The Mafia typically refers to La Cosa Nostra, the Italian Mafia, although the term is also applied to the various European ethnic crime syndicates (many of which were consumed by La Cosa Nostra, including the Polish, Irish, Jewish, Mexican, and Afro-Caribbean syndicates). The oldest player in North America, the Mafia is heavily embedded into Western culture, and thus, most people only know about the misconceptions of the Mafia that they learned from crime investigation shows and movies.
The Mafia is steeped in tradition and internal conflict. One of the main reasons that the Mafia is struggling against the increasing sphere of influence of foreign outfits (such as the Yakuza, the Triads, and the Vory) and new syndicates (such as the Seoulpa Rings and the Native American crime organizations) is the constant war between the regional Mafias, with each Capo trying to gain more influence and power. As they say in the Old World, “The Mafia is its own worst enemy.” The two most important traditions of the Mafia are omerta (silence) and rispetto (respect). You do not speak of the Mafia, and you are obligated to maintain the honor and respect of the Family.
The Mafia is organized into families, who are ruled by Dons. The families are organized into regions (based on geographical areas around major cities), with each region ruled by a Capo (fem., Capa). The Capo leaders as a whole are called the Commissione. The Commissione, in theory, report to the Inner Circle, the 12 most powerful Dons and Capos, who report to the Capo di Tutti Capi, the Big Boss.