendary figures of the anti-mafia -Fight like judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. But not all residents think so.

The omertà prevailed in this city until last week. The tomb of Lorenzo Cimarosa, a small businessman from Castelvetrano who broke the wall of silence surrounding Italy’s most wanted man, was resurrected three years ago. No one bothered to find the culprits. Wasn’t necessary. The luxurious vault of the Messina Denaro family can be seen from his humble tombstone with family inscriptions commemorating his courage and bravery in the last year of his life. And some neighbors continue to see her as a benefactor: “It was a mistake to arrest him … His family did a lot for this city,” defends one of them. Giuseppe Cimarosa, who suffered the social and economic consequences of his father’s confession (his house was confiscated to carry out his father’s sentencing), fears that things will not change completely in this regard. “Omerta? Sure, that’s the real problem. Omertà was created by Matteo Messina Denaro. It’s like a disease in people’s minds. And I’m pessimistic about that. I can’t understand what the solution could be. I thought his arrest would free frightened people, but it’s not happening.”

Residents of Castelvetrano, birthplace of Messina Denaro, stroll through the center of the municipality.Residents of Castelvetrano, birthplace of Messina Denaro, stroll through the center of the municipality.Paolo Manzo

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The Castelvetrano area forms a business melting pot for the Kingpin. Giuseppe Grigoli, considered the king of supermarkets in Sicily, was arrested in 2013 for his links to him. They seized 12 companies and 700 million euros that led to the mafia boss. But the gangster’s interests also include real estate in northern Italy, wind power in Sicily and online gambling. The diabolical corporate network, an industrial capital centrifuge, never allowed him to be located. That’s why the testimony of Cimarosa was so important, whose family later decided to forego the witness protection program and expose themselves to threats and isolation from the city’s omertà. And that’s why everyone is now wondering whether the prisoner will cooperate with the judiciary.

Giuseppe’s grandmother, who watched Messina Denaro grow up and knows her family’s way of life intimately, says her grandson believes that won’t happen. “I want you to speak. If you have even the slightest human consciousness, you have nothing to lose. He would give himself dignity. But from what my mother and aunt, who knew him well, say, I very much doubt it. But it would be very useful to destroy invisible castles and end the Omertà”. The kingpin is now the Rosetta Stone of Italian organized crime. If he decides to cooperate, he could decipher one of the most complicated criminal hieroglyphs in the world.

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