May 17, 2013

The organized crime system oppressing the city of Naples, Italy is known as the camorra. The Neapolitan bingo game in which each number codifies a secret meaning is known as tombola. This is the camorra’s tombola.

In Neapolitan bingo, the number 6 is called “the one who is looking at the floor”, and its hidden meaning is an allusion to the female organ, used to signify women. Unlike women in the Sicilian Mafia, the camorra women of Naples command and dictate. Like Rosetta Cutolo, sister of ‘o professore. Like Assunta Maresca: the beauty queen of Neapolitan suburbia crowned “Miss Rovigliano” at the age of 19; the daughter of the local camorra boss in Castellammare di Stabia; best known as Pupetta, “little doll”; one of the first female bosses of the camorra.

She was six months pregnant when she shot her husband’s murderer with a Smith & Wesson 38 in broad daylight. Pupetta had been married for only 80 days to the smuggler Pasquale Simonetti, nicknamed Pasqual ‘e Nola, in 1955. And because she took revenge just a few hours after her husband’s murder, Pupetta’s clan would be known from then on as the “Lampitielli”, from the Italian word lampi: lightening.

Madame Camorra, as she was baptized by the press, was sentenced to 18 years in prison, where she spent 13 years and 4 months, giving birth in jail. Eventually, her second love became the camorra boss Umberto Ammaturo, with whom she had twins. When Pupetta’s first child turned 18, he was killed. Ammaturo was suspected for the murder, but evidence was never found.

Pupetta continued her criminal activities until she was arrested while running across the roofs on Naples, dressed like a gypsy to confuse the police. After four years in prison, Pupetta moved to Sorrento, where she is rumored to live alone

Her story inspired a movie, in which Alessandra Mussolini, niece of former dictator Benito Mussolini, played Pupetta. It may also have inspired other camorra women; according to a recent investigation, more women than ever now occupy the top of the camorra command.

Post by Michaela A.G. Iaccarino

Illustration: Fanqiao Wang