Roberto Saviano is the author of ZeroZeroZero, about the global cocaine trade, and Gomorrah, a book and TV series about the Neapolitan mafia, because of which he lives under police protection. His novel The Piranhas: The Boy Bosses of Naples was published in English last fall. (December 2019)

Follow Roberto Saviano on Twitter: @robertosaviano.


Meaning and Mayhem

Stills from news footage of ’Ndrangheta boss Giuseppe ‘The Goat’ Giorgi during his arrest, showing him greeting local men and having his hand kissed in a typical mafia gesture of respect, San Luca, Calabria, June 2017
A frequent part of mafia rituals is the kiss. After a Youth of Honor has been baptized, he makes the rounds of the other associates, kissing each twice on the cheeks, except for the capo società (the highest-ranking associate), whom he kisses three times. Kissing the cheeks of the other associates symbolizes the relationship among equals that from that point forward the Youth of Honor will have with the other members of the clan. The kiss, then, becomes the seal on the oath of eternal loyalty to the new family he is now joining. According to mafia grammar, however, there are different types of kisses, each with a different meaning.

The Migrant Caravan: Made in USA

Hondurans living at the Iglesia Embajadores de Jesus shelter in Tijuana while waiting for their US asylum applications to be processed, December 2018
The migrant caravan that left Honduras and headed north toward the US last October is the largest flight from drug trafficking in history. Though the phenomenon of Central American caravans isn’t new, never before have thousands of people decided to flee from criminal organizations in such numbers. It is, in a sense, the biggest anti-mafia march the world has ever seen.