A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial

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Authors: Steve Hendricks
say south of Rome. In Italy, the cultural split between North and South approximates that of the United States. Northerners of that era called Southerners terroni , which was derived from terra , “soil,” and could be translated as “clodhopper.” In the Northern stereotype, terroni were indolent, dirty, clannish, and slow. Northerners liked to say that Africa began at Rome, and even that great urb irritated many Northerners with its inefficiency and bureaucracy. The Milanesi believed themselves mislaid in Italy. Their city, they said, was an international capital in search of a country.
    The migrants who powered the miracle were greeted in Milan with wretched apartments in sunless streets, the worst of schools, and the blackjacks of police. Long after the miracle went bust, a haphazard jumble of tenements might still be called a Corea , because so many of them had been built during the Korean War, which coincided with the miracle. The bars where Southerners drank, having been kicked out, sometimes literally, of “Northern” bars, were called le casbah or i suq . The neighborhood of Dergano, where Abu Omar would settle, had its share of le Coree , le casbah , and i suq .
    The immigrants helped make Milan the richest city in Italy and one of the richest in Europe. Milan faltered a bit in the early 1970s, when the factories were boarded up and the jobs sent to places where workers did not ask for union wages and Sundays off, but the recovery was quick. Other industries had flourished during the miracle: banking, technology, publishing, television, and above all the one with which Milan became synonymous— la moda ,fashion. Since at least the sixteenth century, Europeans had appreciated Milan’s skill with gloves and hats, ribbons and point lace, leather and jewelry. Sellers of these wares in England were called Milaners, and the English, with their genetic oblivion to the foreign accent, pronounced and eventually spelled the word “milliners.” (Later the meaning of “milliner” was restricted from a general haberdasher to a maker of ladies’ hats.) Toward the end of the miracle, Milan’s small fashion workshops transformed themselves into great manufacturers, and Armani, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada became global clichés for taste. To visit Milan was to know this. The shoes of the Milanesi were a little pointier than those of other metropolitans, their heels were a little higher, their pants a little blacker, their stockings runless, their hemlines revelatory of neither too little nor too much leg. Their glasses were isosceles.
    The workforce of the more sophisticated second boom required a supporting proletariat as the first boom had, and many of the janitors and maids and nannies again had to be imported. The immigrants were poor, unskilled, and from families that had until recently worked the land, only this time the land was not metaphorical Africa but the thing itself: Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Mali; also Albania, Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, and China. The newcomers found Milan no more hospitable than their predecessors had a few decades earlier. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, made their first Milanese homes in abandoned factories or idled trains. When these quarters became an embarrassment to the city, the local government steered its guests into metal, container-like shelters that broiled in summer, froze in winter, and were ringed with barbed wire and uplifting rules, like bans on card-playing and women.
    In time, some immigrants established themselves in cheap apartments and lent their floors to newer arrivals, some of whom in turn established themselves and lent their floors. A few opened businesses. Because their neighborhoods tended to be run-down and their clothes not alla moda , many Italians associated the new residents with shabbiness and crime. The same Italians tended also to be disturbed when they emerged from certain Metro stops into a

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