Back in the 1920s, a famous Italian official named Cesari Mori was appointed prefect of Palermo, the capital of Sicily. Mori was a model police officer,
later chosen by Mussolini to lead his national campaign against organized crime.
For years, Mori lived in Trappini on the western part of the island. In his writings, he claimed to have "penetrated the Sicilian mind" which he found to
"Simple and kindly, apt to color everything with generosity of feeling, inclined to deceive itself, to hope and believe; ready to lay all its knowledge,
affection and cooperation at the feet of a powerful figure who assumes their legitimate need for justice and redemption," according to Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia.
The key to the Mafia's success, he argued, was its ability to understand this complex dynamic and exploit it.
And so in Mexico: the entrenched power of monopolists, party bosses, cardinals and mafias are reflections of something much deeper -- a perspective that
arose from what Cosa Nostra calls the "painful scars of... tyranny and oppression."
Not just in terms of crime, as in legendary mafiosos who steal from the rich and give to the poor, but as way of life; a way of facing adversity
and relying bravely on your own people.
Just as in Sicily, these cultural norms required centuries to coalesce, punctuated by watershed moments when outsiders came to be viewed with deep
suspicion. Imagine the Aztec natives' reaction when the Conquerors showed up off the coast of Vera Cruz.
The PRI was founded in the late 1920's by a generation of leaders whose ranks were not only influenced by the Conquest and everything this implies, but
also decimated by revolution and anarchy.
In the midst of the Mexican Revolution, a multi-sided civil war with dangerously shifting power struggles, the PRI decided to bridge wildly divergent
ideological and political gaps by putting "everyone under one roof" -- in effect fusing the party and the Mexican nation-state.
To this end, any means became justified: Between 1929 to 1982, the PRI won every presidential election by margins of over 70 percent -- which were obtained
usually by massive electoral fraud. The party also held an overwhelming majority in the Chamber of Deputies, every seat in the Senate, and every state
During its long reign, the PRI learned not only how to buy votes but also how to corrupt the army, exploit the media, buy off criminals and absorb the
Loyalty, discipline, discretion and silence -- already deeply rooted in society -- became essential to the political system's survival.
Although the "oil and glue" that held the working parts together was based on what Westerners call "corruption," many Mexicans (just like Sicilians) didn't
always see it that way. To most of the nation's political leaders, corruption was an aberration of law, but not of society.