Sicily is a land of extreme contrasts which live awkwardly together and ironically cancel one another out. Many visitors to the island marvel at the sight of so many superbly preserved archeological sites such as the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, which has some of the most well-preserved Greek temples outside of Athens only to be repulsed by the filth of the major cities such as Catania and the terrible pollution of the refineries along the coastlines in places like Milazzo and Gela.
In a recent news article from Syracuse a former jail from the Bourbon period in the Ortigia historic part of the city, has been secretly turned into an illegal dumping site. So tourists who visit the small islet near Syracuse to see the ancient town and its beautiful open air markets, are confronted with an abandoned building filled with trash nearby.
The news article from Siracusanews.it goes on to describe the litany of waste discovered in the building including: construction site, cement, paint tins, organic waste admitting a foul odor, bottles, plastic, tins, bricks, old furniture, detergent bottles, old doors, fruit boxes and used tires.
Beauty and ugliness are inappropriate bed fellows, but in Sicily there seems to have a strange karmic destiny at play. From a native dialect which had no future tense, Sicily is in a constant struggle between its present and a violent history of systematic repression, foreign domination and extreme poverty.
Sicily’s history is constantly coming back to haunt it, the seedy underbelly of the Mafia is constantly undercutting the open and good nature of everyday Sicilian’s. Rather than cleaning up after themselves they live with the stench, it is as if they are eternally defeated.
Sicilians are both instigators and victims of their own sordid destiny from a badly managed public service that cripples small business and helps corrupted conglomerates, to endless nepotism, cronyism and elitist favors which are reminiscent of a feudal class system.
Every thing is contrived to push forward less than brilliant students in the schools and into the best paid public positions which ultimately sabotages and creates added bureaucracy to an already complex system.
Sicily is persistently shooting itself in the foot.
There is so much wasted potential which seems destined to consume itself in an endless cycle of self-destruction. The beauty is continually ruined by foul ugliness.
Sometimes I feel I will never understand this place, it’s like watching a car crash in slow motion.