Portella della Ginestra massacre

Portella della Ginestra massacre

The Portella della Ginestra massacre was a violent act in the history of modern Italian politics, when 11 persons were killed and 33 wounded during May Day celebrations in Sicily on May 1, 1947, on the desolate plateau at the top of the pass leading from San Giuseppe Jato across to Piana degli Albanesi. Those held responsible were the bandit and separatist leader Salvatore Giuliano and his band – although their motives and intentions are still a matter of controversy.


Ten days earlier, the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI), under Girolamo Li Causi, had won a surprising victory in the elections for the 90 seats in Sicily's Constituent Assembly. Having allied in a "People's Bloc" with the Socialist party, the left-wing coalition had obtained 29 seats, while Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi's (Christian Democrat Party) got 20 and the rightist Qualunquist-Monarchist received 15 seats. ["Red Bloc Wins in Sicily," "San Antonio Light", April 23, 1947, p. 24] With national elections set for October, the leftist win in Sicily created speculation that a coalition led by Palmiro Togliatti might bring Italy under Communist rule. In Sicily, Li Causi pledged to redistribute large land holdings, but to preserve any of 100 hectares (247 acres) or less. [http://jcgi.pathfinder.com/time/printout/0,8816,793644,00.html Caesar with Palm Branch] , Time Magazine, May 5, 1947]

The massacre

On May 1, hundreds of celebrants, mostly poor, gathered in the of valley of Portella della Ginestra, located between the towns of Piana degli Albanesi and San Giuseppe Jato for the international labour day or May Day holiday. At 10:15 a.m., the Communist secretary from Piana Degli Albenesi began to address the crowd when gunfire broke out. It was later determined that machine guns had been fired from the surrounding hills, as well as by men on horseback. Eleven people were killed, including four children, Serafino Lascari (15), Giovanni Grifò (12) and Giuseppe Di Maggio and Vincenzo La Fata, both seven years old. Thirty-three people were wounded, including a little girl who had her jaw shot off.


The next day, a brawl involving almost 200 legislators broke out in the Italy's parliament, the Constituent Assembly, after Li Causi accused the Mafia and the Qualunquist Party leader Giannini of masterminding the killing. [http://jcgi.pathfinder.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,855656,00.html Battle of the Inkpots] , Time, May 12, 1947] The Italian General Confederation of Labour, Italy's labor union, called a brief general strike. Until the massacre, the 25 year old Giuliano had been regarded by many as a modern day Robin Hood who stole from (and even kidnapped) wealthy Sicilians to help the impoverished Sicilians. The shooting of children and peasant at Ginestra, however, outraged his former admirers, and a bounty of three million lire ($13,200 in 1947) was offered by the Italian government for Giuliano's capture. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,934633,00.html The Price of Heads] , Time Magazine, July 7, 1947] After three years on the run, Giuliano died at the hands of one of his own men at Castelvetrano on July 5, 1950.

Film depictions

When Francesco Rosi came to Sicily re-enact the massacre for his 1961 film, "Salvatore Giuliano", the trauma from 14 years earlier was still fresh. When simulated gunfire started, the crowd panicked and knocked over one of the cameras in a rush to escape. Michael Cimino's 1987 version, a film adaptation of Mario Puzo's "The Sicilian", filmed instead at Sutera and Caltanissetta.


* [http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/outlaws/sicilian_robin_hood/10.html The Mystery of the Massacre at Portella della Ginestra] CrimeLibrary.com
* Dickie, John (2004). Cosa Nostra. A history of the Sicilian Mafia, London: Coronet ISBN 0-340-82435-2

External links

*it icon [http://www.cittanuove-corleone.it/La%20Sicilia,%20Strage%20Portella%20della%20Ginestra%2001.05.2005%20pa03.pdf 1 maggio 1947, ore dieci: l’eccidio] , La Sicilia, May 1, 2005

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