Cigar City Magazine/May-June 2010

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I always told my family that the business was first in my life- which sounds harsh until analyzed and understood. Our business has been the vehicle that has carried us, and many others, on a wonderful ride through life. It has allowed us to achieve and do more good than we could have ever imagined or hoped for. Its success has allowed us to look within ourselves, recognize the things that are truly important, and act on those things. Without the company's success, our intentions would have been just as honorable and philanthropic, but we would never have been able to act on these intentions.

Angel Oliva Leaf Tobacco Pioneer 1907-1995 To read more about the Oliva Tobacco Company please visit our website at





CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Paul Guzzo Paul has been a journalist in Tampa for the past 10 years. He has also written and produced a number of award-winning independent films, including Charlie Wall: The Documentary. Paul can be reached at

Mark Carlos McGinty Mark is a descendant of Cuban cigar makers. His first novel Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy (Beaver’s Pond Press, 2003) won an Eric Hoffer Book Award Honorable Mention for General Fiction. He graduated from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida and got his Master’s degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati. Mark can be reached at

Sarah McNamara Sarah is a Tampa native, is a Historian of Latino and United States History. She will begin work on her PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the fall of 2010. Sarah can be reached at


Cigar City, Inc. | P.O. Box 18613 | Tampa, Florida 33679 Tel 813-373-9988 | Fax 1-866-869-0617 | E-mail: ©2010, Cigar City, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use without written permission of the publisher, of editorial, pictorial, or design content, in any manner is prohibited. The opinions of writers commissioned for articles are not necessarily those of the publisher. All advertising is subject to approval before acceptance. Publisher reserves the right to refuse any advertisement for any reason whatsoever. Publisher assumes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers. All letters, emails and their contents sent to Cigar City, Inc. become the sole property of the publisher and may be used and published in any manner whatsoever without limit and without obligation or liability to the author there of.



here’s no denying Tampa’s historic and continued connection to Cuba. Indeed, at the very center of our city’s seal is the Mascotte, one of railroad magnate Henry Plant’s steamships that traveled regularly between Tampa and Havana. The connections are almost too numerous to mention and any Tampa native is no doubt familiar with Tampa’s Cuban legacy. From Emanuel Leto Editor cigars to cuisine, baseball to politics, the strain of Cuban history is omnipresent. For a fuller account, see issue 18, volume 3 of Cigar City Magazine, which focuses exclusively on the “Tampa Cuba Connection”. There is another, perhaps less popular link between Cuba and Tampa- one that is often obscured through the lens of history and politics. In 1955, Fidel Castro visited Tampa. He was in town for several weeks, meeting with supporters, giving speeches and raising money. Tampa’s role in Fidel Castro’s ascendancy however, is frequently- perhaps conveniently- forgotten. In fact, Castro’s independence movement had wide support in this city. A branch of the 26th of July Movement was based here. Castro spoke at the AFL-CIO union hall on 7th Avenue to a crowd of more than 100 people, and, according to local news accounts and headlines on January 1, 1959, traffic was snarled in Ybor City and West Tampa as people honked their horns and celebrated in the streets. That’s not to say it was all positive. By 1961, the Tampa Tribune reported that “tensions were high” among pro and anti-Castro groups and violence and intimidation between the two factions was common. The point, however, is that multiple viewpoints regarding the situation in Cuba thrived in Tampa. Contributing writer Paul Guzzo explores another potential link between Tampa and Cuba: guns. It is widely known that, in the build up to Castro’s 1959 revolution, pro-Castro groups 10

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such as the 26th of July Movement smuggled guns to Cuba via Florida and Texas. Federal and state officials made numerous arrests and seizures of arms shipments frequently captured local headlines. Guzzo, however, has uncovered something else entirely. Did the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office aid in the shipment of guns to Fidel Castro’s fledgling army? Guzzo’s source, a retired captain in the Sheriff Office’s Vice Squad, Ellis Clifton, hinted at the connection during an interview with the writer several years ago. When Guzzo pressed for more details, Clifton quickly changed the subject. The evidence, though mostly circumstantial, is enough to raise an eyebrow. Using Clifton’s cryptic confession as a jumping off point, Guzzo assembles the pieces of a convincing puzzle. Although the argument hinges on Clifton’s “I will not tell a lie” reputation, there was a potential motive: the arrest of reputed Tampa mobster Santo Trafficante, Jr. In his rise to power, Castro promised to end the rampant corruption and vice associated with Havana’s casinos. In essence, he promised to kick the mafia out of Cuba. Could Castro and Captian Ellis Clifton’s disdain for the Mob have united them in common cause? Did Clifton turn a blind eye to local gun smuggling operations in exchange for the deportation of Santo Trafficante, Jr. to Tampa? Guzzo takes us back to 1955 and walks us through the sometimes hazy details of the ever-widening Tampa-Cuba connection.

See You Around the City!

Emanuel Leto




Sleeping With The Enemy


The Cigar Maker


The Fall & Rise Of Ybor City


The Word “Cigar”





Cigar Label History


Looking Back: This Month in Florida History


Lost Landmarks


Look Who’s Smokin’


Café con Leche Interview: Jeff Hess


On The Town with Dave Capote


The Kitchen


Mama Knows


Visit our web site at 12

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Fernandez brothers and Company was located at 1424 12th avenue as early as 1919, taking over the factory formerly occupied by gonzalez eduardo Cigar Manufacturers in 1915. Fernandez brothers operated until 1924.


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Today in Florida History is provided by the Tampa Bay History Center 16

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Can you identify this Lost Landmark? Last month's Lost Landmark was the Rosa Valdez Settlement on Albany Avenue in West Tampa. Congratulations to Manuel Benitez of Ybor City, Florida, who guessed last issue's Lost Landmark! Simply mail the answer and your contact information to:

Lost Landmarks C/O Cigar City Magazine P.O. Box 18613 • Tampa, Florida 33679 or email us at by June 1, 2010. All correct entries will be entered into a drawing and one name will be selected as the winner. Good luck!


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Look WhosSmokin by Paul Guzzo

Westside Barbershop is located at: 2800 N. MacDill Ave. • Tampa, FL 33607 (In the Fountain Plaza) Open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (813) 966-3180


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The first time you walk into Roberto “Rob” Aguinaga’s Westside Barbershop, the phrase, “This ain’t your daddy’s barbershop” runs through your head. Designed with a downtown urban flair, this trendy and upscale hair cuttery boasts plasma televisions, leather couches, an Xbox 360, a PS3, Wi-Fi, and a wall decorated with what is called graffiti but is really a work of art. No, at first glance this ain’t your daddy’s barbershop. But, upon closer inspection, it has more in common with the old school barbershops than you’d think. The old time barbershops were known as local hangouts, places where the men of the community would gather to discuss anything and everything- and Aguinaga had this concept in mind when he designed his shop. Rather than arguing over that day’s newspaper headlines, his customers can argue over the televised news’ main stories. Rather than playing heated games of dominoes and cards, his customers play heated games of John Madden. And they can do so while chilling on leather couches so comfortable that, if not for the constant good natured arguments filling the place with noise, a nap would always be tempting. “We argue about everything and anything,” laughed Aguinaga. “Recently, it seems like we’ve been arguing over who is better- Kobe Bryant or LeBron James- a lot, but mostly whatever the customer brings to that chair, we talk about.” And no matter what type of haircut the customer wants, Aguinaga and his four-man staff can oblige. They offer new school styles like Mohawks, “fohawks”, fades, blowouts, shape-ups, head designs and beard designs, as well as all the old school hairstyles. They even offer hot shaves. Despite being just one year old, the high quality décor and service has quickly made Westside Barbershop one of the most popular barbershops in Tampa. But, while the shop may be new to the area, the 27-year-old Aguinaga is not. He was born and raised in West Tampa, playing at West Tampa Little League from 19911999- in addition to four years as a coach in West Tampa Little League’s Senior League. So, after cutting hair for other barbershops for six years, when he was ready to venture out on his own, the location of his shop was never in question. “West Tampa is home,” he said. “This is the only place I want to be.” And because of its comfort and upscale and fun amenities, it’s the only place many of his customers want to be. “Yeah, I have quite a few friends who just come by to hang out,” laughed Aguinaga, “even if they don’t need a haircut.” The names in the argument, “Who is better?” may have changed from Mantle or Ruth to Kobe or LeBron, the newspapers may have been pushed aside in favor of plasma televisions, and cards and dominoes may have been replaced with video games, but those differences are only skin deep. At its core, Westside Barbershop is as old school as it gets. Westside Barbershop is your granddaddies barbershop. And, of course, Westside Barbershop is YOUR barbershop.

Did the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office Make a Deal With Castro to Bring Down the Mob?


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For over half a century, Captain Ellis Clifton kept a secret about the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He didn’t tell the author who based a book on his career spent battling organized crime in Tampa. He didn’t tell his partners in the Hillsborough County Vice Squad. He didn’t tell his family. Then, in 2007, at the age of 80, while sitting in a wheelchair on a dock outside his Florida vacation home, an oxygen tank at the ready, knowing he had just a few months of life left, he nonchalantly told me his secret, and he told me on film. “So we made a deal with Castro up in the hills,” he said, taking a brief pause to catch his breath. “If we helped run him guns, he would send us those guys.” By “we” he meant the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. “Those guys” were Santo Trafficante, Jr. and his crew, who ran their Tampa crime syndicate from the comfort of legal casinos in Fulgencio Batista-led Cuba in the 1950s.

We’re not talking about a crazy conspiracy theorist making a controversial statement. this was Captain ellis Clifton. in the 1950s, Clifton was head of the hillsborough County Vice squad, the department that was charged with bringing down the tampa mafia and ending tampa’s “era of blood” in which 21 gang slayings occurred between 1922 and 1955. ellis Clifton was known by tampa’s Mafiosos as “the bolita buster” for his countless successful bolita (an illegal lottery) raids and “the rabbit” for his ability to seemingly always pop up out of nowhere when a big-time game was taking place. the tampa mafia considered ellis Clifton to be the most dangerous law enforcement officer in tampa and his secret deal with Fidel Castro is a perfect example as to why he was so feared- he used extraordinary measures to battle the tampa mob. What were the specifics of his deal? he never said. My brother Pete and i interviewed him for our documentary on infamous tampa gangster Charlie Wall. While on film, he mentioned the deal nonchalantly, as though this half-century-old secret was the equivalent of a secret family recipe, not a revelation that implicated one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state of Florida with illegal arms dealings with foreign entities seeking to overthrow a sovereign government. he continued on with his fascinating tales of investigating the tampa mafia and his off-the-cuff statement temporarily took a back seat as i listened to his stories, mesmerized by the exciting life he had led. When Clifton needed a break and the camera was off, i had time to contemplate all that he had said. his fleeting comments regarding secret dealings with Fidel Castro echoed in my thoughts. i wanted to know more. before we began filming again, i asked if we could focus on his deal with Castro. he huffed, smiled slyly, and, in his smooth Florida Cracker drawl, said, “some things should go with me to my grave.” a few months later, he passed away, succumbing to throat cancer, leaving a wife, four children and numerous questions about his historic deal with Castro behind. the first question being: Could he have lied to me? “no. not at all,” wrote ace atkins in an email to me when asked if Clifton was the type of man who lied. atkins is the author of White Shadow, a fictional crime drama based on the real life 1955 murder of Charlie Wall. Clifton was the lead investigator on the murder case and was one of atkin’s top sources while doing research for the book. the two became close friends. “[ellis Clifton] was a straight shooter,” stressed atkins. “he was not the type of man to lie.” atkins suggested that the manner in which Clifton got his start in law enforcement says everything you need to know about his honesty. Prior to joining the hillsborough County sheriff’s office, Clifton was a crime beat reporter for the Tampa Tribune. on the evening of the gasparilla Parade in 1953, one of his informants told him that a high stakes illegal gambling game was taking place in a room in the tampa terrace hotel in downtown tampa. Clifton fearlessly went by to check it out and discovered that some

of his bosses from the Tribune were already there. they weren’t investigating the illegal gambling for a story, though. they were gambling. Clifton’s wife was seven months pregnant and he knew that calling the police would cost him his job and leave him and his wife in a financial bind. despite the potential ramifications, Clifton felt he had to do the right thing. he left the makeshift gambling parlor and called the sheriff’s office, but by the time they arrived someone had tipped off the gamblers. When the officers arrived, there was no sign of any illegal activity. When Clifton went to work the next day, he was fired. however, that same day, hillsborough County sheriff ed blackburn called Clifton and offered him a job. “blackburn won the sheriff’s election by promising to clean up the illegal gambling,” explained Clifton. the hillsborough Sheriff Hugh Culbreath County sheriff’s office did not have the best reputation. its previous sheriff, hugh Culbreath, was exposed as corrupt by the senate special Committee to investigate Crime in interstate Commerce, otherwise known as the Kefauver Committee. the committee investigated organized crime throughout the nation, holding public hearings in select cities and concluded that tampa was one of the most corrupt cities in america. sheriff Culbreath was implicated by a number of individuals for being in cahoots with tampa’s crime syndicate. “human life in tampa was almost as cheap as the sand of the beach,” wrote estes Kefauver, the senator who led the nationwide investigation. “in nineteen years there have been fourteen murders and six attempted assassinations in the tampa underworld- and only one conviction … the moral of the tampa story is this: if good citizens of a community shut their eyes to wholesale violation of a law- even if it is a law prohibiting something that a lot of people happen to like- law enforcement and honesty in public office will go to hell in a handcart.” to clean up the sheriff’s office, sheriff blackburn needed honest men, and Clifton was tapped as one of those honest men. despite having zero law enforcement experience, he was placed on the Vice squad, which was one of the most important law enforcement departments ,if not the most important; blackburn saw him as a man who could not be bought off by organized crime. given his background, it would seem odd for a man with such a strong reputation for honesty to suddenly begin lying in his final days and risk destroying his legacy. he had nothing to gain by telling a lie. he was already a legendary law enforcement officer and he was not getting paid for the interview. May/June 2010


Fidel Castro (standing to the left of the man holding a picture of Jose Marti) visits the home of July 26th organizers at a home in Ybor City in 1955.

however, prior to our 2007 interview, Clifton had never told anyone of his deal with Castro. Why? atkins spoke with Clifton about his days with the Vice squad for hundreds of hours, yet he never mentioned his deal with Castro. nor did he ever mention this deal to anyone in his family. and neither of his two ex-Vice squad partners- Charlie Whitt and buddy Meische- has ever heard of it. yet, according to his son and one of his ex-partners, that does not mean it didn’t happen. “it is both possible and probable that he was part of a deal with Castro to hand over santo trafficante,” said Clifton’s son, david. “he had an amazing way with people. he could get them to talk and drop their guard, which always lent itself to him making some amazing contacts and getting information.” this ability enabled Clifton to put together the first “mafia family tree” in the history of the state of Florida, an outline of how the mafia was organized, from the lowest street thugs to the top brass. “it was a bibliography,” explained Clifton during our 2007 interview. “i had more information than anyone.” Who gave him this information? he never revealed his source. “ellis always had good information and good contacts,” said Charlie Whitt. “he would inform us that he knew where a big bolita house was and he’d plan the raid, but he would never tell us how he learned this information. he just seemed to know everything and everyone.” if he never shared his sources with his partners, it’s doubtful he would have told them about his deal with Castro. and, there was a window of opportunity for the two to broker a deal. in november 1955, Fidel Castro came to tampa to found a branch of his revolutionary army, “the 26th of July Movement,” and to raise money for his revolution against Cuba’s then-president Fulgencio batista. so, it is possible that an undocumented and secret meeting 24

Cigar City Magazine

between Clifton, on behalf of the sheriff’s office, and Castro took place during Castro’s 1955 tampa visit; a meeting he never told his partners about, a meeting at which a deal was struck. or, perhaps Clifton later made the deal through one of tampa’s 26th of July members, who had direct contact with Castro while he was fighting batista from the mountains of Cuba. but why would Clifton and the sheriff’s office make such a deal? one of the many reasons Castro said batista needed to be overthrown was his cozy relationship with american organized crime families, who ran numerous casinos in Cuba. in Castro’s view, the casinos, which were legal under batista, brought rampant alcohol abuse and gambling to the island, and acted as a cover for illegal drug and sex trafficking. under batista, Castro argued, Cuba became a safe haven for mafia leaders who could run their illegal operations in the united states without worrying about the prying eyes and ears of u.s. law enforcement officials. enough mobsters made Cuba their regular home or vacation spot that it became known as “the Mafia’s Playground.” one of the top casino owners was tampa mafia boss santo trafficante, Jr., a man both Clifton and Castro wanted out of Cuba. Why did Clifton want trafficante out of Cuba? in 1957, Clifton led what was then the largest gambling raid in the history of tampa, busting notorious tampa mobster Frank diecidue with nearly $60,000 worth of bolita tickets from six counties. Clifton’s sources fingered deicidue as the underboss of tampa’s mafia, the second in command to santo trafficante, Jr. but, despite Clifton’s claim that he knew without a shadow of a doubt that trafficante was head of the bolita racquet he’d just busted, the sheriff’s office couldn’t charge trafficante because there was no hard evidence linking him to deicidue. “[trafficante] ran all his crime out of Cuba,” said Clifton, explaining that as long as trafficante was allowed to stay in Cuba, there was too much open water and too many people in between him

and the people he did business with for the hillsborough County Clifton said he and the sheriff’s office had, it is hard to believe that sheriff’s office to build a case. if Clifton was going to bust law enforcement would have no knowledge of the numerous arms trafficante, he needed to get him out of Cuba. Clifton said he realized shipments originating or passing through tampa. but, with Clifton this back in 1953 when he joined the sheriff’s office, so surely it was gone, we’ll never really know the answer. Whatever the deal was, did it work? on his mind in 1955 when Castro came to tampa. When batista fled Cuba on January 1, 1959, numerous mafia it was after explaining the difficulties of bringing charges against trafficante that Clifton made the following statement while my brother’s bosses who ran casinos in Cuba also fled the island. Castro repeatedly stated throughout the revolution that when he overthrew batista he camera rolled: “so we made a deal with Castro up in the hills. if we helped run would shut down the casinos and imprison any criminals that remained in Cuba. some gangsters fled so quickly they left behind guns to him, he would send us those guys.” millions of dollars in cash. trafficante stayed in Cuba. What could the deal have been? some historians have noted that trafficante contributed money tampa was not the only city Castro visited in 1955. he also stopped in new york, union (nJ), hartford, Key West, Miami and a to Castro’s revolution, believing Castro would allow him to continue host of other cities with large Cuban populations. in each city, he to run his casinos. other historians have written that trafficante founded a branch of his 26th of July Movement. the purpose of each believed Castro would come around once he realized how much branch was to raise money and collect supplies for the revolution that money the casinos generated. others claim he stayed in Cuba because would overthrow batista. supplies consisted of clothes, food, medicine the new york City district attorney’s office was investigating and guns. throughout the course of Castro’s revolution, tampa was trafficante for the murder of albert anastasia, the boss of what would later become known as the gambino crime family. linked to numerous gun smuggling operations. When Castro learned that trafficante was still in Cuba, he had in 1957, the Philomar III, a yacht loaded with arms and military uniforms that were to be delivered to Castro’s revolutionary army, was him arrested, imprisoned and slated for execution. Victoriano Manteiga, who was a friend of both trafficante’s and seized by u.s. agents off the Florida Keys. the yacht was purchased in Castro’s, called Castro personally and pleaded with him to release tampa. in 1958, another yacht, The Harpoon, loaded with arms, was trafficante, but failed. a handful of tampa Cubans also made a trip seized at Port everglades, Florida. Four Cubans who lived in tampa to Cuba to try and free trafficante, but they too failed. trafficante’s attorney, Frank ragano, wrote in his book, Mob were among the 33 arrested. also in 1958, a small vessel packed with arms, El Orion, was seized Lawyer, that he brokered the deal for trafficante’s release. not so, off the lower texas gulf Coast. among the 36 Cubans arrested were said Clifton, who claimed that trafficante brokered his own release and that the Cuban government arranged for Clifton to pick up three Cubans from tampa. except for Victoriano Manteiga, founder of La Gaceta newspaper trafficante from the airport on august 18, 1959. “i cut a deal with a Cuban official from national airlines and and founding president of tampa’s 26th of July Movement, no tampa reporter knew more about Castro’s revolution than tom durkin, who another with the immigration department. [the sheriff’s office] had covered the revolution from Cuba as a photojournalist for the St. [contact with] a man who was chief of the Cuban air Force, and the sergeant in my departPetersburg Times and La ment talked to him at Gaceta. according to a least once a week to durkin article published in find out santo’s status the St. Petersburg Times on and when he was January 9, 1959, “one u.s. getting out,” explained sympathizer even offered to Clifton.“so one night, provide the rebels a small around 12:30 a.m., i submarine for sneaking got a phone call from weapons to Castro. his offer national airlines and was rejected by the cautious the immigration departybor group ‘because we didment saying they had n’t know where it came put trafficante on a from.’ … admitted by ybor plane and he would be Castro supporters, but Santo Trafficante, Jr., Mob Lawyer Frank Ragano and Frank Diecidue landing in Florida soon.” anonymously, is the fact that Castro had lived up to his end of the bargain. 150 machine guns seized in Miami last year, packed in oil drums, Clifton instructed the Cubans to detain trafficante until he arrived, passed through tampa … an obsolete u.s. bomber, seized at Fort lauderdale as weapons were being loaded, originated its flight in armed with a new york County district attorney office subpoena from the anastasia murder case. tampa. among those arrested were four tampans from ybor City.” When Clifton arrived, he said trafficante “wasn’t dressed all natty did Clifton and the sheriff’s office directly provide Castro or Castro’s tampa-based revolutionaries with guns? or, perhaps they like he normally was. his pants were short to the top of his shoes. his helped introduce the tampa revolutionaries to gun dealers. or, cuffs were also short and he had on a real ratty shirt and shoes. [it looked maybe durkin provided the best clue as to what the deal could have like they dressed him in] something they found in the corner. it looked been when he wrote in his 1959 article, “despite all the activity in like they dressed him as poor as they could to make him look bad. i baretampa, tampa Customs and border Patrol officials report no actual ly recognized him. i looked him up and down and said, ‘i am Captain Clifton with the hillsborough County sheriff’s office,’ and he said, arms seizures in this area.” Perhaps Clifton and the sheriff’s office simply agreed to look ‘Clifton, you son of a bitch, you’ve been hounding my ass ever since i first the other way. Considering the number of informants and snitches saw you as a reporter.’ i let him rave on and on, but i said, ‘the bottom May/June 2010


Ellis Clifton and Ace Atkins at King Corona in Ybor City, Florida.

line is, if you show your face on the street, we have a court order to arrest you every time we see you.’ Well, he raved on for a bit again and we chatted back and forth and i said, ‘i won’t arrest you today. i’ll let you go,’ [because] his attorney wasn’t there, contrary to [ragano’s] book and all his bullshit. [ragano] didn’t help get the guy at all. santo said so! so as i started out the door, i looked back to santo and asked him, ‘how’d you get out.’ and he said, ‘i gave him $3 million and they let me save $600,000; that’s all they left me with. that’s why i stayed so long, because i wouldn’t give them the money and they only kept me alive because they wanted the money. they’re bigger crooks than we are.’” in the morning Clifton said he learned that the new york County district attorney’s office had cancelled the subpoena. ragano then went down to the hillsborough County Courthouse and filed a writ of habeas corpus, claiming Clifton and the hillsborough County sheriff’s office were harassing trafficante. Clifton said the court order meant he could not arrest trafficante. “but it wasn’t in the law that i couldn’t follow him from 300 feet away. so i put a 24-hour tail on him,” said Clifton. “if he went to the Columbia [restauant], i had two or three men on him. if he went home, i had men on him. he couldn’t go anywhere and conduct business under that kind of environment.” Clifton said that, in time, trafficante tired of the constant surveillance, not only because it took away his privacy, but also because he couldn’t run his criminal organization with police nearby at all times. so, Clifton explained, trafficante began 26

Cigar City Magazine

spending most of his time in Miami. and, most importantly, he explained, without Cuba as safe haven, trafficante’s criminal organization began to lose power. Why did he tell me the secret? a week prior to interviewing Clifton for the Charlie Wall documentary, my brother and i joined him and ace atkins for beers at King Corona in ybor City. before Clifton allowed us to film his stories, he wanted to get to know us. after about two beers and an hour of conversation, he warmed to us and began to open his vault a bit, explaining to us that no matter what anyone thinks of Castro’s politics, he was one of the most important factors that led to the downfall of the american Mafia, as mob leaders in cities across the nation found it as impossible as trafficante did to run their criminal organizations in the same manner as they did in Cuba. Clifton said that the mafia has not been nor ever will be as powerful as it was in its heyday from the 1920s through 1950s (years when they were allowed to operate in Cuba) because Castro took away their safe haven. the details of the sheriff’s office’s deal with Castro may never be known. but, whatever the deal was, it worked. you may not agree with the tactic, but it was effective. Why did Clifton tell me this secret, on FilM? Why, after telling no one close to him for half a century, did he finally decide to divulge it, only to refuse to say more just moments later? unfortunately, that may never be known. but, hopefully, the details of the deal can still be learned. hopefully, someone is still alive who knows. and, hopefully, that someone is reading this article and, like Clifton, is ready to tell the secret. if so, i am ready to listen.


Cigar City Magazine

la rubia was a carnival: loud, crowded, and filled with cigar smoke. a bar along the left was packed with men drinking beer, bourbon and rum. some played cards, others argued over the coming war; their opinions danced along the bar in spanish and italian. the rest of the room was filled with tables where men played dominoes in groups of four, or rolled dice for money, or ogled the women of the tavern- none of whom appeared to be wives or girlfriends but were in fact, on the job. again, salvador saw the familiar faces of men he had worked with in havana. Juan Carlos was greeted by a short, stocky man with glasses, who held a smoking robusto size cigar in one hand, and a mess of crumpled bolita tickets in the other. Juan Carlos introduced him as gabriel Mendez. salvador smiled sincerely and took Mendez’s hand. “i’ve been in town for one day and already i’ve heard a lot about you.” Mendez nodded subtly as he inspected salvador. the young writer was more serious than salvador had expected and on the surface, not very friendly. Juan Carlos said, “salvador and his family just arrived from havana.” then Juan Carlos winked at Mendez and whispered, “salvador and i were good friends in Cuba, Mendez, an acquaintance of el Matón.” at this, Mendez became genuinely interested. “you fought alongside el Matón del Pueblo?” salvador became uncomfortable. he had made every attempt to abandon his violent past and his association with the rebel leader Victoriano Machín. “it is not something i talk about very often,” salvador admitted. “but yes, i was there with Carlito.” Mendez was impressed. “Welcome to ybor City.” “thank you.” he offered a cigar, which salvador gladly accepted. it was local; a short, fat robusto from a premium brand rolled in ybor City. the taste was sweet and smooth with a tangy finish, just as salvador preferred. Juan Carlos produced his own cigar, one he had hand-rolled from his own personal provision of tobacco. Cigar workers were given a daily allowance of leaf for their own use and many rolled these into cigars for consumption later on. others tore them into little pieces and chewed the leaf, spitting the juice on the floor or ground, or into spittoons, when they were available. some even sold their personal cigars on the street, or from their homes. it was a fringe benefit deeply cherished by all cigar workers. now Juan Carlos pointed them into a room in the back where a crowd shouted and waved dollar bills. standing on a platform, the object of the crowd’s attention, was a curly-haired, foul-mouthed spaniard known as gallego, the master of ybor City’s bolita game. a business partner of armando renteria, gallego accepted money and wrote tickets on little slips of paper he filled out with short pencils. gallego had a second pencil behind his ear and another handful in his shirt pocket. With the amount of money gambled nightly on bolita, and the generous eighty to one payoff, gallego went through pencils like cigarettes. behind him was a chalkboard with a calendar for the month

of February. beside each date was a number between one and one hundred- the results of previous bolita throws. seeing the trend of prior results prevented players from betting on a number that had appeared with unusual frequency, and gave them a better idea of which numbers were due to be cut. beside the chalkboard was a painting that told players how to bet according to their previous dreams. if a player dreamt of a horse, he should bet #1, #4 for a cat, #19 for a cow, #44 for a bull, and so on. next to gallego was a table where one hundred clay balls stood on display, each one white and the size of an average radish, with a black number painted across the face. While gallego cursed and shouted playful insults at the patrons, salvador followed Juan Carlos and Mendez to the table. Juan Carlos reached into his pocket and removed a small gray stone tied to a leather band, a necklace. Juan Carlos held the object so salvador could see. “an alligator tooth for good luck.” then he waved the tooth over ball twentynine and bought a corresponding ticket. salvador looked across the table and saw a man waving a clenched fist above the seventyeight ball. in his fist was a small leather pouch. salvador asked what was inside. “sand.” “sand?” the man grinned. “Magic sand!” salvador glanced around him and saw nearly all the men had a good luck charm or ritual of some kind. there were dice, bird feathers, and dried flowers, one man had a photo of a young woman, and another had a brown, dead lizard. salvador spotted a tiny man, older than any man he had ever seen, holding the seven of diamonds over ball number seven. salvador reached into his pocket for change. “i will bet a dime on fifty-nine, the year of my birth, and a dime on sixty-three, the year of olympia’s.” the spaniard armando renteria lurked in a dark corner in back of the room and supervised the game that he owned; his black beard seemed to help him fade into the shadows. gallego announced that all bets were in and the crowd became hushed. all one hundred balls were placed into a brown potato sack, which was tied tightly, and the throw began. the sack was handed from person to person. nearly everyone who handled it shook the bag and hexed it with a good luck charm. it traveled all the way around the room and back to gallego, who grabbed one ball through the outside of the sack and tied it off with a string. the crowd murmured and buzzed in anticipation while gallego used a knife to cut the bag above the string. the ball with the winning number dropped into his hand. the crowd took a collective deep breath as gallego looked at the number and revealed jagged yellow teeth under his bushy moustache. he held the ball above his head, so that only he could see the number then flipped it to show the crowd. he shouted, “Forty-seven!” and the crowd groaned and tore up their losing tickets but one man yelped with joy and shouted that he had picked the May/June 2010


uss Maine (1895-1898) u.s. navy diving crew at work on the ship's wreck, in 1898, seen from aft looking forward.

winning number. the room parted and saw the winner was a skinny man with short hair and big round ears, known locally as la Chihuahua. “Coño,” Juan Carlos muttered. “let’s find a table for dominoes. i do not care to hear the triumphant howling of la Chihuahua.” they tossed their losing tickets aside and headed to the front room and settled at a table. Mendez produced a set of dominoes while Juan Carlos recruited a fourth, a man with dark, sunken eyes known as ojos negros. as they setup a game of dominoes, Juan Carlos said to Mendez. “so tell us, Mendez, the latest from the world of politics. how soon until the united states enters this war and obliterates the spanish navy?” salvador and ojos listened to hear the answer. Mendez said, “McKinley has ordered a Court of inquiry to investigate the cause of the explosion aboard the uss Maine. it will be some time until they reach a conclusion.” Juan Carlos was agitated. “i’ll tell you what sank that ship right now. it was sabotaged by spaniards who want no u.s. presence in Cuba. they plant mines in that harbor, you know. they likely directed the ship to precisely where a live mine happened to be.” Mendez was reasonable. “it could be any number of things, Carlito. it could have been an accident, an internal explosion. it could have been Cuban rebels for all we know, trying anything that would bring the u.s. into the war with spain.” Juan Carlos dismissed it with a wave. “the rebels have no means to sink a battleship. i tell you, it was the spanish. i don’t know what McKinley is waiting for. Court of inquiry? it’s a bureaucratic waste of time, if you ask me. remember the Maine, and to hell with spain.” “Questions abound though,” said salvador. Juan Carlos concentrated on the dominoes. “Questions? like what?” “should the united states decide to drive spain from Cuba once and for all, it leaves the future of our island in question.” 30

Cigar City Magazine

Mendez nodded. “salvador is right. We should ask ourselves: would we rather have an ally in the united states than an enemy in spain? spain as an enemy gives us cause to rally, to band together in a fight for independence. but the united states will not enter the conflict with hopes to be Cuba’s ally, but their surrogate mother. i fear that if we do not claim our island as our own, Cuba will always be somebody’s colony.” Juan Carlos flipped a domino hard enough to shake the table. “let the americans rid Cuba of spain, then we can decide what to do about imperialism.” ojos said, “Martí declared Cuba an independent republic before he died. i don’t see how anyone has any business there.” salvador puffed on his cigar as he inspected the dominoes. he spotted armando behind with bar with gallego counting money and sorting through bolita receipts. “but the u.s. will care for Cuba in a way that spain never did.” “that may be true, salvador” said Mendez. “but once the u.s. is in Cuba, what will get her out?” la Chihuahua came into the room, his pockets heavy with cash, and he approached the bartender. “Manuel, pour a drink for every man inside the building. and they can thank the number fortyseven, which has sponsored this event, and this round of drinks!” the crowd booed playfully, until Manuel poured rum for everybody, then they cheered and raised their glasses to la Chihuahua, who had climbed to the bar. “¡Salud, mis amigos, salud! and to Cuba, may she live long, and live free, so that we may return to our homeland, and prosper there as we have prospered here. ¡Cuba Libre! ¡Cuba Libre!” and the crowd shouted along with him and toasted their home country. salvador thought of his father, who would approve of the unity and strong sense of nationalism for Cuba. salvador and his friends drank long into the night, celebrating an imminent victory in the Cuban War for independence.


Cigar City Magazine


however, proud cigar workers viewed government employment n december 1931, in the face of declining cigar sales and dwindling factory profits, seven thousand latin workers declared a in a different light. tying their independent factory work to strike against the dominating ybor cigar companies in a desperate notions of manhood, these individuals saw WPa work as a badge attempt to save their jobs and standard of living. united by the of failure and shame. one unemployed latin cigar worker communist-led tobacco Workers international union, the cigar explained to a WPa writer in 1935 that, “though i still have my workers boldly marched down the brick-paved streets of ybor City, sight and sensitive fingers and quickness of movement for making fearlessly wearing red arm-bands and valiantly waving red flags. at the cigars, i have been unable to find work in any factory. so i have beginning of the month, the factory managers had announced an had to fall where so many jobless men have fallen, forced to register to impending wage-cut that incited the widespread protest. the great receive aid, which seems more like a beggar’s alms than like real depression had caused a drastic decrease in the demand for finely aid to the needy.” in ybor City this man was not alone, as by the crafted cigars. therefore, the cigar factories decided to lower their end of 1935 the WPa reported 23,129 latins working for the government to support their families. as the latin men begrudgingly employees’ salaries in an attempt to maintain high profit margins. traditionally, the cigar factories offered more opportunity to accepted government aid, they continued to long for the days when their skilled hands provided men than women. Men held the more them with economic security. skilled jobs while very few women ever With the effects of the saw the opportunity to advance to the depression, the latin neighborhoods higher positions as selectoras or of ybor City experienced a sharp buncheras. however, because the cigar reduction in size between the years factories viewed women’s labor as 1930 and 1940. the afro-Cuban “unskilled,” more women than men population fell from 631 residents to a were able to retain and acquire jobs mere 311 and ybor’s Cuban workforce during the great depression. in 1936, shrunk by 35 percent. the spanish a federal writer from the WPa observed followed suit by losing 26 percent of that: “Men are continually displaced by their foreign-born population, while women who are more readily employed the italian immigrants trailed with a because of the lower wages for which mere 18 percent resident decrease. they will work, and their submissiveness the great migration outward from to the manufacturer’s power.” the ybor illustrated the economic limitations traditional belief in women’s lesser of the Cigar City. the small southern worth and weaker character allowed the city could not provide another industry to fair-sex to earn jobs operating the new replace the failing cigar factories, thereby cigar-rolling machines. While the cigar forcing the diligent workers to apply for factories saw their feminine laborers as aid or search for alternative employment simply “unskilled,” the women represented outside of ybor itself in the wake of the a determined workforce that provided country’s largest financial crisis. an income to their families despite the remaining latin community their husbands’ unemployment, and tried earnestly to provide support for additionally challenged the typical latin workers declared a strike against the dominating ybor cigar companies each other, regardless of ethnicity. domestic stereotypes of the 1930s. by 1934, the Works Progress administration (WPa) arrived in the accustomed to collective organization, the residents who owned City of tampa to help curb the economic and social effects of pharmacies, markets, and restaurants often extended a line of unemployment throughout the community. the WPa, the largest aid “credit” to their desperate patrons. Peter Parrado remembered that agency of the new deal, provided temporary employment to millions if a customer did not have enough money to pay their bill, they of americans across the country. in tampa, the WPa created a variety could simply say “apuntamelo” or “take note.” the owners kept a of programs to employ those who remained out of work. From record of each family’s spending and expected eventual reimburseconstructing buildings and bridges, to working in government offices, ment. in this latin community characterized by male machismo to documenting the culture and “folklore” of ybor City, WPa employees and old-World pride, the term “credit” made charity acceptable. While the devoted ybor residents tried to protect their beloved radically re-shaped both tampa’s environment and the relationship between the city’s disparate ethnic communities. though neighborhood, the collapse of the cigar industry signaled the fall of wary of the federal government’s interference in local affairs, tampa’s the latin community. the loss of population led to a decrease in municipal government generally welcomed the WPa for putting the mutual aid society memberships, thus making it difficult for the unemployed back to work and removing a potential liability to society. organizations to provide the same medical and social benefits the May/June 2010


Women cigar wokers at hav-a-tamp Cigar Company

tearing down 7th avenue: demolition begins.


Cigar City Magazine

community relied upon during earlier years. in spite of these continued attempts at community solidarity, however, ybor continued its economic decline. since every aspect of its economy depended on the now seriously declining profits of the cigar industry, families, and businesses within ybor found it difficult to survive and began looking outside their safe cultural enclave for a better life. ybor City originally thrived in its isolation. however as the great depression settled in, ybor found itself in complete disarray. the economic and social institutions that created ybor’s distinct latin culture crumbled with the economic collapse of the cigar industry. the radical protests and collective actions that had marked ybor’s latin community in previous years began to fade as residents accepted any work that became available, often outside the borders of the tightknit ybor community. in June of 1944, President Franklin d. roosevelt signed the serviceman’s readjustment act, popularly known as the gi bill. the new legislation provided for unemployment benefits, adequate hospital facilities and care, a strengthening of the Veterans administration, and higher education assistance. Many young latin men saw the gi bill as an opportunity for a better life than ybor City could ever provide. Peter Parrado remembered that “i wanted knowledge and i thought that the air Force would give me a better opportunity, and it did. they sent me to three or four schools, you know. and i learned a lot.” no longer the famed “Cigar Capital,” second and third generation latins used the gi bill to pursue higher education and create a career beyond the confines of a declining ybor. by 1960 the landscape of ybor City had changed drastically. according to tampa politicians, the old World neighborhood became an example of a modern slum. however, as observed by tampa historian gary Mormino, “one person’s slum, of course, was another’s community.” abandoned by the younger generation, ybor City fell to the “promise” of urban renewal. the City of tampa had big plans for a new ybor. the urban renewal commission reserved $9.6 million dollars for the project to “rehabilitate, clear, and redevelop,” ybor City. With the commission’s promise to turn ybor into a “tourist attraction second to none in the u.s.,” 1200 families were relocated as the hum of giant, yellow bulldozers, replacing the humble shot gun homes with empty land and interstate-4. the african american neighborhood, affectionately deemed, “the scrub,” traditionally separated tampa and ybor City. however, much like the declining latin community, the scrub was also set to be “redeveloped” during urban renewal. these dislodged residents moved

Centro ybor today located in ybor City, Florida.

into the dilapidated white casitas that managed to survive tampa’s plans for ybor City. therefore, between 1950 and 1980 the african american population of ybor increased by thirty-eight percent. tampa saw the change in demographics as a sign that ybor City would become nothing more than a new “black ghetto.” deserted by its once proud latin population, and forsaken by empty government promises, the idea of ybor as “ghetto” left the once vibrant community a desolate visage of its past intricate form. in recent years, ybor City has battled against the label of being a “rough part of town.” hillsborough Community College, condominiums, restaurants, art galleries, office buildings, and chic boutiques, have replaced the barren lots

that urban renewal graciously left for the next generation to fill. romantically attached to the idea of a historic “latin,” identity, the community continues to restore the original architecture and promote ybor as the “next” big neighborhood of tampa.While the ybor community’s good intentions should not go unnoticed, tampa’s convenient ignorance of ybor City’s past history and culture is frightfully evident down to the controversial misspelling of “la septima,” on the seventh avenue street signs. today ybor City is not the latin Quarter it once was. instead, playing the part of an old historic actor, waiting in the wings for its next big role, ybor City waits prepared for a true renewal, identity, and recognition of its past history. May/June 2010


he is Father time. Jeff hess is not only one of the world’s foremost experts on watches, but he is also the owner of the finest watch shop in all of Florida- old northeast Jewelers. hess is co-author of The Best of Time: Rolex Wristwatches, a history book on the rolex watch that is widely considered to be the “rolex bible,” and he is currently authoring two new books one on hamilton watches and one on ball watches. old northeast Jewelers has two locations in tampa bayone at the international Plaza in tampa and the other at 1131 4th street north in st. Petersburg- and both are the place to go if you are looking for a designer watch. their staff is well versed in every aspect of watches, from the latest industry news, innovations and trends to the science of how each watch works. the shop also boasts numerous designer watch brands- ball Watch, bell & ross, hamilton, Krieger, tag heuer and more. recently, Jeff hess sat down with CCM and discussed just a few of his thoughts on the industry that he loves. CCM: You have written one history book on the Rolex and are working on two more books on watches. What is it that fascinates you about watches? JH: Watches are the perfect combination of science and art and i have always been into both. it’s a wonderful combination and sometimes it’s the art that turns me on about a watch and sometimes it’s the science within.


Cigar City Magazine

CCM: It’s been said that one can learn a lot about a person by the jewelry he wears. What is it that a watch tells about a person’s personality? JR: When you see a man’s watch, it often tells you that the man has a great aesthetic sense of art and a mastery of art. a watch can also be a sign of success; it often tells about the man, his style, his grace and his status in life. also, it can tell you whether he is a rugged, manly man. For instance, if a man is wearing a rugged, older rolex or something meant for being beat up or down into the sea, it shows a little bit about his lifestyle. CCM: Why is your book considered the Bible of Rolexes? JH: i have no idea. People just started calling it that eight years ago and it just continues to be named that. it’s probably because it is the first exhaustive study of rolex. CCM: One of the watches you are writing a book on is the Ball watch. What does a Ball watch tell you about a man? JH: a ball watch says a man is more of a rugged guy. adventuresome. CCM: How about your original book subject- the Rolex? JH: rolexes continue to dominate the market place and continues to show that a man who wears a rolex is a success. it continues to be one of the standard bearers in the world of luxury watches.

Cigar City Magazine gives a big shout out to our friends Mark & Carrie of the MC Film Festival & the The GaYbor District Coalition. They have been dedicated to forming a broadbased coalition, representative of the various interests of LGBT owned and friendly businesses, property owners, and residents for the purpose of promoting economic growth in the Ybor City National Landmark Historic District and prosperity of its members. But they have also opened their arms to the entire community and what these men have done for Ybor City is just incredible! Below are just some of the wonderful events they have put on, featuring some new businesses that opened in Ybor City recently. Check out for more information.

To see more pictures of our events, visit and click on our Facebook page!

Bobby Newman, owner of JC Newman Cigars, Don Barco, owner of King Carona with Brick House Rep

The Cigar City Gang

Leo Armada & Lisa Figueredo, owner of Cigar City chillin’ at Malio’s

Our very own former Tampa Bay Lightning player Dave Anderychuk. Dave is one of the highest scoring left wingers in NHL history.


Cigar City Magazine

Kristin Fuen Cigar Compate, owner of Tampa Sw ny and CCM ee ’s Vivian Reytheart es Capote

, Arturo Fuente, Jr. owner of Tampar Sweetheat Ciga Company with ! some cigar fans

Vince Ficarrotta

Palomilla Steak



1 seven ounce sirloin steak Columbia Seasoning* Lime wedge 16 ounce small diced onion 1 ounce chopped parsley 5 ounces fresh lime juice

Onion Mixture In a bowl, mix diced onion, chopped parsley and lime juice, and set aside.

*Our Columbia Seasoning contains salt, dehydrated garlic and onion, spices and silicon dioxide. It is available for purchase at our website:


Cigar City Magazine

Steak Evenly pound steak to approximately 11� x 8� Season steak with Columbia Seasoning. Cook on griddle coated with butter. Place steak on platter and cover top with onion mixture. Then squeeze fresh lime juice over top. Serves 1.



Dear Mama, My father just moved here from Puerto rico and speaks english with a heavy accent. last week we were with our friends the smiths from ohio and when they asked us where we wanted to eat, my father blurted out “Piece a ho,” when he meant Pizza hut! My friends from ohio were shocked. how can i keep my father from these mistakes? -Embarrassed Dear Embarrassed, First of all this is your fault—who has friends from ohio? if you have anglos from ohio coming to tampa, then it is your job to teach them the correct language. every latino knows ‘”Piece a ho” means Pizza hut. Plus, that is your father and parents are always right. he should give you a chancleta upside your dumb head. -Mama Dear Mama, i was researching my family history at the public library and found my grandmother’s listing in a city directory from the early 1900s. it listed my grandmother’s name and her occupation...stripper! My sweet little grandmother was a stripper! then, to make matters worse, this is published in a city directory for all of tampa to see. all of my life i have been told that my grandmother worked in a cigar factory. i don't know if i can ever look at her in the same way .-Ashamed Dear Ashamed, you're a complete idiot! a stripper was someone who worked in a cigar factory and stripped the tobacco leaves from its stem. Plus, even if your abuela was a dancing stripper, what is wrong with that? since the cheapskates at Cigar City Magazine don’t pay me enough for my expertise, i myself do a bit of stripping at some of the local senior citizen homes. -Mama Dear Mama, you mention the word chancleta a lot. is this some type of time out punishment? What is a chancleta? -Curious Dear Curious it is obvious to me that you have been hit up-side the head many times with a chancleta if you do not know what a chancleta is. one thing you should know is that usted es estúpido! -Mama


Cigar City Magazine

D I S C OV E R Where our much-used word

“cigar” really came from! From the “New York American” and republished in the “The Tobacco Leaf” on August 21, 1913.

Of course, every name has its derivation, but some of them are so far from their original meaning that there is a great interest attached to the method in which the word was adopted. An example of this is to be found in the word “cigar.” Nearly every one knows that “cigar” really means “garden.” It is not because a really good cigar has an aroma that might be likened to a flower garden by someone in love with the weed but simply that tobacco was grown in a private garden in Spain by the wealthy men who looked upon it as a very rare and valuable plant. When tobacco was first brought to Spain from its native land, America, and the Spaniards really understood its value for smoking, the Spanish dons had quantities of it planted in the gardens about their homes. Every Spanish grandee has a private garden for rare vegetables, fruits and flowers. To be able to import your own tobacco seeds or plants and grow your own tobacco and make it into rolls for smoking was the height of aristocracy in those early days, and a Spaniard of high class entertaining a friend would, upon offering him a smoke, say, with pardonable pride, “Es de me cigarral,” which means, “It is from my garden.” In this manner was the guest assured that it was newly cured, clean tobacco, and prized the smoke accordingly. But the foreigners, through some misunderstanding, hearing their hosts always speaking about the smokes they gave as “Es de mi cigarral” got to believe that the word “cigarral” was Spanish for tobacco, and in time they began to use this word shortening it to “cigarro,” as meaning a roll of tobacco for smoking. And from “cigarro” to our word “cigar” was a simple bit of word evolution so to this day we call the smoothly rolled leaves of tobacco “cigars.” But there is a stranger thing than this word “cigar.” That is, the meaning originally, of the Spanish word “cigarral.” “Cigarral” means “grasshopper,” and because in Spain the grasshoppers always gathered in larger quantities in the gardens and chirped the loudest there, the little house gardens were called by the Spaniards “cigarral,” or places where the grasshoppers are thickest. So that today our word “cigar” is derived from “garden,” which was, in turn, derived from “grasshopper.”