Bronze and stone work of Tommaso Geraci – 1999
Epifanio Li Puma was born in Raffo, a hamlet of Petralia Soprana, on 06th January 1893. Returned from the first world war, he undertook his first fight demanding the lands that the state had promised to the combatants.
Epifanio Li Puma declared openly to be against fascism, and everybody was aware of his courage and his determination. He was not a revolutionary, but a pacifist who believed in the state and in the equal justice. He was a trade unionist, and in the referendum on monarchy vs republic, he sided with Republic. He believed in the political ideals of socialism, considered as “the party that provided bread”, and his political speeches were always in favor of the left and of the PSI (Italian Socialist Party).
His life was devoted to defend the rights of the working class. Although he was devoid of cultural background, he carried out a revolution among peasants, prompting them to claim their rights against the landowners. In 1946 he organized in Raffo the League of Farmers, because he had understood that the trade unions were the only means to effectively improve the chance of the peasants. Clearly, this commitment brought him into conflict with the feudal lord for whom he worked, and he began receiving intimidation and eviction threats from the fief. After the foundation of the league, the first meetings and claims started. The meetings had the purpose not only of organizing the fight, but also of informing citizens about the political, legislative and trade union situation.
The meetings, before becoming secret, were announced in various ways, ringing the bell or by word of mouth. Despite the climate of intimidation and slavery, the meetings continued but became secret. The topic under discussion was always the same: to decide to stop working the land of the Marquis, in order to force him to recognize the laws in force. This was a difficult choice to make, because farming that piece of land was the only source of life for many families. In order to obtain the application of the new percentages for the product allocation, dictated by the decree “Gullo”, Li Puma summoned the heads-league of neighboring villages to ask the assistance of a lawyer. In 1947, after the first successes, the symbolic occupation of uncultivated lands started, with the aim “land to those who work.”
After de decree Gullo, it was the turn of the implementation of Decree N. 89 -of course not applied in Sicily- for the allocation of uncultivated or poorly cultivated land in favor of farm cooperatives. Li Puma with the other leaders of the league proposed the establishment of an agricultural cooperative called Madreterra (“motherland”) and they requested about 12,500 acres of land. The request was rejected, but this did not discourage the farmers who decided to non sawing and cultivating the land of their masters. The activities intensified and the peasant movement was making inroads. Epifanio was repeatedly threatened.
He was advised to denounce the people who threatened him, but he answered that, after four years of war, first line and trenches, and even an injure, he could not be afraid about threats.
Epifanio Li Puma was killed on 2nd March 1948, while he was working on his piece of land, in front of two of his children, with two gunshots from two men on horseback. A murder that no one had imagined, but that in some ways had been announced because the struggle against feudal families had become harsher and the members of Mafia had been mobilized. For Mafia it was necessary to beat the movement and to give a strong signal in full campaign for the elections of 18th April 1948 by eliminating a head-league, the leader of the peasant movement who never gave up.