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The American Mafia commonly referred to in North America as the Italian-American Mafia, the Mafia, or the Mob, is a highly organized Italian-American criminal society and criminal organization. The organization is often referred to by its members as Cosa Nostra and by the American government as La Cosa Nostra (LCN). The organization’s name is derived from the original Mafia or Cosa nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, with “American Mafia” originally referring simply to Mafia (or Cosa nostra) groups from Sicily operating in America, as the organization initially emerged as an American offshoot of the Sicilian Mafia (known as Cosa nostra by its members). However, the organization gradually evolved into a separate entity partially independent of the original Mafia in Sicily, and it eventually encompassed or absorbed other Italian-American gangsters and Italian-American crime groups (such as the American Camorra) active in the United States and Canada that were not of Sicilian origin. In North America, it is often colloquially referred to as the Italian Mafia or Italian Mob, though these terms may also apply to the separate yet related Sicilian Mafia or other organized crime groups in Italy.
The Mafia in the United States emerged in impoverished Italian immigrant neighborhoods or ghettos in New York’s East Harlem (or Italian Harlem), the Lower East Side, and Brooklyn; also emerging in other areas of the East Coast of the United States and several other major metropolitan areas (such as New Orleans and Chicago) during the late 19th century and early 20th century, following waves of Italian immigration especially from Sicily and other regions of Southern Italy. It has its roots in the Sicilian Mafia but is a separate organization in the United States. Neapolitan, Calabrian and other Italian criminal groups in the U.S., as well as independent Italian-American criminals, eventually merged with Sicilian Mafiosi to create the modern pan-Italian Mafia in North America. Today, the American Mafia cooperates in various criminal activities with Italian organized crime groups, such as the Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra of Naples and the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria. The most important unit of the American Mafia is that of a “family,” as the various criminal organizations that make up the Mafia are known. Despite the name of “family” to describe the various units, they are not familial groupings.