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Reggio di Calabria at dusk, toe of the boot of Italy

To sustain myself this morning after a long week, I am playing Dixit Dominus, GF Handel, Monteverdi Choir. If you are unfamiliar with this gorgeous Baroque piece, I highly recommend it: your heart will dance.

My day lilies are opening and now I know why they are called “day lilies.” One bloom lasts exactly one day. How metaphorical and amazing is that. A surge of color, orange mouth opening to the sun and the bees and then the petals wilt and the bloom hangs her head. That is why there are so many clusters of buds on each stem, perhaps. Who to ask…

Yesterday during his Lake Wobegon segment Garrison said that the interim Lutheran pastor-ess had held a joint service with the Unitarians and that quacamole had been spread on the communion wafers.

Good one. This resonated hugely for this cradle Episcopalian.

Earlier this week I did some research for my novella, the spin off of my memoir Nightfall in Verona. I wanted to learn more about the political structure of the province of Calabria, as in the novella my expat writer returns to take up life with her amore and lives in a small fishing town on the toenail of Italy– I know the plot sounds familiar but I am trying to “make it new.”

One link led to another and then another and then I noticed something immensely disquieting. In the 1980’s the “‘Ndranghete, the Calabrian mafia, gained a chokehold on the beautiful city where I fell in love in 1973. Cocaine smuggling caused the closing of the Tauro port, and in 1985 there was a bloodbath in the streets of Reggio Calabria between two huge Mafia families leaving 800 dead, about ten feet from where I stayed with my lover’s family.

I read some press that said that the whole thing had died down, but yesterday via the bloga Rete per la Calabria came an announcement of a dragnet and arrest of some 40 ‘ndrini, as the “ndranghete” are called, in downtown Reggio.   This arrest is the pride of the local carbinieri, the “ROS,” the antimafia forces, and at the moment, of Rome and Berlusconi. Take a look at where Berlusconi might be coming from.

I have just written 40,000 words about the beauty of this place and how full of life it was. I will never forget my promenade along the Calabrian lido, or the love I made in the palazzo we stayed in that belonged to someone in the family “away on business.”

As you might imagine I have many questions. I cannot find my lover online to ask him if he is safe, what became of his family. And, I suddenly felt estranged from my memoir, as if I had been seduced into believing that what I saw, felt, lived, was in fact what I felt, saw and lived, even though allegedly the syndicate did not have a chokehold on Reggio Calabria at the time.

I have been dusting off my Italian for months and now it is overtaking me. Today when an article about the bust came into my hotmail box, I worked up a translation, then ran it all through Google which produced utterly confusing versions, and then took poetic license as translators should do. Context translates; literal constructions don’t always. If anyone reading this blog notes my errors and wishes to set me straight, have at it.

This raises some questions for me about idealizing the past in memoir and overlooking shadows and that which thrives in darkness. Did I do that? I was certainly unaware of anything in the family or going on in the city around me other than the occasional flaring of hot tempers, and now count myself lucky. If anyone I spent time with led a double life it was never revealed to me. I am working all of this out in my novel, and pursuing completiion of my query to an agent.

But how sad, how awful. As is the case with atrocious things happening in other remote places, we hear nothing of this place in our press. We seldom think of southern Italy as anything but idyllic unless we happen to be up on these things. Perhaps my memoir if it sees the light of day will comfort those who grieve over their beautiful city, and the death of innocence and breach of trust the bloodbath meant for so very many vital people.

The following excerpts from Rete per la Calabria are testimony to the fact that the Mob once confined to traditional Mob activities like drug smuggling, gun running, and carrying out hits for assorted reasons, has infiltrated the fabric of Reggio’s government. Under such circumstances it takes a brave man to post the following.

From the Blog Rete di Calabria


Translation J.R. Andrews

June 26, 2010

1. Nelle diverse reazioni di esponenti del pdl e della destra sulla brillante operazione giudiziaria denominata “META” condotta con successo dalla Procura Distrettuale Antimafia di Reggio Calabria e dal Ros dei Carabinieri, c’è sempre un comune denominatore che colpisce : viene apprezzato il lavoro investigativo della Procura ma contemporaneamente si comunica che non c’è alcun avviso di garanzia nei confronti dell’ex Sindaco ed attuale Presidente della Regione Giuseppe Scopelliti. In effetti appare evidente che queste numerose dichiarazioni siano state fatte solo allo scopo di annunciare “urbi et orbi” che Scopelliti non è indagato, anche se non bisognerebbe mai dimenticarsi la famosa locuzione latina “excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta”. A parte il fatto che costoro non spiegano come mai in questa come in altre recenti clamorose operazioni giudiziarie siano numerosi i sindaci, amministratori, consiglieri comunali e circoscrizionali della destra coinvolti e raggiunti anche da provvedimenti di custodia cautelare.

Ma quello che sta emergendo dal provvedimento della Procura è ancora più grave ed inquietante dell’emanazione di un mero avviso di garanzia a chicchessia.

1: In the diverse reactions of the proponents of the PDL and of statements about the brilliant organized operation META conducted with success by the Antimafia District Attorney of Reggio Calabria and by the ROS, is always a common denominator that gives a blow: the investigative work of the prosecutor is appreciated but at the same time one notes that there is not one order or confrontation of the ex-Syndicate and actions of Giuseppe Scopelliti. In effect it seems evident by the numerous statments that have been made only about the scope of announcing the operation “urbi et orbi”– to the city and the world– that Scopelliti is not indicted, even though we should not forget the famous Latin saying ” that an excuse not asked for is a manifest accusation.” The district attorneys do not explain why, in this as in other recent sensational court operations, are numerous mayors, administrators, councilors and constituency of the right under detention measures.

That which emerges from the Prosecutorial orders is therefore a very grave and unsettling manfestation of a superficial guarantee (pyrrhic victory).

2. Per la prima volta, dopo le tantissime denunce politiche che noi abbiamo fatto in questi anni, viene alla luce in modo chiaro e netto un sistema di potere e di governo della cosa pubblica (fino ad oggi il Comune di Reggio, ma domani tutto questo potrebbe investire l’intera Regione Calabria?) profondamente corrotto e degradato, che ha dissestato il comune e lo ha trasformato nell’orticello privato di un gruppo di potere assai vasto ed articolato che lo ha gestito a piacimento con mezzi leciti e, molto spesso, illeciti ed illegittimi. Il comune è diventato una vera e propria melma. Questo è il tanto decantato “Modello Reggio” che adesso vorrebbero estendere a tutta la regione.

Questo sistema si è impadronito della città di Reggio Calabria e della sua massima istituzione elettiva dando vita ad un formidabile intreccio politica – massoneria deviata – ndrangheta – affari, che fa tutt’uno con un sottobosco cittadino che vive nei gangli fondamentali del potere comunale in cui dominano faccendieri, affaristi, mazzettisti, imprenditori senza scrupoli, professionisti collusi e invischiati, burocrati asserviti, politici legati alle cosche, prestanome insospettabili, boss e affiliati.

2J: For the first time, after our many political denunciations this year, has come to light in a clear and clean manner a system of power and of public government -( today the city of Reggio, but which tomorrow could involve the whole Calabrian region) profoundly corrupt and degraded, that has divided the community by the private mechanism so vast and entrenched it has quietly gestated half-lawfully, and many suspect, illicitly and illegitmately.

This system that is imposed on the city of Reggio Calabria and its major elective institutions gives life to a formidable political tangle– a deviated free masonary– ndrangheta– affairs made inseparable with even the citizen under the radar– “sottobosca”– by the fundamental ganglia of communal power in which fixers, speculators, unscrupulous entrepreneurs, colluding and invisible professionals, subservient bureaucrats, well-known “lawful” politicians, unsuspected nominees, bosses and affiliates operate.

3. Del resto l’arresto dell’ex consigliere comunale di alleanza nazionale, il poliziotto Labate, si poteva già considerare come la punta dell’iceberg di una situazione fortemente compromessa e condizionata dalle cosche della ndrangheta che spadroneggiano nella città in tutti i campi e che decidono i candidati e gli eletti, umiliando, in ogni modo e con ogni mezzo, noi e tutti quelli che non intendono piegarsi.

3J: The remaining arrest of ex communal councilman of the national alliance, the Labate political machine, still raises concern like the tip of the iceberg of a fortified, compromised and established situation from which the ‘ndranghete spread out from the city in all camps and that decides the candidates and the elections, humiliating the people, in every way and with every manner that they do not intend to “represent” any of us.

4. Al di là degli avvisi di garanzia che non ci sono stati, si pone, quindi, un’enorme questione etica e morale che non si risolve e non si affronta solo in sede giudiziaria, ma riguarda la città, la sua coscienza pubblica e collettiva, il suo bisogno di ritrovare la via della legalità e della trasparenza, il suo rifiuto netto e categorico di una trasformazione del comune, inteso come casa di tutti, nel palazzo degli affari e degli imbrogli per pochi, la sua volontà di aprire una nuova fase della sua vita.

4J: It is necessary to say to those that issue proclamations of success that we are not stable and safe and that there, is therefore, if you will, an enormous ethical and moral question that is not resolved and not confronted in court and in one pronouncement, but regarding the city, the public and collective conscience, that she, the city, needs to return to a legal and transparent path, rediscovery of the transformation of the commune, viewed as home for all, not from the buildings of the governmental affairs and from the political imbroglio, but because of her will to open to a new phase of her life.