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Postcards from Calabria

These images are yellowed like some old postcards. They look as if they had been taken  twenty or thirty years ago, but unfortunately they date back only two years. These photographs show the suffering of Calabria, an Italian region whose development is hampered by the asphyxiating tentacles of the 'Ndrangheta. Today the 'Ndrangheta is one of most successful crime organizations in the world. It controls all the drug trafficking in Europe and it has diversified its activities as a multinational company. 'Ndrangheta operates with the same success both in the field of the illegal arms trade and  human trafficking. While the families of the ‘Ndrangheta are becoming increasingly rich, Calabria remains pinned near the bottom of the economic income and employment indicators. The entrepreneurs with clean money run away from these lands. Mafia does not create wealth, but is the damnation of the territories where it operates. Here there are only degradation and underdevelopment.

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Palmi (Reggio Calabria). An original letter asking for protection money sent to Gaetano Saffioti. Saffioti was sentenced to death by ‘Ndrangheta. Saffioti owns a construction company based at the periphery of Palmi. Ten years ago, thanks to the evidences gathered by him, forty-eight members of the ‘Ndrangheta operating in the Plain of Gioia Tauro were arrested. Since then his home has become a bunker: armored gates, reinforced concrete walls, dozens of video cameras, barbed wire like in the barracks and an ever present car of custom agents.
View of the Aspromonte (Reggio Calabria). In the thick of this mountain range the ‘Ndrangheta hid the victims of abduction during the period of kidnapping. The most famous case was that of John Paul Getty. Getty was kidnapped in Rome in 1973 and released on the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway after five months of segregation and the payment of almost two US million dollars.
San Luca (Reggio Calabria). Everything starts from here and everything comes back here. In 2004 Giuseppe Morabito was arrested here. Morabito was the most wanted fugitive of the ‘Ndrangheta, guilty of murdering the Vice President of the Regional Council of Calabria, Francesco Fortugno.
San Luca (Reggio Calabria) is a town of about 4,000 inhabitants at the foot of the Aspromonte massif. San Luca is considered the heart of the ‘Ndrangheta. The country is known in the news for the blood Feud of San Luca that lasts from 1991. Around here the kinship of blood represents an effective vaccine against the repentants and the feuds. This kindred hold together the assets of the international drug trade. Everything starts from here and everything comes back here.
San Luca (Reggio Calabria). Some elderly people play cards out of the village church. In August 2007 San Luca is back in the spotlight for the feud between the gangs Nirta-Strangio and Pelle-Vottari, after the “Massacre of August” in the Italian restaurant Da Bruno in Duisburg (Germany) where six people were killed. Shortly after the massacre in Duisburg, San Luca has tried to present itself to the international press as a country forgotten by the world, full of lumberjacks unemployed, God-fearing women and a brave priest who fights tirelessly against the Mafia.
San Luca (Reggio Calabria). Petra Reski has written in Santa Mafia: “In San Luca every hour seems like a long day of penance, grim as an eternal feast of the dead during which you can see the ghosts. Here it seems that the walls of the houses are in harmony with the gray of the sky; no plasters, only iron railings and rusted electric cables that hang between the buildings like ropes for drying clothes."
The woods of the Aspromonte (Reggio Calabria). In the thick of this mountain range the ‘Ndrangheta hid the victims of abduction during the period of kidnapping. The most famous case was the John Paul Getty’s one. Getty was kidnapped in Rome in 1973 and released on the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway after five months of segregation and the payment of almost two US million dollars.
Cows grazing on the slopes of the Aspromonte (Reggio Calabria). Aspromonte is labyrinthine and impenetrable. It covers an area of 1.648 sq km. The terraces of the mountain are full of marijuana. These cultivations, however, are almost impossible to see, as long as the hostages kept here few years ago.
Natile (Reggio Calabria). In the seventies and eighties the clans of this little village, traditionally involved in agricultural and pastoral activities, participated in the management of numerous kidnappings, dealing with the custody of the hostages. Here on January 30, 1990, the young man kidnapped in Pavia, Cesare Casella, was freed on the bed of a torrent after 743 days of captivity. Like other criminal groups the clans of Natile have invested the proceeds of kidnappings in drug trafficking, relying on their settlements in England, Germany, Colombia and Australia.
Riace (Reggio Calabria). A glimpse of pastoral life just outside the village.
Riace (Reggio Calabria). Interior of a traditional lace store. Politics of inclusion, implemented in the last years by Mayor Mimmo Lucano, have encouraged forms of cooperation in the traditional handcraft activities between Calabrians and the new immigrant families of refugees and displaced people.
Riace (Reggio Calabria). A mural dedicated to the Calabrian politician and teacher Giuseppe Valarioti murdered in 1980 by ‘Ndrangheta. Since Mimmo Lucano is the Mayor of Riace, many wall paintings about legality have been drawn on the houses of this small Calabrian village. Because of his civil commitment, Mayor Lucano has suffered several threatening acts by ‘Ndrangheta.
Riace (Reggio Calabria). Interior of a reception centre in the middle of the village. Since Mimmo Lucano is the Mayor of this small village many empty or in decay houses have been restored and then assigned to the refugees, who are now citizens of Riace. Because of his civil commitment Lucano has suffered of several threatening acts by ‘Ndrangheta.
Gioiosa Ionica (Reggio Calabria). Since a few years Don Milani Centre is carrying on social activities to support young people. The Centre involves girls and boys, often volunteers, in activities related to the topic of legality. During Spring 2011 the Centre has been the objective of a threatening act.
Polistena (Reggio Calabria). Resting time for a group of volunteers during a summer camp organized by the association Libera on lands that have been confiscated to ‘Ndrangheta. Polistena is situated in the Gioia Tauro plain, a well-known 'Ndrangheta stronghold.
Polistena (Reggio Calabria). A group of volunteers working during a summer camp organized by the Association Libera on the agricultural lands confiscated to the ‘Ndrangheta. These lands have been assigned to the Cooperative La Valle del Marro. During the last years, this cooperative has been suffering many threatening acts because of its commitment in social agriculture and legality.
Villa San Giovanni (Reggio Calabria). A glimpse of the port in the evening. Villa San Giovanni went through one of the most difficult periods in its history between 1985 and 1991. In those years a violent feud broke out among the ‘Ndrangheta’s families. Many were the victims, including the Vice Mayor Giovanni Trecroci, murdered on 11 February 1990. In the same year, the 9 of August, Judge Antonino Scopelliti was murdered on the road connecting Villa San Giovanni with Campo Calabro. Scopelliti was known for his work against Cosa Nostra. If the Bridge project should go on even the seafront of Villa San Giovanni would be transformed.
Saline Ioniche (Reggio Calabria). Liquichimica is located along the 106 national road, in the stretch between Reggio Calabria and Locri. The industrial complex was built on a ground that is subject to landslide. A geological survey gave advice about the risks of this site but mysteriously works continued without interruption. The Civil Engineers Director of Reggio Calabria was the only person who continued arguing about the stability conditions of the ground. He lost his life in a strange accident. Despite the tens of billions spent by the government, the plant never started functioning because it would have been producing carcinogenic bio-proteins. This impressive structure has remained a fragment of industrial mythology, a vanished dream, a useless investment. However the port, close to the plant, has been very useful for ‘Ndrangheta clans. Tons of drugs, cigarettes and weapons have been landed there. Liquichimica is one of the many buildings never completed along the 106 national road which has become to be famous because of the presence of disused buildings and abandoned industrial warehouses, authentic eco-monsters with high toxic potential.
One of the many buildings never finished along the 106 national road. Because of its disused buildings and abandoned industrial warehouses, authentic eco-monsters with high toxic potential, the 106 national road has become to be regretfully famous.
Saline Ioniche (Reggio Calabria). The beach behind the so-called industrial graveyard. Nearby Saline Ioniche there are some industrial sites, built with funds from the famous Pacchetto Colombo, that have never begun functioning. In these places tons of drugs, cigarettes and weapons have been landed by ‘Ndrangheta clans.
Gioia Tauro (Reggio Calabria). A custom officer staying at the entrance of the Customs. Gioia Tauro is the largest container port in the Mediterranean. According to the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission, there is a widespread presence of the ‘Ndrangheta in the activities of the port.
Palmi (Reggio Calabria). The view of Gioia Tauro and its harbor from Palmi’s belvedere.
Gioia Tauro (Reggio Calabria) is the largest container port in the Mediterranean. According to the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission the ‘Ndrangheta takes one euro for each container, that means 7,500 euros a day and more than 2 millions 700 thousand a year. This port is also a strategic centre for the ‘Ndrangheta because it is the place of arrival of the international drug trafficking.
Gioia Tauro (Reggio Calabria) is the largest container port in the Mediterranean. Thanks to the “Operazione Decollo” the police revealed a drug trafficking among Europe, South America, Australia. Every year large quantities of drugs are seized. The port is also a crossroad of counterfeit goods of various kinds.
The house of Gaetano Saffioti. The man who was sentenced to death by the ‘Ndrangheta. Saffioti owns a construction company based at the periphery of Palmi. Ten years ago, thanks to the evidences gathered by him, forty-eight members of the ‘Ndrangheta operating in the Plain of Gioia Tauro were arrested. Since then his home has become a bunker: armored gates, reinforced concrete walls, dozens of video cameras, barbed wire like in the barracks and an ever present car of custom agents.
Polistena (Reggio Calabria). A glimpse of the Versace family’s house, the most powerful one operating in the plain of Gioia Tauro, the historic stronghold of the ‘Ndrangheta.
Polsi (Reggio Calabria). A stall sells illegal CDs with music of the ‘Ndrangheta during the feast of Our Lady of Polsi. For this criminal organization the music has a role of a certain importance. The music serves to pass on the rituals and the Mafia code. Some songs describe the events of the summit of Montalto in 1969 chaired by Giuseppe Zappia. During this summit several exponents of the ‘Ndrangheta were arrested.
Polsi (Reggio Calabria). Every year, in September, Calabrian people celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Polsi. They renew their promise of faith to the Holy Lady of the Mountain. On this occasion, the boss of the ‘Ndrangheta meet each other and take very important decisions. The feast is also a great time for popular participation. Calabrians come to Polsi equipped with tents, provisions, blankets, musical instruments. They spend the night eating, playing at Morra, praying and making music.
Polsi (Reggio Calabria). Every year, in September, Calabrian people celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Polsi. They renew their promise of faith to the Holy Lady of the Mountain. On this occasion, the boss of the ‘Ndrangheta meet each other and take very importan decisions. The feast is also a great time for popular participation. Calabrians come to Polsi equipped with tents, provisions, blankets, musical instruments. They spend the night eating, playing at Morra, praying and making music.
Polsi (Reggio Calabria). Every year, in September, Calabrian people celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Polsi. They renew their promise of faith to the Holy Lady of the Mountain. On this occasion, the boss of the ‘Ndrangheta meet each other and take very importan decisions. The feast is also a great time for popular participation. Calabrians come to Polsi equipped with tents, provisions, blankets, musical instruments. They spend the night eating, playing at Morra, praying and making music.
Polsi (Reggio Calabria). Every year, in September, Calabrian people celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Polsi. They renew their promise of faith to the Holy Lady of the Mountain. On this occasion, the boss of the ‘Ndrangheta meet each other and take very important decisions. They make new alliances and schedule criminal strategies. Polsi is the sacred place where the famous twelve tables of the ‘Ndrangheta are stored.
Polsi (Reggio Calabria). Every year, in September, Calabrian people celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Polsi. They renew their promise of faith to the Holy Lady of the Mountain. On this occasion, the boss of the ‘Ndrangheta meet each other and take decisions very important. They make new alliances and schedule criminal strategies. Polsi is the sacred place where the famous 12 tables of the ‘Ndrangheta are stored.
Polsi (Reggio Calabria). A moment of the religious procession during the feast of Our Lady of Polsi. Every year this feast is held in September and Calabrians come here from all parts of their region and from abroad.
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