Fiction and reality collide while the virus comes to town The 308th episode overall of the series premiered on September 30. This chapter was an…
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Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, a descendant of Portuguese Lisbon-born parents, was the only non-Italian hitman for the Patriarca clan of the Boston Mafia.
Nicknamed “Animal,” the “Portugee” went by many names and became notorious as the most vicious gangster in Boston and earned the fearsome title of number four on the top five most notorious mob hitmen.
Legend says he had at least thirty known killings under his belt as the henchman for the Patriarca Family — the Boston clan of the Italian Mafia known as La Cosa Nostra.
He was the only non-Italian to join the Mob because of his ruthless nature and impressive physique and would brag about having killed twenty-six people; however, we will never know the exact gruesome figures.
I learned about “The Animal” from reading Joana Amaral Dias¹ and Casey Sherman’s² books.
Joe was born on September 20, 1932, during the Great Depression. He was the second of five children and the son of, Palmeda “Patty” Camila Barboza, a seamstress and waitress. Joe Barboza Sr. was a Lisbon native who emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1920s and became a boxing champion in the following decade, “one of the best little 160-pounders” from the Boston region.
The New Bedford fishing industry was sinking under the Depression, and the Barboza family struggled to make ends meet. Patty had to steal to provide food for her children when her husband eloped the household.
Joe Sr. was a womanizer and wife-beater who worked as a milkman and factory worker. He boxed for cash, became a petty criminal, and found himself in prison for assault.
Joe was already “working the streets” with his fellow urchins at a young age. He was first arrested when he was 14 for destroying a store, and at 17, he formed a gang — the Cream Pie Bandits, that launched a wave of terror over the Boston area in December 1949.
Extreme poverty, an abusive father that shunned his mother, and an unhappy childhood turned Joe into a “beast of a man.” His gang rapidly went from shoplifting to burglary with Barboza as its chieftain.
Joe’s “education” came from the Lyman Reform School, a building ground for violence where youngsters had to be tough as nails to get by. Joe was a “good student” with matching bruised knuckles and a grade A nickname, “The Animal.” After being released, he did weightlifting and fought in the boxing ring to move up the ranks.
Joe “The Animal” was in and out of prison until 1958. He needed to earn a living, but the only thing he knew how to do was fight. He went back to the ring and started a new gang. Barboza Jr. and his men caught the eye of the Patriarca family, who brought the crew under their wing.
The family patriarch, Raymond Patriarca, wanted to rule the Boston crime scene and annihilate his enemies. The Italian kingpin hired Barboza to do it; however, as proof of the Portuguese absolute fidelity, he also asked him to murder some of the former members of his gang.
That’s how the “Portugee” made it to the Italian Mafia. He never blinked when the time came to pull the trigger. However, Joe took an oath never to harm women or children.
A wave of crimes followed, most of them alcohol-related, including a series of gruesome murders perpetrated by “The Animal.” However, he wasn’t Italian; there was also bad blood against the “Portugee” inside La Cosa Nostra.
On the other hand, the FBI overwatch was also probing Barboza, as the Bureau was enlisting whistleblowers in the fight against organized crime.
Joe was betrayed by his fellow mobsters and got arrested. Hence, he finds himself vowing revenge, namely against La Cosa Nostra’s “godfather,” Raymond Patriarca, who signed Joe’s death sentence by issuing an assassination decree.
Barboza spilled the tea to the FBI, and when the word came out that “The Animal” snitched, he was deemed a canary and a pariah. Joe testified in court in 1967 and enrolled in the witness protection program. The mob patriarch was arrested, and the Bureau’s trojan horse approach to bringing down the Mafia proved highly effective.
Betrayed by an alleged friend, Joe, who was 43 at the time, he was gunned down on February 11, 1976, on the street outside his San Francisco residence in what seemed to be an execution-style hit by the Boston Mafia.
Joe Barboza’s funeral was held in New Bedford, and when it was time for the funeral eulogy, his brother, Donald, told the priest, “Do it in Portuguese. My brother was Portuguese.”
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