Cigar City Magazine/Nov-Dec 2009

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Grab your passport and join the editor of Cigar City Magazine for an exclusive tour of the Cigar City. On your journey, you’ll visit historic landmarks, sample local cuisine, and gain behind-thescenes access to Tampa’s cigar industry. The tour begins with café con leche and Cuban toast in Centennial Park followed by an exclusive guided tour of the Ybor Museum with Cigar City Magazine Editor, Emanuel Leto. Next, we’ll visit some of Ybor City’s famous landmarks, including the historic V.M. Ybor factory, before embarking on behind the scenes tours of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, Oliva Tobacco Distributors, and Tobacco Depot (log cabin).

















CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Andy Huse Andy is a librarian and historian with interest in oral history, social history, the state of Florida, and culinary history. He has written numerous articles in magazines and academic journals, and has recently completed a centennial history of the Columbia Spanish Restaurant. Huse speaks on a variety of topics and has taught a graduate course on Florida food culture at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg’s Florida Studies Program. He works at the USF Tampa Library’s Special Collections department as a librarian and oral historian. Andy can be reached at

Gary R. Mormino Gary, the Frank E. Duckwall Professor of History, is co-director of the Florida Studies Program at USF St. Petersburg. He is a prolific writer and author of a wide range of academic and popular books including The Immigrant World of Ybor City. He has written for the St. PetersburgTimes, Orlando Sentinel, and Miami Herald. He currently writes a bi-weekly column on state and local history for the Tampa Tribune.



Fat Cat Publications, LLC e-mail: ©2009, Fat Cat Publications, LLC. 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. A self-addressed, postage paid envelope for return must accompany manuscripts, photographs, and other materials submitted. The publisher is not responsible for loss, damage, or any other injury to unsolicited originals unless specifically requested to do so by the publisher, Inc. in writing. You can write to us at, P.O. Box 18613, Tampa, Florida 33679 or via email at All letters, emails and their contents sent to Cigar City & Fat Cat Publications,LLC 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 thereof. Cigar City ™ is a trademark and the the sole property of Lisa M. Figueredo.


There's a good chance you don't remember the Federal Works Progress Administration. Launched in 1935, it was part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal (a massive government stimulus plan, if you will) to get the country, at the time mired in the depths of the Great Depression, working again. Teams of out-of-work tradesmen signed up for the Civilian Conservation Corps and set out to repair or improve America's infrastructure, from National Parks and bridges to airports and roads. Later, WPA workers repaired and expanded Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard and built Peter O'Knight Airport. Unlike the CCC, the WPA expanded beyond brick and mortar to culture and the arts. The Federal Writers Project deployed writers to every corner of the United States, interviewing and recording this nation's history through oral interviews with former slaves, coal miners, cattle ranchers and even cigar rollers. Our understanding of Tampa's early history is due in large part to the interviews collected by the Federal Writers Project- but it didn't stop there. The Federal government employed artists, some well known, some obscure, to “document the American landscape” and the Federal Theater Project brought ballet and drama to both rural America and the inner cities. As we slowly emerge from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, I thought Dr. Gary Mormino's article on the WPA in Florida, first published by the Florida Humanities Council back in 2005, was particularly apt. Of course, November and December bring us the holiday season and a chance to celebrate family and (maybe a little too 12


much) food. For this issue we've collected some stories about both. Contributors Connie Marlowe and Susan Cuesta (who doubles as our estimable and much-relied-upon copy editor) bring us stories that are likely familiar to many of our readers. For the last 20 years, the Leto family (no direct relation to yours truly, but this is Tampa after all) has gathered to concoct a traditional southern Italian dessert known as pignolata. This is no quaint gathering, mind you; it's a well-oiled machine, a one-day pastry factory turning out more than 1,000 pieces of the old-world delicacy- enough to keep your sweet tooth satiated for months. For her part, Cuesta takes us over to her grandparent's house for Noche Buena, “the good night” for the uninitiated. She reminds us, “the presents were not the gifts under the tree, but are, in fact, the “good night” itself- and all of the memories that are made when families join together.” Well said. Besides the holidays, November in particular brings us Cigar Heritage Festival over in Ybor City. Going on its 11th year, this annual event celebrates all things cigar. To mark the occasion, we dutifully surveyed the Bay Area's top cigar spots, partly to help get you in the mood, but also to remind everyone of what Tampa has to offer year-round. Hardly a comprehensive list, it's our best effort11 cigar lounges in one day- and it's at least a good start. While you might not want to visit all of them in the span of 13 hours like we did, use it as a guide to find a new local favorite or reacquaint yourself with someplace you haven't been in a while. Finally, our good friend over at the University of South Florida, Andy Huse, has published a new book, which chronicles the history and stories of the Columbia Restaurant. The excerpt we've chosen recalls a perhaps-forgotten episode in Tampa's history and the history of the famed restaurant, when owner Cesar Gonzmart attempted to charter a ship to safely transport Cuban refugees to Florida in the messy wake of the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980. The stunt failed but the story helps to underscore Tampa's centurieslong Cuban connection.

See You Around the City!

Emanuel Leto Emanuel Leto Editor




24 30 38 40 42 48

WPA in Florida Cigar City’s First Cigar Stumble

A ‘Good Night’

The Esperante Sisters Celebrating 25 Years of a Sweet Tradition





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16 18 19 20 34 49 50 62

Cigar Label History Looking Back: This Month in Florida History Lost Landmarks Look Who’s Smokin’ Interview with Linda Saul-Sena On The Town with Dave Capote The Kitchen

Mama Knows

Visit our web site at

The Enrique Henriquez cigar factory in West Tampa manufactured the Carmelo brand from 1919 until 1930. Enrique Henriquez was the last mayor of West Tampa before the city was annexed by Tampa in 1925. Editor’s Note: Enrique Henriquez is the Great Great Grandfather of Cigar City Magazine owner & publisher Lisa M. Figueredo.




FLORIDA HISTORY December 28, 1835 Resisting relocation to a reservation, Florida Seminole warriors attacked 107 U.S. Army soldiers under the command of Major Francis Dade in a pine forest near present-day Bushnell, Florida. Only three soldiers survived. Known as the Dade Massacre, the event sparked the Second Seminole War.

December 14, 1947 The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was founded in Daytona Beach, Florida.

November 11, 1953 Reputed Tampa gangster Joe Antinori was gunned down at the Boston Bar on Columbus Drive in Tampa. Antinori was the son of mafia boss Ignacio Antinori, as well as a convicted drug trafficker. He was shot twice in the chest and twice in the head. The murder remains unsolved.

December 4, 1954 The first Burger King is opened in Miami, Florida.

November 27, 1971 A hijacked TWA flight lands at Tampa International Airport to refuel before continuing on to Jose Marti Airport in Havana. Hijackers Michael Finney, Ralph Goodwin and Charlie Hill, all in their early 20s, boarded the plane in Albuquerque.




LOST LANDMARK Can you identify this Lost Landmark?

Last issue's Lost Landmark was the Tribune Building located at the corner of Twiggs and Tampa street in downtown Tampa. The photo was taken in 1925. Congratulations to Sheila Dawson of Brandon, 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 December1, 2009. All correct entries will be entered into a drawing and one name will be selected as the winner. Good luck!





Look WhosSmokin by Emanuel Leto

There's no building in Tampa big enough to hold Wally Reyes' dream. At 180 feet, rolling the world's longest cigar would require an airplane hangar or the Tampa Convention Center (they turned him down). It'll take nearly 112 hours over five weeks, 40 people, a 200foot tent and a whole lot of planning before Reyes' dream of reclaiming the Guinness World Record for rolling the world's longest cigar becomes a reality. “It's like a military operation,” he says. “I have to make my own custom cigar molds, and I have to make the biggest cigar box you'll ever see.” Reyes' previous record of 101 feet, set November 18, 2006 during the Cigar Heritage Festival and sponsored by Cigar City Magazine, was short lived. Three months later Patricio Peña of Puerto Rico and his team rolled a 135-footer, winning the World Title. Peña soon lost the title to Jose Catelar of Havana, Cuba and his 148-foot, 9-inch stogie. Wally Reyes during his 2006 attempt. Reyes set the world record at 101 feet.

work argarita Reyes Wally and M



with their team

in 2006.

So Reyes, who still holds the U.S. record, is on a mission to bring the world record back to Tampa, the place where his family got its start in the cigar industry. His great, great uncle, Benito Quintana and his brother Jose partnered with Antonio Fisher in 1922 and began making cigars under the “Tampa Girl” label for the Corral & Wodiska Company. After the depression, the company re-organized under the name Gonzalez Habana, and once again in the 1950s to Gonzalez Habano. Reyes took over the company after he finished school in Puerto Rico, relocating to Tampa in 1978. On November 21st, Reyes and his team, which includes his wife, Margarita, will rise at 4:00 a.m. By the time the crowds start to gather, Reyes will already be 6 hours and five weeks into the effort and he will have already rehearsed the complicated process of applying the final wrapper leaf countless times with his core six-man team. By 3:00 p.m., with a representative from Guinness looking over his shoulder, he'll know if it was worth the effort.

by Felecia Brantley

The Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival (TBBHF) exists to offer the Tampa Bay area community a connection to the unique blend of African and African American art, culture and history, serving as a conduit for promoting and perpetuating these in the United States. It features speakers, musicians, artists, poets and craftspeople locally and nationally. The TBBHF is a ten-day cultural event to promote diversity and cultural sensitivity that begins the weekend before and ends the weekend after the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The TBBHF was founded in 2001 by Dr. Samuel L. Wright Sr. with the partnership of the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau. The festival surrounds the teachings and philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who advocated for a diverse community that is culturally sensitive to all who live there. Dr. Wright, a supporter of Dr. King's guiding principles, thought that positioning this event so close to Dr. King's birthday would be one way to honor the memory of the man and his legacy. The festival has two main components: cultural enrichment activities and a street festival. The cultural enrichment activities include A Living History - an event comprised of several mediums, that highlight persons who were directly involved in a historically significant event in the history of the United States. Also featured are speakers who have had experience on the world stage dealing with issues important to the African Diaspora. In conjunction with the USF Speaker's Series, last year featured “An Evening with Martin

and Langston� with Felix Justice and Danny Glover portraying Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Langston Hughes, respectively. The program featured Justice recreating the speeches of Dr. King prior to introducing Glover to perform some of the writings and poetry of Hughes. The Heritage Gala is a semi-formal celebration featuring dinner, entertainment, and auctions. The street festival offers a wide array of activities for all including food and craft vendors, live entertainment, and free health screenings. The village includes artists, authors, health information, corporate, Greek (sorority/fraternity), and children's presentations. Other events that highlight the TBBHF include leadership and financial seminars, music, spoken word, art, and more. Each day of the ten-day experience provides all participants with an opportunity to increase their awareness of African and AfricanAmerican culture and history. In January 2010, the TBBHF will celebrate its 10 year anniversary.

Be a part of the celebration, visit to get a schedule of the 2010 events.



WPA in Florida By Gary R. Mormino This article is reprinted from FORUM, the magazine of the Florida Humanities Council (, a nonprofit organization that sponsors public programs exploring Florida's history and cultural heritage.

It was 1930, and the mood in Florida was bleak. Once a beacon of optimism, the state now lay in economic ruins. It had been pummeled by the real estate bust of 1926 and devastated by the Wall Street crash three years later. Crushed lives and dashed dreams haunted the Dust Bowl, but bad things weren't supposed to happen in sunshine states. Hundreds of Florida-owned banks and corporations had failed. Agriculture had fallen victim to under-consumption, overproduction, the Mediterranean fruit fly, and the cattle tick. Mullet fishermen threatened a strike unless they received 3 cents a pound for their catches. Steel skeletons, once symbols of the Florida Boom, now rusted. The fortunes of John Ringling, Carl Fisher, and David 24


P. Davis were dashed on the rocks of speculation and bankruptcy. Tax revenues and income had plummeted. Vast sections of the state had been sold for back taxes. By 1932, new construction had virtually ceased. In Jacksonville, officials warned that 24,000 citizens faced starvation; the unemployment problem in Pensacola, said U.S. Sen. Duncan Fletcher, was “perhaps larger than any other community in the U.S.” Revolutionaries stalked the land, or so politicians feared. In Miami, the Dade County Unemployment League warned, “You can drive us into revolution or give us relief.” In many places, signs appeared: “Warning: Do not come here seeking work!” “Hobo Expresses” escorted transients to the nearest county and state lines.

Before the New Deal, there was no social security for the aged, no guarantee of banking deposits or rights to organize a union, and no federal relief for farmers. Right-wing critics branded Roosevelt a socialist. When Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) pledged to Americans a “New Deal� at the 1932 Democratic Party convention, a quarter of Floridians were unemployed. Elected by a landslide in November 1932, Roosevelt came perilously close to never fulfilling his promise. Three months later, as the presidentelect began to speak to a large crowd at Miami's Bayfront Park, an Italian anarchist named Giuseppe Zangagra fired shots, barely missing Roosevelt but killing Chicago mayor Anton In 1932, avowed anarchist Giuseppe Zangagra Cermak. Roosevelt's attempted to assassinate FDR in Miami's Bayfront Park, barely missing Roosevelt but killing Chicago inspiration derived mayor Anton Cermak. not from a deepseated ideology, but rather from his confidence and consuming faith, his gift of empathy, and his willingness to experiment. A pragmatist, FDR was willing to test the limits of government; a leader, he believed that the presidency was a pulpit. Before the New Deal, there was no social security for the aged, no guarantee of banking deposits or rights to organize a union, and no federal relief for farmers. Right-wing critics branded Roosevelt a socialist, while the Left never forgave him for preserving private enterprise. The stakes were immense: America in the 1930s was poised on a hinge of history, precariously balanced between fascist dictatorships and social revolution. Put simply, the New Deal ameliorated the worst of the Great Depression and offered hope to many who had lost all faith in the American way. Promising relief, recovery, and reform, the New Deal injected the federal government into family lives, the job place, even the theater. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) recruited 50,000 men aged 17 to 23 to plant trees and build parks. Pay was $30 a month, of which $25 went to their families. The nucleus of today's Florida state park system stands as a CCC legacy: Florida Caverns, Torreya, Fort Clinch, O'Leno, Hillsborough River, the Highland Hammock, and Myakka River state parks. But no New Deal program left a greater legacy than the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It came about in 1935, when, for all of FDR's fireside

chats and daring, the New Deal had stalled. In spite of massive infusions of federal funds, unemployment remained alarmingly high. The courts checked Roosevelt's agenda. Demagogues were on the march: Huey Long, Dr. Francis Townsend, and Father Charles Coughlin threatened Roosevelt- and threatened American democracy, itself. The election of 1936 loomed. With the bravado of a lion and the cunning of a fox, Roosevelt outflanked his opponents. On May 6, 1935, FDR established the Works Progress Administration by executive order. In August, FDR signed the Social Security Act, unfurling the Second New Deal. Below: Civilian Co nservation Corps members shown at The camp was est Camp Coulter, Flo ablished on June rida in Levy Coun 28, 1933. ty.

parts of the country. The most ambitious rural experiment in Florida occurred in Madison County in North Florida- an area hit especially hard by the collapse of the cotton economy following World War I. In 1935, the WPA launched the $1.5 million Cherry Lake Rehabilitation Project. Officials selected 500 families residing in Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami, and moved them to a 15,000-acre communal tract they called Cherry Lake Farms. The refurbished Hinton house, an 1839 plantation, became headquarters for the nonprofit company. Workers constructed a lumber yard, a cane mill, barracks, a new school, an auditorium, and a cooperative store. Families residing in the 170 cottages enjoyed telephones, electric lights, and Robert Cook (with camera) and Stetson Kennedy (with recording equipment) documenting Edith Ogden-Aguilar running water from worker-owned utilities. Kennedy, Ybor City, 1939. From 1937 to 1942, Stetson Kennedy headed the Florida Writers' Project unit on folklore, The WPA's most significant legacy is not brick oral history, and social-ethnic studies. Timed photograph by Stetson Kennedy, Stetson Kennedy Papers. Digital restoration by Ivy Bigbee. and concrete, however, but the remarkable outRoosevelt appointed trusted aide Harry Hopkins to head the WPA. pouring of arts and culture- especially at a time when bringing Imbued with ample measures of idealism and cynicism, the former social culture to the people was considered politically and socially worker understood that the new program promised much but threatened explosive. Fusing culture and democracy in a relief program seemed many. revolutionary; but idealism and fear came together in a series of FDR envisioned the WPA to be the centerpiece of a massive $5 daring experiments. billion appropriation (then the largest single appropriation in American Federal Project Number One- popularly known as Fed Onehistory). The program was designed to employ as many workers as cheaply consisted of five major programs: the Federal Art Project, the Federal as possible-not to distribute the money as handouts. “Give a man a dole,” Music Project, the Federal Theatre Project, the Federal Writers' Hopkins said, “and you save his body but destroy his spirit.” Project, and the Historical Records Survey. These put people in the “What I am seeking is the abolition of relief altogether,” announced arts and humanities to work. When asked about the wisdom of the president. But critics quickly ridiculed the WPA as standing for “We hiring unemployed Shakespearian actors, Hopkins quipped, “Hell, Piddle Around.” Most Floridians were grateful for such “make work,” even artists have got to eat just like other people.” at $55 monthly wages. Florida's unemployed teachers, journalists, actors, sculptors, The WPA's legacy includes 651,000 miles of road and 78,000 bridges dancers, and artists found new callings under the WPA. Never again (notably the Overseas Highway connecting Miami and Key West). The would so many writers and folklorists canvass the WPA laundry list- and the agency did construct laundries!- is simply stun- bayous and back roads in search of ex-slaves, ning: commercial airports for Pensacola, Miami, Tampa, Marianna, and Cuban cigar makers, Pensacola Creoles, Melbourne; a Boy Scout camp in Bartow; a storm shelter for Belle Glade; Bahamian Conchs, Greek spongers, Minorcan shuffleboard courts in Fort Lauderdale's Stranahan Park; an armory in descendants, Kissimmee cow hunters, and just Lake City; a new jail for Jefferson County; an athletic field in Monticello; plain folk. a football stadium for Orlando; a TB sanitarium in Woodsmere; a student The Florida Writers' Project union building at the University of Florida; sewing rooms for the women employed about 200 people who of Arcadia; a new Leon County High School in Tallahassee; a mattress fac- worked feverishly to complete so tory in Carrabelle; a new campus for St. Petersburg Junior College; a much that archivists are still women's dormitory for Rollins College; a post office for Miami Beach; and adding manuscripts to a mouna fire station for Coral Gables. Bankrupt Key West essentially became a tain of papers. It was ably directed New Deal client, with new construction, an extensive art project, and by the accomplished author Corita other improvements that transformed it into a tourist destination. Doggett Corse, who deftly balanced The New Deal also extended a hand to rural communities personalities, politicians, reeling from the Depression. In 1932, there were nearly 54,000 Florida and deadlines. farms that were not wired for electricity. But a freshman congressman from Texas, Lyndon Johnson, championed the Rural Electrification Program, Florida native Zora Neale Hurston traveled throughout Florida in the late 1930s as a “junior which helped brighten the harshness of rural life in Florida and in many interviewer” with the Federal Writers Project, collecting oral histories and field recordings of 26


former slaves, turpentine camp workers and other cultural groups in the state.

Myriad WPA publications promoted the state, but the most notable achievement was Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State (1939). Written with verve, the Guide is still carried in the glove compartments of many cars. Six decades later, many passages ring with authenticity: Politically and socially, Florida has its own North and South, but its northern area is strictly southern and its southern area definitively northern. In summer the State is predominantly southern by birth and adoptions, and in winter it is northern by invasion…. To the visitor, Florida is at once a pageant of extravagance and a land of pastoral simplicity, a flood-lighted stage of frivolity and a behind-the-scenes struggle for existence. For the person with a house car, it is a succession of trailer camps and a vagabond social life. For the Palm Beach patron, it is a winter Newport made up of the same society, servants, and pastimes…. Ten thousand miles of roads that crisscross the State have streaked it with what might be described as roadside culture and commerce, with each section revealing a characteristic quality…Agrarian preoccupations turn from corn, cotton, and tobacco to alligator and lion farms, reptile ranches, botanical gardens, and Indian villages. Not every observation, however, will sound familiar to today’s readers. Tallahassee's red-clay streets, according to WPA writers:

Curtains closed and actors bowed at the conclusion of the 900 performances sponsored by the short-lived, but lively, Florida Theater Project. Tampa was home to the state's only Negro Theater Unit as well as the nation's only Spanish-language acting troupe. Wildly popular, Ybor City's Latin immigrants adored the performances at the palatial Centro Asturiano Theatre, but the U.S. Congress voted in 1937 that aliens could not work on WPA projects, thus robbing the troupe of its actors. The decade of the 1930s profoundly altered the course of American and Florida history. Events changed the relationships among states, citizens, and the federal government. Popular doctrines of rugged individualism gave away to an acceptance of Washington's role in Americans' lives. American writers and artists keenly shaped, and were shaped by, the 1930s. The popular slogans “Art for the Millions” and “People's Art” reflected new sentiments and relationships. The WPA represented what critic Lewis Mumford called “the cultural rediscovery of America.” Prior to the Great Depression, terms such as culture and civilization meant European arts and letters, imported music, and theater. Historian Warren Susman insisted, “the single most persistent theme to emerge from the bulk of the literature of this period…was 'the people.'” Florida's Hurston may have summed it up best, “Folklore is the boiled-down juice of human living.” Floridians, too, rediscovered Florida.

intersect many paved thoroughfares, and horse-and-mule-drawn vehicles are not uncommon sights…Parked along the high curbs are shining motors with liveried chauffeurs, and rickety farm wagons acting as carry-alls for produce, groceries, and brownfaced children. Hitching posts and watering troughs still survive. WPA writers described 1930s Destin (population 25) “as an old and well-known fishing resort.” In Orlando (population 27,730), “Sidewalks are narrow; traffic signal lights bear the admonition 'Quiet.' Fruit-juice stands and used-car lots, some in landscaped settings, appear between tall, year-round hotels, theaters, and department stores.” The Guide warned tourists, “Here and there are the 'pitches' of palm readers and astrologers; but to maintain the contrast, long stretches of uninhabited pine woods intervene with warning signs, 'Open Range- Beware of Cows and Hogs.'” The guide also captured the realities of 1930s life. In La Belle, travelers encountered “primitive one-story cabins with palm-thatched roofs…Kerosene lamps light these houses, and home-cured hides are sometimes used as bed 'kivers.''' WPA cultural projects ranged from recording Lebanese lullabies in Jacksonville to bringing the opera Aida to Apalachicola and constructing an art gallery in Key West. Art centers opened in Milton, Bradenton, Daytona Beach, and New Smyrna Beach. Pensacola, Jacksonville, and St. Petersburg sponsored Negro Art Centers. The Jacksonville Civic Orchestra, composed of 52 musicians formerly on relief rolls, played to enthusiastic crowds. In one experiment, inmates at Raiford State Prison learned to paint. Harry Sutton, a celebrated artist and supervisor of the Jacksonville Negro Art Center, offered art lessons for local youth.

The Centro Asturiano mutual aid society in Tampa's Ybor City was home to the nation's only Spanish language company in the WPA's Federal Theater Project. Funding was later cut due to the company's use of foreign-born performers.


LIFE HISTORY OF MR. JOHN CACCIATORE American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 During their travels throughout Florida, the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers’ Project secured oral histories from a number of individuals in Ybor City. Many of the people interviewed, like Mr. Cacciatore, whose interview is included below, were approaching old age. These life histories offer a glimpse of life in early Tampa. Note: Words that are illegible will be indicated by a question mark (?). born in the town of Santa Stefano di Quisquina, Sicily, on Iwas May 12th, 1860, and am now 75 years of age. My father was a farm peasant working the soil for a landowner. Since my early years I toiled at the farm with my father. I was married at the age of 22 years, and then leased a tract of land that I worked planting wheat, horse feed, potatoes and vegetables. After we had been married a year, my wife gave birth to a child, a baby boy, who died when he was a year old. In the year 1885 my wife again gave birth to another son who died soon after. In this same year I decided to come to New Orleans where many Italians were living at that time. The trip was long and tedious, lasting 30 days. I was afterwards introduced to Mr. Vaccare who was the owner of the steamship line in which I had sailed to America with my wife. We soon became fast friends, and he proposed to me that I work for him at his Produce Company in New Orleans. He handled bananas chiefly which he brought from Honduras. There I was employed as foreman, which position I held for some two years. friends described Tampa to me with such glowing colors Several that I soon became enthused, and decided to come here and try my fortune. Accordingly, in 1887, leaving my wife in New Orleans, I took the train to Mobile. At Mobile I took the boat that brought me here. We disembarked at the Lafayette Street Bridge. I was then 27 years of age.I had expected to see a flourishing city, but my expectations were too high, for what I saw before me almost brought me to tears. There was nothing, what one may truthfully say, nothing. Franklin was a long sandy street. There were very few houses, and those were far apart with tall pine trees surrounding them. The Hillsborough County Court House was a small wooden building. Some men were just beginning to work on the foundation of the Tampa Bay Hotel. Ybor City was not connected to Tampa as it is today. There was a wilderness between the two cities, and a distance of more



than one mile between the two places. All of Ybor City was not worth one cent to me. In different places of Ybor City, a tall species of grass grew, proper of swampy places. This grass grew from 5 to 6 feet high. I was completely disillusioned with what I saw. There was a stagnant water hole where the society of the Centro Español (Spanish Club) is today located. A small wooden bridge spanned this pond. I remember that I was afraid to cross the bridge, and especially so at night, because of the alligators that lived there. They would often crawl onto the bridge and bask there in the sun all day long. The factory of Martinez-Ybor had some twenty cigar makers; Sanchez y Haya had some fifteen; while Pendás had about ten. I worked for a time at the factory of Modesto Monet as stripper, and made 35¢ for my first day's work. Of course, I was then only learning the cigar business, and could not expect to make more. When I became skilled in my work as stripper, I would make from $1.00 to $1.25 a day. While still at this work, I gradually began learning the cigar-makers' trade as I saw that they were making a much more comfortable income. When I had become somewhat proficient as a cigar-maker, I was earning from $14.00 to $15.00 a week. I had been in Tampa some two or three years I sent for When my wife who was still living in New Orleans. When she arrived in Tampa she burst out crying at what she saw: wilderness, swamps, alligators, mosquitoes, and open closets. The only thing she would say when she arrived was, "Why have you brought me to such a place?" Here we had two more sons, and one died. We had in all four children, of whom three died. We only had one child left whom we were able to raise. At about this time Mr. Martinez Ybor (the cigar manufacturer) was offering homes for sale at a very low price. I, therefore, went to him and purchased a home at the corner of 18th Street and 8th Avenue for the price of $725. I still have this house, although considerably remodeled. I paid $100 cash, and the balance I paid

in monthly terms. I was able to do this with the help of my wife; she worked also at the cigar factory. We worked in several factories, sometimes in West Tampa, and sometimes in Ybor City, wherever working conditions were better. In all, I worked 28 years at the cigar factories. At the end of this time my sight became somewhat impaired, and I was, therefore, obliged to discontinue my work. son grew up into a young man, married and had two M ychildren - both boys. One of my grandsons is married, and the other is still single. My son has now been out of work for the past three years. I am living at present from what little rent I can collect from the various buildings that I own. There are families that have been living in my houses seven weeks without paying rent, yet should I wish to dislodge them, I must go to the Court House and pay them $5.00, and then wait three more weeks before they are finally dislodged. These properties are mine. I have worked hard in order to have them, yet I cannot do as I deem proper with them. If I cannot pay the taxes, these houses will be taken from me. If I cannot collect my rents, I am not able to pay the taxes. I should, therefore, be allowed to dislodge these that cannot pay their rent, and without going through so much trouble. It is not justice to expect taxes to be paid when you cannot collect your rents.

is not much hope in Ybor City. The cigar factories are on There a continuous decline. The factory of Corral & Wodiska had 1500 persons working; today it has only some 150 or 200 persons. The railroad between Tampa and Jacksonville had over 40 men working daily along the tracks, keeping the grass from growing over the rails, seeing that the tires along the tracks were well kept, etc. Today they do not have a single man doing this. The Trust has also purchased many factories here and has removed them to the Northern cities. The people of Ybor City are orphans, not only of father and mother, but of everything in life. They cannot find work at the cigar factories because of the machines. If the government would place a tax of $5,000 on each {?}, the manufacturers would soon have to discontinue them, and there would be work for those that are still left here. Under present conditions the people of Ybor City have no other alternative but to leave for New York City. Here they get only 50¢ a week for the maintenance of a whole family, and the single person is not given any relief whatever. In New York City they are given a home, groceries, coal to warm themselves in winter, and electric lights. Here they are not given anything. There is not an employee of Hav-a-Tampa that is from Ybor City. All their employees are women who come from little towns near Tampa. The factory is situated here in Ybor City, yet very few Latins if any, are employed. This factory pays their employees whatever they please.





Tampa City Council woman Linda Saul-Sena chooses her words slowly as I sit across from her at the dining room table of her wellappointed Davis Islands home- the same house her grandparents built when they moved from New York to open a men’s clothing store on 7th Avenue in Ybor City in the 1920s. Saul-Sena has been talking about Tampa for over three decades. A planner by trade and a city council member for nearly 20 years, the Tampa native has worked for the Hillsborough County Planning Commission and the Tampa Museum of Art. Over the course of our conversation, we touched on family, local politics, and historic preservation but what comes through again and again is her love for the city she calls home and an unyielding optimism for what it can become. Tampa's growing up. It's becoming more interesting. When I was first elected [in 1987], it was a much simpler city, a much less sophisticated city. I'd say that [at that time] we were a like a teenager with raging hormones and all this potential be we hadn't figured out our direction and now we've graduated from college…and we're beginning to find our own voice. We still haven't reached our full potential but we're further along in the process. I wanted to pass a café ordinance, which would allow restaurants the opportunity to have outdoor seating. I took me four years to get that café ordinance passed, which was absurd. But that was indicative of a number of things: How slowly the city moved, and the lack of recognition that a café ordinance would help Tampa evolve into a more vibrant city. I had been living up north and my friends said, 'How can you move back to Tampa?' and I said, 'Well in Tampa, there are six dozen creative people but we all know each other and we all support each other,' unlike [in a big city] where everyone is 34


competing against one another. [In Tampa] you're so happy to know this artist or that writer and there's a very natural, organic synergy because you're so pleased to have someone else to brainstorm with. That's one of Tampa's wonderful qualities: we create opportunities for creative people to collaborate. My experience here as an adult is that those opportunities are expanding. One of the things that is most exciting for Tampa right now that I see is the expansion of international trade, particularly with Cuba; I think that will become one of our strong suits in the future. The fact that we've had this historic relationship with Cuba in terms of business and culture- and social; it's a long-standing friendship and those three elements have woven together over time, but we've had a black-out period because of the embargo. But they've started to re-weave in the last decade through initiatives like Graphic Studios (at USF) bringing artists over and Art Savage doing some business and John Park Wright doing some business there, and I see that as a very bright spot for our community. Attitude is everything [with Cuba]. As a community, we can develop a positive attitude, which assumes that the barriers will be lifted and we can move forward and we need to operate in that manner. Just as the current economic situation gives us a chance to plan, we should assume that the current barriers [to trade with Cuba] will disappear and we'll be able to move forward. I really believe that…It just seems so logical to me based on my career as a planner that that's what you do. You plan. You get things ready so that when barriers are lifted, you can forge ahead and I do think we should forge ahead because our historic ties are so rich. We were never just a white-bread Southern town. We've always had this cultural paella. I love Cesar Gonzmart's (former owner of the Columbia Restaurant) term for that; we've always had this rich mixture of cultures, which has made us more diverse and interesting.

The most sustainable thing you can do is re-use an existing structure, rather than tearing it down. So, strictly from an economic, practical basis, [preserving a historic building] is the greenest most sustainable thing you could do. An art museum is the home for cultural conversations. It not the only place… all of these institutions, the History Center, they're all centers for talking about the values of the community. The Tampa Museum of Art is where you discuss aesthetics and you connect with other people who value the same things and it's central to that public conversation. We need these institutions in our community. As we look at our region, it's obvious that the most sustainable growth we can have is infill, close to our core, and the rise in gas prices a year ago followed by the implosion of the economy shows that the typical Florida pattern of suburban development is not sustainable. My vision for Tampa is that we have neighborhoods that are distinctive and have a lot of character and that our downtown acts as a public living room…to make this successful, we need to make it easy for people to come downtown through not just a car but a bicycle, a river taxi, a light rail system, a streetcar and on foot, and we need downtown to be compelling and interesting so people will want to come and do a variety of things once they're there. And hopefully more people will want to live in downtown or in one of the close-by neighborhoods like Ybor and Channelside or Hyde Park. This is really what I've been working on all these decades. When I came back to Tampa after college, I went to the Planning Commission and said, 'I'll work for free.' I was young and I thought I'd rather work for free and do something that was really important and they saw that I worked really hard and they hired me. Most people who have the chance to travel to cities with good transit systems and use them, become fans. It's usually a function of experiencing a great system to become enthusiastic about it…people should recognize that investing [in mass transit] will make their lives better. It makes the air cleaner…It's more sustainable in terms of energy usage. It's important for food security. We need to not take Plant City and Ruskin and pave over our farmland with suburban houses. That isn't smart. We need to practice smart growth. Tampa is beginning to realize it's potential. Take a ride on Captain Cliff's water taxi. Take a walk along the Riverwalk and cross the Kennedy Bridge and poke your head into the Plant Museum. Sit outside any night of the year and you know this is a great place to live. And then, take some of your free time and put your energy into improving things…spend your dollars at local businesses. The secret of our future will be individual energy and creativity. I am completely convinced of that.

The 'Good Night' By Susan Cuesta

Melissa Cuesta, Susan Cuesta, Hilda Delgado, Stefanie Cuesta & Natalie Cuesta Wakefield

Hilda & Willie Delgado

Susan Cuesta & her grandmother Hilda setting the table

Noche Buena, Spanish for “good night”, is what we call Christmas Eve. In my family of Spanish and Cuban heritage, the celebration has its familiar rituals. The focus of the meal is always the same: roast pork, yucca, black beans, rice, and Cuban bread. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and great-grandparents: all in the same room, eating, drinking, laughing, and sharing stories. As Catholics, the night often ended with a trip to Midnight Mass for the adults and the older kids. These things form the basis of the traditions that we know, the things that we continue- generation to generation, year after year. As children, we couldn't wait 'til it was over, because at the end of the night, we were going home to wait for Santa. Now as an adult, I can see that the presents were not the gifts under the tree, but are, in fact, the “good night” itself- and all of the memories that are made when families join together. 38


Mercedes (Nena) Henriquez & Naty Delgado, Susan’s Great Grandmothers

There are so many things that I remember- the details that make up our story of Noche Buena. As far back as I can remember, Noche Buena was at Abuela Honey and Abuelo Willie's house in Temple Terrace. I remember the smell when we walked in. Abuela Honey in the kitchen cooking, always dressed beautifully and my great-grandmothers, Abuela Nena and Abuela Naty, sitting in the living room, trying to get us to calm down as we raced around the house, begging Abuelo Willie to let us play darts. At the end of the night, Abuela Naty would make espresso on the stovetop before we went to Midnight Mass. It was always a treat to drink out of the tiny little cups that seemed like they were made for our small hands. We often returned on Christmas Day to see what Santa had left at our Abuelos' house for us- and to eat the plentiful leftovers.

As far back as I can remember, Noche Buena was at Abuela Honey and Abuelo Willie's house in Temple Terrace.

Camelia Milian, Maria Cuesta & her sons, Ruben & Pop Cuesta

Lisa Figueredo & her son Rob “Baby Robert” Aguinaga

As some of my older cousins moved away or started families of their own, we began celebrating at my Tio Ruben and Tia Cathy's house. I remember their first house was tiny and they had a screen room built just to fit everyone. Tia Cathy's family and lots of cousins on my father's side joined us there and I remember all of us packed in tight. The house was a Christmas extravaganza, many decorations home-made by my aunt. I remember Abuelo Emeterio sitting quietly, laughing at the chaos all around him, while Abuela Maria was ready to dance at the sound of the first note of any song. As the celebration grew, so did the amount of food…soon there were mini-deviled crabs, Cuban sandwiches, cheese and crackers, and turron to appease us while we waited to eat. It was here that we started the tradition of opening one present (or a few) on Noche Buena. We often didn't see this part of the family on Christmas Day, so we were allowed to open their presents and thank them in person. And Tio would insist on a family portrait before we went to mass or home to wait for Santa- another new tradition. Tio and Tia moved from the little house on Albany to a big new house in the suburbs, but it was just as cozy when everyone packed in to celebrate Noche Buena. At this point, us kids (all girls) were mostly grown and sometimes there were boyfriends along to experience the rowdy celebrations. Like most Latin families, everyone talks at once and dinner was often an extended affair- except for my father, who is notorious for being the first one up from the table and back to the TV to catch any football games that are on. Today, our traditions continue to evolve, yet somehow, things have come full-circle. My sisters and I are grown, as are the cousins of my generation. The last few years, we have had Noche Buena at my sister Natalie's house along with her husband Brad's family. There's still tons of food with all of us bringing something to “snack” on before we eat the traditional roast pork- now made by Natalie and Brad (with help from my mom). That is, if you call “snacks”, among other things, meatballs, deviled eggs, cheeses, spinach dip, fruits, nuts and vegetables that alone would be enough for a feast. After several years of mostly adults, the children are once again

Top row: Susan Cuesta, Rob Aguinaga, Joe Figueredo & Stefanie; Joe’s sons, Jordan & Jacob

Brad Wakefield & his nephew Trey playing Wii

becoming the focus of the celebration. Instead of darts, they beg to play Wii. Instead of the screened porch, we all spill out onto tables set up on the deck. And in a yet another new tradition, my cousin, “baby” Robert- now a grown man- has been talked into dressing up as Santa for the little ones, though I think they are starting to catch on… Over the years, we've lost many of our older relatives. All of my grandparents are now gone, but they are still there, every time we celebrate Noche Buena- in the traditions handed down and the memories that we share as we gather. A “good night”, indeed.



Esperante Sisters By John P. Fox

Pili Diaz, Luisa Fox, Alice Russo, Carmen Ferraro, Rose Figueredo & Elise Santana, with thier Aunt Pilar Ramierz center, 1980.

With Aunt Carmen's passing, it occurred to me that the Esperante sisters were, in many ways, unique. All of them shared a good number of attributes: strength, class, beauty, intelligence, fierce devotion to family. They raised 17 of us, taught us manners, disciplined us, gave us succor, instilled in us a sense of dignity and fairness. Interestingly, they were quite modern. All of them worked at some time in their lives, mostly after we reached school age. They "did it all" before that phrase became synonymous with the "modern" woman. Always, though, family came first. They cooked and cleaned and sewed and ironed, sans nannies or spa days or manicures or pedicures. They didn't "need" a van in which to cart us around, nor did they need weeks away because of stress. Simply and out of love for their families, they did what needed to be done and mostly did it without complaint. We forget, of course, that these were the days before disposable diapers, microwave dinners, drive through fast food joints. These six women really knew how to cook and I don't remember sending anything to the laundry until I moved to Washington, D. C., at the age of 18. My fondest childhood memories center on food- particularly Labor Day at Uncle Bobby's. That was a day when all the aunts got together and prepared their special dishes, the ones their nieces and nephews (we) loved. I remember eating until I thought I might burst, then eating some more. Always, no matter whose home you found yourself in, food was made available. Forget about refusing what was offered! You ate because it was fantastic. I have not until now, nor do I ever expect to, eat with the relish I did as a kid. It fascinates me that we pay outrageous restaurant prices for the food we ate everyday: pasta, black beans, red sauce, platanos, breaded steak, macaroni and cheese. We ate it because it was affordable and because the Esperante sisters knew how to turn even pig knuckles into a delicious winter meal. 40


Family was always welcomed and it didn't matter if it was someone renting a place (we rented places, not villas!) at the beach or going to visit Abuela at Uncle Lou's and Aunt Alice's house on Sunday. If one of us graduated or played a sport or performed at a recital, they were there. They were there and they were dressed to the nines, with coiffed hair, painted nails, and classy dresses. They rooted for us and encouraged us, but never forced us. We have no children and I've heard that they do not come with instruction manuals. However, we had some pretty good role models. None of the sisters married well in the financial sense, but they married spectacularly good men who shared their ideas about family, devotion, discipline and of course, food. In hindsight, it seems to me that each of the sisters really was the strength in their respective family. While their good men went off to slay dragons, they took care of everything else. They did not come by this knowledge of rearing families from the internet or Oprah or Dr. Phil. They came by it instinctively, always driven by their love for their children and their spouses. They went through tough times and they were always there for each other. In a sense, they were a support group before we knew what that was. Divorce never happened; I'm pretty sure it was never even discussed. These were devoted, honest women who did what needed to be done. Of course, we hear that things were simpler back then; it is truly astonishing what we have witnessed in just one generation. However, by hewing to the values instilled in us by these six ladies, we've all done pretty well. We succeeded because of our manners, our values, our discipline, our sense of family, our knowledge that if we did something wrong, a shoe would fly through the air at us. To them we owe much and I did not want anymore time to pass without so stating.

Celebrating 25 Years of a Sweet Tradition By Connie Marlowe

Left to right, Frank, Jim, & Tom Leto with Frances Leto Manali frying the dough.

On the first Saturday in December, the Leto family will celebrate 25 years of a time honored tradition. About 20 family members will gather at Pauline Leto Baird's Riverview home to make an ethnic pastry called Pignolata, also called Struffoli, which is an old fashioned Italian dessert. Mary Scourtes, former food editor for the Tribune, wrote a piece about this family's custom, which appeared in the food section on December 20, 2000. She was actually there to witness the whole procedure. But that was nine years ago, and here we are in 2009 and this tradition is still going strong. It all started in 1984, when Frances Manali's grandmother (Nana), Maria Rizzo Pardo, who had made the Pignolata in her home for years, wasn't able to do it because of advancing age and memory loss. Frances was determined to keep the tradition going, so she asked Nana to show her how to make Pignolata from the beginning, one last time, so she could watch and learn. Now, don't go imagining a group of women making a variety of Christmas cookies, as in a cookie exchange. No, no, no. Making Pignolata is not for the faint of heart (or hands, for that matter). It's a multi-step process that takes an entire day's work to complete and involves around 20 members of the Leto family ranging in age form 26 to 97. The coordination of this event rivals that found in the some of the best run businesses. The Leto clan produces more than 1,000 clusters of the sweet treat each year, which is divided among nine families. They in turn either keep or share with their friends and other family members. And that's what it is really all about- communication among family. No mater what else is going on in a world that is saturated with so many forms of electronic communication such as cell phones, email, texting, Twitter, blogs and the like, the Letos know the best communication takes place face to face, over the kitchen table, among family and friends. So, when Pauline and I got together to talk about doing this 42


article, she shared with me her version of this wonderful family tradition. As she begins, her enthusiasm grows, along with her nostalgia for how it used to be. “At first there were only six of us, but now there are 20,” says Pauline. “And even though it is an old tradition, some younger members definitely want to keep doing it and teach it to their children. Just think how amazing it is that the older generation is still doing this. Aunt Nina is 97, Madeline Fraterrigo is 90, Josephine Maggio is 89 and Margaret Valenti is 87,” she said. “We used to do it at my mother's house, but when she passed away in 2003, they started coming to my house,” said Pauline. Here's how it all comes together, according to Pauline: Everyone arrives around 8 a.m. for coffee, doughnuts and bagels before we start. In the old days, my father, Philip Sr., made some type of pasta, salad and Cuban bread ahead of time for the lunch break, but now, we have Cuban sandwiches and Spanish bean soup. Lunch doesn't happen until all the nuggets are cut, rolled and fried. After the nuggets are coated, we take a coffee break before cleaning up. In a huge bowl, my brother Philip Jr. mixes up several pounds of flour and dozens of eggs into dough by hand. The dough has to 'rest' before it can be rolled and cut. Then, the rollers, Madeline Fraterrigo, Antonia (Aunt Nina) Leto, Margaret Valenti, Inez and Nancy Leto, Elsie and Josephine Maggio, roll the dough into thin 6-7 inch logs, which are then cut into little 'nuggets'. The cutters are Karla Leto Shepherd, Vivian, Louisa, Allison and Meghan Leto, and me. While the women are rolling and cutting, the men, and Frances Manali, the outside supervisor, are setting up the propane fryers in my garage. The nuggets are deep fried in batches. There are four fryers: my husband, and Laurie, Thomas, Frank, and Jimmy Leto.

I asked Frances how she got to be the supervisor of the fryers. She said she has too much energy to sit for hours rolling and cutting dough. “You have to be diligent when you're frying the dough, making sure the temperature is perfect, because it can go from 'just right' to 'scorched' very quickly,” she said. “The same is true of the honey and sugar coating. You have to keep a close watch on it, or it will burn and you have to start all over again,” she said. Pauline continues: In the kitchen, the caramel coating is made out of sugar and honey. We add the chopped pecans, and the fried pastry balls are dropped into the hot coating. Then about six of the women shape the fried pasty balls into pine-cone shaped clusters. We put bowls of ice water nearby for dipping our hands in to protect our fingers from the heat of the caramelized sugar. They are done when the candy is sprinkled on top.

Left to right, sister-in-laws Nancy & Vivian Leto & Pauline Leto Baird cutting the dough.

Pauline says that they all get along great, but there are also disagreements, like the size of the nuggets, the color of the coating, and how large to make the cones, everyone talking at once. “But we really look forward to getting together as a family, talking and laughing and visiting with each other, and sharing the Pignolata when it's finished. It's a great bonding experience between the older and younger generations. We also talk about current events as we try to solve the problems of the world, all in one day!” she said. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this project, the shopping list includes 60 lbs of lard, 20 bags of sugar, 15 lbs of honey, 9 dozen eggs, 25 lbs of bread flour, and 25 lbs of pecans, in addition to the whiskey, of course, since that is what Nana Pardo's recipe called for in the old days, and multicolored candy sprinkles. All I can say is, “Wow!” But what is Pignolata, exactly, and where did it originate? A web site called has the following information on Struffoli, which is what it is officially called. Struffoli are small balls of fried dough and candied peel drenched in honey and found on every restaurant table, home and many shops in Naples around Christmas. Golden, sticky and sweet, the smell of frying struffoli will make every Neapolitan long for home around this time of the year. Symbolizing abundance and made for good luck, this food of celebration was originally made by nuns to give to the aristocracy at Christmas as thanks for everything they had done for charity. In Rome a similar dessert is made and typically stuffed with candied fruit and chopped almonds- here they are called cicerchiata and are descendents of the ancient Roman frictilla that were made around Carnival time in Rome. The word comes from the Greek word strongulos which means rounded but I have not found any Greek recipe that makes them as they do in Naples. The secret is to make the balls as small as possible (without making peas) so that they are drenched in honey on all sides, yet soft and sublime inside. In Tampa's Italian community, Pignolata is served at Christmas time and at Easter. It is also offered on the altar of the Feast of St. Joseph, which takes place each year in March. Until recently, it was available at some Italian bakeries around town, but now most don't make it regularly or at all. I spoke with Franco Bartellai, owner of Delizie Italian Bakery & Deli, in South Tampa who told me he doesn't make it at all. He is the former pastry chef at the Four Seasons in Tokyo, but hails from Tuscany. Since Struffoli is mainly a southern Italian dessert, it isn't considered a refined delicacy and Bartellai doesn't carry it. He said, “I know what it is. It's not that hard to make, I just don't do it. I don't have the market for it.” considered a refined delicacy and Bartellai doesn't carry it. He said, “I know what it is. It's not that hard to make, I just don't do it. I don't have the market for it.”

Karla Leto Shepherd frying the dough.

Mother and daughter team Inez Valenti Leto & Margaret Valenti counting the pignolattas.



The finished product.

But you can still get Pignolata at Alessi Bakery in West Tampa. “It's sold individually, pre-packaged in cellophane for $2.49 each, as a 'sweet tooth' item,” said Jessica Roberts, an Alessi employee, who is part Italian and says she remembers her grandmother making it. “I love it,” she said. “It's one of my favorite memories from my childhood.” She said the recipe Alessi uses today is the same as when the bakery first opened in 1912. Recipes passed down from generation to generation are sacred, and the Letos are very proud of theirs. Even though every family that makes this dessert has its own variation and secret ingredient, here's the Leto family's version: Ingredients 3 cups flour Shortening or oil for frying 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 caps full whiskey (about 1 tablespoon) Multicolored decorative candy sprinkles 1/2 cup chopped pecans 1 cup sugar 6 eggs 1/2 cup honey For the pastry: In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in center. Combine eggs and whiskey. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Combine to make stiff dough. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough 10-12 times. Let rest for about 1/2 hour.Roll dough into thin ropes about 6 or 7 inches long and about 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into small discs, about 1/4 inch long. Place on lightly greased plates. Heat shortening to 200 degrees in a deep-fat fryer. Drop in as many pieces of dough as will float, uncrowded, in 1 layer. Fry dough 2 to 44


3 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining dough. For the coating: In a large saucepan, combine sugar and honey. Cook and stir over medium low heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils. Cook, stirring occasionally, at 270 degrees, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, pour in pecans. Pour over deep-fried pastries in large bowl. Stir constantly to coat well. Dip hands in ice water and form the honey coated pieces into cone-shaped mounds. Sprinkle with decorative candies. Let cool. To serve, break off individual pieces. Makes 10-12 servings. Variations: Instead of making pine cone shaped clusters you can shape the honey coated balls into a large wreath, and serve on a plate. Pieces of the treat are then pulled off and eaten that way. Another way to serve it is to place the honey coated balls into a large candy dish or bowl. They are eaten individually, like candy. This is an old tradition that is kept alive by those that had Nanas and Zias who made it way back when they were children. Frances Manali says, “It's a way to keep us connected to our Nana Maria Pardo.” For Pauline, her brothers, Philip, Jr. and Frank, and all the rest of the clan, making Pignolata is a truly special way to keep the family bonds strong. Pauline Leto grew up at 1810 5th Avenue in Ybor City, where her parents lived for 56 years. Her father owned and operated Phil's Dairy for 40 years and her grandfather worked for Hav-A-Tampa Cigar. The family moved to Palm River in 1967. Pauline and her husband currently live in Riverview.

Mariel By Andy Huse

On November 10, 2009, University Press of Florida will release “The Columbia Restaurant: Celebrating a Century of History, Culture, and Cuisine,” an illustrated history of the restaurant and cookbook by Andrew T. Huse. The following article is an excerpt from the book.

In April 1980, the flood of Cuban refugees continued for several weeks from the port of Mariel. Cubans fled in a desperate flotilla, and Fidel Castro let them go. Family members in the United States suddenly saw hope for relatives still living under the Communist yoke. A desperate boatlift ensued, often undertaken by shrimp trawlers and fishing boats of questionable seaworthiness. Tampa already was home to thousands of post-Castro refugees who staged loud demonstrations nightly around MacFarlane Park in West Tampa, Ybor's sister Latin quarter. Throngs of Cubans denounced Castro. Caravans of cars wound through the neighborhoods to rally support for Mariel's oppressed. The political fervor ran so high it concerned Tampa's older Cuban immigrants. The city's Latin community united to offer food, shelter, and jobs to 1,000 refugees. Moved to take action, Cesar [Gonzmart , owner of Columbia Restaurant] announced that he planned to charter a ship to bring dissident Cubans safely to Florida. The response on the part of Tampa's recent Cuban refugees was overwhelming. They thronged the Columbia with their life savings in hand. Many nights of fundraising proved to be “hectic,” as Cesar described it. Tampa's struggling Nuevo 48


Cubanos invested more than $400,000 into the venture. “People are coming in with fistfuls of bills,” Cesar told a reporter. “The response has been so tremendous.” Adela [Cesar’s wife] thought Cesar's enterprise was a disaster in the making, a serious risk in the midst of the Columbia's own business struggles. Having been born in Cuba with family still there, Cesar thought the venture a worthy gamble. Cesar himself threw in tens of thousands of dollars of his own money to bring Cubans freedom, a heavy investment with no certainty of success. But it was a risk worth taking for Cesar and about 1,500 other Tampa Cubans. When a former band mate called Cesar to buy passage for 27 relatives, he asked how much it would cost. “To you,” Cesar replied reassuringly, “nothing.” The band mate insisted on paying his way: $210 per person. Cesar chartered Anaqua, a one-time banana boat, to evacuate as many people as possible. He also hired the small Panamanian liner Rio Indio for $340,000, hoping to shuttle 2,000 people to Key West. Tampa's Cubans funneled all of their hopes and passions into the Anaqua and Rio Indio. Adela was furious that her husband had gambled on such a grand scale.

“What can I tell you?” a disappointed Cesar said. “After Cesar aroused hope where little existed, but hope can be more painful than despair. He begged the Red Cross for a doctor and struggling since the beginning of May, I don't know how I continue. supplies for his vessels, which it denied. When the Anaqua was about I feel very sad. Only God and Fidel Castro have the ultimate word to embark, a freighter crashed into a piling of the Sunshine Skyway on whether people will leave Cuba.” The investors took out their rage on Cesar and the Columbia. bridge, causing it to collapse and clutter the channel. On the second embarkation, the Coast Guard did not permit the Anaqua to set out, Unable to retrieve their relatives, they demanded their money back. citing safety regulations. Hundreds of Cuban investors crowded the Some blamed Cesar for the failure ultimately caused by a breakdown Columbia, desperate for good news. Cesar allayed their fears: He had a of international relations. Whenever he came to the restaurant, people hounded him, women clutched him, and onlookers hurled rumors new plan. The Panamanian liner Rio Indio looked promising and could carry and threats. Some said they'd burn the Columbia down, or eat meals far more people. The Cuban Port Authority had already granted the and refuse to pay. During the initial excitement of the vessel permission to dock. The ship venture, Cesar gave Richard's [Cesar’s could ferry about 15,000 refuges son] home phone number to Hispanic during its month of service. radio stations. At home with her Success seemed certain until a daughters, Melanie [Richard’s wife] coped thunderbolt came from Washington with incessant telephone calls, and every on May 14- President Jimmy Carter voice cried in Spanish. ordered the boatlift to end after In a business slump himself, Cesar 44,000 refugees swarmed Florida's couldn't hope to pay everyone back. shores. The incident allowed Cuban Rumors swirled that he had raised more dictator Fidel Castro to rid himself of than $600,000 and pocketed some of it. political prisoners and undesirables He claimed to have lost $82,000 of his while straining resources in the own money in the venture. Richard said Unites States. to the press: “My father has lost 25 The President's statement ended pounds and countless nights of sleep the boatlift. Most people foretold over this.” He also lost the confidence failure for Cesar's evacuation efforts, of Tampa's Nuevo Cubanos. but he insisted he'd find a way. He A lawsuit filed by Cesar's old band faced a tense, worried, and unruly mate grated on for the next two years. gathering of investors at the Testifying in court, Cesar said, “I felt Columbia. Some asked for refunds, completely destroyed that I couldn't but the money was already tied up in help these people who wanted so chartering the vessels. desperately to get their families out.” He Cesar left aboard Rio Indio for presented documentary evidence that Cuba without taking a delegation of he had spent the money on chartering Tampeños, and the investors started the ships. The judge cleared Cesar of to panic. He instead paid for the Cesar and Richard Gonzmart prepare for the any wrongdoing. delegation to travel to Grand Cayman Columbia Restaurant’s 75th anniversary in 1980. Looking back, he said, “For the first by air and board the Rio Indio there. He hoped to dodge any U.S. jurisdiction by embarking from a foreign time in my life, I felt completely defeated. I was extremely depressed for port. The ploy did not work. No other nation volunteered to accept any three months. The Mariel boat problem was one of my Don Quixote episodes.” He vowed to avoid politics in the future. Don Quixote refugees taken aboard. Rio Indio docked at Mariel harbor. A Cuban officer halted the may have fallen from his horse, but he rode again. loading operation as it began. Unbeknownst to Cesar, the U.S. The USF Tampa Library and Tampa Bay History Center have partnered with government had pressured Panama to revoke the ship's charter, USF St. Petersburg’s Florida Studies Program and the Florida Humanities Council to prohibiting trade of any kind. Cesar fruitlessly sought a charter from hold a “Florida Conversations” event at the Ybor City Columbia to launch “The another country- “any flag that's available,” he said- and even looked Columbia Restaurant” book. Huse and the Columbia’s fourth generation president for another ship. The vessel was useless without international Richard Gonzmart will talk about documenting the legendary restaurant’s history. cooperation, and the venture was a complete loss. The Rio Indio Florida historian par excellence Gary Mormino will moderate. Join them at the alone cost $340,000. Together with the Anaqua and travel expenses, Columbia’s original location in Ybor city on Tuesday, November 10. A reception at 6:30 little remained of the approximately $420,000 Cesar had raised. He will precede the 7 o’clock event in the Siboney Room with free appetizers and an open bar. The event is free and open to the public. gave $80,000 back to investors. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2009


Roast Pork “a la Cubana� (Cuban Style) Traditional mojo pork is a Cuban neccessity on Christmas Eve, but it is delicious any time of the year, with rice and vegetables or on sandwiches.

Ingredients 3 1/2 teaspoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 1 whole bay leaf 2 teaspoons garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced 1/3 cup white vinegar 2 cups water 2 pork tenderloins, 3/4 to 1 pound each Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 teaspoon paprika 50


Preparation Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, bay leaf, garlic powder, oregano, fresh garlic, vinegar, and water to create a marinade for the tenderloins. Place tenderloins in a pan and cover with marinade, then season tenderloin generously with salt and pepper and sprinkle with paprika. Cover and refrigerate tenderloins allowing them to marinate overnight. Place tenderloins in baking dish, pouring the remaining marinade over meat. Roast tenderloins at 400 degrees for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Slice tenderloins before serving with marinade on the side. Serves 8.







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Tampa Bay Buc, Derrick Ward

Michael Clayton of the Tampa Bay Bucs with wife Tina and Steve Brickner of the 1Voice Foundation



To My Fans, You people have been driving me crazy with all your questions! I need a vacation. So send me some more questions and when I get back after the holidays maybe I’ll answer them. I will leave you with this. – Mama For all my fellow Latinos, important words to know: Cheese The teacher told Pepito to use the word cheese in a sentence. Pepito replies: 'Maria likes me, but cheese fat.' Mushroom When all of my family get in the car, there's not mushroom. Shoulder My fren wanted to become a citizen but she didn't know how to read so I shoulder. Texas My fren always Texas me when I'm not home wondering where I'm at! July Ju told me ju were going to that store and July to me! 'Julyer!' Rectum I had two cars but my wife rectum! Juarez One day my gramma slapped me and I said, ' Juarez your problem?' Chicken I was going to go to the store with my wife but chicken go herself. Wheelchair We only have one enchilada left, but don't worry, wheelchair. Harassment My wife caught me in bed with another women and I told her, honey, harassment nothing to me. Bishop My wife fell down the stairs, so I had to pick the bishop. Green Pink Yellow When the phone green, I pink it up, and say, 'Yellow?'



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