Cigar City Magazine Nov-Dec 2006

Page 1

VOL. 2, ISSUE 7-NOV/DEC 2006

Brighter • Smarter • Faster

Fueling Tampa’s Growth Since 1931.

T HE R ADIANT G ROUP, LLC 1320 E. 9th Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 247-4731

The dream is coming true.

The dream of living on the water and living in the city is about to come together in an irresistible new address.

Living, shopping, dining, parks and recreation on a re-imagined Gandy waterfront. Deepwater yacht harbor. Marina club memberships. Townhomes, Village Flats and lavish Tower Residences with pre-construction pricing from the $300s to over $2 million. To become a New Port VIP, register today at, or call 800.940.NPTB(6782). On-site Sales Gallery opens Fall 2005 on Bridge Street one block west of Westshore at Gandy.

Where the city meets the bay.

Br Broke Brok Bro participation participatio participati participa participat partic partici particip part parti par pa p w welcomed. welco welcom welcome welcomed we wel welc Broker Of O Off Offe Offer Offere e ex exc excl exclu exclus exclusi exclusiv exclusive exclusivel b The T Bentley Th B Be Ben Bent Bentl Bentle S Sa Sal Sale G Gr Gro Grou Group Offered exclusively by Sales Group.


T H E B E N T L E Y S A L E S G R O U P Licensed Real Estate Broker


First and foremost, we’d like to applaud those clients who recognize a brilliant ad when they see one. Those clients who realize you can’t bore someone into reading an ad. Those clients who have allowed us to create bold, compelling advertising that has helped grow their businesses. And, in the process, has even tripled our own. So go ahead. Give yourself a big ovation. And then get together with an advertising partner who can really move consumers. Like this.

Unite and take over.

NOV/DEC 2006



Avoid Costly Repairs With A Home Inspection! BUYERS • SELLERS • WARRANTY MOLD • RADON • THERMAL -IMAGING

Free Estimate and Limited Home Warranty


(813) 928-4346



~ Hablamos Espanol

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. Cigar City Magazine is not responsible for loss, damage, or any other injury to unsolicited originals unless specifically requested to do so by Cigar City Magazine in writing. You can write to us at Cigar City Magazine, P.O. Box 18613, Tampa, Florida 33679 or via email at All letters, emails and their contents sent to Cigar City Magazine 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. To request home delivery, check out our website at




(813) 358-3455



To The Editor I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to go through your magazine. I was born and raised in West Tampa. I left Tampa as a widow with my two children in 1963. I was married to Anthony Libero Pullara, the architect who was well known in Tampa in the 50s. Seeing the picture of the library I knew so well on the corner where I grew up - the bank in West Tampa, the corner of Main Street and Howard Avenue. I remember Judge E. J. Salcines’ parents when they were at Solomon Simovitz Dept. Store (where my mother bought my shoes)...I don’t mind telling you it made me cry. You see since 1999 I have been writing my life story about where I lived and grew up – keep up the good work. -Rose (Pullara) La Motta

Dear Cigar City Magazine, I enjoyed reading Mario Garrido’s story about Vincent Ruilova but was sad to hear of his passing. He was a great man and a talented cigar maker. Very few of the “chinchaleros” from the early days are still around. We can’t forget them! -Tony Can’t agree more and that is why on November 18th at Ybor City’s Cigar Heritage Festival, we will be honoring Tampa’s cigar makers. We are sponsoring an event where master cigar maker Wallace Reyes will attempt to break the Guinness World Record by rolling a 100- foot long cigar. We would like to invite all cigar makers to come out to this very special event and be recognized for their contributions to the Cigar Capital of the World! -Editor



Dear Editor Count me in! Enclosing a check for a subscription to your timely magazine. As an immigrant’s daughter my family lived on 10th Street. My maternal great-grandmother Carolina Benito Llaneza left Asturias, Spain in 1898 and for 25 years ran a boarding house on 9th Street and 13th Avenue for factory workers. My father, Benigno Llano Corral left Asturias, Spain in 1912 and became foreman of the Corral Wodiska Cigar Factory. Our immigrant relations showed great courage and believed in a spirited work ethic that affected all of us. My parents also co-owned the Sportsman Men Shop on 7th Avenue and stressed the importance of education. As a pianist I earned 3 degrees in music art, made a Carnegie Hall recital debut–also performing in Europe, Central America and the Orient. My mother, Consuelo de la Parte Llano spoke Spanish, English and Italian and was born, raised and lived all her life in Ybor City. Until her death at age 88 she proudly carried in her heart the deepest reverence and affection for her very special town! Thank you for reminding us and others of our rich heritage! -Dr. Olga Llano Kuehl-White Dear Cigar City Magazine , I enjoyed reading your magazine very much. I have always been interested in the cigar industry. My great uncle, Val M. Antonio came to Tampa in 1886 and was once one of the best-known cigar factory owners. He came here from Santa Croce, Italy with his father and two brothers, one of which was my grandfather. It is sort of a rags to riches story. I would be glad to tell you more if you are interested. -Carolyn A. Lambert




igar City Magazine recently celebrated its one-year anniversary! When I decided to publish Tampa Bay’s only history magazine, I had no idea I would receive so

much support from the community. It has been overwhelming

and heartwarming to say the least.

The first issue was distributed November 1, 2005 and immedi-

ately I began hearing from you, our readers. You shared so many

personal stories and photographs with Cigar City Magazine and told me that it was “about time” a magazine like this was pub-

lished. You also said you were thankful that I cared about our history and culture and to please keep the magazine going.

Many of you have signed up to receive home delivery of the

magazine while others have placed advertisements in our issues.

This financial support is so important because it is what I depend on to pay for the high cost of producing a quality magazine.

I wish I could list all the individuals and businesses that have

stood behind ME, but they are too plentiful to name–you know

who you are. I’m humbled by your constant words and deeds of

encouragement, and especially your friendship.

It has been a challenging year to say the least, and I look for-

ward to another year of providing interesting articles about Tampa.

I need you to help us by sending us your old photographs and sto-

ries and if you are a writer, better yet. Write the story and submit it to me and I just might publish it in my magazine.

Thank you again, I could not have done it without YOU!

Have a Cigar City Day!

Lisa M. Figueredo Founder/Publisher

P. S. We just moved into our new office located at 1911 19th Avenue in Ybor City. Stop by and say hello.







22 28 32 36 38


18 47

48 36




50 52 54

A Communist and a Grandfather

Dominos A Part of Tampa’s Heritage A Hole in the Heart of West Tampa The Cuesta Rey Cigar Factory Empanadas, Leftovers and Living History Cigar Women

El Lector Witness the Wonder of Flight Not So Trivial Lost Landmarks Dreamers & Doers

Fernando Rodriguez Mesa The Kitchen Mama Knows

Visit our web site at

The Law Office Of

Dennis A. Lopez, P.A. Proudly Salutes Tampa’s Cigar Heritage “For four generations my family has proudly called Tampa our home. My ancestors came seeking new opportunities which the cigar industry offered. They stayed for the wonderful quality of life which Tampa provided to them. If you or your loved ones’ quality of life has been taken away, call us. We’re here to help.” -Dennis A. Lopez

Dennis A. Lopez, P.A. AT T O R N E Y A N D C O U N S E L O R AT L A W


813.223.1977 • Representation For Serious Injury and Death Cases Due To Negligence, Malpractice, or Other Wrongful Acts. • Insurance Disputes.

The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask the lawyer to send you free written information about their qualifications and experience.



As we got further and further away, it (the Earth) diminished in size. Finally, it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man. - James B. Irwin, Apollo 15


s the holiday season approached in December of 1913, the workers were looking forward to the upcoming time to be with family. In our communities of West Tampa and Ybor city many ethnicities blended easily, but some celebrations remain as they have always been. The Spanish would celebrate Nochebuena and the Italian’s La Vigilia di Natale while others celebrated Christmas and Hanukah. The workers do not want any controversial news at this time of year. It is a season of hope and cheer and the workers were eager for release from the factories for a few days. When the St. Petersburg Daily Times announced the scheduled airboat service between Tampa and St. Petersburg just before Christmas, people began lining up to buy tickets for the trip across Tampa Bay. This new service would begin on New Years Day 1914. I read with interest the story of the airboat. This was an exciting way to start the New Year and the perfect story for El Lector to share with the cigar workers.


took the article and picture of the airboat to the lector’s platform to inform the workers our “Cigar City” was about to make history. The workers stopped cutting and shaping cigars to look at the picture as it passed from hand to hand around the factory floor. “How does it work?” “Is it possible to fly off the water?” El lector was supposed to know the answers to those and other questions from the workers. Knowing less about the subject than the St. Petersburg newspaper, I read from the article. The design of the Benoist airboat is from a boat hull with “rudders for steering the airboat right to left as well as for directing its course up and down. Balance is accomplished by means of ailerons, which are attached to the rear edges of the wings which stretch out fifteen feet to each side of the hull.” As I read that, I did not know what ailerons were, but hoped to see the machine when it arrived here in Tampa and I would seek an explanation. The newspaper announced, “A new factor in transportation has come above the horizon, literally – and within a few days the

air above Tampa Bay and its tributaries will be filled with swiftly moving craft carrying passengers on a regular schedule, at rates little above those charged for land trips in hired automobiles.” It went on to say, “This announcement made ten or even five years ago would have been looked upon as a hoax, smacking of Jules Verne…” The workers laughed and joked as they speculated on the coming of the airboat. “It will fall into the water!” was a frequent expectation.


his new “sport” as it has been called came about because Percival Fansler, a businessman from Jacksonville, was fascinated with air travel. He is a fan of an air man called Anthony Jannus who made a name for himself last year by flying from Omaha to New Orleans, taking people into the air on exhibition trips. Fansler reached an agreement with Tom Benoist of Benoist Aviation Company, for whom Jannus worked as a test pilot, to pursue the idea of scheduled air service. Benoist would build the craft and Fansler would handle the details of the business. Fansler first approached the city leaders in Jacksonville promoting the advantages of having the aviation school and airboat line based in that city, but they did not think it worthwhile. Next, he came to Tampa with the same results. When he arrived across the bay in St. Petersburg, he found success. St. Petersburg sits at the end of a peninsular. In order to get to Tampa and most anywhere else, you could go by rail in about 8-12 hours or by steamer in a couple of hours. “The drive by automobile was almost unthinkable given the state of the roads.” The prospect of making the 21-mile trip in about 20 minutes made sense. With the financial aspects quickly settled, the venture went rapidly forward. The business got under way with Fansler and Benoist as the businessmen, Tony Jannus and his brother Roger as pilots, and J.D. Smith as mechanic with a few student pilots. The airboat was a Benoist model 13 number 43. It held the pilot and one passenger. Another larger aircraft would arrive later in January with a capacity of four passengers.



Photo courtesy of Florida State Archives

Photo courtesy of Florida State Archives

Photo courtesy of Florida State Archives


Tony Jannus landing in Tampa, January 1, 1914

Right: Tony Jannu

From left to right: January 1, 1914 photograph of Percy E. Fansler, General Manager of Tampa Airboat, former mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, A. C. Phiel and Tony Jannus




ew Years Day arrived on a Thursday. Excited and eager to see this new machine arrive in Tampa, I dressed as if for church and left my house early. I joined the crowd forming at the landing near the Tampa Electric power plant dock. I later learned about 3,000 people gathered either here or on the Lafayette St. Bridge, and on the other side of the river. We watched the airboat splash into the water sending a spray of bay water into the air and into the airboat as well. They then motored the craft to the makeshift dock while the crowd cheered and applauded the successful flight. Mr. Jannus and his passenger, Mr. Pheil, a former mayor of St. Petersburg who won the privilege of being the first passenger on the new airboat line by bidding $400 for the seat, smiled obligingly for Mr. Burgert’s and Mr. Fishbaugh’s cameras. When they disembarked, the crowd gathered around Mr. Jannus who wore a long duster and Mr. Pheil who had noticeably greasy hands. He explained to the crowd that he assisted Mr. Jannus with the machinery. When asked if the trip was exciting, Mr. Pheil responded mildly that the trip “did not cause him any personal tension.” The trip took 23 minutes with speeds up to 70 mph and they reached the height of 150 feet. I looked over the airboat with curiosity, noticing many names written on it. Someone explained to me that this was the machine used in exhibition around the country and the passengers all wrote their names here – an estimated 50,000 names. The names are so thick the paint is hardly visible. At 11:00 a.m. they climbed back into the machine and prepared to leave. The loud engine roared to life, drowning out calls of “Good Luck” and “God Speed.” To cheers and applause, they motored back out toward the bay and we watched the airboat lift from the water. The return flight took them around Hyde Park, passing close to Centro Español Sanitarium, and crossing the Lower Peninsula between Ballast Point and Port Tampa and across Old Tampa Bay.


went down to the dock to witness the afternoon flight and again the following day to see the arrival and departures. I envied those flying through the air and planned to arrange a trip myself. As I watched the last flight of the day disappear over the bay, I absentmindedly reached into my pocket and pulled out my pocket change. I counted 76 cents. Closing my fingers around the coins, I raised my hand toward the spot on the horizon where the airboat disappeared from view and said to no one in particular, “I will go home and put this in a jar.” The Lector in this article is fictional. The sources for the historical references for El Lector and the sidebar are as follows: The Tampa-St. Petersburg Airboat Line: 90 Days That Changed the World of Aviation – Thomas Reilly, Courtesy of University of South Florida special collections, The St. Petersburg Daily Times, 1913-1914, The Tampa Morning Tribune 1913-1914, Aviation History Magazine – C. V. Glines


Airboats to Industry


he airboat from St. Petersburg to Tampa is still considered the first passenger line in the world. The money from the auction on the first day was placed in a fund to purchase harbor lights for St. Petersburg. The second passenger that day paid $175.00 for the privilege of being the second passenger on the first day. After that day of “firsts”, the airboat would be operating two round trips a day at a more affordable, but still costly price of $5.00 Mrs. L. A Whitney, wife of the Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce of St. Petersburg is recorded to be the first female passenger. She rode on the second day of January on the regularly scheduled morning flight. She described the trip as pleasant as being “rocked to sleep in your mother’s arms.” She was not the first woman to ride. Miss Mae Peabody, a winter visitor from Dubuque, Iowa took a brief flight with Jannus around St. Petersburg and vowed to take another flight all the way to Tampa soon. It was extremely popular and Benoist sent more aircraft and pilots to operate the passenger line. In addition to the regularly scheduled flights to Tampa, they also accepted charters to places such as Tarpon Springs and Clearwater. One enterprising grocer in St. Petersburg arranged a quick shipment from Tampa by air when he ran out of ham and bacon. He proclaimed his air shipment in an ad – “They may have come high, but the price is still low.” The three-month contract for the airboat service expired on March 31, 1914. It was not renewed. As the wealthy winter residents returned north and the population of St. Petersburg decreased, the demand for air travel to Tampa waned. Even though they did not make any money on the venture, Percival Fansler and Tom Benoist considered it a success. They accomplished their purpose of proving that air travel could be a form of transportation for the future. Fansler and Benoist returned north, but Anthony and Roger Jannus continued to operate on an irregular schedule for about a month longer. When the airline folded the sleepy west coast of Florida faded from the news of the day. Tony Jannus returned to Tampa the following year eager to start up again, but was unable to get the business up and running again. Fansler was now working for an aircraft engine production company for the United States. The St. Petersburg Board of Trade would not support Jannus’ efforts to restart the service. After about a month of irregular flights, he gave up and returned home.

Of the various men responsible for the first scheduled air transportation, Tony Jannus was the one to receive the most fame, even though he probably would have done it just to fly. The idea of creating scheduled air transportation was Fanslers. Benoist created the aircraft, and the St. Petersburg leaders were instrumental in making it happen. Jannus continued to test pilot various aircraft and briefly went into an aviation company with his brother Roger. He met his death at age 27 in Russia along with two passengers when a plane he was testing crashed into the Black Sea in 1916. His brother Roger went on to be a renowned pilot in his own right. Some have credited him with creating the maneuver for a pilot to correct the deadly tailspin. Captain Roger Jannus died in 1918 serving his country in World War I when his plane exploded in mid air killing him and a student. Roger Jannus was 32. Tom Benoist, age 42, died in 1917 as the result of a streetcar accident. In 1964, as part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the inaugural flight of the Airboat Line, the Tampa and St. Petersburg Chambers of Commerce established the "Tony Jannus Award". The award is presented annually to individuals for their contributions to the scheduled airline industry. This year celebrates the 43rd anniversary of that award.

Visit for more stories on the history of Tampa!






In 1936 he was elected by the Communist Party to be the party’s state secretary.

every shift. There are two eight-hour shifts – 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and all alternate weekly on day and night shifts. Apprentice rate on machine cigar making is 40 cents per hour; machine workers - $1 per thousand. Apprentices work a 40hour week, making $16 until they have gained sufficient speed to make 3,200 cigars per day, when they are permitted to work a sixth day for which rate and one half is paid, making $20.80 per week. However, each time a worker quits, the remaining machine partner is assigned a beginner and must wait until the newcomer gains a 3,200 speed; in this manner the $16 period is extended indefinitely. It is very common for a worker to have two and three new partners every week. From this $16 is deducted not only Social Security and Withholding Tax but also 60 cents per month “insurance” in the event of injury. No figures on production are available. There are approximately 65 machines operating double shifts and n the mid-1980s my parents told upstairs is a hand cigar-making departme about my grandfather’s life. ment. The few men working here are Curious about his affiliation with machine tenders and mechanics and the Communist Party, I obtained his truck laborers. The newest workers are Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assigned to the machines and the age files. I came across the following letter average in this department is very low, and “survey” of the Havatampa Cigar under 25 years. The average in the Company dated September 9, 1943, Alexander Trainor entire factory is higher, about 35. revealing Communist Party efforts to The financial status of the comunionize the cigar company: pany is excellent. Dunn and Bradstreet give it high rating in the bracket, indicating an estimated monetary strength of over $1 Dear C: Herewith is the info you requested. The person making the sur- million. The Elliott Cigar Company is placed in the same brackvey is in the place and wants to stay there until something is et. Last November (1942) the entire factory walked out for highdone. Please forward any comments direct to me and in turn it er wages and won the present 40 cents per hour–$1 per thousand will be made available to the surveyor. scale. The previous rates were 30 cents per hour–90 cents per Sincerely, AWT thousand and before the Wage Hour Law the wage was 25 cents There are at present 1,600 workers in the factory at Tampa per hour. No labor organization exists in the shop. The Cigar with about 750 being women. No Negroes are employed and no Spanish speaking workers, these both being in conformance with Makers’ International Union (CMIU) has made various the express policy of the company. The labor turnover is very attempts to organize since 1935 without success. The last attempt rapid and the firm is at present hiring workers by the dozens on was during the November 1942 strike. CMIU officials called a n the 1930s and early 1940s, my grandfather Alexander W. Trainor held the office of state secretary for Florida’s Communist Party. He was an ardent labor organizer who spent much of his time in Ybor City attempting to unionize the city’s cigar workers. Alexander Trainor was born in 1895 in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and grew up in Schenectady. In 1911 his father helped him get his first job at General Electric Company as an office boy. It was here that he was first introduced to socialist politics and, soon after, to the Communist Party. In 1932 he attended the Lenin School in Russia. He returned to New York later that year, only to move to Jacksonville to begin functioning as the state’s Communist Party organizer. In 1936 he was elected by the Communist Party (the party was established in 1928 in Tampa) to be the party’s state secretary.




that the only reason for their exclusion from the factory is the fear of the management of unionization of activities. Some of the old timers are loyal to the management and they will report anyone who talks about organization, but the young workers just about tolerate the conditions and express their dissatisfaction freely.

Hav-A-Tampa Cigar Factory Postcard

meeting of Havatampa workers and the evening before it was to take place Mr. Daniel Woodbery spoke on the radio threatening and warning the workers to refrain from attending the meeting. Only a handful turned out. However, the actions of the management do not account for the CMIU’s lack of success. Certainly any headway in organizing workers who have no knowledge of trade unions would require careful ground work and education; no mechanical method, such as calling a general meeting at the outset could find much response. The local CMIU’s weakness in [sic] Havatampa is its assumption that it is dealing with people like their own, who have a long history of trade union struggle and who enter unions voluntarily through militant traditions. In an effort to learn who are some of the union-minded workers I try to meet with a friend and was informed by her local’s secretary that she was working for the International Organizing Laundry Workers in Lakeland, St. Petersburg and Orlando (with alleged success) so we can assume the Havatampa has been given up for the time being. The conditions in the shop are abominable. There are no rest periods and ventilation is insufficient. Lavatories are filthy, uncared for, without even semi-privacy and the majority of the women will not use them if at all possible. The wooden stools used for chairs become painful during the eight-hour work-day. The women hate the place and all wish something could be done about it. The management has fostered the remark that “we are the only American factory in Tampa, hoping that by such chauvinism to guarantee a permanently open shop but the workers are quick to agree that the LatinAmerican women would not work under such conditions and




uring the latter part of the 1940s and early 1950s, when he was not in Ybor City trying to organize cigar workers, my grandfather spent time organizing labor and promoting trade unionism for the Communist Party with shipyard and laundry workers in Miami, citrus workers in Lakeland, shipyard workers in Jacksonville, and steel mill workers in Birmingham, Alabama. As hostilities broke out with North Korea, a number of southern cities passed ordinances that made it unlawful for a member of the Communist party to reside within the city limits. On Aug. 23, 1950, Jacksonville’s Mayor Haydon Burns questioned the legality of the ordinance but signed the bill anyway, leaving it for the courts to decide. At the time there was only one registered Communist in the city - my grandfather. He was taken into police custody on August 28th while working at National Container Corporation. He refused to comment on his arrest or his connections with the Communist Party pending legal advice. His bond was set at $500 and he faced a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail if he was convicted. The next day when he pleaded not guilty to charges of violating this new city ordinance and refused to make any statements, he was sentenced to 90 days at the city prison farm. During his confinement, he was beaten and threatened with death by inmates as well as prison guards. On August 31st he was released on $500 bond, pending a determination of the validity of the anti-communist ordinance. The circuit judge issued an order fixing bail after his attorney - John Moreno Coe of Pensacola - contended his client was not a criminal, but a philosophical communist. John Coe stated that Alexander W. Trainor had been deprived of his liberty in violation of Florida’s Declaration of Rights and of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Circuit Court habeas corpus hearing was set for September 12th. On the morning of the hearing (fearing he would be sent back to prison), he tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself with an ice pick and then fell from a second story porch into the front yard. He was taken to the Duval Medical Center in critical condition and remained in that status for several days before his condition began to improve. No family was at home at the time of the incident, but four neighbors witnessed it. The previous morning my grandfather had asked his son Kenneth (my father) to take my grandmother Sarah away from the residence. They were driving around Jacksonville when they heard of his suicide attempt over the radio. My grandfather’s hearing was delayed until September 29th when he was released from the hospital and ordered to appear in court. While he sat calmly listening, his attorney argued that the Constitution guarantees a man freedom of thought, speech and religion; specifically stating, “Nor does the law prohibit membership in an organization.” On October 3, the Circuit Judge ordered him released from custody and held that the City of Jacksonville’s anti-communist statute was unconstitutional. The court concluded that the ordinance violated Section 12 of the Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of the State of Florida and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and was therefore null and void.


ue to the trauma of the trial my grandfather left the Communist Party and moved to Daytona Beach. Nonetheless, he continued organizing unskilled blue-collar Works Projects Administration (WPA) laborers who worked on the city’s outdoor amphitheater, the Bandshell. He died on March 27, 1958 in Daytona Beach.

Mark A. Trainor was born in Daytona Beach. After serving 4-1/2 years in the U.S. Army as a journalist, he attended Kansas State University, graduating in 1983 with a Bachelors of Science degree in Journalism and Political Science. He has worked for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission since 1985. He is currently the Marketing and Communications Director with the agency's Division of Hunting and Game Management in Tallahassee, Florida.



REMEMBER Communism in the 1930s and 1940s

It must be noted that during the 1930s, civil liberties were being violated and the United States faced serious economic issues. Many liberals were fighting against Nazism and were disillusioned with the failure of capitalism during the Great Depression. Socialist and other left-wing organizations became popular in Florida and elsewhere around the country. Many laborer organizers believed in Marxist ideology and were

attracted to the American Communist party because it was against

fascism. They held an idealistic belief that it offered a progressive

approach to ending the Depression and the increasing economic

inequity in the country and confronted racial injustice. Luisa Moreno was a Hispanic civil rights leader in San Diego who worked to unionize blacks and Latino cigar rollers and other tobacco workers in Florida. She visited Tampa and helped the local cigar workers union who were being terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan. Luisa was a member of the American Communist party, just like Alexander Trainor. Only history can judge Alexander Trainor. The 1930s and 1940s offered many hardships and challenges for those that lived during those difficult times.



One thing that holds true for all old timer or veteran domino players is that each one of them thinks that they are the best in the world; therefore, no matter what play you make someone will always question it.


ominos, the game not the pizza franchise, has been a part of Tampa’s Latin culture for as far back as anyone can remember. Although it appears to have been invented by the Chinese with the oldest known domino sets dating as far back as 1120 A.D., it has become a tradition in our Hispanic culture. There are many versions of the game played throughout the United States and the rest of the world, but in Ybor City and West Tampa playing dominos is as much a part of our heritage as cigars, café con leche y pan con mantequilla (Cuban coffee with milk and buttered Cuban bread). During the late 1800’s, those thousands of Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants that came to Tampa brought with them much more than just their skills as cigar makers, bakers, carpenters, and masons. They also brought the things that were part of their culture like food, music, and games such as dominos. During those times men gathered on front porches and social clubs to play the most popular version of this game - the Cuban Double Nine Dominos. These social clubs like L’ Unione Italiana founded in 1894, Círculo Cubano, Centro Español de Ybor, Centro Asturiano, La Union Martí - Maceo and the Centro Español de West Tampa provided a place for friends to gather, have a drink, smoke a cigar and play cards and dominos.

ple, if your partner’s salida was the double nine, you would assume he has a lot of nines; therefore, your job is to try to keep nines on the table and not play on the salida if at all possible. Your opponent’s job is to kill all the nines and block your moves in order to cause you to pass. Once the first ficha is played, the player to the right (counterclockwise) continues play and so on. If the next player does not have any fichas in his hand that match the open end fichas on the table, he will signal that he passes by knocking on the table. The first player to finish playing all ten of their fichas is the winner and this final play is called Domino. The game can also end when it becomes closed or cerrado, meaning no further play can continue because no one has a match for the fichas that are open on the table. At this point, all players turn over their remaining fichas and count the points or dots they have. The player with the least amount of points wins. The two losing players add up their total points and note them under the winner’s score. The first team to reach 100 points wins the match, but winning the match without allowing your opponents to score any points gives you extra bragging rights to claim you have won by giving the losers a pollona (loosely translated to mean you skunked them).

eople who have never played the organized game of dominos will probably associate it with a child’s game of matching the numbered dots. Others may even assume that the whole purpose of these rectangular shaped tiles or fichas is to stand them on end next to each other in a snake-like design, knock the last domino down and watch them fall over. However I can assure you this is not a child’s game and dominos were not invented to be knocked down. The organized game is played with (4) four players; two players as partners sitting across from one another on a square table. The double nine domino set has fifty-five fichas, ten of each number including the blanks and doubles that are placed face down on the table and mixed up. Each player will draw ten fichas each and the remaining fifteen fichas stay face down on the sides of the table and are not used. The player designated to start play will place a ficha in the center of the table. This play, also referred to as la salida (to open or lead), should in most cases be a double of the amount he has the most of. This could very well be the most important move of the game and is the one which sets the strategy that will be used. As an exam-

laying dominos in this team format requires skill and most of all a sharp mind; you have to be able to remember what number fichas have been played by each player as well as the ones they have passed on during that game. Knowing the rules is important, but knowing how to get around the rules is even more important. Ask any veteran domino player what is the most ignored rule of the game and they are sure to tell you the “no talking rule”. This has been quoted since the beginning of time as este juego lo invento un sordomudo (this game was invented by a deaf- mute). Dominos is a social event and talking, bantering, friendly insults and questioning the skills of your partner is a major part of the strategy needed to win. However, you have to pay close attention to what is being said because in this idle trash talk there are sometimes hidden messages to their partners on what number fichas they have or don’t have. Other things to watch for are forros which is a term used when it is found that a player tries to play a ficha that does not match the one on the table. Also, you need to make sure a player does not discard one of his fichas into the pile of unused fichas on the sides of the table.



November - December 2006


Photo courtesy of Mario Garrido

Centro Español Social Club – members playing cards and dominos.

Now to the average person these could be considered forms of cheating, but its all in the way you interpret it. To play with the old timers you’d better have thick skin and be able to take the abuse; one wrong move and you forget your partner’s salida and kill it, or you don’t block the opponents play and they win because of this and you will never hear the end of it. One thing that holds true for all old timer or veteran domino players is that each one of them thinks that they are the best in the world; therefore, no matter what play you make someone will always question it. For the most part games are not played for money. In the social clubs the losers would have to buy the winners a drink, cup of coffee, or maybe a cigar as the prize but, most of all, the real reward for winning - even to this day - is the bragging rights.

The casket was set up in the living room, friends and family would come over to pay their respects, and there would be food and drinks for the guests. In this story, as the night progressed a domino table was set up close to the casket and a game was started in honor of the deceased who had been an avid domino player his whole life. At one point, an argument broke out between the four players with one of them being accused of playing a forro (cheating). The argument continued and then all of a sudden the man that had been accused of cheating flipped the domino table over - in the process knocking the casket to the floor. Thank goodness the casket lid was closed when this happened! They placed the casket back on the stand and at that point the game ended. Although the competition at times can be intense in most games, this type of action rarely takes place.

o give you a better idea how important winning is to some players, I would like to share a story that was told to me by Salvador Valdes, a veteran domino player, which took place in Cuba over 50 years ago. In those days when a person passed away the funeral wake was held in the family member’s home and lasted all night into the morning hours.

s a child growing up in West Tampa, I can still remember those special times of playing dominos with my father, Oscar Garrido, and my two brothers, Danny and Frank. In our eyes, my father was an expert player and we were amazed at how he knew what fichas we were going to play even before we even knew. He would place a ficha face down on the

T 30



table, spinning it and tell us “this is the one you are going to play next.” Sure enough, when you picked the one you wanted to play, he would flip his spinning ficha over and the numbers matched. Little did we know at the time that, by counting the dominos that had already been played, he would have a good idea of what numbers were still available. When it came time to counting the points we had leftover, with one quick glance at the fichas he could tell you how many points there were and he was always right. I always looked forward to the times that I was allowed to go with my father to the Centro Español de West Tampa or Centro Asturiano to watch him play dominos with his friends. His passion and devotion for the game drove him to become President of the West Tampa Domino Club on Columbus Drive in the early 1980s in order to keep the club open.


hrough the years these experiences have fueled my interest for the game and moved me to keep the tradition of friends gathering to play dominos a reality. Just about every Saturday morning for the last ten years we have gathered at Vincent & Tampa Cigar Company, have our café con leche y pan con mantequilla, smoke a cigar, and exchange friendly insults as

we play dominos using the same set my father had when he introduced me to the game 40 years ago. We have lost some great domino players who have passed away like Luis “Bicicleta” Perez and Vicente “Majomia” Ruilova, however we continue the tradition. As you can imagine, we all feel that we are the best in the world, but I really don’t think we are ready yet to challenge the veteran domino players from the Centro Asturiano. Mario Garrido is a West Tampa native and President of Vincent & Tampa Cigar Co. He has worked in the Tampa cigar industry for 27 years and is currently the Production Manager for Havatampa, a division of Altadis U.S.A. the largest cigar company in the world.

Visit for more stories on the history of Tampa!

We’re never hot or cold, but always just right!

Peninsular Plumbing Company, Inc. 5 5 1 8 N . A R M E N I A AV E N U E • TA M PA , F L O R I DA • 8 1 3 8 7 9 5 8 4 0 J AC K & J O H N TAG L I A R I N O • FA M I LY O W N E D • S E RV I N G TA M PA S I N C E 1 9 6 7 F R E E E S T I M AT E S • M E N T I O N T H I S A D & R E C E I V E $ 2 0 O F F Y O U R 1 S T S E RV I C E C A L L

November - December 2006





The Cuesta y Rey Cigar Factory

oogle “Cuesta Rey” and you get 58 pages of websites in many languages - mostly cigar stores that sell the brand. Sometimes they are listed as “Cuban Cigars” and sometimes listed under “Pre-Embargo Cigars”. The cigars are made in the República Dominicana by Arturo Fuente and distributed by the J.C. Newman Company. The Cuesta Rey cigar survived global tastes and global politics. The cigar’s original home, the Cuesta Rey Cigar Factory, did not. One of the largest and most successful cigar companies of the Cigar City Boom, Cuesta y Rey Co. employed 500 workers in its West Tampa factory beginning in 1896. Armando Mendez, writing in his book Ciudad de Cigars: West Tampa, attributes the company’s success to visionary leaders, Angel LaMadrid a Cuesta and Peregrino Rey, “whose concepts of how to run business included the novel ideas of international marketing, quality control, and worker motivation and recognition which allowed them to prosper in good times and survive hard times.” Both owners were born in northern Spain, moved to Cuba and learned the cigar-maker trade as teens. Cuesta practiced his trade in the US cities of Key West, New York, Chicago and Atlanta. By 1883 Cuesta opened his own small factory in Atlanta, working side by side with his workers. Peregrino Rey moved from Cuba to Atlanta to work for Cuesta’s company. In 1893 the company moved to Port Tampa, then to Ybor. And in 1896, joined with Peregrino Rey to build a large brick factory in West Tampa. The management team’s style included traditional paternalism and revolutionary marketing and quality control ideas that led to their becoming one of the most successful cigar companies in the world.

at its peak. Their brands included Ponce de Leon, La Favorita de Tampa, La Flor de Cuesta Rey, Unica, El Dedicado, El Anclo and others.


master marketeer, Angel Cuesta sent cigars to King Alfonso XIII of Spain and cigars and cigarettes to the Spanish troops fighting in Morocco. The King named Cuesta Rey the official Purveyor to the Court of Spain.The quest for quality drove the company’s success. Each shipment of tobacco was inspected by Cuesta or Rey; each outgoing box of cigars too. Many West Tampa families were linked to the Cuesta Rey Factory for generations. Well built houses for the master cigarmakers surrounded the factory. They added a building for stores, entertainment and the Atlanta Restaurant across the street. The owners held annual banquets for families to honor and recognize the workers’ contributions. Willie Garcia, who lived on Beach Street, recalls that he and his father (who ran the Atlanta Restaurant) served coffee to the workers each day. Armando Mendez and his father and his wife also worked at Cuesta y Rey. My grandfather worked there too. The owners’ sons, A.L. Cuesta Jr. and Karl Cuesta as well as Y.D. and Perry Rey learned the business from the bottom up and continued the successful journey for years.

Arsenio Sanchez Collection - USF Special Collections


heir success was not without hardships, including a major strike by Tampa’s cigar workers union, La Resistencia, in 1901 related to their opening a factory in Jacksonville; and a flu epidemic in 1918 that nearly stopped production. However the company expanded and acquired factories and a warehouse in Havana, employing more than 1000 workers

Rey family newspaper clipping



Courtesy of Tampa Public Library

Top photo of Cuesta Rey Cigar cigar workers, bottom left, Cuesta-Rey cigar makers–May 11, 1934 and bottom right, Cuesta-Rey cigar factory 1915–West Tampa.

Courtesy of Tampa Public Library

Courtesy of USF Special Collections




here are few reminders of these generous men in West Tampa today. Cuesta y Rey is gone. A large empty lot on Howard Avenue marks the site of where this great cigar factory once stood – it is now a hole in the heart of West Tampa. Cuesta Elementary School (built with funds donated by Cuesta), was also torn down in the 1970s. Cuesta gave land on Bayshore Blvd to the Academy of Holy Names and also gave back to his home town in northern Spain. Peregrino Rey served two terms as West Tampa’s Mayor, and on its City Council for 16 years. Rey Park is named in his honor. After 1959, the factory building was used as a warehouse and then purchased by J. Demmi in 1975. It was gutted by fire that same year and finally torn down in 1986. A Tampa Tribune article at that time pictures West Tampa community historians, the late Arsenio Sanchez and Armando Mendez. Arsenio grabbed some bricks, laid them into a nice walking path at his home and proudly displayed them to all visitors. “The brick path is all we have left.” Maura Barrios, M.A., operates La Tampeña Tours throughout Tampa, offering custom-tailored tours to fit the needs of your group. Maura is bilingual and a native of Tampa with a Master’s Degree in History. Tours include Historic Tampa (South Tampa, Ybor City, Latin American zone, and the best places to live). She can be reached at (813) 875-2159 or email her at






s a boy growing up in Tampa, Al Perez enjoyed some of the best empanadas he’d ever tasted. A street vendor sold crab and beef turnovers on Saturdays, and Perez never missed a chance to buy one. What could be better than picadillo or crab enchilado folded into flaky fried dough? Memories of that taste, smell, and texture stood sharply in his memory. Later in life, he became obsessed with recreating those tender, savory turnovers. The empanadas Perez loves so much have a long history. Like so many things, the invading Moors brought empanadas to Spain from the Mideast. The Spaniards quickly appropriated the concept and stuffed pockets of thin dough with their favorite ingredients. Galicia, a northern province that never fell to the Moors, popularized the baked snack globally by means of her émigrés. Galicians especially flocked to Argentina, Uruguay, and Tampa, Florida during the 1800s and early in the twentieth century. A Galician proverb warns that making love and kneading dough should not be rushed. The Gallegos are so devoted to their portable pies that they celebrate them in an annual festival. Food writer Penelope Casas has a novel theory about Gallegos and empanadas: “One explanation for the popularity of empanadas in Galicia is that they suit the character of these northern peoples, for the pies hide their contents from public view, just as the Gallegos often remain aloof and secretive. The idea may be a bit farfetched, but there is little doubt that Gallegos make better meat pies than anyone else.” Almost every culture has a form of empanada: somozas in India, meat patties in Jamaica, and simbusaks in Iraq. There are empanadas for every taste, large or small, savory or sweet, filled with spinach, potatoes, fruit, or meat. Cuba exercised a strong influence over Tampa’s empanada, added more spices, frying them, and replacing the traditional Galician chicken or cod with beef and pork. There is something innately mysterious about the empanada, even if one knows what’s inside. Like the deviled crab, empanadas serve as ideal street food, offering an efficient package. They are simultaneously durable and delicate and can be baked or fried. They store well and are easily warmed. Most of all, people eat empanadas for a snack, a treat between meals for sustenance and amusement. They make excellent antojitos, or little cravings, and tapas, small dishes usually consumed with alcohol, especially wine. Here in Tampa, empanadas historically have been a way to serve leftovers. Many Latin dishes, such as ropa vieja, picadillo, roast pork, or crab enchilada, taste best the day they are made. What better way to make those leftovers even more attractive than by wrapping them in dough and frying them?

Some enterprising households prepared empanadas to be sold on the street. Empanadas have become more popular in Tampa’s restaurants, especially where our more recent arrivals from Latin America have set up shop. Tampa’s restaurants offer many varieties of empanadas, but I’d like to share just two of the best specimens I’ve found. If you know of others, share them with Cigar City Magazine. Our Colombian eateries make some of the best empanadas in town. Antojitos, a Colombian restaurant on Howard and Columbus, offers everything from light snacks to heaping entrées. The coarse corn crust is thin, with a texture somewhere between crispy and chewy. The interior of shredded beef and potato chunks is rich and moist. The aji (ah-HEE) on the table, a salsa of cilantro, green onions, and lemon juice, delivers a spicy kick while cutting the rich empanadas with a fresh green flavor. Al Perez has perfected his own version of the Latin turnover at Mr. Empanada. Bewitched by the empanadas of his youth, Perez has spent more than two decades painstakingly recreating them. His most distinctive creation is the crab empanada, the meat inside bathed in saucy sofrito. Al and his wife Audrey’s guava and cheese empanadas provide a surprise of their own. They are so good, I may never eat apple pie again. No matter where you eat them or what stuffings they hold, good empanadas are the cheapest form of tourism in the world. A single bite can transport us to Colombia, or Bolivia, or Galicia, Spain. Like languages, people develop and adapt recipes for centuries. Also like languages, recipes convey culture and information about people and places, about what they value and enjoy. It is easy to forget that all the foods we eat are documents of living history. A fast food hamburger likely has a short and unsavory industrial past. Only noble history can create a great empanada. Andy Huse is Assistant Librarian, USF, Tampa Library Special Collections Department/Florida Studies.

Visit for more stories on the history of Tampa!





Factory owners liked hiring women because they were fast rollers and caused fewer problems. The men were outspoken and demanding, especially when it came to union and political issues.


Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections.

t was 1957 and I was excited about the crab enchilada dinner Most cigar makers learned their skills during a one to two my parents and I were invited to at Nena and Ulysses year apprenticeship in a small cigar factory called a “buckeye”. Henriquez’s home. My brother Joe had recently married Later they secured better paying jobs in larger factories. For some, their granddaughter, Yolanda and our two families often gath- it was the only job skill they would ever learn and they ended up ered for big dinners. I always had fun at their house and the food spending 30 or 40 years as a cigar maker. was always plentiful and delicious! Employment for many, especially women, began in the stripAs I walked into the house I instantly smelled a spicy tomato ping department where they were taught to remove the stem from sauce permeating the air. The rich sauce had been cooking for the tobacco leaf without damaging the wrapper. The technique hours and I knew the crabs would soon be added. I found Nena involved laying the large tobacco leaf around the outside of the sitting at the kitchen table meticulously rolling a cigar back and hand to secure it, then grabbing the stem with the fingers of the forth under her outother hand and quickly stretched fingers stripping it from the while she waited for leaf. her sauce to finish In time, women cooking. With each began working in some forward and backof the higher paying ward roll the cigar positions of bunchers began taking shape, and cigar makers. finally becoming a Working their way from perfect cylinder. the stripping departBeing an inquisitive ment to these other jobs nine-year old, I was not well received by began asking her their male counterparts. question after quesThe men feared the tion. “Whatcha women would lower gonna do with that their own wages or even cigar?” I asked. “Are push them out of their Women cigar workers with machines you gonna smoke it? jobs. Some men refused How many are you to work alongside making?” Nena was patient with my many questions and smiled women and would go so far as to quit a job and find employment as she answered each one. “I am making cigars for Ulysses,” at a factory that had not yet hired female employees. In time all explaining that her husband liked smoking cigars and that is why factories employed women, and men had no choice but to accept she rolled. As I watched with increased curiosity the cigar grew to their presence. Even today some of the old timers who roll for the about 10-12 inches long! She said Ulysses liked long cigars and smaller cigar shops feel women should not be in the business of with a quick roll of her razor sharp chaveta she cut off the end. cigars! Cigars weren’t new to me – I saw lots of men smoking them Factory owners liked hiring women because they were fast around Tampa, but I never gave much thought as to how they rollers and caused fewer problems. The men were outspoken and were made until that day in Nena’s kitchen. I later learned that demanding, especially when it came to union and political issues. Nena began rolling cigars when she was 14 years old. Like many Factory owners also liked female workers because few women immigrant children in Tampa during the early 1900s, she needed smoked and would not take home the allotted 3-4 cigars per day. to contribute to the family income. Cigar makers did not make This saved the company money. much money, but factory work provided a steady income.





Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections.

Women cigar workers using machines to apply the wrapper the cigars.

Even though men and women performed the same jobs, their lives were quite different once their workday ended and they headed home from the factories. Women began cooking the evening dinner and caring for their children; household chores had to be done, children’s homework had to be completed, baths taken and lunch prepared for the next day of school. For the men, it was a different story. Many would clean up after dinner and head to one of the private clubs like El Centro Español, El Círculo Cubano, La Union Martí Maceo or L’Unione Italiano. Once there, they would play cards or dominos with their male counterparts while sipping café con leche and arguing late into the evening about current issues of the day. Eventually they would head home and retire for the evening so they could rise early for the next day of work, which usually began around 7 in the morning.


Courtesy of Florida Memory Project.

uch has been written through the years about the men who rolled cigars in our factories, but little about the women. It is definitely time to do so, and with the help of friends and family, I found interesting women to interview who are all independent, strong and very opinionated! Positive character traits obviously developed over the years of working hard to support themselves and their families. When I called to explain the story I was writing, most could not understand why anyone would be interested in talking to them about cigar making – to them it was just a job, but a job they enjoyed. As you read each story, you will learn that the number of cigars they rolled in a given day varied. Some cigars took longer to make than others because of their unique shape. (continued on the next page)

Mirta Perez 1947–putting labels on cigar tubes then boxing



Mercedes “Nena” Vila Henriquez

Born June 5, 1903, in Key West, Florida Died November 22, 1987 Mother and father were born in Key West Grandfather was a cigar maker She is also the Great Grandmother of the Founder & Publisher, Lisa M. Figueredo Nena worked in La Corina Cigar Factory in Palmetto Beach and Perfecto Garcia in Ybor City. At the young age of 14 she learned how to make cigars and continued rolling long after she retired from her factory job. When she made cigars at home for her husband, she worked without the benefit of the wooden cigar mold. She used her fingers and hands to mold her bunch and then twisted the end of the cigar instead of making a smooth head. Her husband Ulysses brought home truckloads of tobacco scraps from the factories to use on his lawn. The foremen would always provide him with a bag of quality tobacco for his personal use. Once home Nena took the tobacco and sprayed the delicate leaves with water to maintain their moisture.

Margarita Lamelaz Mathews

“The cigar factory was a beautiful, beautiful thing; I loved working in the cigar factories!” Born June 7, 1926, in Ybor City and received by a mid-wife Josephine Valenti Mother born in Key West and father in Canary Islands Her father was a cigar maker

At age 16, Margarita began working in a cigar factory. When I asked her about cigar making she said, “I worked like a dog and got paid like a chicken!” But quickly added, “I loved it!” Margarita worked for Cuesta-Rey, Val Antonio, Regensberg, Corral-Wodiska, Arturo Fuente and A. Santaella. She rolled “cigarillos”, as she called them, which she said were “small cigars”. However she also rolled figurados, straights and others. Margarita talked about what she called “biters” - workers who used their teeth to finish the head of a cigar. Many of the “biters” continued to chew on the piece of tobacco instead of spitting it out. Margarita explained that years later their teeth would suffer the consequences as they developed bad dental problems. Margarita rolled entirely by hand, never using molds when she first began. She confirmed that women cigar makers were paid the same as men but said, “Men were jealous of the women rollers, because women rolled prettier cigars.” Margarita was paid $5 for every 100 cigarillos she rolled and she could roll 400 to 600 a day – more when she switched over to machine work. Margarita will still roll an occasional cigar for her grandson. She keeps her chaveta sharp by using her front porch step as a sharpening tool.



Lucia “Chiqui” Fernandez Rivas

“My mother taught me on summer vacation, at age 14, how to strip on a machine” Born April 21, 1930, at her home on Fremont and Spruce (received by a midwife) Family from Asturias, Spain Still lives in West Tampa Mother was a stripper on machines Chiqui said she liked rolling cigars. When she was 14 her mother taught her how to strip on a machine. She then worked at a small buckeye where she learned to roll by hand. By 15 she was working at Gradiaz and Annis Cigar Company, the start of her more than 40 years in the cigar industry. She learned how to bunch at Cuesta Rey Cigars in West Tampa and worked at Morgan Cigars, Corral and Wodiska, and later for her brother-in-law who owned Vincent and Tampa Cigars. Chiqui stopped working in the cigar industry in the 1980s. If you ask about her favorite job, she’ll tell you, “I enjoyed laying wrapper”. She rolled about 500 cigars a day until she went to work on the machines when her daily total increased to 5,000! When I asked if she thought she could still roll a cigar her reply was, “Sure I can!”

Mary “Beba” Esquia Lozano

“Capotico, that’s what we called it. He said he was going to show me how to roll cigars and he took me downstairs and showed me how to roll and I bought a chaveta.” Born January 5, 1920, in a small casita in Ybor City on 8th Ave.and 22nd St. Mother was born in Key West and her father was born in Tampa–she is of Cuban and Spanish Heritage Father worked in a buckeye factory Beba began working in the cigar factories at age 15. Her family was very poor and needed the income she could provide. Her father, a foreman at a cigar factory in West Tampa, was able to get her a job. He asked the owner, “If you don’t mind can you give my daughter a job? She’s in school, but she needs to work.” Beba said she was shown how to work with capotico or la capa as the workers called the cigar wrapper. She bought a chaveta to use for cutting her tobacco and began her first job. Having earned $37 a week in her early years at a small buckeye, she moved on to Garcia y Vega and, when they closed, she went to work for Corral-Wodiska. At a later time Tino Gonzalez gave her a job at Villazon where she remained until they closed six years ago – she was 80 years old when she retired. Beba said she enjoyed handrolling cigars, but preferred making cigars by machine. Four women were assigned to each machine and their jobs were to remove the stem, make the bunch, apply the wrapper and bundle the cigars.



Giuseppina “Pina” LoCicero Leto

“My job was to put on the wrapper after the bunch maker made the bunch.” Born August 12, 1914, in Tampa, Florida Mother was born in Santo Stefano Quisquina, Sicily Father was born in Alessandria della Rocca, Sicily Parents and sister were cigar makers Giuseppina “Pina” LoCicero started working in a buckeye cigar factory on 4th Street in Ybor City when she was 20. She probably would have started at age 14 like most young girls, but she suffered from asthma and her parents were concerned about her working around tobacco fumes. After her apprenticeship in the buckeye, she went to work for Paradiso (nickname for Perfecto Garcia Cigar Factory) and later worked at CorralWodiska. Pina applied wrapper (capa) after the bunch maker made the bunch, making 200 cigars a day. She said she loved it and worked in the industry for more than 25 years, until the factory closed. I asked her if she could still apply wrapper today. As she mimicked the movement of hand rolling, she said she could still remember how to do it but her hands were too old and shaky to make the beautiful cigars she once did. Like most Ybor residents, she used to walk to and from work. A very handsome man, Salvatore “Sam” Leto, was on his way home from Hav-a-Tampa Cigars when he first saw Pina. He tried to speak with her, but she ignored him and hurried home. Sam wouldn’t give up and waited for her every day outside Corral-Wodiska. He eventually won her over and they were married a few months later

Carmela Cammarata Varsalona

“I never wish to retire; I love to make cigars! It’s what I’ve been doing all my life” Born in 1907 in Tampa Died in Feb 21, 2000 Parents from Italy and Spain Parents were both cigar rollers During a career that began when she was 16, Carmela worked at Arturo Fuente Cigar Co., Villazon and other factories in Tampa. Her mother and father were both cigar makers who immigrated here from Italy and Spain. Carmela continued rolling cigars until age 93, working in her grandson Jim Tyre’s cigar shop - Cammarata Cigar Co. located in the Wyndham Hotel lobby. Each morning she packed a lunch for both of them and was ready to go when Jim picked her up for the drive to work. She rolled cigars at a workbench located near the glass-encased storefront, observed by many people passing through the hotel patio. In a 1995 interview, Carmela said she remembered fights that occurred between the men at the cigar factories where she had worked. She also recalled being prodded by her supervisor to make more cigars and receiving praise when she succeeded. She could roll 400 to 500 cigars a day. The first cigar she learned to roll was the popular Bustillo brand. Her least favorite cigar to roll was anything in a maduro wrapper. She said, “I hate to make cigars with the black wrapper–it’s so strong and it makes you dizzy sometimes.” Carmela passed away in 2000 and her workbench remains in the storefront window, serving as a tribute to one of Tampa’s proud cigar makers. (Note: information for this story was collected from previous interviews given by Carmela). 44


Lolita Menendez Fernandez

”When I learned I did everything by hand – they paid me $2 a week.” Born in Tampa on February 23, 1911 Parents from Asturias, Spain Father was a selector in the cigar factory Lolita started working in Corral-Wodiska Cigar Factory in Ybor city in 1930 when she was 19 years old. She worked as an apprentice for 9 to 12 months, making $2 a week. Once trained, she did everything from making her bunch to placing the binder and wrapper on the cigar. Instead of using a mold, she had a small wood board about 6-10 inches long with a hole in it. She would put a rubber band around her bunch and then place it in the hole to make sure the ring gage was correct. Then she would measure the cigar by the edge of the board. She remembered her first foreman was named Angel Alonso and the manager was Jose Villa. Lolita earned $5 to $6 each six day work week, making approximately 150 cigars a day. When machines were introduced in the factories, Lolita was one of the first to learn. She was able to do any of the machine jobs required at the time. She said each machine produced approximately 4,000 cigars a day. When asked to compare hand to machine made cigars, Lolita acknowledged that handmade cigars were much better. At the age of 67, Lolita ended her cigar making career at Villazon Cigar Factory in West Tampa. After 48 years in the cigar industry she felt it was time to retire. Today at 95, Lolita is still going strong - she lives alone, tends to her home, sews and knits, and up until 2 years ago was still driving. She is quick to tell you that her license is good until 2009!

Margarita Jara Reyes

Born March 16, 1953, in Valparaiso, Chile Parents from Chile Arrived in the U.S.A. in 1996 An accountant by trade, Margarita Reyes moved to Tampa shortly after marrying Wallace “Wally” Reyes in Chile in 1996. She helped him with the cigar business they started - Gonzalez Habano Cigar Co. She attended English classes early in the day, and then went to the cigar store to keep the books for the business. She observed the cigar makers as they worked making hand made cigars. As she sat nearby, she watched them but did not ask many questions, knowing the men felt strongly that women should not make cigars. She occasionally helped out by placing bands around the cigars. After about two years of her secretive apprenticeship, she asked her husband Wally to get her some tobacco and a cigar mold. He was surprised by her request but brought her what she requested. To the amazement of Wally and the other cigar makers, she rolled her first cigar and has not stopped since. Margarita can make approximately 100 cigars a days if she is making Presidente, Figurado, Torpedo, etc., since they are more difficult to roll. However, if she rolls Churchills or Rothchilds, she can roll 150 a day. When asked if she liked making cigars, she smiled and said, “Yes!” As master cigar makers, Wally and Margarita enjoy their profession and, on any given day, you will find one or both making their wonderful brand of cigars the way cigars should be made–by hand!




fter completing the interviews I decided to ask a couple of these veterans if they would roll some cigars for me. Margarita Mathews and Mary Lozano agreed, and I arranged for us to meet on July 20, 2006, at Vincent and Tampa Cigar Co. on Howard Avenue. Mario Garrido, one of the owners, graciously allowed us to use his beautiful showroom for our cigar-making event. The shop’s showroom is complete with cigar making tables, boards, chavetas, molds, presses, etc. The back wall also has a large black and white photograph of a cigar factory gallery filled with cigar makers – a perfect setting to have these two tabaqueras roll - and roll they did! Margarita brought her chaveta with her so she was ready to get to work! I asked them to sit side by side so I could take photographs of the two. Selecting moist wrapper leaf, they gently spread it on the smooth, wooden board and removed the stem. The bunches had been prepared in advance; they each removed one from a mold and began to roll a cigar. It was as if we had been transported to the early 1940s as they sat talking and laughing, sometimes in English and other times in Spanish. I asked Mary if the foreman cared if the workers talked to one another as they worked. “Naw, they didn’t care – you could even do the Cha-Cha-Cha!” she proclaimed.

I was so excited; I kept shooting as many photographs as I could of each step of the cigar making process. I peeked over Margarita’s shoulder as she was finishing the head of her cigar and asked if she had ever tired of rolling cigars during her days at the factory. “No, not when you wanted to send your kids to school and give them what you didn’t have in your life – you made lots of sacrifices.” Mary laughed and said she didn’t make very much money as a cigar maker, so she remembers eating lots of pork and beans and grits. Once all the capa (wrapper) was gone, it was time to end our cigar making session. For us, it was a very special day - we were able to experience a little bit of Tampa’s wonderful past. And I left with some of the most beautiful handmade cigars I have ever seen! Will I smoke them you ask? Never–I will treasure them forever! This article is dedicated to Mercedes “Nena” Henriquez, a very special woman and the great grandmother to the founder & publisher of this magazine, Lisa M. Figueredo.

Abuela Nena & Abuelo Lee

In the sixties, I did not spend my summer days at camp or a daycare center, but in the wonderful home of my Abuela Nena and Abuelo Lee. Our story, “Cigar Women” stirred many childhood memories, and I wanted to share one with you. I can remember waking up in the morning to the noise of clanking pans and the smell of soffrito. As I walked into the kitchen, Lee & Nena Henriquez with their great grandchildren Joe & Lisa Figueredo there on the table sat my empty cup waiting on me to arrive. My Abuela Nena would give me a big hug and kiss good morning as she poured steaming milk into my cup. Then she would add two tablespoons of instant Sanka coffee and two tablespoons of sugar. Latinos do drink something other than Cuban coffee in the morning! Then the screen door to the kitchen would squeak and a giant of a man, My Abeulo Lee, would arrive home. He had to duck his head a bit in order to walk through the frame of the door. Dressed in his Lee overalls and hat with a white t-shirt made him look every bit like a rail road conductor. As he bent over to kiss me, I could smell his Old Spice aftershave. Then with just one swoop of his arm, he picked



me up like King Kong did with Fay Wray in the movie! “Good morning”, he would say followed by a short sermon explaining how God loved me. He then handed me a loaf of hot Cuban bread and within minutes, I was pulling and digging out the hot, soft middle and stuffing it into my mouth as quickly as I could. I was allowed to destroy the entire loaf of Cuban bread, it was all for me to eat as I pleased. Then my Abuelo Lee handed my Abuela Nena a bag filled with leaf tobacco. She would go to the refrigerator and take out a baby jar filled with a milky gluey liquid. Sitting down at the kitchen table, she selected the quality tobacco leaves from the bag. Removing the stem from the middle of the leaf she stretched it flat on the table. More leaves would be taken from the bag, but this time the leaves were bunched in her hand to make the filler. Next, the bunch would be carefully placed on the wrapper leaf and the rolling would begin as she formed the long cylinder that became the cigar. Then she dipped her fingers lightly into the baby jar using the gluey liquid to finish the tip. The left over tobacco leaf at the end of the cigar was twisted and cut off. My Abuelo Lee kept 4-5 small boxes behind the seat of his big old Ford truck. In each box were the cigars made by my Abuela Nena. All rolled on the glass kitchen table with the smell of soffrito and Sanka. Those were my days of summer, no camps, no recreation centers, no daycare, WOW! How lucky was I! -Lisa M. Figueredo Founder & Publisher of Cigar City Magazine



In November 1894, Cespedes Hall was an impressive five-story building at the corner of Main Street and Francis (Albany) Avenue. Built by John Drew, the main feature of the building were the five stately towers, which produced its nickname, El Cinco de Bastos (The five of clubs). The hall’s theatre was reported to be the best opera hall south of Jacksonville. The building also housed meeting rooms, commercial stores and a dance floor. If you were a Spaniard living in Ybor City in 1910, then you probably had to buy the café con leche in the morning. Reason being, you earned more than your Cuban and Italian male friends. Spaniards earned an average of $957 a year, Cubans $782 a year and Italians $723! The Tocobago Indians were a group of prehistoric and historic Native Americans living near Tampa Bay up until approximately 1760. They were killed by other tribes, died from various diseases or fled to Cuba. El Mosquito (The Mosquito) was one of several newspapers published by Cuban nationalists in Ybor City in the late 1800s. On January 10, 1885 Plant City is incorporated and named in honor of Henry B. Plant. One year earlier Plant had purchased Florida Transit and Peninsular Railroad, which joined the Atlantic port of Jacksonville with the Gulf port of Tampa. The frontier Tampa began to develop for African Americans by 1812. Those early settlers, known to us as Black Seminoles, were dispossessed first in 1821 and then again as a result of the Second Seminole War of 1835-1842.

Spanish & American Food 2702 W. Kennedy Blvd. (2 blocks west of Armenia) (813) 245-Trey (8739) mon.-fri. 7am-2:30pm sat. 8am-12:30pm

• Catering for any size party • Drive thru window • Specialties: • Roast Pork • Café con Leche • All Cuban Dishes

Voted by the Weekly Planet® Best of the Bay for “Best Drive-Thru Attendant” Carlos Nierdes Here at Cigar City Magazine, Carlos has our vote as well! He truly will make your day and he makes a great Café con Leche.





This store was a popular place for shopping in Tampa and

attracted many shoppers, especially around the holidays. It was

part of chain that operated other stores in Tampa.

Recognize this lost landmark?



You can win a Cigar City Magazine t-shirt by correctly identifying this landmark. Simply mail the name of the structure and your contact information to Cigar City Magazine at P.O. Box 18613, Tampa, Florida 33679 by Decemebr 1, 2006. All correct entries will be entered into a drawing and one name will be selected as the winner. Good luck! Previous Lost Landmark: Hillsborough County Courthouse

Maas Brothers was a Tampa, Florida department store founded by German immigrants Abe and Isaac Maas in 1886 as the Dry Goods Palace. Abe Maas opened the Dry Goods Palace on December 10, 1886. Isaac formally joined his brother on September 15, 1887 and the store became Maas Brothers. After outgrowing its first two locations, Maas Brothers opened its third and largest store in 1921. By 1929, Maas Brothers dominated Florida's West Coast. It was acquired by Hahn Department Stores in 1929 (reorganized as Allied Stores Corp. in 1935). The store stood tall at 612-620 Franklin St. on the corner of Zack. Sadly, it was demolished in March of this year. Congratulations to Angel RaĂąon of Tampa, Florida who correctly identified the Landmark and won a Cigar City Magazine t-shirt.

By Marilyn Esperante Figueredo

We should never be humbled into

thinking that things we love have little

value or importance. To say that something has sentimental value diminish-

es it. Sentimental value is the greatest

value of all, but it’s up to us to do our

part to keep the links between the past and future strong.

-Fernando Rodriguez MesaPortrait of Fernando Rodriguez Mesa taken in 2006

Mesa Family Photo taken

November 3, 1951 at their home at 210 E. Ross Avenue in





Fernando Mesa’s birthday party

at his parents’ home. The fami-

ly is seated in the living room. (left to right) Fernando R. Mesa

age 38, Joseph R. Mesa, age 36, Mrs. Stella R. Mesa (mother)

age 56, Mrs. Antonia Rodriguez (grandmother) age 77, Mr.

Eladio Mesa (father) age 59 and

Harold R. Mesa age 34.




here comes a time in everyone’s life when you must leave the things you love behind. Fernando Rodriguez Mesa had spent most of his 92 years residing in his family’s Tampa Heights home. It was now sold, and it was time to move to a retirement center. Most of his possessions would be donated, sold or auctioned. Today was his last day in the old home and it was time to say goodbye. The beautiful yellow two-story house was built in 1903 and is one of our city’s finest historical homes on Ross Avenue. For years the home has served as Fernando’s sanctuary and a private museum to many Tampa residents. In addition to family heirlooms Fernando had collected beautiful antiques and objects of art from his travels around the world. He added interesting artifacts secured from the early days of Tampa and Ybor City. If a historic building was being torn down, Fernando would arrive and search for a treasure to bring home. If a friend found something they thought Fernando might want, they would call him and he would rush over. He could never pass up an interesting piece, especially if it had a link to local history. Fernando was born in 1913 to Eladio and Stella Rodriguez Mesa. His father was from Asturias, Spain, and was 14 years old when he arrived in Tampa. He worked in one of Ybor City’s factories as a cigar maker, and later became a car salesman and leasing agent. Fernando’s maternal grandparents moved from Cuba to Key West around 1880. Their home in the small community was a rendezvous point for many Cubans, including patriot Jose Martí during Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain. His grandmother, Antonia Rodriguez Velis, taught music and played at the San Carlo Opera House in Key West. His mother also loved music and became an accomplished pianist. The family moved to Tampa in 1909 and in 1920, his grandfather, Francisco (Frank) Rodriguez Marrero set up his own business called Leaf Tobacco. Fernando attended local schools, but during the Depression he had to leave school in order to work and help his family. He eventually continued his education and, in 1931, graduated from Tampa Business College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design. He started his own design business in 1940 and his home became one of his showcases. Those fortunate enough to have visited Fernando through the years were treated to a personalized tour. Starting in the foyer, he would walk from room to room meticulously serving as his museum’s loyal curator. Along the way he would stop and pick up his favorite pieces and share an interesting story about when it was acquired. Every item had a handwritten note on the bottom where Fernando marked the date, description, and price

paid. His vision always had been that when he passed away, a museum would house his items collectively. Unfortunately that was not to be.


or years, Fernando was known for his annual Christmas Parties when he opened his decorated home to the public. He began this practice in 1940, with admission proceeds contributed to charitable causes. In 1945, he helped start Christmas Card Lane with large three-dimensional Christmas cards displayed along Bayshore Boulevard. Fernando loved Christmas and designing these bigger-than-life cards was fun for him. As a child I can remember begging my parents to take our yearly drive to witness their illuminated beauty. Fernando has always been an extremely civic minded individual and has contributed countless hours through the years to various organizations around Tampa and Ybor City. In 2000 he was voted Man of the Year by the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce for his civic involvement. Then in 2001 he received the Tony Pizzo award presented by the Tampa Historical Society for “unselfish and dedicated service.” In 2003 he received the St. Jude the Apostle Medal by the Diocese of St. Petersburg for work at his local parish. Fernando was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, Tampa Jaycees, Junior Chamber of Commerce, Cuban Club, charter member of the Lady of Mercy Catholic Church (now Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church) and the Holy Name Society. He served as a member and contributor to the Ybor State Museum, Henry B. Plant Museum and the Tampa Bay History Center.


ugust 14, 2006, was a new day for Fernando. With a few tears in his eyes he left his old home behind, but not the memories. He has settled in to his new apartment at the retirement center where his brother Harold also resides. He brought enough of his possessions with him so his new home will be comfortable and have a familiar feel. On the day before he moved I visited with Fernando; he wanted me to have some newspaper clippings he had saved through the years. One was a 2005 article from the Tampa Tribune about the naming of a neighborhood park after him. In the story he is quoted as saying, “When I am gone, it will be something that people will remember me by.” I think I can speak for all of Fernando’s friends when I say – Fernando, you are the greatest treasure of all – not your possessions, not the park, but you, and all that you have done. Thank you for caring about our community and enriching our history, art and culture.

Visit for more stories on the history of Tampa! NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 2006



Potaje de Verzada (Collard Green Soup) BY


When I read, “La Septima” by Jack Fernandez in the September/October issue of Cigar City Magazine, I felt as if I was looking down from, for lack of a better description, a magic carpet. Up wafted the wonderful aroma of bollitos and deviled crabs when suddenly I smelled something not mentioned by Mr. Fernandez’s nostalgic tale. That smell was potaje de verza, or verzada. This verzada (collard green soup) was, and still is, a very well known staple in my area of West Tampa known as Los Cien. These one hundred (cien) homes were built by fabricantes (cigar manufacturers) to house the families of cigar makers. This area was inhabited mainly by Latinos who came from Cuba and Spain. Many were from Galicia and Asturias like my family. My mother was an anilladora at Morgan Cigar Factory and was responsible for putting bands on the cigars and making sure they were perfectly aligned in the cigar box. My father worked for Garcia and Vega Cigar Company then later for Las Novedades Spanish Restaurant. As a child I remember that most families grew verzas to use as the main ingredient along with white beans, potatoes, chorizo, morzilla, chocozuela and other secret ingredients. I have visited Spain three times and noticed that verzas are still grown in the villages of Asturias and Galicia. I remember helping my parents spread cow manure on the flower and garden plot that they so lovingly cultivated. My grandmother, who lived on Dewey Street, supplied the manure that was donated by two of her cows. Once the verzas were ready to be picked my mother would begin cooking this wonderful dish. I share this special recipe with you and I know you and your family will enjoy this Tampa dish. I suggest however, you purchase your collard greens at the grocery store and forget about the cows and manure.

1 large bunch collard greens, washed and chopped 16 oz. of white dry beans, either canalini, white kidney or northern white, washed and soaked overnight. 2 large white potatoes, peeled, washed and cubed 1 large onion, chopped 3 or more chopped garlic cloves 3 or more Spanish chorizo (spanish sausage) 3 or more Spanish morzilla (blood sausage) 2 smoked ham hocks Salt to taste 1 cup or more of chicken broth, the more the better 1 piece of salt port (try to pick one with not too much fat)




large piece of chocozuela (sirloin tip). My mother would remove the meat carefully from the cooked potaje, reserve it for the next day, shred it and make ropa veja, a shredded meat dish. Put everything into a large pot and pour the broth over it. The liquid needs to barely cover the contents, if not, add a little water but not too much because you want the contents to thicken. Stir, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a bubbly simmer. Cook until the beans are tender and thick. When done allow to “rest” a little while so it will thicken, then remove meats and place in a bowl in the middle of the table. Enjoy with some warm crusty bread. The delicious smell of the verzada will have everyone waiting in anticipation for the first flavorsome spoonful. If any is left over, it will be thicker and tastier the next time.



Dear Mama, My husband and I are expecting our first child, and the realization of childbirth pain is scaring me to death. Is it really painful…I don’t know if I can do it? -Low Threshold for Pain Dear Pain, Stop thinking about yourself and toughen up! You’ll be able to handle the pain. Women in the old days worked up until they gave birth. A day or two off from working in the fields, factories, etc. and they were back to work, so don’t look for any sympathy from me! - Mama



Dear Mama, The holidays are coming and I’d like to lose a few pounds. In the past I have tried every diet imaginable. What do you think is the best way for me to lose weight? -Frustrated Dieter Dear Frustrated, Eat naked in front of a mirror. I guarantee it will curb your appetite. -Mama Mama, My parents told me that I was getting a cocotazo for Christmas. I haven’t seen it advertised on TV. Is it a video game or action toy? Do you think I will like it? -Carlos Dear Carlos, A cocotazo is more of an action game. I know that your parents will enjoy giving it to you and you will be very surprised when you receive it…you might even get a chichon with it! (English translation: cocotazo– thump on the head, chichon–result of the cocotazo) -Mama