This past week was "Mob Week" on AMC. The list of showings included movies like "Scarface", "The Godfather", "Goodfellas", "Bugsy", and "Donnie Brasco". I haven't seen all of the "Mob" movies and I can't say that I ever will but I do have to admit that the history of the "Mob" or "Mafia" interests me. Although many people have images of the Italian Mafia when they think about the "Mob", Jewish, Irish, and Russian backgrounds were also involved. I'm not interested in the violence but what sparks my curiosity is how the "Mafia" had its beginnings and how it evolved over the years. How did it affect the lives of people? How did it shape the culture? How would things be if the "Mafia" never existed? New York City seemed to be the lifeblood of the "Mob". People from various backgrounds came together and formed organized crime. There were the Italian "Five Families", the "Irish Street Gangs", and Russian "Bratva". Each has used New York City as an urban backdrop to gain money and power.
My sisters currently live in New York City and I've visited them a couple of times. Both in 2009 and in 2011 while visiting, I made my way to "Little Italy" in Manhattan. "Little Italy" is full of Italian restaurants and delis as you can see from my 2009 photo. I would recommend visiting the delis for great, fresh Italian specialties. One thing that amazes me about New York City is that it is the only city in the world where you can find such a vast array of different cultural foods. People came to "make it" here however they could...through restaurants, small businesses, and even organized crime.
Earlier this week I also saw a documentary on "The Godfather" trilogy. As many know, the Italian Mafia have over a hundred year history in New York City. One scene that "The Godfather" documentary showed over and over was the scene from the second Godfather movie where Don Vito is a boy and he's on an immigrant boat that is pulling into New York City harbor. The Statue of Liberty appears before him and he stares. The documentary stated multiple times that "The Godfather" portrayed the classic sense of the new immigrant arriving in America. Part of the scene shows Don Vito with a group of immigrants, adults and children, and they're all looking up at the Statue of Liberty in awe. It is their first impression of this new world, their new lives. I feel that Francis Ford Coppola created a strong sense of emotion with this scene. As much as we may not identify with a violent Mafia Godfather, some of us may be able to identify with a quest for life and family.
Now especially after the 9/11 attacks, I feel that the Statue of Liberty gives us that same strong sense of what being an American is. Whether we're an immigrant from another country or our families have been here for a few generations, we can look up at Lady Liberty and look forward to our futures.
The above photos were taken during our July 2009 NYC trip. We took a boat tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island....highly recommended. Now I'm imagining being an immigrant in the early twentieth century and this is the first image I see as I pull into the New York harbor.