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Brigandage in Sicily. The Banda Maurina on the Nebrodi

Scontri armati. Illustrazioni di Madè

Scontri armati. Illustrazioni di Madè

Brigandage has always been considered as a symptom of a degradation of society that was forming. It seems to draw its origin from that wave revolutionary who was the Risorgimento, if not already from the first motions in the Napoleonic era. Of course, as described by Benedetto Croce, we cannot speak of an Italian Vandea, since what really interested in the process of formation of the robbery was not an “insurgency targeted men as wholly devoted to the cause of religion and the monarchy ” but a phenomenon that manifested his primary evidence in the case of armed resistance. But armed resistance to what? The robbery, however, as ephemeral and ineffective response to the vacuum left by the Bourbon regime or as a result of the political project of the Right after the historic resolution on the south? Whatever the answer it intends to give, it is certain that represented the robbery, during which it had its maximum spread, a peculiar trait of social change – economic which covered the South in this historical phase.

Significant were the measures that the Government took to address and eliminate this pervasive phenomenon. The campaigns have become the ideal scenario of bloody guerrilla warfare between armed forces and bandits, they represented a tangible sign of the deep hostility of the masses against a government which did not identify, the interference of police who did not accept and rule on stop compulsory military refused. The approval of Law Pica institutionalized, in fact, repression, triggering an exponential growth of mass arrests and summary executions of those arrested, with the specific intent to eradicate the problem. The only result, in truth, was to see multiply ranks.

Esecuzioni. Illustrazioni di Madè

Esecuzioni. Illustrazioni di Madè

The behavior of the people against these gangs is a natural consequence of which was known as “accomplice”, that is the attitude with which he encourages anyone in illegal actions reprehensible and, ideally, this happened not because the masses were dedicated to criminal activities, but for bias, against the even more cruel and bloody massacres that were ordered in the South.

San Mauro di Castelverde is the place where he formed one of the bands in those years inspired a certain fear in all of Sicily and mainly in Nebrodi: the band Maurina. Components of the robbers and founders Vincenzo and Angelo Rinaldi Rocca under the auspices of the absolute ruler Biagio Valvo, who had in fact formed in 1870. Composed approximately by fifteen members, it saw not one, but two heads at the same time which had divided the tasks for attitudes, the one, the rock slightly endowed intellectually, and ruthless man of action, the other, the Rinaldi, more intelligent, man of relations and director of the band. Their chance meeting was as an example of close cooperation in the history of banditry. Rinaldi employed at the estate of Valve in 1871, he was wanted by police for having participated in crimes and incidents against the accomplice to Valvo himself. The shelter in the countryside of San Mauro gave him the possibility to join forces with Rock and joined at the head of the gang.

Vincenzo Rocca, capo della Banda Maurina

Vincenzo Rocca, capo della Banda Maurina

Angelo Rinaldi, capo della Banda Maurina

Angelo Rinaldi, capo della Banda Maurina

Other prominent elements within the Maurin, to name a few, were Nicola Accorsi, the “letters” of Banda, which was entrusted with the task of writing the blackmail letters to the families of landowners being targeted, and Domenico Botindari. The latter deserves a speech in part because he was not only faithful follower of Rinaldi, but presumably, his murder in July 1876. At that time indeed the two were entered into a disagreement because of the “somber” preached by Botindari. A few days after the intervention of a senior leader of another gang, Antonino Leone from Montemaggiore, Rinaldi, who was one head, after the death of Rock, was killed. The year that saw the peak of Maurina and 1874, a period in which in addition to the criminal brutality of which patch you add the various rounds of extortion against landowners in the area.

Domenico Botindari, componente della Banda Maurina

Domenico Botindari, componente della Banda Maurina

Nicolò Accorsi, componente della Banda Maurina

Nicolò Accorsi, componente della Banda Maurina

Among the soldiers who were actual figures of supporting actors in the bands, one of the heirs that mostly echoed the views nebroideo, especially Caesar, as head of the feared Banda Maurin, during the years following that which saw the feats with Rinaldi and Rocca, was certainly Melchiorre Candino. A native of San Mauro Castelverde, bandit by necessity, because of the desperate condition that the inaction required, but it is also for a range of crimes, in his case three murders for which he was wanted. It is likely that Candino had come into contact with the Maurina based on knowledge of Botindari too militant in the ranks of Garibaldi. It would not be excluded at this point that it was the Botindari itself, and not as it was said Candino, the head of Maurina in those years. The Candino may have taken the reins only after the arrest of the forest Botindari Pioppera September 22, 1892, two years before the “destruction” of the gang at the hands of Leanza of Gesar. But this, for the moment, is pure conjecture.

Reconstruction of the best known facts that led to the defeat of Banda, as reported by Mario Carastro on Bronte Together, seems to differ only for the part about the ambush in Banda from “friends” Leanza (according to some fact, there was one the two groups as a form of cooperation). The version that circulates in the country that gave birth to Leanza is another. Trecarichi Calogero, by virtue of the stories that his father, Vittorio, under the direct authority of Gabriel, the youngest child of Leanza author of the massacre, he used to tell him, the events took place as follows. I Leanza, contacted directly by the prefect, agreed to execute and exterminate the gang Maurina. Invited by Leanza, the Banda goes near Mount Preamble, the possessions of Leanza, a so-called “manciata” (a typical Sicilian dinner in which it is customary to slurp all). I Leanza, however, are outnumbered compared to the band that has one more member, so is to attend an external member to the family, some Travaglianti which remains on the watch, along with a gang member on Mount Preamble. The father Leanza assigns each child a man to kill, while the Travaglianti would look at the sound of gunfire, his companion on the lookout. In the implementation plan was also provided for the password that was to mark the start of the killing: Anthony (not by chance that the protector of animals). During dinner one of the guests, it is not know who, turning his gaze to a splendid specimen of a horse exclaimed “beddu stu cavaddu” (beautiful this horse) followed by the response of Francesco Leanza “San Antonio mu vadda ” (San Antonio to protect it). Thus began the firefight. The Leanza all, seized the unsuspecting visitors by surprise, killing them coldly. While he was on the lookout Travaglianti distracted after the “comrade”, it struck down behind when the shooting filled the evening.

So this could be an alternative to reconstruction of the facts known so far: the scarcity of written material about how the massacre in fact obliges us to assume with some caution.

Gaetano Barbagallo

(Thanks to Mrs Lita Abrami. She was a great help in translation)

6 thoughts on “Brigandage in Sicily. The Banda Maurina on the Nebrodi

  1. This was a great article .. I’ve been hearing stories of this my whole life.. Francesco Leanza was my great great grandfather.!
    Donna Marie Leanza

  2. Thank you, Donna! I wish you’ll find the time, sooner or later, to visit the places where everything happened: Cesarò! Thanks for reading me.

  3. I have been to Cesaro! We visited distant cousins and even saw the home where my Grandfather George Leanza lived! It was quaint and beautiful and I marveled at how it looked like the scene in the” The Godfather” when Michael looks up to see the town of Corlenone.. Looked just like it to me!
    I am wondering what sparked your interest in the Maurina band and Cesaro? 🙂 Also I will be coming back some day with my children!

  4. Well, you have to know: first, I live in Cesarò; second, as a history teacher, I was curious about the facts around the Banda Maurina, as my father was used to tell me when I was a young boy. Third, the end of this Banda took place in Cesarò’s area, so it was so easy gathered many infos. Ask for me next time you’ll be around, it would be a pleasure have a nice chat with you. Take care.

  5. My father George Leanza told me the exact same story of how Fransesco was summoned by the police department to explain why the Maurina band did not bother the town of Cesaro or the Leanza family . The police accused the Leanza family of being a participant or protector or offered what in our country today is a sanctuary or safe house for the bandits.The police pressured Fransesco to eliminate the Maurina band or else they would assume the Fransesco family is protecting the bandits . Francesco agreed to help the police and consequently arranged for the band to dine with them. They then blew them away the way you described . The newspaper account of ambushing in the forest was not the way my father told me the ambush happened. The bodies were probably carried out to the clearing in the woods to verify the story about the woods ambush to remove the implication of cooperation with the band as a safe house or sanctuary by the Leanza’s.

  6. Thank you, John! This is an original and new contribution!

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