The world wars
The war had a profound effect on the island. In 1945 and 1946, a strong separatists movement campaigned for Sicily to be admitted as a U.S. state (It would have been the 49th state, preceding Alaska and Hawaii).
Appeasing this movement the Italian government awarded Sicily with a special status, and to this day Sicily is declared an autonomous region of Italy in 1946.
Unfortunately, the war had a further effect on the region. Once the Allies turned to the Mafia for assistance; supporting this criminal network in their quest for power in Sicily.
Notorious Mafioso, Don Calogero Vizzini became a key player in the political sphere and the Sicilian Mafia developed into a frightening force on the island for the next 50 years, constructing a massive heroin and cocaine trafficking network that stretched from Palermo to New York as well as the infamous protection and extortion rackets – a criminal lifestyle that has been the inspiration for countless Hollywood blockbusters. For Sicilians however, this was reality and lasted up until the 90s, when a number of big criminal players were prosecuted in a series of highly-publicised trials.