Title: Interview with Sirio Bruno Coniglio (May 2, 1976)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006491/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Sirio Bruno Coniglio (May 2, 1976)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: May 2, 1976
Spatial Coverage: 12057
Hillsborough County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006491
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Hillsborough' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: HILL 14

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SUBJECT: Sirio Bruno Coniglio

May 2, 1976 dib

C a4 YL te 1//e C*'a 8d//y &rA4e e l- e, /Ocra ,Socc C7 i 4)/s 7
...portion of it would be, I notice you...

C: In Sotth America.

P: ;Right.

C: And only yesterday I received a letter from my friend from Caracas.

P: Ah, that's in Caracas.

C: Yes, where I've been corresponding. I haven't met him, but I'm

in correspondence with him and I did send him the Spanish and then

in turn he has, also he received some of the writings of my father,

that some of some of the writings that my father made while he was

active in the Libre movement and so on and a lot of things that

needed to be clarified and so on. And part of that/was sent to Caracas

will, I don't whether he has already sent it in a library in France.

P: Do you know the center that it's located in Caracas? Is it a univer-

sity or.,.

C: No, this is an individual. -sea what he does is he receives and

then he distributes the material where he sees fit for it to go.

P: Right.

C: In fact some of it, as I say, went to France which is a newly established

place and I'm not exactly sure where it is, and part of it also to

Amsterdam, because the people in Amsterdam also wrote to me. This is

sometime back.

P: Yes, this was...

C: Yes.

P: ...about the time of your father's passing away, was it?


Page 2. dib

C: Yes, and they heard about it and this, from the International


P: Yes.

C: And of course at the time there weren't, they didn't know too much

what we had done or what I had done, see.

P: Right.

C: Because most of this material was being distributed while my father

was still living, but he was in his late years and he knew that the

best place for this material to be would be in Amsterdam, and some

of it went directly to them through someone else who was running a

library for research students in Italy, see. In other words a lot

of the material was used by people that were coming up for degrees and...

P: Right.

C: ...for their dissertation and so. That is why in another letter, in

another letter, let me see...

P: I see by this letter that Paul Alverich...

C: Yes, I have his letter here.

P: Ah.

C: Uh huh.

P: ...was the man who ...

C: When he first wrote he got the information, he was i; /I'//r// see?

P: Uh huh.

C: And he got news of what had happened, my father passing away and so on

and he wrote to me and then of course I had to write to him and tell him

what I had already done, see.

P: Yes.


Page 3. dib

C: And then from them came the one from Amsterdam and I had already sent

this material, the one in Spanish to South America and the one in

Italian to Italy, and in Italy it went to two different places. One

was where this library, let me see, this library was in Istoria, Istoria.

And then a Professor Charito, you know him?

P: No.

C: He's a professor in the University of Florence, and Professor

Avercule in another letter...

P: Makes mention of...

C: ...makes mention, he assumes that the material went to him, see.

P: Oh yes, oh yesD/2 1C.- yes. But evidentally it did not.

C: No, only some of it went to him.

P: I see.

C: Yes, and the understanding was that when he got through with his

material, see, he was getting ready to write one of his books and

he needed some of this material, so he got pamphlets and newspapers

and what not and notes and so on and then the idea was for him to

forward the material either to this place in Istoria and then from

Istoria, whatever wasn't in need anymore would go to Amsterdam.

P: Right, right.

C: And if they still have some of the material there eventually it will

all go there. So it will be in good hands and none of it will be lost

or anything like that.

P: Right...good, very good. When did your family come to the Tampa area.

Do you rot__olr


Page 4. dib

C: Yes, well, before, my father got here before the turn of the century

and of course I was born here, I was born in 1910, not here l-w -

~bor in -Tmpe-g / ,/Cr^t /4 [ / lef .

P: Yes.

C: Tampa and then I was to this after I was in

my early twenties. I got out of high school and so on. I, going

back and forth and see, I'm a graduate of the University of Florida

myself. So is my brother.

P: Yes.

C: My brother is a graduate from the school of pharmacy and I'm, I was

in the school of pharmacy and was trying to use all of the pharmacy

courses for a pre-med field to get into medicine, see. But these

were during the bad years...

P: Yes.

C: ...when things were mighty hard and tough and you had to work to even

stay in school one semester. And)but things got from bad to worse

and so on and I had to settle for other things, see. So finally when

I decided that things were getting to be that bad I went ahead and

converted all my courses, I went to see an old professor that I knew

at the University of Tampa and he told me, he said, "With all the

courses you have all you need to do is complete the required educa-

tion courses...

P: Right.

C: ...and go into the field of science and teach." Well, I thought that

I was going to use that as a stepping stone and following a year or


Page 5. dib

two years later I would then keep on going or trying for the medical

field. But it never materialized because as I said things were

pretty bad.

P: Sure.

C: And I still have letters around where the applications that I made

to the various schools in the country, and I mean I wrote to all

of them up north, to the south and west of here, but it always was

the same story, that they had to take care of the local boys first.

However today in Florida there are three medical schools. In my

day they didn't have not even one medical school. They didn't have

anything here.

P: Yes.

C: So it's a question of having been born too soon, too early, and so

of course I did about twenty-seven years of teaching and after that

time I decided that I wasn't going to teach anymore and I retired.

Of course in those days retirement was all right to make ends meet.

Had I known that the inflation was going to be the way it is today

or get to the point where it is today I probably would have been

struggling in the classroom right now today. But in a way I'm not

sorry that I retired as early as I did and that's that.

P: You know, one of the things that's always interested me about this

community in this settlement and it seems from what you said just

a moment ago that your father was an example of it, is the mingling


Page 6. dib

of Spanish and Italian people together, to a great degree to include

the language. k you're indicating that your father's

writings were partially in Italian, partially in Spanish.

C: Yes, mostly in Spanish oddly enough.

P: Well, how do you explain that?

C: I'll explain that to you. It's a question of necessity. For example

the main industry in Tampa was the cigar industry. The cigar industry

was started and founded by Spanish people, Spanish-speaking people,

and which brought their factories from Cuba to Key West and then from

Key West they moved into Tampa.

P: Right.

C: And so that's when the Tampa community was growing because Tampa

really was a village at that time, and then it started growing,

growing and growing. So the Italian immigrants who were coming,

a lot of them were going to New Orleans and a lot of them to Tampa,

and the word had spread that all you had to do is to go to one of

these cigar factories and get in and have an apprenticeship.

P: How did they get an apprenticeship, though? Normally does that not

require knowing someone in the factory who is already // /T-r r ?

C: Yes, yes, of course at first when the need for cigar makers was

great, why, there wasn't so much red tape, see. But as the, more

people were coming in, well, then you had to know this man and this man

had to know somebody else and so on down the line. So then when the

thing first got started, as I said the majority of the people in there


Page 7. dib

were Spanish-speaking people, either Spaniards or Cubans, see. And

of course, you know, the Cubans, their language is Spanish.

P: Right.

C: Now they outnumbered the Italians, so it was necessary for the

Italians to learn their language to get along with them just the

same as the Spaniards who were lucky or unlucky enough to get into

an Italian community up north, were compelled to learn the Italian,

see. And I remember one of my early visits up north there someone,

a friend of mine who was an Italian, said, "I'm going to introduce

you to," I think his name was Garcia and he was the editor of a

paper, and he then says, "You speak the langauge, why then you can

get along with him," and so on. So I went ahead and I spoke and,

but before that my friend was making the introduction and he knew

a few words in Spanish and he was struggling, you know.

P: Talking, yes, right.

C: So this man, the Spaniard answered that, "You don't need to speak

in Spanish." All of this in Italian, just speaking Italian. He

said, "I speak Italian just as well as he does.

P: Spanish_

C: He said[Italian words] You know, and so on. So well, right away

it was no surprise to me because I knew that that was the reverse

of what's in Tampa. Then in addition to that in the cigar factories

the workers through their early unions that they had, which are, were


Page 8. dib

much different than the unions of today...

P: I'd like to talk about those sometime.

C: The unions of today, of course, are manipulated by people, people that ieC

ousted or found it necessary for them to get out of a lucrative field,

or fields that have been lucrative before such as, I'm talking

about the rackets in other words. I don't have to tell you that

the unions are handled and run by members of those organizations,


P: What were they like, what were they like at the turn of the century

in this early period?

C: Oh, they were, they were the ideal thing. They were the ideal

thing in the sense that it was something to really help the worker

in all sense of the word. It was a family affair more or less. It

was a mutual benefit, you know, ____benefit there.

It was a society that not only were they kind of protected from the

wrongdoings of the manufacturers and the big bosses and so on, but

at the same time they required some improvements in their work and

also in the shops that through their agitations and protests and

so on that they goti One of the things that they got was what they

called 'the lectures', see, and the cigar makers paid-I don't know

whether it was a dime a piece at the end of the week...

P: For this person to read.

C: ...for this person to read.

P: Did they all read in Spanish or did any read in Italian?

C: In Spanish, all in Spanish, and there was a period of the news, you know,


Page 9. dib

the local news...

P: Yes.

C: ...and the international and national, international news followed

by the reading of a novel, see, and a lot of the people that didn't

have the opportunity of going to school they became educated through


P: By listening.

C: ...by listening and so on, and that is why a lot of people know about

the works of Victor Hugo and all the other big works, literary works

that we know about.

P: I've read somewhere where the owners became very agitated by the

practice of the lectures of reading what they regarded as propaganda...

C: Yes,.yes.

P: ...socialist or anarchist, r veadi'n and such.

C: Yes, right, right, right.

P: What kinds of readings of that nature did they, did they...

C: Well, the only thing was that they, for example, if shy, in Pars

in France some place they were protesting about something and the,

and the authorities gunned them down or arrested them and so on,

naturally that made news.

P: Yes.

C: And that was read. And then according to whoever, I mean from whatever

newspaperlib was written, of course if it was an editorial, well, you

know the editorial was naturally pro-workers and the manufacturer


Page 10. dib

naturally never goes along with anything like that, see.

P: Right.

C: And that's why and it got to the point then when later on through

a series of strikes that they had for betterment in the work, one

of the things that the manufacturers were able to come across and

put over them was the removal of 4t)

P: So you're saying that what they objected to were largely newspaper

or magazine reports of events rather than for example, works of

Malatesta or Corace or your father.

C: Yes, yes.

P: Did they read more philosophical _(h_ 5 ?

C: Well, they read some of those, yes. They read some of those, but it

was, you see the workers were the ones that selected what to be

read, see. Now everyone that was in the factories weren't liberal

minded, see. There were, there were a lot of workers at that time

who were just as conservative as the boss himself, see. But naturally

they did like what they read and what they heard, the works being

interesting and so on, but .then when it came to some of the other

things, just as it always turns out, a lot of times the individual

even though something is done.for his betterment he doesn't want to

go along with it, see, and he, consequently he gets kicked around

more than before, see. I mean it's the same, it was true then and

it's true today.

P: Right.

C: In other words right now for example, I mean something that I can


Page 11. dib

parallel it with, this country as you know, even though the economists

and the big wigs in Washington tell us that the economy's getting

better all the time it's getting worse all the time and people, then

you say, well, how come the people stand for it? Well, today things

are a little bit different than during the time of the big, so called,

depression. In the early days, I'm talking about in the twenties,

the farmers out in the west when they were going to be foreclosed by

the federal marshall they came out with their rifles and so on to

chase them away because things were a little bit different then.

Today we have something that prevents the average person from talking

or doing more than what he should do and that's because today he has

a social security check coming in. Pensions, the checks are coming

in now and in those days pension was something that maybe a few

people had, see. So the average person, probably the average person

and the one that is retired and especially the one that is in

advancing years, he says, "Well, what the heck. I got this coming

in every month[and so on]. Why should I, or let somebody else worry."

The younger people who are wage earners, if the cost of living goes

up they demand more pay and 44 the inflation keeps on going and

so on and so on and so on and so on, and I mean one of these days

either the whole thing busts completely or someone will say,"Well,

we can't go any further than here. So what it's going to be is

anybody's guess,see.

P: To return for a moment to these unions, they really interest me, did

Itlalians and Cuban workers belong to the same unions or did they


Page 12. dib

have separate Italian unions or separate Cubanr...

C: No, no, they belonged to the same union with this exception, that

they were, you see, the cigar industry is divided in this, in this

way. There were the cigar makers. Besides the cigar makers there

were the selectors. The selectors were the, a group of people that

selected the finished product. They were better paid and they were

more or less in an upper echelon and they themselves considered them-

selves better than the workers themselves, see. Then there was

the packer, the one that actually packed the finished products in


P: Who were these people? Were they generally Spanish, Spanish...

C: Oh yes, yes, mostly Spanish.

P: ...Cuban Italian.

C: Yes, there was Cuban and Spanish, but mostly Spanish. The choice

jobs at the very beginning were handled, were held by Spaniards.

Why? Because the owner of the factory was Spaniard, the general

managers of the factory, Spaniards, and so naturally they had to

pull, they had to pull for their friends. This man here was the

general manager of one of the biggest cigar factories in Tampa.

I'm next to him. We, it was, good friends and we used to go

fishing. This was my brother-in-law. He passed away, too, and

this, his brother-in-law who is snapping the picture of him. He's

the owner of this boat, see, and every so often we used to go,and


Page 13. dib

this boat had a stove, everything. Then we used to fish, clean

the fish there and eat it there, see. I mean the real life, see.

P: Sounds great.

C: And now this manwas a Spaniard. My brother-in-law was a Spaniard.

Now my brother-in-law and this man here were roommates when they

were single and they used to live in my brother-in-law's aunt's

home, and naturally he always worked the better types of cigar

which paid better, see. Now, then this man naturally was going to

be looking out more for his people than, you know. And so then

as time went on, of course, more people got in which meant more

Italians got into the industry, and like I was saying then things

began to change, see. But predominantly it was always controlled

by the Spaniards. Today you don't have the same set up as before.

Number one, the coming in of the machines that make the complete

product has eliminated the vast number of workers, and there is

no more hand-made cigars except for some rare places where they still

want to operate that way, see. But most, and the buildings are still

there, most of them, the ones that haven't been converted.into

other things like sewing mills and so on and so forth, see.

P: Right.

C: But...

P: I notice on your shelf here that you have this Autobiography of

Angelo Masares, and I read through that a couple of months ago

and I seem to remember that he says in there that in this early


Page 14. dib

period that there were a large number of, oh, debating societies or

political clubs...

C: Yes.

P: ...who used to invite speakers in...

C: Yes.

P: ...and quite a lively rivalry amongst each other.

C: Yes, this is, this is the very beginning. Now in anticipation to

what might, might have come up in our discussion, you notice that I have here

two Masares.

P: Ah, Salvatore?

C: Salvatore and Ignacio.

P: Ignacio.

C: Now these are two brothers.

P: Angelo?

C: Of Angelo. Now Angelo passed away.

P: Yes.

C: I also went to see a third brother, Dominico, and my thing was that

I wanted to get a book that he wrote which is not this. It's

called [Itlalian language].( L4 (Bi l{'d J/jt/ d )

P: I've seen it.

C: Have you come across that book?

P: Yes.

C: I was, do you have it?

P: It's in our library.

C; Oh, it is?


Page 15. dib

P: Yes.

C: Good, all right, that, that'solves the problem.

P: About this, this thick?

C: I was, I wasn't here when that book came out. That book was published

in White Plains and I have the publishers, I have a letter of

the publishers here. And I felt that if you didn't know about

the book I was going to give you that, because of everything that

Mr. Masare wrote. You know Mr. Masare was just another immigrant...

P: Yes.

C: ...who was very ambitious and he got...

P: ?

C: Yes, but these arehe brothers.

P: O.K., right.

C: You won't be able to get, I'll tell you ahead a time, you won't be

able to get anything from them. You won't be able to get anything

from them because they're not, the emphasis, the reason why I have

these names is because I was going to go to one or the other of the

other to fetch this book.

P: I see.

C: See?

P: Yes.

C: But since you have the book, forget about them.

P: O.K..

C: Yes, and then too, they won't be because they came late, you see?

P: Right.


Page 16. -dib

C: And they, they never have been interested in that. N6w this, going

back to this Mr. Masare. Mr Masare was as I say he came in after

the turn of the century. In fact he was about, oh, he must have

been sixteen years old when he came here. It was after the turn of

the century. He got into the cigar makers, into the cigar factories

and became a cigar maker. But he was very ambitious as I said

and he...

P: He discusses that pretty thoroughly in his own book.

C: Well, yes, yes. Well, I don't have to tell you. Of course I knew

Mr. Masare. In fact I know all the Masares. We were kind of

close and his ideas didn't jive one hundred percent and so I think

we got along very nicely and in fact he came to me when he wrote

this book, about the Italian community. In fact in that book there

is my picture in that book because he wanted, he says, "No," I said

"Oh," I-says, "I'm not, I don't represent it." He says, "Oh, yes,

you do, because[this that and the other]." And so finally I gave

him my picture. I even had a picture, I turned in a picture of a

cousin of mine who was the principal of one of the high schools here

who he died at fifty. In fact he collapsed in his own office...

P: U, ?

C: ...at fifty. And his picture is there, too, and so on. Now he

came to see me and he wasn't sure, not knowing the language, that

is the English language, he wasn't sure about you know, when there


Page 17. dib

are certain...

P: Sure.

C: ...terms that used in the context can mean one thing and one, it

all depends how you apply it and so on. And he, one of the things

that he couldn't understand was the difference in hammock. Well,

you know, in Florida, hammock, you know what...

P: / ___

C: ...yes, and so on. Well, he thought it was a swing, you know.

P: Yes.

C: And he couldn't, he says, "No," this and that, "This is what this

means in this case," because I had told him that if he wanted to

get some notes he could get the Florida Handbook which had a

lot of historical background on the whole state in general and

that he could get enough information from that, see. Now the local

S tff then he had to go elsewhere because the book didn't

have too much other than the historical background of Tampa being

a village and so on and so forth and how it grew and when the

cigar industry came in and that they expanded to, how it was after

the turn of the century. But in my opinion because the book is

documented and there's a lot of material obtained from other sources

and so on, makes a better presentation. That is the book makes

a better presentation than some of this other stuff that he read.

Now I have what he, what he wrote here.

P: Right.

C: But I mean you can tell the structure, the construction of the wording


Page 17. dib

and everything else, and then you understand the man wants to be

modest,in every other word he brings in the

P: Yes.

C: You noticed that?

P: Yes, I did.

C: Right, yes. Well, that is, that was Masare.

P: Everyone I spoke to said that that was Mr. Masare.

C: Yes, yes, yes.

P: But do you have any recollections yourself or have you heard about,

talking among your family about these debating societies or the

people that came. Like, 'll ^'/ *- .>::. came, do you


C: Yes...when, no, this is before my time.

P: Do you ever remember your father ________ about it?

C: Yes, yes. When the people here, especially,you didn't have to be

necessarily Italian. But there were some Italians that adhearegP

to the socialistic concepts and ideas and of course, we must remem-

ber, too, that socialism in those days was altogether different

from socialism today, see, and the same thing as communism. They

use that name when they are talking about Cuba and when they talk

about Russia and when they talk about Tito's country, and they

call it communism. Communism is not, it's everything but communism.

See, everything but communism. But unfortunately there aren't too

many people that want to sit or stand long enough to listen to

someone that may want to explain what communism really is and so.


Page 18. dib

Even during the times of Trotsky communism was different, and but

the real communism even before it, the so-called Libertarian

Communism and the Liberal Communism, that's almost a utopia, you

know. I mean, but it takes a broad mind and it takes someone with

a certain amount of intellect to be able to actually see. You
talk or you mention communism to anybody,oeaP a conversation and

so on and the first thing they think that that means that the

country is going to come down right away and they are going to be

deprived of everything and so on and so forth, and they think that

it's something that is established overnight, a takeover and that's

it. Well, all of these so-called takeovers as you well know, is

just the changing of the guard. That's all it is, see. Yes.

So by going back to the early days the people, of course, no

television, no other kind of amusement except what they themselves

created such as outdoor festivities, picnics and getting together,

probably a dance or something like that. Other than that during

the week what were they going to do? They were the people that

preferred to go to a corner, what we call today a dive or a...

C: ...you know, where they have the jukeboxes and things like that and

sit down and sip coffee and play dominos or cards and things. There

were others that were hungry for knowledge and they even established

a school. The ones that knew more, that had been fortunate enough

to have gone to school in their early days and they knew the alphabet

and knew a little bit of arithmetic. They took, say, five, six, seven


Page 19. dib

people under their wings. My father did that and...

P: He began his...

C: Yes.

P: ...teaching...

c: Ai-d)a t fJj/- .

P: ...here in Tampa?

C: Yes, and teach them the rudiments, you know, a little bit about one,

they would divide the evening a little bit for arithmetic, a little

bit for grammar and so on. This is all in Italian by the way, see.

P: Yes.

C: Because they figure that the first thing that they should have known

was their language. Then after that other schools got started, you

know, that they could go in the evenings, you know, in the evenings.

But this came much later on.

P: 11'Tm tthe beginning it was just one man or two men 6,Le'/g a little
group of ma i< /cer QOdet

C: That's all, that's all. Yes, I remember, this I remember. I was a

little tot and we had a long, last room like what we might call a

porch, but it was all enclosed, and we had a long table because we

always, well, there were five of us, six of us in the family and then

every now and then we always had people come in, you know, invited

and they would eat with us and naturally we always had a long table.

And he used that table for, let's see, one, two, three, about four

pupils all grownupswho worked during the day, and either twice a

week I believe it was.

P: Yes.


Page 20. dib

C: Twice a week they would come over and my father would teach them
r1 4 I ef-
what little he knew, and I remember one time I asked I said, "When

are you going to give them report cards? He says, "Well," he says,

"We don't, I don't have to give them report cards because I know

exactly what they're doing and so on." Well, he undersea where

I was coming from because...well, then others did the same thing.

In between they also found, they knew that there was the need for

something else, for some intellectual to come from the outside to

come over and bring not only knowledge about ideals and the way

that things were progressing, you know, throughout the world at

that time, but at the same time to get a little bit more of this

culture. And Malatesta was7lecturer of conferences and he was

invited to come and....

P: Do you know who invited him by an chance?

C: Well, it was the social club of that time. It was a social club.

P: Were l- only Italiana?

C: No, no, not only Italiana. Let me see, this could have been, let

me see,if I remember the name. You see, all of that material...


C: ...all of that material would be in what went over, you know, but I'm

trying to think...

P: Well, that's not that important.

C: ...because at the same time, you know, they had a little publication

going on, too, see, and I was trying to remember the name of the

publication and I don't, because there were several, you know, and


Page 21. dib

then one other time then there was a Spaniard.

P: A Spaniard? Pedro Usted?

C: Yes, Pedro Usted, yes, and well, you're well-informed.

P: I know that Coroce, Alcuro Coroce spoke here on occasion, too.

C: Yes, yes, yes, and ?idr-o U5Y cd then, he lives in Tampa. He was

a ij n -c-'typist of those days, and he was working with a

printing company. I don't even recall, know what the name...those

things don't exist anymore.

P: W1r /'/! / $ f D Nicho perhaps?

C: Which?

P: Nicho?

C: I, well, there was a...

P: No matter.

C: ...there was publication Nicho I think, yes. Then there was another

one called Antorcia.

P: Yes, yes.

C: Antorcia.

P: What was Antorcia? Was it'jmao e or just : ? *- ?

C: It was, well, a publication and they had a little social, social

club, see. And you see, this is, you people should, like I told
( Ir;) haov-
Eric and I told a lot of, and that you should/come

earlier when my father was around. Now he could have given you

from A to Z.

P: Yes, I know that_


Page 22. dib

C: From A to Z, everything, see. And talking about, something came

to mind when you were talking about that you had met Tony Pizza

and so on, now from time to time there are certain individuals that,

now I'm not talking,because I know Tony Pizza. I know him real

well and I'm just saying this about him. But from time to time

thereare some of these self-appointed historians, you know.

They just want to get into the limelight and so on and naturally

the only information that they give is more or less what I'm

giving you now, that it's not just say so. In some instances

only say so, because they have gone someplace else and they have

gotten the information maybe third, fourth, fifth hand, see. Now

I happen to know a little bit more about these things and that's

my reason why I answered theBanquist better, because I was closer

to these things than my brother was, see? Even though my brother

is older than I he led a different life. Not...

P: I understand.

C: ...too much apart from us, but since his line was different and his

interest went in another direction, why, he never was closer to

these other things like the anarchist movement and so on, as I was,

see. And of course, I wasn't in, I was not what you might call a

militant or anything like that, but I just happened to like the idea

and the idea is a pure one and that's why in a way I don't consider

myself one, because to be one you have to be pure. Now I have to,

I have to say something like the Christian, see, that in order to be


Page 23. dib

a pure and good Christian according to the religious people, it's

hard to find one and perhaps there isn't one because everyone has

sinned, see. And so in this case I'm saying the same thing. To

be an anarchist, I mean, you have to be immaculate

in all sense of the wordibar g mind, soul and everything, see.

And who is i Now it's something good to be working

towards that end, see, that is why in talking about various things

that have happened since the fifties and the sixties and so on

not only locally or in our country, but abroad, even though it's

not the ideal thing but I consider it as being one step forward.

Years ago, you know, just, just for having ideals they would elec-

trocute you, see, and they would condemn you, they would do this

and do the other. Now things are different, and in other things

if it hadn't been for these people that have had enough gumption

to get up and make a protest here and make their voices heard

and so on...

P: L'lIe ogy 3-li .e

C: ...we would, that's why a lot of times I tell some of these people,

I says, "Now you shouldn't be against these people because hadn't

it been for these people we wouldn't be in the situation...we're

inbad, bad4stat yes, but I mean we have progressed some and I

also remind the people that I can talk to and they are willing to

listen. Roosevelt or the Roosevelt administration didn't do or

brought about the social reforms that we got because those people

had a likening for the populist because it was a necessity and

the people's voice was heard.


Page 24. dib

P: You know, in studying off and on Tampa and its Italian community

for a few years now, and I've only run across, oh, just a handful

of Italian language newspapers that survived today.

C: Yes, uh huh.

P: Our library up in Gainesville has three publications, La Roche De

Colina, one named and one named...

C: What s /i Ie'/d' ?

P: The Dawn, the .

C: Oh,_

P: yes.

C: Yes, yes.

P: And one entitled the .

Do you know, number one do you know of any existing still surviving

Italian language newspapers from this early period or where any might


C: That were published in Tampa?

P: Or Ybor City?

C: I happen to know about one that was called...but it didn't last very

long. It was of short duration. I think, t remember.

P: Well, I'm really more interested to know if you know where any are

right now that people might have in their attic or cellar or whatever...

C: No, now you see, we, as I said, my father, the only ones available

my father had.


Page 25. dib

P: He had them.

C: Had those, yes, and those are the ones that went overseas. As far

as the ones, there aren't any now and there weren't too many people

who, who were friends of my father or who had more or less the same

ideas, that were collectors. There weren't. Now there is one

individual that I know and I was talking to him not too long ago,

he's getting up there in age himself. In fact I think he's about

eighty-five, eighty-six now, and he still has all his faculties

and all that. And he was telling me that he had already, gotten

rid of all of his information, but the only thing that I can do

is that if any time when I happen to see him if he happens to have

anything like that and he has no need or use for it I'll be glad

to get it and send it to you. Or if I happen to come across anything

from some other source. You know as of now I can tell you that

the only collector was my father and that all of his material was

sent. The only things that I have left is a few books that were

dedicated to him by...

P: Well, we wouldn't, I wouldn't even need to keep any of these things.

C: Yes.

P: We could just microfilm them and send them back.

C: Yes, I, yes, yes. That's why I say that if I happen to come across

anything like that I'd be more than glad...

P: O.K., I'd be very appreciative.

C: Yes, oh yes, right now as I say there isn't anything on hand. Nothing

like that. And I was trying to rem


Page 26. dib


P: ...to this orator and person of some importance...

C: Yes.

P: ...from Sicily by the name of Lorenzo Ponitinto.

C: t__i/'_/_ He was a professor, a teacher, a school teacher.

P: And evidentally Ponitinto came over here on several occasions and

talked and gave lectures, whatever. Evidentally from these papers

they say...

C: Yes.

P: ...he was a great favorite.

C: Yes, yes.

P: They mention that this fellow, Ponitinto, came from the home village,

Santo Stephano'..

C: Yes.

P: ...of many of the Italians that live here.

C: Yes.

P: Do you remember anything about the man or can you tell me anything

about him?

C: No, because this is also before my time.

P: Remember any...

C: But the only thing I know is that he was a school teacher.

P: Over there or here?

C: Yes, no, over there, over there. And talking about where he came

from I'm pretty sure that in the book by Angelo Masare, that's why


Page 27. dib

I was anxious to get that book, but because as far as the immigration,

information on immigration from Sicily, the Italians here in Tampa,

that is in my, in my estimation a better book, the best book there

is because he himself came from Santo Stephano, see? And he knew

a lot of the people here because they were from his town. Not

from the next town which was Alexandria, see, and they all knew

each other.

P: Well, was, was this fellow actually a socialist?

C: Who?

P: Ponitinto.

C: Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

P: Why would he go to all the time and trouble to come over and talk?

Just to visit friends or was he a committed teacher?

C: No, he probably, he probably was going around, you know, delivering

con-, these conferences, you know, like someone gets invited to

present a speech to the Chamber of Commerce and so on and so forth

and a cultural group was interested in him. Later on there was another

one that did not come from Sicily. He came from, from the, let

me see, from the Adriactic side. His name was, let me see what

is his name?

P: Perhaps Luigi Galiano?

C: No, no, no, he was a, he'was a cavalier. He was a great man, Luigi

Galiano. He was the, one of the exponents of anarchism.

P: Galiano is.

C: Yes, oh yes.

P: Yes.


Page 28. dib

C: Very highly talented individual.

P: Do you have any remembrances of him iC prMtcS(ar ?

C: No, I don't, I just happen to know his daughter who is a doctor

in the Massachusettes area, and one of his sons whom I have not

seen in some time now. He was the editor of an anarchist paper

that was published up north and it was called( riortatad :Af r j

No, no, no, no, wait a minute.

P: Chronica ?

C: Chronic ,_yes. Chronica that's


P: Was your father and Galiani friendly? Did they ?

C: Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, yes.

P: Did you ever hear your father speak about him?

C: Oh yes, yes, in fact this is the latest thing that came out about

him. It's more or less ae /'cil iopf some of his, let me see,

oh, here's ah...of course this is some work picked and

you know, from Biblioteca de las Sonada see. Right here.

P: Yes. He visited Tampa at a relatively..../

C: I think so, yes. Of course I didn't know him? es--~~c' >--

P: Yes. Paterson, New Jersey.

C: Yes. Yes, everytime that I get a letter like, or this is like from

an individual like you and we have to talk about these things, you

know, it's sickening, you know...

P: I know.


Page 29. dib

C: ...to know that this couldn't have happened before.

P: I understand what you're saying.
J /or` e
C: Because/Yur people would just come over and I remember my father

would have sessions, hours and hours, you know, and talking because

that was his meet and he knew, he knew what he was talking about.

He lived it and he was deeply involved in it and so on, and something

that he really believed in whole-heartedly and so on. So naturally

he paid attention to every little thing and naturally, like in

everything else, whenever anything came out that was in contradiction

or anything that wasi- antithesis to what the real thing should

have been when naturally there was the so-called do_ .

P: Yes.

C: You see?

P: Yes.

C: Because a lot of newcomers a lot of times, you know, they want to not

necessarily take over, but they want to bring in renovations. Well,

in this particular field, especially in the field of anarchism,

there is no such thing as renovation. Anarchism is anarchism. Yes-

terday, today and tomorrow, see. Now I don't care what, what any-

body thinks or how modern an individual wants to be, see. Of course

it's true that you change with the times, but you don't change the

idea, see. Because it's not like, like morality today, that today

if you want to define morality the majority of the people have a

different definition for morality. But I think that morality is

morality anytime. And htt& because society accepts certain things


Page 30. dib

it doesn't make it right, some things I'm talking about, see. Just

the same that I personally believe that while the majority wins,

d not necessarily means that the majority is right.. I mean, and this

thing works the same way.

P: I'm interested to know how you feel, it's always been curious to

me how the, sort of the native American community here around in

Tdmpa reacted to the intellectual ferment that was evidentally going

on in the Italian and Cuban communities particularly...

C: They didn't like it. They didn't like it. And here is a very

good example that I'm going to site in a minutes. You know, there

is a saying, but I don't know how prevalent it is now, but I imagine

it is too, now, that you take an individual that is in power and he

may not be the brightest but he has the power, and he doesn't

want smart people around. He wants people with less intelligence

than he has, see. O.K., now in the early days, just like anyplace

else, out in the west, in the east, anyplace else. Excuse me.

P: Sure.

C: A few more minutes.

P: O.K.

C: And he was in, he was in the hospital and he had suffered a massive

heart attack.

P: Oh, that's too bad.

C: My sister-in-law called saying that he passed away. It must have been

this morning sometime.


Page 31. dib

P: Well, you say, you say that the native Americans generally did not...

C: Oh yes, yes.

P: ...like it. What sorts of things, did they do anything specifically

active to show this displeasure?

C: Yes, O.K., I'll tell you. One particular instance, the people that

were running the so-called destinies of the community or the city

and so on, the ec4e fathers and so on, they naturally had control

of everything. They controlled actions. They controlled everything,

and everybody had to abide by the rules and existing rules and

regulations were, with all kind of disregard for human liberties,

human rights. No constitution, no first amendment, nothing like

that. O.K., and naturally the people, most of them being here,

newcomers and more or less considering themselves foreigners, you

know, because they, not only they considered themselves that, but

things worked out to make them consider themselves as being

foreigners, you know, and so on. So if someone got, would advance

himself they would sort of ( ) him a little bit, see. Now

there was one particular instance where there was a man who con-

trolled quite a bit of the property, the money and everything in

Tampa. And there was, this is so-called an anglo-saxon person.

We always refer to them as Americans. We're just as much of Americans

as they are, see. Or if you want to bring it down to the real thing,

the only American is the red man, the so-called Indian, see. Well,

and there was an Italian who through his own efforts learned how

to read and write and so on and he would interpret for his fellow


Page 32. dib

man, his and so on, and if someone had to go to the

court-house to straighten out a deed or something he would be

available and so on. Well, now he was close to the doings that

were going on, not that he was snooping around, but I mean he wasn't

a fool and he happened to know, and they were working and looking

for some kind of a pretext to get rid of this individual. And so

they took advantage of an incident that happened. There was some

kind of a cigar makers strike going on and there was a little

agitated crowd in front of one of the cigar factories. And one

crazy hothead individual, to this day they don't know who it was,

pulled a gun when the bookeeper of that firm came out to the platform

either to quiet the people down or to disperse them, see. And this

hothead, as I said, to scare them took a shot and instead of firing

out into the air he pointed and he actually killed the bookeeper, see.

Now that was enough for the <, fathers to go and fetch this

man who had nothing to do with the thing, but they, they claimed

that he was one of the agitators and along with him when they got

him there was another man, the names of these two, one was Albado

and the other was Figaroda, and they got a hold of the other one

who was with him so he wouldn't be able to say anything, and they

strung him up, strung him up. Now that is one instance.

P: Gracious.

C: Here's another instance, that they didn't like and they always were

going against these people. During another period there was a little

strike going on and the cigar makers, they just wanted the thing


Page 33. dib

to last out because they wanted to be the victors. They wanted to-et

gewhat they were striking for and so on. And naturally no

work, no money. So they had some funds on the side and they had

established the open kitchens. They had large pots and so on

where they would make a morning meal and a night meal, afternoon

meal, and the workers would go there and either they would eat

there or they would have some kind of a pail or something where

they would take the food to their loved ones at home. Well, this

sustained them and kept the movement going and going. The city

fathers again decided that they were, that they were not having

their own way because this thing was going on and the longer these

soup kitchens or these kitchens were in operation that these people

weren't going to give up. So what happened was that they sent

some vigilantes or so-called vigilantes, and they knocked down

every /27t ?','n4 I have a letter answering a former

mayor of the city of Tampa when he came out with an article, and

he had a page in the Tampa Tribune and I think it was called

"Florida[something]", I don't know what, dedicated to Florida. And

there was one instance where this thing was brought in and he told

the story, oh, the writer that was writing for him told the story

according to the way he wanted it. So when my father read it and

I read it, then we immediately sent, wrote Mr. McKay a letter and

we told him what the real thing...he never, he was polite enough


Page 34. dib

to answer but we never did get the satisfaction...

P: Yes, the other side.

C: ...of a correction or why it was written that way. I have the letter

here someplace that...

P: I understand what you're saying, right.

C: Yes, yes.

P: Was there any, at any time, because I think I'm fairly safe in saying

that your father was almost surely the most active and the most

widely read and the most famous person writing in this vein or

in this area, was there any other active, oh, discrimination or

oppression, call it what you will, directed specifically at him

because of his activities and ?

C: Well, yes, for example the things that he used to receive through

the mail were suppressed.

P: You mean keep them or open them or check them?

C: Well, I imagine they opened them and then...for example he would

receive Chronica and since that paper was supressed

and all the postoffices had notice that whoever received that was

under surveillance or something because they thought they were going

to blow up the country or something, see. And I remember another

time my brother was receiving, I don't know whether it was my

brother or myself, was receiving mail from California and so I

was called in by the immigration department and they wanted to

know, oh, they wanted to know why I was receiving this and I don't

just recall exactly what, but I was the, says, "Well,"
justL~+m sy,"Wl,


Page 35. dib

says, "It's allowed to go through the mail and that's it. When

it stops, when they censor it, well, that's it. I don't receive it

anymore." I says, "I can," I says, "I read this as much as I read

the Bible and I read the Jehovah Witnesses or I read any other thing

and if anyone decides to send it to me I'll read. If I like it

I'll keep on reading it. If I don't like I don't have to read it

anymore," see. And naturally anytime that there's a group that is

active like that and they feel that it ought to be stopped, why,

then they stop it. Of.course it wasn't as bad, I don't think, as

the witch hunts during the McCarthy years, you know.

P: Yes, different.

C: But more or less in the same light, see.

P: Do you have any feeling or estimate for what sort of say following

your father might have had here in the Tampa area in terms of people

that shared his philosophy or followed him in d. rooAh Soy't mo ?

C: Well, I'll put it this way, as far as the inner feelings, his

highest ideals which were the ideals of anarachism, there were few

of those because as I said before you've got to understand the

philosophy behind it, the principals and everything else. Now as

far as the workers were concerned he had a tremendous following

because my father was considered to be honest and if he had to say

something he said it no matter what, and he wasn't afraid and even

when there was...because in parenthesis I must say that during

the time when the so-called communists had taken Phold of a few

things in the Tampa Bay area, we used to fight them, too. We fought


Page 36. dib

communism and we fought fascism because we considered it to be another

form of fascism, see, communism as it was carried out, see.

P: Yes.

C: So and even those:: same people had to agree in talking on the same

platform to audiences and so on, when people of different ideas

and tendencies had the right to address the people they had to,

I remember one, one individual that had to agree that what my

father said was right and that he couldn't put the finger on him

about anything, see, because he was to the point, and he was

honest with himself and everybody else. Now when it came to the

labor movement and the labor movement, I mean people in the labor

movement included all sorts of people in all walks of life as far

as ideas are concerned. There were Catholics, non-Catholics,
Protestants, people with or without ideas and so on. Some socialist,

communist and so on. But when it was for the workers movement

everyone banned together, and naturally there were people that

participated in that and had different ideas, too, even though

it was in the workers movement, see. But he had that following,

see. He had that following.

P: You know, I've looked in depth at the Italian community in New York

and I'm just beginning sort of to get into this group, but in New

York the padrone, the labor boss...

C: Yes.

P: ...in the early period was a very important institution. I wonder


Page 37. dib

if the padrone if, well, first of all if there were padrone here in

the Tampa area, and number two, do you have any idea how long they

last in terms of being in a position of influence in the community

in an active position in the labor area?

C: Well, I think that the padrone here or elsewhere wears the same

coat, I think. Because he, he represents the millions of the

industry or that particular type of group of workers and the workers

depend on what...

P: Well, were their pad-, were their padrone involved in funneling

workers into the cigar unions or cigar industry rather or did they

find jobs in other areas other than the cigar?...

C: You mean for them?

P: For, well, for anyone that wanted to hire workers.

C: Uh huh, well, no, they just had their, they just had their shops

read for operation and then the so-called general managers of

the shop would be the ones that did the hiring.

P: Through-padrone or directly to the workers?

C: No, just they knew that workers were needed and they called one

out at such-and-such a factory, see, I'm referring to the cigar


P: Yes.

C: ...needed workers and so many applied, and as the case is there are

more applicants than actual jobs, see. But it was handled through

the manager itself, see. Now sometimes the manager would delegate

somebody else who was a step below he was, see, and say...


Page 38. dib

P: To do the hiring, yes.

C: ...tell so-and-so that he can report for work next week or tomorrow

or something like that, see. Yes.

P: Well, Mr. Coniglio, this is...

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