Cigar City Magazine Sept-Oct 2006

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Dear Cigar City Magazine Please tell me where to find a really good Cuban sandwich without all the unnecessary added ingredients. -Daisy



Daisy, we here at CCM are also looking for a good Cuban sandwich but have yet to find one. Perhaps our readers can help us out and offer some suggestions. You might want to check out our Jan/Feb 2006 issue for a story written by Andy Huse on the Cuban Sandwich and the proper ingredients inside one. -Editor

(813) 358-3455


Dear CCM A friend of mine brought her copy of Cigar City Magazine to me...everything stopped and I read it cover to cover. What wonderful memories it brought back...It gives me a warm feeling to read how you love your heritage and are so proud to be an American…I want to read more Cigar City Magazine! -Bernice To Cigar City Magazine As a volunteer in training at the State Museum on 9th Ave., I have a lot to learn. I certainly appreciate CCM as a resource, and find it fascinating. THANKS! There are two points that you might be able to clarify, or point me to a reference. (1) Last/Sir name of V. M. Ybor – if the Spanish custom is followed using the person's father's "sir" name, why is V. Martinez Ybor not "Mr Martinez"? (Somehow, Martinez City does not have a ring to it!!!). Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is, of course, known as "President Castro," not President Ruz? (2) Ibor or Ybor



I have read that Mr. Ybor changed the spelling of his name from Ibor to Ybor in order to accommodate cultural pronunciation. Which culture? I and Y are pronounced the same by Cubanos, and Anglos are more likely to mispronounce the Y making it more like WHY-bor? -Bill Roy In attempting to answer your questions, I thought it best to check with Rafael Martinez-Ybor, the greatgrandson of Don Vicente MartinezYbor. His response follows: (1) Vicente’s mother was Doña Maria Ibor and his father was Don Antonio Martinez. My great-grandfather legally and forevermore combined both names, rightfully his and which he left to his descendants in a hyphenated form. By hyphenating his name he would never lose his mother’s name that he dearly loved thus the naming of “Ybor City” instead of “Martinez City.” (2) Spanish-speaking people pronounce the “I” and “Y” the same since that is the correct way in the Spanish language. Take for instance the name “Iglesias.” It can also be written “Yglesias” – depending on how the family wants it. Vicente’s family name of “Ibor” goes as far back as the Moorish domination and there is also a river bearing the name as well as several small towns near the city of Caceres in the Province of Extremadura in Southeastern Spain.Upon transferring his successful business to the United States from Cuba in 1869 he realized that in order to facilitate and assure the right pronunciation of his Spanish name the “I” should be changed to “Y” as otherwise the non-Spanish would have pronounced it “Eyebor.”



MARILYN ESPERANTE FIGUEREDO| INFO@CIGARCITYMAGAZINE.COM ack in May of this year, I jotted myself a note–“Call

Vincent Ruilova.” I wanted to set up an interview with one of Tampa’s last “chinchaleros.” I had secured his

telephone number from his grandson and was eager to interview

him. Many of Tampa’s early cigar makers had passed away, and I

wanted to talk with Vincent about the old days when small cigar factories called, “chinchales” or “buckeyes” operated around the

city. Unfortunately, before I could set up an appointment, his grandson called and said his grandfather had died. A sadness

came over me as I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I call sooner?” I still wanted to do a story on Vincent, but it would now have to wait.

I was checking my emails a short time later when I came

across a message from Mario Garrido, one of the owners of

Vincent and Tampa Cigars. He explained he was Vincent

1912 Boston Red Sox

Ruilova’s “adopted nephew” and wanted to know if we would be

the Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants.

attached the story to the email and I began reading. Mario’s story

readers so make sure you read Andrew Huse’s story about

was written beautifully. It was a story only someone who was close

recipe for sausage rolls. Both these articles will make your mouth

Vincent’s story would now be told and I know you will agree once

something to eat.

interested in publishing a story he had written on Vincent. He

was filled with love and respect for his friend and mentor and it to him and deeply loved him could write. I was thankful you read, “One of Tampa’s Last Chinchaleros.”

We always like to include food stories and recipes for our

Tampa’s delicious deviled crabs! Then checkout the Kitchen’s water and certainly give you cause to run to the kitchen and fix We are also introducing another new section of the maga-

In another story you will meet Mochine Fernandez, a differ-

zine called, “Dreamers and Doers.” It will contain photographs

located in Palmetto Beach in the late 50s and early 60s. Writer

contributions to our great city. If you know of anyone who was a

ent type of role model. She was the park director at Desoto Park

and short stories about the people who came to Tampa and made

Jane Ball Watts talks about her beloved park director and how

“Dreamer and Doer,” drop me an email and tell me about them.

same time, not far away in West Tampa, Maura Barrios was a

As always–have a Café con Leche Day!

she inspired young women like herself to excel in life. Around the

young girl growing up in America with strong influences from her Cuban heritage. Read about her impressions of what was

happening in the world around her in “Born Again Cuban.”

Traveling a little bit further back in time to 1940, author Jack

Fernandez talks about Ybor City and his jaunts down La Septima

(7th Avenue) when he was ten years of age. This whimsical story

will make you smile and offer you a glimpse into life in Tampa during this period of time.

And for you sports fans, our El Lector column features the

1912 Baseball World Series. Cigar workers were excited to hear

the El Lector provide details of the games taking place between



Marilyn Esperante Figueredo

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

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28 30

Bitter Strikes Brought Deviled Crabs


Mochine–A Desoto Park Legend





20 45 25 50 52


Born Again Cuban


La Septima

One of Tampa’s Last Chinchaleros

El Lector Baseball Fever – 1912 Lost Landmarks Not So Trivial Dreamers & Doers Last Queen of L’Unione Italiana The Kitchen Mama Knows

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1912 World Series Book

The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard,

rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this

game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good and what could be again.



James Earl Jones - Field of Dreams

The games went back and forth between the teams until an eighth game was necessary because of the tie. A toss of the coin decided which city would host the eighth game. Boston won the toss of coin and so game eight played at Fenway on October 16, 1912.


remind myself of the day by glancing at the Tampa Morning Tribune. It is October 19, 1912. I am looking for news to tell the workers today when I climb up to the tribunal above the factory floor to begin my workday. I am el lector - the reader. Most days the workers want to hear the local news and events, the latest political natterings, and news from the country of their ancestors. I also read from a novel. I faithfully abide by their wishes; after all, they pay my salary. This week, that is not what the workers have wanted from me. The World Series of Baseball has occupied the men as they cut and roll fine cigars. The workers want to relive the moments of the previous day’s game inning by inning, and speculate about the upcoming game. This year’s World Series has been one of the best. The Boston Red Sox and New York Giants faced each other as they did last year. The games this year were exciting from start to a finish that took eight games. In the first game, in a move which surprised many people, instead of starting veteran Rube Marquard at pitcher, the Giants started a rookie–Jeff Tesreau who had won 17 games. He was playing against Smokey Joe Wood, the hot veteran Boston pitcher who “smoked” the ball across the plate. The workers argued over the wisdom of that decision. In the bottom of the ninth, Boston led by one run. The Giants had men on 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out. Boston’s Smokey Joe struck out the next two batters by throwing, according to him later, “the fastest ball I’ve ever thrown in my life. I threw so hard I thought my arm would fly right off my body.” Game 1 went to Boston.


tried to interest the workers, many of whom emigrated from there, in the news of the Cuban elections for a new Presidente. The liberal party is split between Zayistas who are supporting Alfredo Zayas and the Asbertistas who favor the Governor of Havana, General Ernesto Asbert. The conservative party’s leading candidate is General Mario Menocal. As I read this from the Tampa Daily Times, the workers become restless and soon shout for more stories of the baseball game. Game 2 ended in a tie in the 11th inning when the

game was called due to darkness. Tris Speaker, a great hitter, almost made a home run, which could have won the game for Boston, but he got credit for a triple. I brought in news of other events. The assassination attempt on Col. Theodore Roosevelt in Milwaukee on the 15th of October did cause a stir of curiosity. Now that it appears he will fully recover, the workers are no longer interested. Only baseball interests the workers. The games went back and forth between the teams until an eighth game was necessary because of the tie. A toss of the coin decided which city would host the eighth game. Boston won the toss of coin and so game eight played at Fenway on October 16, 1912. Nine innings came and went with the teams tied at one run apiece. The Giants scored what could be the winning run in the top of the 10th, leaving it up to the Boston team. The Red Sox faced the challenge of overcoming a 2-1 deficit. When the Giant’s Fred Snodgrass attempted a routine catch and dropped it, Engle advanced to second. The Giants were stunned long enough for Boston’s Engle to score the tying run. Then Yerkes went on to score the winning point. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.


inally, the cigar workers have tired of arguing about whether Fred Snodgrass’s dropped ball in the 10th inning of the last game was the cause of the Giants losing the series. The excitement of the World Series is fading in our city, replaced by a sense of loss. It will be a long time until Spring training. This game of baseball gathers more and more fans. Many call this the national pastime. It is for many working in the cigar factories. Those, especially of Spanish and Italian heritage, who disdained baseball as a frivolous waste of time, have become interested in the game. That is why I decided to study the game and give them a story of its beginnings today. I read in the Tampa Daily Times that before this year’s World Series began, both teams gave the players the day off for their annual pilgrimage on the anniversary of his birth to the grave of Henry Chadwick, the “father of baseball,” who rests in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn. Curious, I researched and talked to some friends about Mr. Chadwick. Mr. Chadwick was born in England in 1824 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2006


Red Sox coming on field – Library of Congress

1912 Boston Red Sox coming on field.

and moved to America as a young man. He became interested in the American version of rounders, called town ball, thinking the sport should become America’s game just as cricket was England’s game. As a writer and statistician, he promoted what was later called baseball and was responsible for making many of the rules and, more importantly, creating the game statistics we use today. At the very least, he promoted and refined baseball. Fact is, though, we were already playing it when he arrived on our shore.


or as long as I can remember, kids have played ball in the vacant lots. Boys in Cuba have played the game for years. I am not sure why the Americans think they invented it. I know there were games in England called Rounders and Cricket that many of the emigrants from that country played here. The Americanized version was originally called town ball. In town ball instead of a



diamond, the game was played in a square. The pitcher was called the “giver” who tosses the ball overhand to the batter. The fielders have no particular position. They just play around the field. No one is at the corners. There are no bases, but corners. When the striker hits the ball, the fielder catching the ball throws to hit the runner. These hits were called “burns” or “stingers.” Remember, these were not the harder, heavier balls we use today. This was a simpler game for a simpler time. When I was a boy, we used homemade balls. Sometimes we had a little rubber ball that we wrapped yarn around and then covered with an old piece of leather we cut to fit, punched holes in the leather with an awl and sewed with twine around the yarn. If no rubber ball could be found, we would just wrap the yarn tight against itself and wind and wind until it was the right size. Now you can go to the store and buy fine baseballs for not too much money.

El Lector is a fictional character.

Historical sources for the baseball history include For information about the 1912 World Series. The Tampa Daily Times, October 1912 provided news stories.

1912 World Series – Library of Congress

Lawrence S. Ritter, “The Glory of Their Times,” provided some information about the players who played the game. Jules Tygiel, “Past Time – Baseball As History,” for information on Henry Chadwick.Dan Beard, “Town Ball” : , provided how to play to game.


n West Tampa and Ybor, we have teams from the factory workers and social clubs who play season after season, with a season ending series to determine the best teams. Unlike the just ended World Series, which will give the winning team members about $4,000 and the losers $2,500, our teams receive no money. Teams come from out of town to play and we have Cuban teams come to Tampa to play. On those days, it is hard to keep the workers in the factories. The games usually begin around 3:00 P.M. That gives the workers a chance to get their work done before leaving the factory. The only ones who do not seem to enjoy baseball are the factory owners. They are always complaining that more cigars could be made if the workers would quit going to the local games. That is not fair, as the workers get their cigars made before leaving. They have to earn a living and cannot allow the pleasures of the pastime to interfere with putting meat on the table. This reminds me that I, too, must go to work for a living. I look at my pocket watch. It is time. I brush the crumbs of my breakfast from my suit, finish my café con leche, and bid good-bye to my friends in the coffee shop. I go out in the hot October morning to the factory where I will climb up to la tribuna and tell the workers one more story about baseball.





Tampa’s love of big league baseball may have been in it’s infancy in 1912 when, as El Lector tells us, the

fans usually got the results of games after they were

over, but baseball has captured the hearts and heads of many. We are planning a future article

primarily about the Tampa Smokers baseball team.

We are looking for stories about more of the men and

boys from Ybor and West Tampa who played,

for either the Tampa Smokers or some other semi-pro team prior to World War II. We hate

to leave anyone out. If you have stories and pictures

you would like share with us, send an e-mail to


P.O. Box 18613, Tampa, Fl 33679.






This building was located downtown Tampa and served the

shopping needs of Tampa’s citizens for many years. It stood tall

and proud until recently. 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 October 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 The Hillsborough County Courthouse was a beautiful building

designed in a Mediterranean Revival architecture similar to that of

the Tampa Bay Hotel (now the University of Tampa). It was built

in 1890 and was located downtown on the corner of Lafayette St.

(now Kennedy Boulevard), and Florida Avenue. Unfortunately it

was demolished in 1953.

Congratulations to Christina L. Perricone of Tampa, Florida who correctly identified the Landmark and won a Cigar City Magazine t-shirt.

Recognize this lost landmark?

Remembering my grandparent s – Daniel DiB ona and Theresa Albano DiB ona My grandparents Daniel DiBona and Teresa Albano emigrat-

ed from Sicily. They met in Tampa, married and had two daughters,

Lillie and Lucy. During the 40s and 50s, Nano Daniel, was the pro-

prietor of DiBona Jobbing, an office supply company in West

Tampa located on Howard Ave. In addition to selling items such as

pencils, paper, and twine, he sold homemade brooms and mops

manufactured by hand in the garage behind his home on Spruce

Street. Their daughter Lillie worked for several years as his secretary

and bookkeeper. The building which housed DiBona Jobbing

along with LaHabanera Drugs and Maurici Cleaners collapsed after

a heavy rain, and was beyond repair. Nana Teresa, worked in a West

Tampa cigar factory in her early years.

Daniel was one of the original founders of the Sons of Italy

Left to right: Lucy DiBona Suarez, Nana Theresa Albano DiBona Lillie DiBona Tagliarini, Nano Daniel DiBona

Loggia #2015. Club meetings and functions were held on the second floor of his business.

-Linda Tagliarini Lastra

If you would like to remember someone important to you on the pages of Cigar City Magazine, please let us know by calling us at (813) 358-3455 or email us at Cost is dependent of the amount of space you would like to purchase.



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magínate, the Age of Anxiety Cubano style: baby boomer, postwar, Cold War, Joseph McCarthy, Ricky and Lucy, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe. Y también: 26 de Julio, rokyrol, Fidelista! Batistiano! Socialista! Anarchista! Comunista! Mama whispered about the holocaust, the atom bomb and the Rosenberg executions. Abuela talked to Fidel on the radio while I hid under my schoolroom desk to survive nuclear disaster. The Red Blob movie kept me awake with dreams of Russians/Cubans hiding behind the trees in Macfarlane Park. We learned to negotiate extremes at an early age. We spent our childhood glaring at the small black/white TV to learn how to be American. The TV images of the perfect Americano families did not match our Cuban home. The abuelos tabaqueros lived next door to remind us: “¡Nosotros somos cubanos! We are the vanguard of José Martí!” Permanently juxtaposed en América. Most of my friends, silenced by politics and racism, stopped being Cuban. In the sixties, movements for civil rights and women’s liberation and black panthers and raza unida allowed me to be proud of my radical Cuban roots - quietly, and only outside of Florida. Lost in America, I studied history to find my identity. I focused on the forbidden topic of Cuba. That led me to the ancestors. I learned that they exiled in Florida to avoid Spanish generals and concentration camps. They rowed nine children across the straits to Cayo Hueso - the first balseros. Fortunately, they earned good money rolling puros habanos outside of Havana. They remained close to the island, moving back and forth, between el Barrio Cayo Hueso de la Habana and Key West. They followed the cigar circuit that later moved to Tampa. The ancestors survived devastating wars and hunger and colonialism and racism with La Resistencia: hard work, mobility, tolerance, flexibility, internationalism, political activism and labor organizing. Los nuevos pinos put words in Martí’s mouth: “with all and for the good of all,” insisting on a Cuba that would incorporate all races and all people, especially working poor. After the Maine and Teddy Roosevelt took Cuba, the tabaqueros tried to keep Marti’s dream alive - at least in one small corner of Latin America. They organized the first

union, La Resistencia, built mutual aid societies, cultural centers, and schools like Escuela Céspedes, hospitals and clinics before anyone dreamed of social security. They asserted their rights in a foreign frontier-land where no rights existed. The cigar workers faced vigilantes, deportations, lynching, anti-immigrant laws, the Red Scare, racism, discrimination, and violence in an Anglo-Latin race-class war. Anglos called all Latins “Cuban niggers.” The children of tabaqueros fought wars in US armies, navies and coast guards to become Americanos; adding the next layer to their multi-national identities: Cubano y Americano and sometimes Spanish or Italian too. Lo Tampeño transcends national borders, family fights, religious notions, multiple languages and political extremes – a dynamically democratic culture. The viejos carry on this tradition at the many cafés where they gather to argue politics. “Ese Bush es fascista!” claimed el asturiano before the war in Iraq.


traveled to Cuba to speak to the ancestors, walk the Barrio Cayo Hueso, visit cigar factories and Pinar del Río; to retrace journeys to see Abuelo Manuel’s memory of Cuban green. Abuela Pepilla’s urban spirit guided me through mean Havana streets: Cubans don’t steal your purse they steal your heart, cuida’o Maura! I spoke to the ancestors at reuniones with female cousins. We met late in life - rum and coffee kept me awake to tell life stories. I am blessed by the Africana goddesses’ yemaya or chango or ochun (no se cual) that live in the ceramic jars at my Cousin Marta’s house in Havana. Culture shocks when I get home. On this journey, I am born-again: Born Again Cuban. Maura Barrios, M.A., operates La Tampeña Tours throughout Tampa, offering custom-tailored tours to fit the needs of your group. Maura is bi-lingual 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






t appears likely that the traumatic cigar worker strike of 1920 helped to popularize the deviled crab. The work stoppage dragged on for months with no result except violence and anger. As usual, soup houses served as the backbone of the union’s efforts. Sister unions throughout the country collected funds for Tampa’s strikers. The Tampa Tribune complained, “over-paid and corn fed agitators are gloating over the fact that they intend to absolutely annihilate the cigar industry in this city.” Labor-based newspaper El Internacional offered another perspective: The gentlemen who compose this union-busting association have never suffered the pangs of hunger–champagne and caviar have always been at their service when thirst or hunger threatened–and they don’t know the anarchist-breeding effect of hunger on the victim. Even with the twin methods of starvation and falsehood the manufacturers seem to be playing a losing game. The manufacturers didn’t think starvation was a losing game. Union member Domingo Cuesta discussed the opening of a makeshift union-funded “restaurant” and the violent reaction:

All the cigar workers on strike were fed here. However, the manufacturers made some (accommodation?) combination with the authorities. One day, policemen came to this place destroying everything they could lay their hands on. The food, already cooked, and all the groceries were thrown out onto the street.


he destruction of soup kitchens dealt the union a deadly blow. Before long, even the most zealous of strikers began to cave in. One confessed to the newspapers, “I have never had a part in breaking a strike until now and I am forced to work because my seven children need food and clothing.” Hysterical union leaders refused to back down. In a manifesto issued by the Strike Advisory Board, the young men of Ybor City were ordered to work in the phosphate mines (where several had already died in accidents), and the old men to “shoot their brains out if they could not get food.” In such extreme conditions, many strikers caught the plentiful crabs in the bay to feed their families. But even well-fed strikers had additional needs such as cash for rent and other goods. “During the long, lengthy cigar strikes,” B.B. Menendez of the Tropicana Restaurant recalled, “there was no other means of income so the cigar makers used to go fishing for crabs. They boiled them and made crab rolls to sell on the street corners.”

Sketch courtesy of Art Maynor


everal of Tampa’s most notable culinary creations are also reminders of how difficult life could be. The elongated loaves of Cuban bread betray a history of hunger and rationing during Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain. The Cuban sandwich turned those thin loaves into symbols of plenty. Tampa’s deviled crab croquettes tell a similar story of want and abundance. Deviled crabs probably first appeared in the 1920s as street food in Tampa. Two companies–Miranda and the Seabreeze Restaurant—popularized the snack during that decade. Tampans could not get enough of the spicy, plump croquettes. Although tapas bars would not become fashionable until the late 1990s, deviled crabs would serve as an ideal Spanish snack, and may indeed have originated in northern Spain, which supplied many of Ybor City’s residents. The addition of fiery red pepper flakes to the crab gave the rolls their infernal name. The rich, savory croquettes may have epitomized the heady days of the Roaring Twenties, but the dish was born in days of quiet desperation when hungry families ran out of options.






ampa Bay didn’t lack crabs early in the century, so workers picked generous portions of their meat from the shells, seasoned it with sofrito and spices, and surrounded it with a crust made from breadcrumbs and stale Cuban bread softened in water. It soon became apparent that deviled crabs were perfect street food, and did not waste a scrap of meat. They could be made in advance in large batches, kept warm and crispy on the go, and easily eaten with one hand. Cubans made smaller thin croquettes out of all kinds of meat, especially ham and chicken, but deviled crabs became known as rolls due to their rotund shape. Whether the strike of 1920 gave birth to the deviled crab is debatable, but the timing works. For decades, peddlers sold deviled crabs from pushcarts and bicycles. By the end of the 1920s, deviled crabs (in contrast to the smaller crab croquettes) entered Tampa’s culinary lexicon. Residents and visitors took to the delicacy with such fervor that peddlers sold deviled crabs on the street for over fifty years after the strike of 1920, and one can still find them in restaurants all over town.


nfortunately, the quality of today’s deviled crabs does not match their ubiquity. Over the years, the “hot as the devil” crabs have been tamed to pander to the Anglo’s sensitive palette. Adding hot sauce became a necessity to replace the fire of red pepper flakes. Instead of a lush interior of spicy sofrito and abundant crab meat, we often find starchy, pasty mush with questionable seafood inside. It doesn’t help matters that nearly all of our restaurants serve inferior frozen deviled crabs, thinking we are none the wiser. Some of us are. One wonders how the militant union members of 1920 would have reacted to such inferior deviled crabs. The strikers held firm for ten months in 1920, but hunger exacted a heavy price. Not even the sale of deviled crabs could save the strike, which exhausted the cigar workers, their unions, and several factories before they sued for peace. The ordeal ended in February 1921 with $12 million in wages lost. Both sides claimed victory, but no clear winner emerged—certainly not the workers. Perhaps the only good to come from that terrible strike was Tampa’s delectable deviled crab. Andy Huse is Assistant Librarian, USF, Tampa Library Special Collections Department/Florida Studies.






La Septima 1940 T

By Jack Fernandez

hat does a ten-year-old do on a Saturday mornhat morning has become one of the gold-framed ing in early November? Well, that depends on memories of my childhood. It was the first time I the kid. My family had just moved into a small was allowed out alone to face the noise, traffic, and apartment over a barbershop on Seventh Avenue while we alluring smells of 7th Avenue. With my mother’s warnings waited for our new house to become available. I had never about the traffic, I felt apprehensive at first, like a knight lived on a street that was too busy to play ball on, and there leaving his castle to face a dragon. Instead of lance and were no vacant lots nearby, but I felt far from trapped. We sword, I carried twenty funny books into that sunny, cool had moved into a bustling urban center with all the excite- November day. Automobiles scrambled along 7th Avenue ment of a circus. My preoccupation was comic books; my blowing their horns at the slightest provocation as they holy grail: Action Comics, No. 1 containing the first install- dodged trolley cars and pedestrians. It didn't even occur to ment of Superman. It sounds strange now, but we called me to take a trolley; that nickel would buy one second-hand them "funny books" then. There was a store somewhere on funny book. 7th Avenue that bought and sold second hand funny By the time I reached 14th Street, I was worming my books. Somebody in school had told me they bought them way through the crowd. I stopped to look down toward 8th two for a nickel and sold them for a nickel. That doesn't Avenue, where I remembered a gambling casino that my sound like such a good deal now, father had taken me to a few years but at the current price of a dime earlier. It had been, in reality, only a it was the opportunity of a lifesmall store with a counter that had time. In those days, people called numbers painted on the top surface that street "La Setima {sic}." It wasand a roulette wheel on the wall at n't until I took Spanish in high one end. I had heard of "throwing school that I learned that seventh bolita" and wondered why anyone in Spanish was septima. would throw a little ball, until I saw Hopping down the narrow it done. One man threw a cloth bag wooden stairs of our apartment, I containing a hundred little numgreeted the frowning barber, who bered balls to another man, who probably wondered when I would threw it back. The bag flew back and let him cut my hair, and walked forth until one of them caught the out onto 7th Avenue. Our buildbag by one of the balls and held ing was half a block from the onto it as the other cut that ball out of the bag and yelled out the winHouse of A Million Auto Parts on ning number. It was pure excitement Nebraska Avenue, where 7th with all the people bunched around Avenue breaks to the right. The the counter, talking and shouting. war in Europe was rumbling, but Anita Fernandez, Johnny Gonzalez and Jack Fernandez The gambling joints had closed a had not yet intruded into our world. My thoughts bounced like a rubber ball on the pave- few years before, but gambling wouldnot be eradicated that ment, always landing on the stack of comics I carried and easily. Every Saturday afternoon Havana Radio CMQ broadcasted the Cuban National Lottery. The sounds of on finding that store. I walked along the north side of 7th Avenue past that broadcast spilled out of the houses and blanketed Ybor Finman's delicatessen and a movie theater that I never City with the repetitive ritual sing-song by one young boy attended because it was for Black People. I would later meet yelling out a number followed by another yelling out the Mr. Finman's son, Ivan, in high school. He was a brilliant prize. People placed their bets with the neighborhood student who would die prematurely shortly after gradua- "bolitero." It was all pretty boring to me. I preferred the Lone Ranger or Tom Mix. tion. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2006


Walking past 14th Street, past every kind of store, I I recall, was last week's baseball game. In such discussions, hopped out patterns on the hexagonal concrete blocks. all topics were serious. I walked down the block to the theAcross the street stood the grocery store where my parents ater entrance. I had seen the movies showing that day. bought our weekly groceries. My mother would wait her My great-uncle Pablo sold "bollitos" out of a kiosk just turn for a clerk who would get down what she requested off 8th Avenue on 16th Street. I looked for him hoping to from the wall behind him and place it in a box on the get some of the wonderful deep-fried fritters made from garcounter, while jotting down the charges on a lic-flavored, shelled black-eyed peas, but he wasn't there, so paper bag. All along 7th Avenue people lived in apartments I retraced my path and continued to meander east along above the stores on the ground level. Residents sat on their 7th Avenue. I wove a pattern that crisscrossed 7th Avenue balconies presiding over the changing scene below: one several times to check out the toy counters in Silver's woman watering her potted plants; another shaking out a Department Store, Woolworth, and Kress. On one of those small rug over her balcony as she talked with a neighbor. I crossings I was sorely tempted to pull the rear trolley off the stopped in front of the large window of Las Novedades overhead wire just to see the conductor and passengers go Restaurant to watch a large man with thick black hair cut crazy. It was fun to think about even if I never had the nerve thin slices off a ham leg to do it. As I came out of to make Cuban sandKress, Miranda was parkwiches. He sliced the ing his bicycle at the ham with the grace of an curb to sell his famous artist using a long, nardevil crabs out of the row knife that he stroked white box on his bicycle. back and forth on his I thought of holding steel as he smiled at me back a dime from my through the window. I funny book sale for a went in and looked at devil crab on my way the "dulces finos." back, but soon forgot (Candied egg yolks were about it. Instead, I my favorites.) watched as Miranda I reached the took one out with his Fernandez and Garcia tongs, placed it into a Department Store at piece of waxed paper in 15th Street, crossed 7th his other hand, cut a Seventh Avenue – Ybor City – 1937 Avenue, and headed gash along the length toward the Ritz Theater with the tongs, and to see what cowboy movies were showing that day. If Buck squirted some hot sauce into it from a small bottle. He Jones or Ken Maynard was playing, I would definitely handed it to a woman who took a smiling bite. The odor return. I liked the Ritz because of the long, semi-dark entry was enough to drive me crazy. As I drooled watching the hall that led from the ticket taker to the auditorium. Only woman devour the delectable crab fritter, I spotted the a very important place would have such a grand entry. I re- “piruli” man standing at the corner of 17th Street. His pole crossed 7th Avenue to check out the Casino Theater in the must have held a hundred hard, colorful, cone-shaped candies. Centro Español. In those days the electric CASINO THE- I reached for the penny in my pocket and crossed the street ATER sign on the corner of the building had a smaller sign again to trade it for a pirulí. underneath that read, "All Talking Pictures." I have often here were many clothing stores on 7th Avenue— thought of that sign and of how fast the world was changing Fernandez and Garcia, Raul Vega, Max Argintar. around me. Under the sign, four men were arguing. Another, whose name I have forgotten, boasted a layAnyone who did not understand Spanish would easily assume that a fight was about to erupt. The men shouted, away plan that only Ybor City could spawn: You paid a dollar a aimed fingers at each other, with all the hand waving and week for twenty-five weeks and picked a bolita number on the gesturing so essential to the Spanish language. The topic, as Cuban Lottery. If your number won, you got twenty-five dollars




Courtesy of USF Special Collections

Broadway Theatre (Italian Club)

worth of goods no matter how little you had paid in. You could always spend whatever you had accumulated if you didn't win. My mother played it once or twice and won the opportunity to spend her money in that store. As I crossed 17th Street, I quickened my pace. The comics were getting heavy, and it was harder to change hands with the pirulí in my other hand. Besides, I was anxious to get to my business. Would I find the prize of prizes: Action Comics, No. 1? Or possibly one of the early Batman’s or Captain Marvel’s? I stopped at the Broadway Theater to check out the movies. The three-legged Sicilian emblem never failed to fascinate me with its winged head with two snakes above it and three legs radiating symmetrically out of it. The stately L'Unione Italiana with its beautiful columns and windows always attracted my attention, though I knew it mainly because it housed the Broadway Theater. Two men stood in the doorway conversing in Sicilian, a beautiful language that modernism and television have driven to near extinction in Sicily. I could make out only an occasional word that sounded like Spanish. The unintelligible conversation captivated me. I must have been staring because the men eventually stopped, looked me over, and I moved along. I passed by the Spicola Hardware on the next block and nearly stopped to look around the dark, fascinating collection of tools and hardware, but the funny book lure could not be denied. I finally found my heaven on the south side of 7th Avenue in a small, poorly lit, second-hand store between 20th and 21st Streets. Its window display featured other items for sale, but my memory has enshrined the place as a funny book collector's paradise. I was ready to



plead for a job, leave home, and spend the rest of my life stretched out on stacks of those literary classics, consuming them all. The way they traded them, I knew their supply would last forever. "I hear you buy used funny books," I said to the owner. If they didn't, my mission had been wasted. He lifted them out of my hands, counted them, and said, "Fifty cents. Want cash, or you gonna buy something?" "I'd like to look around." An hour later, he must have figured that I had read enough for free and walked up to me. "Have you found any that you want to buy?” Of course; I wanted to buy them all. But I had money for only ten. I picked out gems that I had not read and left.


he return trip took twice as long as getting there. I was in no rush to get home, and the load was lighter. I found Uncle Pablo setting up shop. As usual, he wore a flat straw hat, suit, and tie, all a little threadbare and wrinkled, but apparently what he felt was appropriate for a serious businessman. Yearning for a taste of the wonderful bollitos, I offered to help, but there wasn't room for the two of us and the bollitos in the kiosk. "If you want to help, go to my house and bring some more bollitos," he said. I walked the two blocks to 10th Avenue and found Celia hard at work. She was a onewoman assembly line–a pot of shelled peas waiting to grind, grinding and beating the batter of another batch, frying a third batch. "Would you like some?" "Sure." "Eat all you want." I helped her beat the batter as I ate my fill of the hot bollitos. By the time I left, I had eaten four and was munching on a fifth. I arrived at the kiosk after about a half-hour with a large bag of fritters. For my trouble, Pablo neatly wrapped three of the tasty treats in a piece of wrapping paper rolled into a cone and handed them to me. I didn't tell him about the ones I had already eaten. I got home, ran up the stairs, and showed my mother my new funny books. "A nickel each… Isn’t that great?" "You're just in time for lunch." "I'm not hungry. I ate a pirulí and some bollitos at Uncle Pablo's." She shook her head. "You've spoiled your appetite." "But I spoiled it eating. What's wrong with that?"

Photograph courtesy of Genelle Fernandez Garverick

Mochine with her Desoto Park Girls Softball Team

“Janie, come on, get up!” she said shaking me roughly out of a lazy Saturday morning reverie. Blinking sleepy eyes, I groaned in short-lived protest and then rolled out of bed. The gruff intruder on this humid summer morning was not my mother, or one of my siblings. It was the local park director, Mochine Fernandez (pronounced “Mo-cheen”), rousing me and my two sisters to play a softball game. Quickly getting ready, we hurried out to her waiting station wagon. There were three more stops and, after rounding up her softball team, we headed across town to play ball.



That scene was typical for my three siblings and me in the late 1950s and 1960s. My twin sister–Marilyn Ball Farber, sister–Janet Ball Stone (who is 1 year younger), our little brother–Jim and I lived with our parents in a small southeast community of Tampa called Palmetto Beach. Our lives revolved around DeSoto Park and Mochine, the legend who worked there. Palmetto Beach is unique in the Tampa area. It is an isolated peninsula of land jutting out into McKay Bay, just a short distance south of Ybor City, with a total area barely over one half square mile. The housing area was 20 blocks long and two to four blocks wide. My great Abuelo and Abuela Peralta were among the early immigrants from Cuba, Spain, and Italy who settled in this neighborhood. These working class newcomers to Tampa made their livelihoods working in the cigar industry in Ybor City, the phosphate processing at Channelside, or fishing and crabbing in McKay Bay. Growing up there as fourth generation children we felt safe, yet isolated from Tampa at large. DeSoto Park was and still is today a scenic treestudded park, located on McKay Bay at Corrine and 26th streets, boasting a brick pavilion which has been used for many community events. A pier of land behind the pavilion jutted out into the bay and had covered picnic tables for family gatherings. A seawall protected the entire south side of the park and pier. This idyllic setting served as the focal point of community life for several generations. DeSoto’s park directors, Frank Coto and Mochine Fernandez, were well respected. While they both contributed greatly to the community, this article will focus on Mochine who distinguished herself as a unique park director in Tampa for 25 years. For her this was not a job, it was a calling. As leader of the girls’ activities and sports, she imparted valuable life lessons, inspiration, confidence, and values to two generations of children. Mochine lived in Palmetto Beach on Durham St. with her husband, John, and daughter, Genelle. She stood about 5’5”, with a round face framed by curly, chin length black hair. Catching a glimpse of her decked out in her park uniform of baggy, black Bermuda shorts with a white button front shirt, Mochine appeared to be a comical character out

of a novel. Displaying frenetic energy, she moved from one activity to another on a playground teaming with the children from hard-working families. Her summer workday was from 9 A.M. – 6 P.M. and she worked some evenings at the pavilion. During the school year, she worked after school hours until 6 P.M. and Friday evenings when the pavilion was open for teen dances. Summers found her challenging her charges to join activities and games. Fall through spring she concentrated on sports and keeping the kids active with playground games like tether ball, four square, and checkers.

Yvonne (Weatherford–Peralta) Hewitt recalls playing girls basketball in the late 1940s and early 50s as a guard for Desoto Park. “At 5 feet tall, no one expected me to actually be capable of guarding them,” Yvonne said, adding, “Mochine would chuckle and say, ‘We showed them didn’t we.’” Yvonne went on to play guard on her University of Tampa varsity basketball team. Although standard sports equipment was given to each park, Mochine would solicit softball gloves for girls who could not afford to purchase their own. She’d personally make the rounds of businesses in Ybor City until every girl who wanted to play was equipped. In the 1960s, I played softball for Mochine. t the start of DeSoto’s summer program, each child was Many girls preferred to play barefoot and enjoyed using baseball expected to choose two or three playground activities on bats instead of softball bats. We didn’t win every game, but were which to concentrate in order to be competitive for the apparently an intimidating crew. annual local and citywide playground contests held in August. The summer of 1962, her supervisor informed Mochine These activities may have been leisurely pursuits at other play- that team players must wear shoes and use softball bats. Was grounds, but not at DeSoto. We faced stiff competition among there actually an advantage to running barefoot in the hot sands our peers to be the best of summer? After almost at something - anything. two decades viewing this Jacks, jump rope, checkindomitable coach rally ers, ping-pong, paddle her teams to their hightennis, and hopscotch est performance, they were among the games should have realized at which we played. We DeSoto’s winning edge diligently practiced our was the coach, not the chosen games for several equipment. weeks leading up to our Mochine instilled local playoff, which was many values in us that held the week prior to did not stem from “how the citywide Fun Day. to” manuals. The one who had Instinctively, she honed their skills best taught us responsibiliover the summer won, ty, competitiveness, earning the coveted sportsmanship, a sense right to represent of direction, and respect DeSoto Park in that parfor others. Mochine was ticular activity at Fun doing what came natuDesoto Park float in the Gasparilla Parade. Mochine is the woman in white walking beside the float. Day. This was a formidarally to her. She was our ble challenge as Desoto had a reputation for winning the Fun “Pied Piper,” as she had been to our parents before us. We eagerly Day competition by garnering the highest total points. DeSoto followed her leadership. She was our mentor in life as well as did indeed win the 23 consecutive years Mochine was park direc- sports. tor. As a shy child, I often accompanied Mochine on soliciting In the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, the city parks were the only outlet forays to various businesses. At the time I was terribly embarfor girls wishing to play organized sports. Teaching the basics of rassed, yet from these trips I learned to be tenacious and, to ask! team sports was Mochine’s goal. She taught skills while simulta- This skill would serve me well later in life, both as a teacher and neously building the best team possible. Girls who had limited a successful youth group fundraiser. natural talent were transformed into confident players–she wanted every girl to excel. Photograph courtesy of Genelle Fernandez Garverick.





ochine’s skills went beyond the competitive edge Saturday morning at the citywide Kite Contest found us into the social realm. Each year many social activities enjoying the soft beach sand at our feet while we marveled at our were planned. Mochine, with her effusive enthusicollective creations flying high in the gentle sea breeze. asm, managed to involve much of the community. Themed parPredictably, kids from DeSoto took many ribbons each year. ties were held at the playground throughout summer. These There were also pet contests, twin contests, swimming at were always spectacular, involving laborious preplanning. She Cuscaden Pool in Ybor City and roller-skating at an open-air readily enlisted every willing hand from the community to make rink in West Tampa. a party a production of grand proportions. Festive decorations, Adult involvement in park activities was part of her legacy. food, and entertainment provided by the children themselves Enlisting the community with her unfettered enthusiasm creatmade those themed parties memorable. ed a symbiotic relationship. Seasonal carnival folk who lived in For the annual luau, Mochine would take a couple of us a trailer park bordering the east side of DeSoto Park, married kids over to West Tampa to cut down tall bamboo on the banks couples, or single adults in the community at large were all of the Hillsborough River. The bamboo was taken back to the enlisted for their various talents and skills. Uneducated men park and stripped of could teach kids leaves, becoming the how to build exotic instruments for bamkites or build deftly boo stick dancing. painted scenery. Four kids were Housewives drove enlisted to keep carpools, cheered cadence with them. for the kids, sewed They were laid crossexotic costumes and wise on the ground were great ethnic in pairs, meeting at chefs! Young adults midpoint. Two taught younger childancers, complete dren to do the with homemade cosrhumba and other tumes, danced Latin dances. Sports Desoto Park in Palmetto Beach between the poles were not everything. keeping beat with bare feet in the soft gray sand of the performThere was always something at which every child and adoance area. lescent could excel. This community working together as a large Although parents cooked copious amounts of food for the family formed wonderful relationships. Fear of inadequacy was festivities, I recall going with Mochine to the farmers market and laid aside as each individual gladly performed the small, yet watching in awe as she asked for donations of fresh fruit. She important task at which they were skilled. The end was great at convincing the vendors to give us more than they product–whether a parade, party, or contest - became a beautiful were initially willing to part with. We hauled pineapples, papaya whole from which the entire community benefited. and a myriad of other fruits into her station wagon and trihile attending Jefferson High School in the mid umphantly headed back to the park. 1960s, my sisters and I were very busy with clubs An annual kite contest was held in March at the Ben T. and cheerleading, yet we continued playing sports Davis Causeway Beach. Prior preparations took several weeks for for Mochine and entered playground contests until the weaning the kids at Desoto Park. True to form, Mochine worked her age of 18. In a sense, we were drawn by our years with Mochine magic with donations of thin, flexible, balsa wood sticks donatas a surrogate mother and, perhaps, felt a reluctance to divest ed from a cigar box factory and colorful paper of the perfect ourselves of an exceedingly wonderful childhood. She was a weight from a paper company. This was an activity involving force that shaped our adulthood. many skilled hands of both children and adults. Men and Building skills, self-confidence, and competitiveness in women in their 20s, who had themselves participated in the kite every aspect of life was her gift. As Barbara Lombardi Sharp said, contest as children, came to the pavilion to help the new gener“She made you feel you could do anything.” This was long ation make the most incredible kites.




before parents had even an inkling that self-confidence was important to raising a child. Barbara echoed the sentiments of many DeSoto alumni when she said, “I grew up in a time and place where the community was a real community. Parents, schoolteachers and park directors were totally involved in our lives.” Barbara mentions Senator Hillary Clinton’s book titled, It Takes a Village to Raise a Child. As Barbara expressed, “Palmetto Beach was our village.” As with their mothers before them, Mochine coached girls in life as well as sports. Two generations and 25 years of devotion to children manifested itself in the self-reliant and successful women who came out of this community. Amid much fanfare, Mochine Fernandez was named Sportswoman of the Year in 1963. In 1969 Mochine Fernandez retired after 25 years as a park director. Twenty-three of those years were at DeSoto Park. An appropriate covered dish retirement party was held at the park, using the grassy area behind the pavilion near the breezy bay. It was a huge success attended by several hundred people. In the midst of the energetic commotion of games and contests was Mochine. Not as the guest of honor which she certainly was, but as the captain of her ship - just one more time. Yes, she was coordinating bubble gum blowing contests and 3-legged races. Everyone understood and chuckled under whispers of admiration and bemusement. Only Mochine could throw her own retirement party. She had always excelled and this event was no exception!


s a tribute to the affect one woman had over the community of Palmetto Beach, DeSoto Park alumni have held a spring reunion at DeSoto Park’s pavilion for the past three years. Hundreds of current and past residents have attended. I have gone every year hoping that Mochine would show up, but she never did. After our reunion this past April, I decided I was going to try and find out what happened to my old park director. After numerous inquiries, I was able to secure a telephone number for Mochine’s daughter Genelle Fernandez Garverick. When we spoke, Genelle advised me that her mother resided in her Palmetto Beach home long after the passing of her husband John in 1980. Living an active retirement life, she spent many wonderful days at her beach condo with Genelle, her only daughter, her three grown grandchildren and great grandchildren. Mochine sadly passed away in 1991. Genelle agreed that the positive attitude of her mother was ever present in her personal life. She said her mother kept the extended family motivated and endearing memories are fondly recalled by each family member.



The years have passed, but I have never forgotten Mochine or all that she taught me. During the challenging times in my life when I have felt beaten down, I would think of my old park director and the words of encouragement she would be offering if she could–“Come on Janie – get up!” Jane Ball Watts is a native of Palmetto Beach from the Peralta family. Her abuelo and abuela were immigrants from Cuba and Spain. Jane was educated in local schools graduating from USF with a B.A. in 1970. After teaching in Tampa for 10 years, she pursued her dream of becoming a fulltime artist, marketing her works all over the U.S. She presently resides in Tallahassee and is a mural artist.

Jane Ball Watts


NOT SO TRIVIAL Tampa’s first Jewish mayor was Herman Glogowski. He served from August 13, 1886 - July 15, 1887. The Federal Writer’s Project in 1937 stated, “Latin cigar workers organized the first baseball club in Ybor City about 1887. The Cuban and El Porvenir clubs soon followed and baseball became a popular sport.” (Tampa Cigar Workers) Café del Palacio was located on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Fifteeth Street in Ybor City. The small wooden building was originally part of the Sanchez and Haya Cigar Factory. In 1920 The 18th Amendment (Prohibition) came into effect. Vicente Martinez Ybor stated at the time that such a ban would result in a relocation of the cigar industry to “where people are not dictated to as how they are to dress and what they are to drink.” (Immigrant World of Ybor City) 1924 Al Capone takes over the Torrio crime organization in Chicago. La Federación, the official paper of Tampa’s cigar makers, selectors, and pickers was published from 1899-1901. (Tampa Cigar Workers) 1931 The Star-Spangled Banner becomes the official US national anthem. Tampa’s population in 1940 totaled 108, 391. 1953 Jonas Salk announces his discovery of a polio vaccine. In January of 1962, Robert W. Saunders, Jr., integrates Macfarlane Park Elementary School in Tampa. (Bridging the Gap)

Vicente Martí My grandfather, Vicente Martí, immigrated from Guanabacoa, Cuba in 1926. He was a carpenter and Master Mason. At one time he was one of the few men able to build the domed ovens used by bakeries making Vicente Marti - 1940’s Cuban bread in Ybor City. He was the only Mason able to repair active ovens without completely cooling them down. This process was necessary because the act of cooling the ovens would cease the production of bread for several days. The bread ovens were lined with clay tiles that distributed the heat evenly during the baking process. If the tiles were damaged, the uneven heat would cause the bread to burn. In order for my grandfather to enter the oven to make repairs, he had to first wrap himself in water-soaked sacks. He would then tie a rope around his waist and an assistant would help him slide into the oven on a wide board. The assistant would hold on tightly to the other end of the rope in case he needed to pull him out quickly in an emergency. He would work in the oven for 3-4 minutes and would pull on the rope when the heat became too intense. This process would be repeated until the repair was finished. My grandfather made these repairs from the late 1920’s until shortly after World War II, when scarcity of oak forced many bakeries to convert to fuel fed ovens. He was in his 60s when he made his last repair job at La Popular bakery in West Tampa. My grandfather also laid the tile floors at the Circulo Cubano and helped decorate the ceiling of the club’s theater. I guess entering the ovens so many times made him the “crusty” old man that I loved and admired, and will never forget. -Sonia J. Cruz If you would like to remember someone important to you on the pages of Cigar City Magazine, please let us know by calling us at (813) 875-4929 or emailing us at Cost is dependent of the amount of space you would like to purchase.





Photograph courtesy of Mario Garrido.

Vincent Sampling Wrapper 1995

A tabaquero apprenticeship required the employee to work several positions within the factory before learning the actual art of hand cigar making.


unday, May 7, 2006, Tampa’s legendary cigar industry fell of work because of the Great Depression, he found a job as an silent for just a moment as a sign of respect for the death apprentice tabaquero at the Perfecto García Cigar Factory in Ybor of one of its last chinchaleros - Vincent Ruilova, age 92. He City. This meant he had to walk from his home in West Tampa was better known as Majomia, a Spanish nickname given to him to the factory, about six miles roundtrip each day. At the time, he by his friends meaning impatient or restless, which described him really did not know how fortunate he was to have this job. He perfectly. soon realized it when, in the following two years, seventeen major Vincent was the founder and owner of Vincent & Tampa cigar factories closed their doors leaving thousands of tabaqueros Cigar Co. for 63 years. Since 1943, his chinchal (buckeye or small without a job. factory) had manufactured and sold millions of hand made and machine made cigars in Ybor City and West Tampa. The owners tabaquero apprenticeship required the employee to work of these chinchales were known as chinchaleros. Throughout several positions within the factory before learning the Tampa’s unique 120 year cigar history, chinchaleros played a major actual art of hand cigar making. Vincent began his trainrole in the Cigar City’s legacy. Many of the famous manufacturers ing as a clerk in the tobacco blending department where the diflike Arturo Fuente and Frank Llaneza began as chinchaleros. ferent types of tripa larga (long filler tobacco) were prepared by Vincent did not employ hundreds of tabaqueros (cigar mak- wetting, curing, and separating the leaves to make the ligas de tripa ers), nor was his name as (long filler blends). The famous as some of the promiapprenticeship was hard - he nent manufacturers of his era worked 9 to 10 hours a day, 6 like Cuesta Rey, Garcia y Vega, days a week for which he was or Antonio Santaella. However, paid $7.00. After learning the he was well respected by all in necessary skills, he was able to the cigar industry for his honmove to el mojado (the casing esty and devotion to the art of department). This was where cigar making. His contribution the capa y banda (wrapper and to Tampa’s Cigar Heritage was binder) were processed. A varihis ability to overcome the ety of methods was used to wet many tragic times of this indusand cure the tobacco to try and survive years beyond enhance its flavor, color, and many of those prominent manaroma. The capataz (foreman) Cigarmaker ufacturers of his era. was impressed with Vincent’s ability to learn so quickly and incent Ruilova was born in the small village of Panes, moved him to begin training as a regazador (wrapper selector). In Spain, on November 18, 1913, the same village where a little over a year, he had completed extensive training on how Cuesta Rey Cigar Co. owner Angel Cuesta was born. to prepare raw tobacco products for a quality hand made cigar. When he was 6 months old, his family immigrated to Tampa, like Vincent was now ready to begin his formal training as a tabamany Spaniards, to avoid the conflicts in Spain during the early quero in a room where over 200 workers sat side by side, making 1900s. His family settled in West Tampa and he attended school hand-made cigars. There he was taught how to select the right up to the sixth grade. At that point, he needed to find a job to amount of long filler tobacco, place the different types of leaves help support his family, like so many other children had to do in in his hand to form the body of the cigar, wrap the banda around those days. the long filler leaves to finish the bonche (cigar bunch), and place At the age of 16 in 1929, when thousands of people were out it in a wood cigar mold for the cigar shape being made. As a






incent continued to perfect his skills and, after 14 years of working long hours as a tabaquero earning $20.00 to $30.00 per week, he decided he was ready to start his own chinchal. In 1943, he started Fernandez & Ruilova Cigar Co., employing 30 tabaqueros making Clear Havana cigars (a term used for cigars made with all Cuban tobacco). The first brands produced were Kings Club and Cosmopolitan Club. He later developed the San Vicente brand. As the business prospered, he rented part of the old Arguelles y Lopez Cigar Factory at 2511 21st Street that was then home of Villazon Cigar Co.

Frank Llaneza was the owner of Villazon and became one of Vincent’s closest friends. The chinchal continued to grow and cigar machines were added to make an inexpensive, long filler, machine made cigar using Cuban tobacco. By the late 1940s, Vincent kept two 8-hour shifts busy six days a week making hand and machine made cigars to keep up with the demand. In the early 1950s Vincent bought out Fernandez and, as sole owner, changed the company’s name to Vincent Cigar Co. During this time, he acquired the Cuban brand Gioconda and a popular Tampa brand, Ruy Lopez, increasing the amount of workers he employed to almost fifty. He began manufacturing cigarettes as well. Vincent did well as a chinchalero. His extensive knowledge allowed him to select the best quality tobacco and to combine different types of tripa larga and capa y banda, developing the unique taste he wanted for his different cigar brands. However, he did not have the experience he needed in marketing and sales to take his business to a higher level. In 1975 Edward Demeski, owner of Tampa Cigar Co., joined Vincent as a partner, bringing

Chinchal "Buckeye" 48


Photograph courtesy of The Tampa Public Library.

bonchero (bunch maker), he had to master the skills of making every bonche the correct size and weight for the shape of cigar being made - and to do it fast enough to produce the amount of bonches needed to keep two torcedores (cigar rollers) busy all day long. The final step was to learn how to apply the capa to the bonche and finish the head of the cigar. After 2 1/2 years of training, he finally became un tabaquero completo (a finished cigar maker).

his Cuban brand La Eminencia with him as well as the sales and marketing experience that was needed. The company’s name was changed to Vincent & Tampa Cigar Co., manufacturing cigars for their six brands: Kings Club, San Vicente, Gioconda, Ruy Lopez, La Eminencia and Cosmopolitan Club. With Demeski’s sales experience, they planned to distribute their cigars throughout the country and to develop new types of mass market, machine made cigars. After so many years of hard work keeping the chinchal running, it finally looked like Vincent was going to reach that higher level. Shortly after the partnership was formed, however, Edward Demeski passed away from a heart attack and all hopes of marketing their brands nationwide died with him.


uring the 1980s and 90s, finding experienced tabaqueros was getting harder and many of Vincent’s employees were well above normal retirement age: Berta Peláez, 80; Josephina Muñeca Puerta, 82; Antonino Niño LaManna, 94. Even Vincent “Majomia” Ruilova was 77 years old. Most of these employees no longer drove. Vincent or his wife Aida, who also worked at the chinchal as a cigar machine operator, drove them to and from work. By the early 1990s, Tampa’s glory days supporting more than 150 cigar factories and countless chinchales were long over. Three major cigar factories (Villazon, J.C. Newman, and Hav-aTampa) and only a handful of chinchales - most of them only making cigars as a tourist attraction - were left. In 1995, the famed “Cigar Boom” hit and the entire cigar industry was trying to react to the overwhelming demand for premium hand made cigars. Tampa’s hand made cigars were as much in demand as those made in Honduras and the Dominican Republic. The price of raw tobacco products had doubled and tripled overnight. Many of the smaller manufacturers, even if they could pay the higher prices, were having problems getting enough tobacco because of shortages. Unfortunately, the “Cigar Boom” came too late in Vincent’s career. Now 82 years old, it was impossible for him to keep up with the sudden demand. As a chinchalero, he had survived 53 years in business by simply providing his loyal customers a quality hand made cigar at the lowest price possible. Taking into consideration his age, the age of his employees, and the high cost of tobacco, he decided the time had come to close his chinchal. It was ironic that after all those years struggling to sell his cigars, the demand for them would end his career as a chinchalero.


Mario Garrido and Joe Lubrano, with Vincent “Majomia” Ruilova as the tobacco adviser. The only way they could stay in business was to find someone else to make cigars for their different brands. Vincent had maintained a strong friendship with Frank Llaneza, owner of Villazon Cigar Co. Because of this friendship Frank agreed to make Vincent & Tampa’s hand made cigars in his two factories in Honduras - the same factories that were manufacturing such premium brands as Hoyo de Monterrey, Punch, and Excalibur. With the help of others, Vincent & Tampa Cigar Co. survived another tragic time in its long history. With the sale of Villazon to General Cigar Company a few years later came the devastating news that they could no longer make cigars for Vincent & Tampa. The search to find another manufacturer who would produce a quality hand made cigar under the Vincent & Tampa brands was on. In early 1999, the search ended with Carlos Toraño, owner of Central America Tobacco. Carlos Toraño and his son Charlie, manufacturers of renowned premium cigars under their own family name, agreed to make all of Vincent & Tampa’s brands using the same tobacco blends originally selected by Vincent. Their family owned business, one of the industry’s oldest tobacco growing families dating back to 1916 in Cuba, had factories in Honduras and Nicaragua. Strong family values and commitment to excellence in the art of cigar making are evident in the success of their brands: Exodus 1959, Casa Toraño and Virtuoso to name a few. Who would believe that a prominent cigar manufacturer like Carlos Toraño would some day make cigars for one of Tampa’s last chinchaleros?


arlos and Charlie Toraño continue to provide the highest quality tobacco and craftsmanship for Vincent & Tampa’s brands. As a final tribute to Vincent’s passion and dedication to the art of cigar making, the Toraño’s have agreed to develop a new line of premium hand made cigars commemorating the 60th anniversary of the San Vicente brand created by Vincent Ruilova. After all, what better way to honor the memory of a simple chinchalero than through the diligent efforts of his family and friends to continue the tradition he began over 60 years ago? Vincent & Tampa Cigar Co. is presently located at 3103 N. Howard Ave. and has on display the original cigar makers’ tables, chairs, cigar molds, and wood tobacco casing barrels used by Vincent Ruilova when he produced his cigars in 1943.

n an effort to keep the Vincent & Tampa Cigar Co. legacy alive, Vincent transferred ownership of the business and cigar brands to his sobrino adoptado (adopted nephew), Mario Garrido. A new partnership was formed in 1996 between SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2006


I didn’t expect to be Queen. I was so proud and happy to be chosen for such a beautiful club!

-Marian Italiano Greco

What is lovely never dies, But passes into other loveliness,

Star-dust, or sea-foam, flower or winged air.

Queen Marian Italiano Greco - 1936 50


Photo courtesy of Marian Italiano Greco

-Thomas Bailey Aldrich, A Shadow of the Night

s the day approached for me to interview Marian (Mariana) Italiano Greco, I knew I was in for a treat. After three cancelled appointments because she was busy, I was finally going to meet the last Queen of L’Unione. As she invited me into her home I found myself thinking, “Marian you are tall–most girls of Sicilian background are on the short side.” In a flashback to the 1950 Hollywood movie Sunset Boulevard, I remembered the desperate screenwriter, Joe Gillis (William Holden), as he entered the home of the former silent screen actress, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson.) He blurted, “Hey, I know you. You used to be big.” She responded very profoundly, “I am big. It’s the movies that got smaller.” Marian’s father was a member and fervent supporter of L’Unione, now often called the Italian Club of Tampa. “We girls belonged to the Ladies Auxiliary. You know it was a men’s club back then.” Marian explained she was crowned queen of L’Unione on November 27, 1936, then the following year she was crowned Queen of Latin Fiesta. “I think I was L’Unione’s last queen, because I don’t remember attending another Queen’s Ball to abdicate. You know World War II was on, and so many of our boys were overseas.” he delightful part of this interview for me was that she remembered every single detail of her Queen’s Ball especially people’s names and the conversations that took place. “I want to get a gown for Marian; I want something different,” she remembers her mother saying to Mr. Arthur Kessler, the buyer from downtown Maas Brothers. He was leaving on a buying trip to New York and while there purchased a beautiful evening gown for Marian that fit perfectly. The gown was totally covered in sequins with chiffon fishtail at the bottom. A hue of iridescent ice blue and pink shimmered in the spotlight. “I know Mommy paid at least $100 back then. We never showed it to my father. He saw it on me for the first time when I came down the stairs at our home on the evening of the ball.” Getting ready for the event on that special day remains vividly in the mind of the then teenager. Her family was happy for Marian - the fact that she was representing the L’Unione as its Queen made them ecstatic. I finally asked Marian where her crowning took place. She explained that the coronation occurred on the second


1936 Italian Club Queen Marian Italiano Greco and her court (left to right) Maime Vaglica, Rose Scaglione, Queen Marian Italiano Greco, Josephine Bellucia, Millie Valenti

Photo courtesy of Marian Italiano Greco


They had theater seats then, and we were all seated there just like they do at the Academy Awards.

floor of L’Unione, which was the Theater Floor. “They had theater seats then, and we were all seated there just like they do at the Academy Awards. The crown itself was gorgeous, you know. Then we went up to that beautiful third floor ballroom and danced till five in the morning.” She concluded with, “I didn’t expect to be queen. I was so proud and happy to be chosen for such a beautiful club!” When I inquired about her escort for that evening, Marian exclaimed, “Oh darling, my escort was Joe Greco.” Marian and Joe were married on September 24, 1939. They later became the proud parents of Sandra Jo (Diaz) and Gilda Ann (Barnhill.) She has two grandsons and five great-grandchildren. I asked if there was one special thing she remembered about that evening. She tilted her head, rolled her eyes, looked up gesturing with her hands and said, “The building! It was all up in lights on the front. It remained lit for the whole week. It was something to see.” It was almost as if I was watching Norma Desmond when she gazed upward knowing the camera was about to roll in Sunset Boulevard and said, “The stars are ageless.”



THE KITCHEN Sausage Rolls BY Frances Latteri

This easy recipe was given to me by my mother, Pauline

Valenti Filippello who baked these delicious sausage rolls

around the holidays. Being of Sicilian heritage, Italian sausage

was something we ate often in our family. My mother would buy the

sausage from the local grocer and then

make her own dough. In later years, she began

using Jimmy Dean’s hot sausage in place of the Italian sausage and hot roll mix in place of her homemade dough. It is a simple recipe that will impress all who enjoy this special treat! Ingredients:

1 box of Hot Roll mix (makes about 15 rolls)

Italian sausage, or you can use Jimmy Dean’s® hot sausage Italian Romano grated cheese

Mix hot roll mix according to directions

(but do not add egg). Knead the dough and then cover and let rise. Pull off pieces of

the dough and flatten out and then add

cooked sausage and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Fold the dough then roll it like

a cigar. You can use toothpicks to hold the

dough in place around the sausage. Beat 1

egg and brush the top of each roll to give it a glaze. Bake about 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees or until golden brown.





Dear Mama My mother and I are having a discussion about what part of town we live in. I think we are technically in Ybor City, but I’m not sure of the boundaries anymore since the area is changing. Can you help us settle this? -Family Feud Dear Family Feud It’s not a matter of boundaries…it’s a matter of poultry. Do any of the neighbors that live across the street, behind you or on either side of you have chickens? If they do, then you live in Ybor City!

Dear Mama I recently took my elderly Sicilian aunt shopping at a boutique for “weight challenged” women. A lovely stout woman was also there shopping and came out of the dressing room to look at herself in the three-way mirror. My aunt smiled at her and said, “ I like that dress on you because it doesn’t make you look so fat!” The lady politely smiled back and told her thank you. I have never been so mortified and told my aunt later she should not have said that. I can’t return to this store, so can you please recommend another boutique? -Still In Hiding Dear Hiding Are you insinuating that I know where a store of this nature would be because I am overweight? You have some nerve scolding your aunt…she was complimenting the lady!!! Go check the yellow pages and leave me alone -Mama

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

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