Title: Interview with Cesar Marcos Medina (May 22, 1984)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006522/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Cesar Marcos Medina (May 22, 1984)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: May 22, 1984
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: UF00006522
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 45

Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
Full Text

This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
the University of Florida.

Ceasar Medina
Hills-Ybor 45A


Ceasar Medina has lived in Ybor City for most of his life. He moved there
as a young boy with his family in 1903. Medina's father worked at the
Martinez Ybor factory as a lector. He was a lector in several other cigar
factories. Later he served as a manager for one factory. Ceasar first
worked in a cigar factory at age sixteen. For several years he also worked
at the Bank of Ybor City. He later took a job in a bakery, and
subsequently bought it. He renamed the Two Brothers Baker, Wholesome
Bakery, and his bakery became the largest in Tampa.

The Medina interview is laced with memories and anecdotes of life in Ybor
City. The making of Cuban and American breads, inter-ethnic dating and
marriage, and tensions between Spaniards, Cubans, Italians, and Afro-Cubans
in Ybor are discussed. Also treated in the interview are cigar factory
life and worker strikes of 1910, 1920, and 1931. Medina is concerned with
the small hospitals and health-care support groups in Tampa, and speaks
about the Centros Asturiano and Espanol. A broken format of questioning is
quite evident in the interview. However, useful information may be gleaned
on Ybor City about culture, work, entertainment, and the difficulties of
living in the small Tampa community.

Interviewee: Caesar Marcus Medina
Interviewer: Gary Mormino
Place: Ybor City
Date: 5-22-84

G: Do you have any reminiscences about the Gonzales-Toyes Clinic?

C: I have a question, the ,Gonzales, in addition to the clinics that the clubs had, like
O CrIA 0
the Centro Espanol in el Centro s a, their own hospitals...

G: We were talking about the Gonzales-Toyes Clinic..

C: The Gonzales Clinic was one of the number of clinics that were independent that supplies(

the membership by prepayment. Medical services and they had their own clinic there.

They did a very good job for many years, but of course it became obsolete because

hospitals became very modern, very expensive and the facilities there were out of,

out of date, and the people who had been instrumental in building it passed away and

Mrs. Gonzales, who is now Mrs. Benez, was not,

G: Um hm.

C: Do you know her?

G: Well, I'm going to talk with her on Thur r J

C: Ah, well, you-talk to'her. Mrs. Benez, between us, she's a very fine person. She's

formerly a nurse, but she didn't have the management technique or background to

operate an operation of that kind. Operating a hospital is one of the most difficult.

I've been involved in that for many years. one of the most difficult businesses you

have to contend with, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And unfortunately,

when you, when the product is people, and when they mistake the people die. And that

could be very serious.

GM: I'm interested in discussing Ybor City within the framework of traditional American

history, World War I in Ybor City. What are your reminiscences?

C: Well, I think that World War I was a very tragic thing because it took a lot of the

young people from here and the only reason I didn't go is because I had lost my

father and if you had a family, you were exempt, and so-called shipworkers and essenta l

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 2

C: industries so, and then, at that time, one of the things that caused a tremendous

impact here was the flu epidemic.

GM: Right, influenza.

C: Thousands of people died, particularly young people. Talking about the Uuban Club that,

the ballroom of the Cuban Club was being used as an emergency hospital. They had

hundreds of people there laying on the floor. They.would die like that. And they

couldn't do anything for them. I was working at the bank, and you know, fortunately

the man that operated that bank had been a former eye and ear and nose specialist and

he required that'all of us, every two hours, we would go to the bathroom and inhale

water with salt and none of the employees of that bank contracted flu, and all around

us, people were dying, and of course we were exposed like he said talking to the

customers you know, all day long. You know, people would cough and mOy but we

were very fortunate.

GM: What about Armistice Day in Ybor City?

C: Oh, fantastic. It was wild. Wild.

GM: Where'd you go that evening?

C: Oh, right up and down Seventh Avenue. See in those days people used to walk a lot, see.

They used to have these concerts on Saturday night. That's how you'd meet the girls

you know. All the girls would walk up in this direction and the boys would walk up in

this direction, and they would hhle each other and stop and talk and

GM: The aftermath of the war also bibught prohibition, the Volstead Act.

C: That was the worst thing that ever happened in my opinion in this country for the

disrespect of law.

GM: Ybor City was dry I take it.

C: When I was a child, you know, anytime anybody said that you violated a federal law,

people just dreaded being accused of anything like that, but when prohibition came and

everybody used to drink on the side and had a bootlegger, why R the law became

a I/ of jokes, you see, and of course it spread on. The disrespect or law in this

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 3

C: country which has been growing as you know and that's why the crime rate has gone,

we've got, is I believe the beginning of that was the Volstead Act. You cannot

prohibit people to do things that they feel that they are entitled to. Especially

when it's prevailing all over the world,

GM: Ybor City was pretty wide open I understand.

C: Yes.

GM: Uh huh.

C: I can remember..

GM: Personal anecdotes?

C: Well, of course, the r6d light district was across the street from Seventh Avenue

GM: Uh huh, right. Was this the El Dorado and the Imperial?

C: Oh, we all went to the Imperial, we always went to

G: 5L^JR 3'6YP

GM: Comment on that a little bit.

C: We talk about all the girls dancing nude now, see, they were doing that a long time

ago. There was no difference.

GM: Really. And Fort Brooke was pretty wide open too I guess.

C: That was a, that was a red light district like you see in Europe. You been to Europe?

GM: Um hm.

C: Well, you've been to Amsterdam then?

GM: No.

C: "Don't know Amsterdam, you know, you been in, not Madrid, but every other city in

Spain. Course that's an accepted, and I don't know whether it's good or bad. I was

in Panama and they have a (c( I.* and I was questioning that and they said, Mr. Medina,

if we didn't have this red light district, he says, our wives in this city would be

in danger/he said, because all these sailors that come through here, said they're just

wild and he says, we've found that this is something that we have to accept as such.

GM: Just out of curiosity rather than prurient interests, but were most of the prostitutes

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 4

GM: latin women or women from outside?

C: No, they were Latin women, but the Latin women were the minority for that reason that

the moral situation. They were mostly Anglo-saxon and

GM: Mulattos?

C: Huh?'-

GM: Mulattos in Fort Brookes

C: Yes. There were a lot of whites too.

GM: Right, okay, yeah.

C: Course I was very young. This terminated just about the time that

GM: Right. What about the, in terms of bootlegging, was one ethnic group more involved

than any other?

C: I would say that the Italians were about, probably the strongest in that group. You

heard the Capone, but bak-.then Chicago had filtered down.

GM: Um hm. They had, yeah. In terms of retailing, would they also retail? Or how would

bootleg whiskey be retailed in Ybor City?

C: Mostly by individuals from door to door, and of course in the, in the restaurants

they served it in little demi-tasse cups, you know. You'd see people drinking

demi-tasse, you'd think they were drinking coffee and they were drinking whisky, and

of course the law was condoning. You see, you cannot have a violation, you cannot have

prostitution. You cannot have drinking, you cannot have gambling wide open unless

the law is approving it either undercover or openly.

GM: It's, it's, it was quite obvious the police were being paid off, right?

C: Why of course.

GM: Yeah. What about /olita?

C: Bolita, fk d IJ

G: Um hm. Um hm.

C: Yeah, that used to be a big'industry here. You know, it's practically disappeared.

It's a funny thing about that, how things change. When I was young, that Aolita, and

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 5

C: even when I was in the baking business, the day that the bolita would be played, we

would hardly sell'any bread in the lower income neighborhoods.

G: You mean everybody's playing

C: They would rather-have the twenty cents to buy a number than to buy a loaf of bread.

It's amazing. You could just tell it just like that. Um hm. Did you ev be

G: Um hm. Did you ever.see..

C: That's why I'm against gambling for the lower income groups because it's very


G: Did you ever see the bolita being played, grabbing the bag and

C: Oh, yeah, yeah, and we'd duplicate that at the rotary club. Every year we'd have a

benefit for the cancer.child center here and some of the old timers, they know

how to do it, you know, and they pass the bag and then they cut the "'0It

G: When it that done?

C: Hm?

G: When is that done?

C: Generally around spring. They charge a hundred dollars for a ticket because mostly

goes to the university, the cancer center over at the university,-the children,

Mrs. Judiths, are you familiar with her?

GM: No.

C: Yeah, she's a very dedicated, she's done a fantastic job for the children.

GM: What do you think happened with )oleta. Bolita suddenly in the late foe s and Fi+ ee

became, or particularly the eti, became out of hand. You know, Charlie Wall and

Scalione and these guys, what do you think happened to Bolita? Why did It become

so destructive"in terms of gang wars?

C: Well, of course that is because it was a, it was a great, rit was a very profitable

thing and of course, when /lkta was manipulated to as I mentioned, if a number came

out that the arrangement, the number to come out ahead of time AM by inserting certain

balls in there that could be detected and of course, if you did that, your pay-off

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page C

C: was very small and your profits were enormous. It's sort of like in liquor, in

bootlegging, some of the liquor that was sold was just terrible. It'd kill you, and

of course it was being sold as genuine scotch and so forth and so on. Anything that

is under-the-table lends itself to a lot of manipulation.

G: Well now did a lot of the families make their own wine and so forth at home?

C: Yes, in the earlier days, and this is particularly true more of the, not of the

Spaniards ortthe Cubans. The ones that were the wine makers were always the Italiansp

who had a background and they would bring it. They used to make pretty good wine. Some

of them still make it. Very few. Very few. I've had some. Course the winds that I

like are dry winds. And they generally do not produce dry wines.

G: No, the homemade are usually kind of sweet.

GM: In terms of the political development of Ybor City, why were, why were Latins so late

at getting involved in politics do you think? Not really til Vecchio and, well, in
1 303 IS-0
the county commission in the thirtie then, but even Vecchio and Greco in the f-b!ies

sa-; ees...

C: Well, first to begin with, of course, it took the second generation to get involved in

that. But you know the thing that is amazing, and I've discussed that with a lot of my

anglo-saxon friends, is that they complained very bitterly sometimes about the fact that

the Latins have been mayors and have been commissioners and so forth, and I says' you

know to me it's unbelievable that you, the majority of the people in this community,

permit this condition to exist, and you're so critical when it's within your power

to run for these offices. Oh, well, but you know, I've got a job.1ME. I say, well, of

course, if you don't want to sacrifice yourself to reduce your income by becoming

involved in politics, you have to accept that these fellows are willing to do that.

Nu2cio and Greco and Rodriguez, and you name them, see, who have been politically

pretty active in this community.

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 7

GM: How about Dick Nuio. How would you..

C: He was an honest politician. I knew him. He and I used to work across the street

from each other. He married Mr. Leccato's daughter. If he had been a different kind

of a politician, he'd be a millionaire. As it is, the poor man is living in a very

small home and barely getting by, you bee? Cause he was in power for a long time.

GM: What did Latins think of him?

C: Oh, they liked him. IAJ&y you know. Of course, he was a professional

politician. I knew him very, very well. Very intimately, as a matter of fact. And he

would start running, he would get elected today, and tomorrow morning, he would start

running already for the next one. And I used to tell him, I said, but how do you do it?

He said, well, he says, you know I got to get prepared.

GM: Was he good for Tampa?

C: I think he was good for Tampa Ies.

GM: Dick Greco?

C: Dick Greco was a smart individual.

GM: How was he different from Veeohi?

C: Of course he was much better educated and of course Tampa was a much bigger city and

was growing already. Martinez, I think, has done an outstanding job. There's another

Latin boy which I thought at the beginning I had a question mark because he'd been

such a strong union individual in the teachers groups, you know...

GM: I once accused him of being- d$ '

C: But he showed his determination e's not going to be swayed by any particular group.
Tampa's grown of course.

GM: What about the old, the old county commissioner's system when Nucio came to rise?

How did Ybor City benefit from that? I mean, do you remember any stories when you

were a young man then of Nucio dispensing favors?

C: Well, that's right, building parks and sidewalks and small thingsthat, and of course

naturally he would be looking e&ueije Latin interests as much as possible. That's

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 8

C: human nature.

GM: How about Caesar Medina? We're finally getting around to you. Give us an employment

history of Caesar Medina.

C: That's a long history. I started working in the cigar factory as assistant bookkeeper

for Salvistina Vega. I worked there for about three years and then after that, I went

to work with the Bank of Ybor City in the bookkeeping department. Eventually I became

the head of the foreign department of that bank, which was one of the largest depart-

ments in the city at that time. After that, in 1924, I used to keep books beside working

at the bank for several businesses around Ybor City and one of them was a bakery where

my uncle was involved. He had a son. The son died. He wanted to get out of the business

so I bought a half interest in that bakery which was very small.

GM: What was the name of the bakery?

C: Two Brothers.

GM: Two Brothers. Uh hih.

C: At that time, if they had had a psychiatric hospital they would have locked me up.

Cause everybody thought I had a very good job with the bank, and was making, in those

days, what was considered a lot of money, and this was a very small bakery, but I

could see the potential.
ktMI A4
GM: idea of a bakery business in Ybor City...just kind of a pause for a second, what

atypical bakery like Two Brothers was like, what year was this?

C: Two Brothers Bakery was a very small bakery. They would sell-maybe about a thousand

dollars worth of cakes and pies and cookies and so forth and Cuban bread, mainly.

And this guy, Llego, was one of the parties that was in partnership with my uncle and

there were twenty six or twenty seven of these little bakeries making Cuban bread and

and when the war, not war, when Roosevelt came to power, NRA, do you remember the NRA

days? I was the head of the Latin group and I had a terrible time trying to keep them

in line, and I got so disgusted that one day I said, "I am not making anymore Cuban


HILLS-Ybor 45A
Page 9

GM: What do you mean, keeping who in line? The Union? Or

C: Yeah, in other words, they couldn't, they couldn't, not the unions. The owners. They

were fighting among themselves and cutting prices and they would even, they put

a couple of bombs in some of the ovens and I was being the secretary.-I was

taken downtown for interrogation and all that kind of thing. It was a mess. I said

no more Cuban bread for me. And they said, you can't do that. I said, well, may be.

I'm going to make American bread. He says, but you're a Cuban and a Spaniard, and all

the Cubans, all the American bread is made by the Americans. Yeah, I said, well, this

Cuban is going to make American bread and so we decided to go into the American bread

business. And of course they did, they threw everything at us, but they never could

beat us, and we survived and we became the largest bakery in this city eventually.
GM: Just a pause for second. To a listener in the future, years from now, not

knowing what Cuban bread is, how would you describe Cuban bread?'
r CrJla
C: Cuban bread is a derivative of the so-called bread, but it's different. Cuban bread is

different, and of course, we were very successful in making Cuban bread, and also

American bread because we always had departed from what is being done. We always

believe in something new, so we introduced their process of making Cuban bread

patterned after American bread, which was using a large amount of yeast which was

very expensive and the Cuban bakeries wouldn't go for that, and also controlling

fermentation with ice, wnJgsTe-which was unknown in those days, and of course, odr

bread was completely different. I'd say there's never been anymore Cuban bread made

in Tampa like that, and there never will be unless they're willing to go back to that

process and then we used brick ovens. None of this modern fast business, see, so

the flavor was distinctive, and of course it sold and of course we had a tremendous


G: Did you put the palm leaves on 4c 4 r-C

C: Palm leaves,

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 10

GM: Whyo_.

C: And then of course, when we made American bread, we made it a bread, talking about

South Carolina, that was very well-liked in North and South Carolina in those days

and it was unknown in Florida and that's what they called dough brick. Very close

it looked like cake, and we used to make that in the pullman loaf, which was very

difficult to bake and very expensive, and our competitors just didn't want to go into

that, so the women liked it and we got the business. -7

G: Could you say why the palm leaves were used on the Cuban loa&?

C: How is that?

G: Could you describe the process of putting the palm leaves on the Cuban bread?

C: The palm leaf, the individual had to go out in the middle of the woods and cut

palmetto leaves, and many times they would be bitten by rattlesnakes which would

be curled around those, it was very dangerous, and then those palm leaves were brought

into the bakery and they sb-m soakdg'in water and then when the, when the loaf was

like this, then they turn it and they put the palm leaf and the thing that the palm

leaf didbeing that it had moisture) en that loaf was introduced into the oven,1C

moisture would explode and that would make the loaf of bread open, see. Like...that's

what they called table bread. There was table bread and sandwich bread. The sandwich

bread, the palm leaf wasn't used but very little so that it would be round and softer

because otherwise you couldn't eat the sandwiches. They were too hard. And Cuban

bread has no keeping qualities. Four or five hours after it's baked, gone.

G: Oh, so you have to buy it everyday.

C: Twice a day. We used to deliver bread twice a day to the home. We used to put it on

the nail on the wall, unwrapped.

G: Oh, just whack it up there.

GM: Who were your great rivals? Was it, Ferlita Bakery -----2--

C: Pardell -eyt .40) W

GM: Pardell

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 11

G: More?

C:' Huh?

G: More? (/-

CY Moria. His father was Ft YU See the union one time had

a strike among the bakers and they lost out, so then the union people formed

their own bakery.

GM: What did, your friends must have given you a lot of static about starting American

bread, huh?

C: Oh they none of them used,

GM: But you get the last laugh.

C: They got, not onlyYl /, they didn't like the competition and a lot of things

that were bad... I had the St. Petersburg Times running ads from my competitors telling

people not to, to be sure where they bought their bread, that some of this bread was

matte ih.Ybor City which was very unsanitary. Ybor City was suppose to be a dump, and

my boys used to bring it in and they'd say, look. What are you going to do? I said

I haven't got any money for that. I says, you know what I'm going to do with it? I'm

going to put it in the, you know what you do tomorrow? You go over there and you find

out where this guy has got the best customers and you work on them and take that

customer away from him, because there'gs one thing that they understand--the pocketbook.

I said, what we want is a business. We don't want any fight. And we had boys that

were fighters from the word go. I enjoyed that.

G: You like a good fight.

GM: Wene t change the name to Wolesome Bakeries.

C: In 1941 during Second World War,

GM: Prior to that, what was the name of your

C: Bamby

GM: Bambi

C: B-a-m-b-y

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 12


C: Best American Made Bread Yet.

G: Oh.

C: That originated up in your part of the world, in Atlanta.

G: Oh, it did. My goodness. I never knew.

C: Fran, it was a franchise name.

GM: What happened to many of the, well, two questions. What happened to many of your

competitors and what likely would have happened to you had you remained in the Cuban

bread business?

C: Oh, I would have egw disappeared. I would have disappeared. As a matter of fact, when
I went into the American bread business in the tIMti e there were eight or ten

bakeries on the west coast of Florida that were very strong. When we merged with

Continental Baking Company in 1961, there were only two bakeries of any size left on

the west coast and the bakeries, this is something that is going to be happening

in the hospital businessa. That's why I'm retir... the small bakeries did not have

the expertise in management available to them and they disappeared. See, Wholesome

was a national name. We had eighty-nine plants in the United States. I could buy

flour and make a profit without even baking it faster than my competitors because

I'd buy a barge-load of flour and I was the only one that could bring a barge-load

down the Mississippi, so when you become that big, the little fellows just can't

compete. In the hospital business in the next ten years, the small hospital will

disappear because the investor-owned hospital in this country has taken over. Hospital

Corporation of America and American Medical International, Humana, -so forth. In

Tampa right now, look at the number of hospitals that we have are investor-owned.

Ten years ago, they weren't here. (tfi`-O AS-'I41/'is going down. Centro Espanol

is going down. Tampa General is practically broke.

GM: Was there an event or a period where even second, third generation Latins began eating

white bread rather than Cuban bread

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 13

C: We were responsible for teaching the Latin to eat American bread because none of the

stores in Ybor City carried American bread, and we used to sell bread for a nickle so

that the kids would get accustomed to it, and then the kids didn't want to take Cuban

bread to school anymore because the other kids would laugh at them, see?

G: Oh.

C: So it's, so that's how we gradually educated, it was a matter of educating a population.,

GM: Thirties and forties..

C:,,,o eating American bread.

G: When did you move out of Ybor City?

C: My home?

G: Um hm.

C: Well, I lived in East Seminole Heights for a long, about twenty years ago. I moved to

the island, that's Davis Island. And then I moved to the Harbor House on the Bay Shore

and that's where I live now. I livelin -&0W apartment$ Like I used to aep a

doctor friend of mine, my walking partner, I've always walked, I said, what a wonderful

country this is. Can you imagine two kids from Ybor City, you and I, whose fathers had

nothing, his father was a barber and my father (.MS Q I said, now Lenny, on the

Bay Shore in Tampa's most aristocratic neighborhood. I said, where in the world could

that ever happen except in the United States. So we hear people criticizing, I said, boy

this is the greatest, I've been in fifty-five different countries because I used to work

beside, some of my interest has been in international work with the Chamber of Commerce

and I used to be representing the United States in the United, in the Chamber of

Commerce of America, so I've been, and all these countries are beautiful, but boy, like

living in the United States, no way.

GM: Seems an eloquent note to close on. Do you have any final questions? I've kept you a

long time.

C: I've told you a lot of stories.

G: You sure have, and you told them very well)too.

Hills-Ybor 45A4
Page 14

GM: We are most appreciative. Thank you very much.

C: It was my pleasure.

Ceal ; 19f C--

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 15

M: Was your father a lector in Havana?

C: No.

M: No. Okay. He was a cigar maker. Give me some idea what he did in Havana.

C: In Havana he was a cigar maker.

M: A roller, a buncher, a

C: no, no. Of course in those days, cigar makers made everything. They were handmade.

., That was before the event of the so-called machinery in the cigar business. Everything

was done by hand. ^^ like yeA say, from the bottom up, and of course he was also

manager later on, fof a very large cigar factory here when I was up in my teens.

M: What factory did he work in in Havana?

C: In Havana?

M: Uh huh.

C: I, that I couldn't tell you. I don't know. Here of course, he workedVMartinez Ybor and

6 where he eventually became one of the managersqand of course)he was a reader

principally at Martinez Ybor which is now Ybor Square. Are you familiar with Tampa?

G: Yes, absolutely.

M: C(wYA a4t rpA.

C: Habla Espanol?

G: Muy poquito. Estoy estudiandolo.

M: What about your mother?

C: My mother, her name was Angela and she was not, she was a housewife.

M: Her maiden name.

C: Very strong woman. Angela Castille. She learned how to type the touch system at eighty-

six and she was blind.

M: Yeah.

C: Lots of determination.

M: What about your grandparents? Do you remember your grandparents in Cuba?

C: Granparents, I never knew because I was very young. And they lived outside of Havana,

Hills Ybor 45A
Page 16

C: In San Antonio de la Banos. San Antonio de los Banos, which is about fifty miles away

from Havana.

M: What did they do, do you know? Any idea what...

C: Mostly farming, I imagine.

M: Campesinos, campesinos. You remember Havana at all as a young boy?

C: Oh, yes. Yes. And not as a young man. I learnAavana because I was, after my family

came here and my father died when I was very young, around sixteen, then my mother

became very ill and she went to Havana for an operation and it developed that she

had to stay there and I used to go to Havana every year for many years, so I became very

and I had a lot of relatives there and I traveled in Cuba and saw some of the different

areas of the island. Beautiful country. Very nice...

M: Do you ever visit your homestead? Where you were born, the neighborhood?

C: Yes, yes.

M: What was that like?

C: Well, of course it is like the old cities of Europe, very narrow streets of brick and

stone homes with a big patio that we see at Columbia, you know, in the cenRe and very

formal living there, especially among the middle classes, you know. The families re

very close, the children are very close to their parents and grandparents. I had a

visitor, an attorney from the United- States. I had done business with him and I took

him over there and we spent some time and he went over my... and I said, what is the

thing that impressed you mostly of Cuba? He says, you may not believe it, but I have

been amazed at how close the families are here. I said, how close the mothers and their

children and their grandparents are with the grandchildren. He says, we've lost that

in the United States. Different cultural background.

G: And what, what year was this that he vWe with you in Cuba?

C: In, I remember distinctly because I had just bought his bakery. In 1946.

G: t w wba s he i Ta.

C: That was when, you know, I operated ale bakeries here in Tampa and of course) I had

Hills-Ybor 45Ai
Page 17

C: just moved, that was just the time I had moved to-gHe rff Bakeries that he had the

second largest bakery in Tampa at that time which we,.bought.

M: Yeah, we'll get into that. Why, was your father involved with the revolution in the


C: No. No.

M: No. The, did he ever talk about his attitude toward Jose Marti or

C: Well, E the Cubans, hey were great admirers of, they were opposed

"to the Spanish domination of the, See, my father had been here. I hadn't told you that,

but my father had been here in the United States back in the early 1890's. At Thomasvill

t that time Thomasville was also a cigar cent believe it or not.

M: rhomasville,Georgia. Really?

C: Thomasville, Georgia. He was very young.

M: Could you elaborate on that, how he was recruited and his experiences and.

C: Well, of course these men that lived in Havana, they were always looking for places

where life would be better and where there would be more freedom. The reason of course

why the United States got to be what it is is that the people of Europe were seeking

freedom and ability to develop an opportunity, and of course we have a country that

has no equal in the world in that respect. People don't, we sometimes don't appreciate

it but a young person can be most anything he wants here if he makes up his mind.

Got to work.

M: What, which, which patron moved his factory to Thomasville, Georgia, do you remember?

C: To, to Georgia?

M: No, okay. How long was he in Georgia?

C: Oh, two or three years I imagine.

M: How about, was he ever in Key West?

C: No.

M: Or Tampa before he immigrated?

C: No. No, ase he would go through Tampa. Tampa was the centk, where you went from

Hills-Ybor 45A4
Page 18

C: here to Thomasville.

M: Did he4tell you what he was doing when Cuba won its .independence? What his attitude

was toward independence?

C: Oh, he was in favor of independence. We were in Cuba at the time that the American

forces were there. That is, I was a baby, but in 1899 is when the Americans actually

took over. That's how I happened to be born under the American flag even though I was

not an American citizen which I found out soon when I got to be twenty-one, just

because you are born A the American flag, you are not necessarily an American citizen.

Especially if you are born in the American /lag when they are occupying a foreign

country. You are still a native of that country. So I had to wait five years to

become an American citizen.

M: What, what made your father move to Tampa, immigrate to Tampa? And your parents..

C: ffiP/ and the opportunity that Tampa offer ed and the fact that Tampa at that time

Swas already becoming a big cigar centJ and that there were more opportunities here,

better living conditions.

M: conditions getting worse in Cuba under the American flag?

C: No, I wouldn't say that. But I think that the cigar industry here offer d more oppor-

tunity. The wages were higher.

M: Right. And when, when did he move?

C: In 1903.

M: In 1903, uh huh. Did he come by himself or with family?

C: No, he, we three. My mother, my father and myself. My brother had not been born yet.

He was born here..

M: Do you remember moving as a young boy?

C: No, no.

M: So you arrived in Tampa in 1903 then, and you moved to Ybor City.

C: Tampa wasqbout that big.

M: And where was your fist residence in Tampa?

Hills-Ybor 45AP
Page 19

C: right there in Ybor City around Ninth Avenue between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Street.

M: Um hm. Right. What are your very first memories of Ybor City?

C: Well, lots of old buildings, wooden sidewalks, wooden block streets that they used

to use instead of bricks, they would have, the streets were paved with wooden blocks,

very small homes, hundreds of them. People mostly everybody working at cigar factories.

Already many women getting involved ini;that. Young children going to work when they

were very young, thirteen, twelve, fourteen. Going to the factories. Fortunately I

never had to do that, but it was quite common.

G: How did your father become a lector? eOeO-he ever talk about that?

C: Well, my father of course always liked to read and he had a very strong voice and

quite a strong personality and he, you know to be a lector in those days, not only did

you have to read, but you had to kind of improvise the voices of the different parts of

the novels, you know. If it's a woman, a man, a weak man, an old man, so you had to be

more or less like an actor, similar to an actor and he, he was very good at that. Of

course you read it, in that factory, you had to be good because that was one of the

largest in the city and you had to have it, like I was talking to this young man) /hey

had no sound system. You had to have a voice that could carry to the extreme end, see,

because if they didn't hear you, they wouldn't pay you.

G: (laughter) That was fair.

M: Merit, merit pay. That's what it is.

C: Right, and of course the cigar maker themselves paid. The lector was not an employee

of the factory. The lector was an employee of the workers there. They could throw him

out and they would have to tell him what they wanted him to read in the literature,

you know, they would send a bunch of suggestions and then they would run an electionsx-

and you say, well, I wanted him to read Edison's biography, or I want to read he Life

of Napoleon, and they used to read some very deep material, so they were very well

informed. So then they would meet in these coffee shops at night and they would argue

about everything under the sun. Then they got to be so smart that the cigar manufacturer;

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 20

C: got concerned and they said no more reading. These people are getting too smart and

they were getting ready to have a union and they going to make trouble for us. No

more readers. That's how the reading stopped.

G: Well, what did your father think about that, having to give up his job?

C: Well, of course, that's when he became involved as manager to one of these factories.

M: He went to management. LY_.

C: Yes.

M: Let's, how many, how many years did he work in Tampa before he became a lector?

You said his first job was at the /krlT.'r*z2 LfOr 4Lr-j

C: Not too many. No, because like I tell you, we came here in 1903, and as I was telling

you before, when I lived in that immediate neighborhood, I must have been about ten

or eleven, so he must have been here six or seven years then. He was already reading

at that time, so he read for quite a while, and of course, when the reading stopped,

then he went into management, which made it..

M: Right. What were his favorite stories and favorite novellas?

Things like that. ,

C: Novellas? Of course the most novels 'er read basically were by Spanish authors. And

i-tw -some French wae- translated and of course lot of, some of it we-e 4 historical

in background. See, and this was an advantage to me as a child because when I was

very small, instead of telling me about fairy tales, when I want to go to sleep, see,

he would always tell me realy historical background of Rome and Greece and Napoleon, so

I learned a lot of the foreign history of the world from my father in bed when I was

trying to go sleep, see. Which was an unusual thing.

G: Did he ever read newspapers?

C: Oh, yes. At that time they used to read k CIuAM which was a summary of all the

local newspapers and New York Times and Chicago Tribune and what have you. There used

to be a man here that in the evening he would compile that and type it and memeograph

it and it would have summaries of the Tampa Tribune, so and so in Spain, so and so in

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 21

C: in Paris, so they were very well informed. Much better informed than I am because

I haven't got that much time to read that many newspapers.

G: Well, most of the people that he read to, could they read and write?

C: Oh, yes. A great many of them did. Of course, some of them didn't.

G: So for some people, this was their only source of

C: Absolutely. It was just like going to school.

M: Um hm. What about some of the other newspapers of the era? La Gazetta?

C: La Gazetta. By the way, I save you a copy because there's an article there by a young

man who was formerly a Tampa boy who achieved a lot of recognition nationally,

qrI_____v___ BCvA IV C was his father. J1e (Ai4 ( \ C,

M: Right. __________ /'' Tr ?6

C: He had an articleglg

M: Cafe &cga-t S0o _

C: Huh?

M: Cafe Seanxo- 'o

C: Cafe Solo? read that?

M: Yeah, very encouraging.

C: I thought that was cute.

M: Very nice. I appreciated it. ____

C: I knew his father and I knew him.

M: What are your memories of your father at night, what was a typical evening. Give me
COMtnAc flO/h-
an idea of, you cimc and go from school and, just tell me your family memorye5.

C: Typical evening of the average mi wasas soon as he had dinner, hef want o go

to the coffee shop and have coffee and talk to his friends or go and meet with somebody.

My father generally would take me, as I got a little bit older, with him. And his main

interest was medicine, so his contact was mainly with doctors, and we would go to

a drugstore that was called Franco on Seventh Avenue where a lot of doctors would meet

there and just chat and discuss sr-.o th- things. Conversation was a big thing in

those days. People talked a lot. They didn't have television, they didn't have radio,

Hills-Ybor 45A9
Bage 22

C: so your way of communication was conversation and we'd go there and I got to meet a

lot of the doctors. And that's how my interest evolved in medicine, see, which of course

later on is how I've been in the hospital business for many years, which I've enjoyed.

M: Right. And did your father associate with fellow lectors in the evening?

C: Oh yes. Some..,

M: Where would they generally hang out in the evenings?

C: Well, I don't know where they hang out, well, they used to hang out all the time, it was

Jli{( that was in the morning between eight-thirty and ninebecause they

- generally would start reading around ten and they would get there together you know

and they would have coffee and discuss things in general.

M: Kind of describe, that must have been interesting seeing, seeing, like how many

would be there at one time?

C: Oh, fifteen or twenty or more.

M: Really. lit p

C: Because every factory worker,.I tell you, had his own lector.

M: A lot of talent.

C: Yeah.

M: ____ ___ ___
them, of
C: And most of them, one of course a parisi, arisio. He became a, he became an

actor in New York. And his background in lector helped him achieve that. He was very


M: I talked to his daughter. Pontinelle is her name, ---

C: Yeah, Pontinelle.

M: He must have been an extraordinary man.

C: Oh, he was.

M: What do you remember about him?

C: Well, I remember him as a big, strong man, very outgoing, with a very strong voice

and a very pleasant personality. Very outgoing.

Hills-Ybor 454
Page 23

M: Right. How about Senor Rodriguez el Mexicano.

C: El Mexicano. He was a different type. He was a man a little bit more quiet and

reserved, not very outgoing individual, typical in his appearance, typically Mexican.

M: He was Mexican.

C: Yeah. I could tell a little story. It's a little bit off color.

M: Sure, why not.

C: Talking about Mexicans, one of the ones that was a very leading party of that

group was a Mexican lector. And of course, I was a very young person and I was working

as a waiter during the summers at this, and when they would meet, he'd come in in the

morning you know and he was very reserved, you know. He said, young man, I don't

know what's happening today. Everytime I put on these glasses, all the people that

I see here are a bunch of so and so's. He saiditso quiet and he meant it. I thought

that was really cute. I always have remembered that.

M: His son became a

C: I do that every once in a while. I say, you know, I think I (collapses here into

laughter) You know, some things, when you are young they stick in your mind. Sixty

years later you still remember.

M: His son also became a lector. Wilfredo Rodriguez. Am I right that he is..

C: Oh, he's very familiar with some of the

M: Is he the last lector still alive? Wilfredo Rodriguez?

C: I don't know. He was much a pussy, much younger than his father

M: Right, and he was just .:' 4 4(Jf...

C: But he was, he was not as well-regarded as the father, who had quite a reputation.

M: What about, let's talk about some others. How about /1ATEf the elder Matego.

G: Vituriano.

M: Vituriano.

C: One of the most respected men of his time. A tremendous individual. Very personable.

Good looking, tall, always dressed just so, and in those days, sport wear was unknown.

Hills-Ybor 45A4
Page 24

C: You had to have your coat and your tie. No matter how hot it was

G: White shirt

C: And that's the way he, he, course he was a terrific speaker and he could, he was

very active in many fields, politically, particularly. Now his son is the one that2

Roland, and Roland has done well, because in order to survive with a newspaper

like that here, that's a battle. Of course, I think the thing that keeps him going is

this gossip column.

M: Yes, right. He's a

C: You familiar with that column.

G: Oh yes, yes, I am.

C: I always read that the first thing.

G: Oh, you like gossip.

M: Los lectores have an image now in hindsight, in retrospect. Many people tell me that

they were all reds.

C: Who?

M: Well, gossip let's say. Okay, that the

C: Chisme, chisme they call them.

G: Chisme?

C: Chisme, chisme in Spanish is gossip. Chisme. That's like you might say, a slang exVafm

expression. Chisme.

M: How would you reactvto that, what were your father's politics?

C: Politics?

M: Um hm.

C: Well, I would say he's basically a democrat, voted democratic.

M: Now?

C: Yeah. Course he died you know when I was quite young, yet. I was almost, not quite

seventeen. He died very young.thirty-nine.

M: In 1917, you say?

Hills-Ybor 45A
P age 25

G: No, he was seventeen.

C: I was seventeen. -Yeah. He talk about, my father was what they used to call a quack

doctor. And this is kind of interesting\too.because in the development of medicine

that I've seen since I got involved so much in it, is that there was a philosophy back

in the 1890's in Germany which was this question of Kuhne, K-u-h-n-e, Dr. Kuhne, who

developed the philosophy what we call today rehabilitation with water and exercise and

food and so forth and so on. More or less in the field of prevention, and my father

hardly ever took me to the doctor. He'd always prescribe, he was a student of that, so

I was

M: He did something right.

C: So I was, not too long ago I was given the responsibility of equipping the rehabilitation'

centre for the Central EQ44eno and it so happens that a Tampa boy by the name of

Rodriguez is the second man to at NYU rehabilitation which is the world's

finest, so I went up there and I was getting ready to pick up gear, select the

equipment. And he said, what do you think of all of this. Said, well, he says you

want me to tell you the truth. I said sure. I says you know my father used to do all

that that you're doing here with a bunch of galvanized tubs and broken down chairs and

buckets and they said he was crazy. And I said, but now, the medical profession has

come to realize that he wasn't crazy, that they just had failed to understand the

tremendous power that water and exercise and all of that a b bedrin of a good

health. And I was very lucky. Like I said, my father did not leave me any money, but
b e
he inculaated that philosophy and he could a vegetarian.

M: Really.

C: And here I'm eighty-six and I'm still going pretty strong.

G: Are you still a vegetarian?

C: Well, I eat a lot of vegetables and a lot of fruit. And I, of course, being that

I've had heart condition, I stay away from meatSas much as possible. I watch my food.

I've always watched my food. My tendency has always been to be fat. And that's, that's

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 26

C: one thing that, and the Cuban philosophy they used to feed these babies, including me,

condensed milk, which is very high in sugar and once you get a child, when he's very

young indoctrinated, it's very difficult for him to overcome that. Muchas Sucar.

M: You must remember some of the great strikes in Ybor City. You would have been old

enough to remember the 1910 strike. What, what goes through your mind when I mention


C: That was a rough strike. You know they hung two fellows in West Tampa.' And the citizen

committee, so-called, citizen committee came to Ybor City and they would just-beat

these people up. And they would have to scramble and hide because they wanted them

to go to work. Course that was the beginning of the union. I was a little bit

tarnistic*at that time because I was already beginning to be able to read and make my

own opinions, and of course my father being in management, that was kind of bad because

I felt that the unions had a place in view of the fact that they, that they, like

I saw in those days that the owners were abusing the workers.

G: In what way did you think that they were abusing the workers?

C: Well, they were working them very hard. They were paying them very little. They

would have tremendous power if anybody did anything they would ostracize them. He
fke inere4tlh;n9
couldn't work in.the community you know. Oh, they, they, but then,Athen my first job

was working in the cigar factory here. Which I hated the cigar factories, but I had

to have a job and I worked in the office and the time came when the owner could not

go to the second floor to inspect the workers, cause the unions would prohibit the

owner to go up the step to t 6 galeta. It got to be, see, it got to be, see, it's, we

go from, you know, when you push somebody and then of course the resentment is

built there, bitterness, you_ know, or then they're going to show, and it took a long

time before a better understanding among the labor go he about. Younger people

came in, the old ones faded out of the picture and there was a better understanding.

I was only in that factory, oh, about two years.

M: How old were you when you, when you,

Hills Ybor 45A
Page 27

C: I was less than sixteen. I was fifteen when I went. I had to lie about that cause

they wouldn't employ any less than sixteen. So when my sixteenth birthday came in, and

I told the man, and he said, but you told me you were sixteen. I had forgotten that, I

said, well, I needed that. Did you see my pants. All the holes that I had in my pants.

I just had to have a job.

M: What, what did your father say when you told him you were going to get a job as a cigar

W maker?

C: Not cigar, I was going to work in the office.

M: Oh,

C: Oh, he loved that. He would liked for me to go into the cigar business, but I

M: What was your father's opinion during this 1910 strike? Did he ever express any of

C: He left. A lot of the people that could, left Tampa. And many of them, this is, this,

you ... He went to work in Key West during that strike. Many people left. Went to

Philadelphia, Chicago,

M: And your mother?

C: Those that could and were able to get jobs up there.

M: Your mother stayed here.?

C: Yes, because that thing lasted for ten months, and this citizen's committee would go

around and overturn the pots, you know, the soup pots. It was rough.

G: What were the soup pots? Could you...

C: The soup pot is at the, being that a lot of people didn't have any food, they would

have these common places where they cooked soup and so forth and they would pass it

out to the people that would come in like on welfare and these members of the

committee would come in and just overturn that so that, cause they wanted them to,

in other words, if they were hungry, they would have to go to work.

G: No one to starve-r SbArt^ edi4.

C: Well, of course, you are familiar with the strikes during those days, in many cases,

in many parts of the country they would out the militia unit.

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 28

G: So is that what happened? They called out the militia?

C: Not here.

G: Not here.

C: No, they had what they called Comitenis ___ '_ Citizen's Committee, the

so-called elite of the community, see.

G: Now were these mostly..

C: Mostly connected with the Chamber of Commerce and so forth and so on. Businessmen,

G: So these were not latin people.

C: Oh, no. No, no.

M: McKay later said he served on that committee. Do you think that's true?

C: I don't know. He used to be my neighbor. I used to live right across the street

from him and of course he became eventually the editor of the Tampa Daily

Times and he used to catch the street car. In those days everybody in Ybor City

traveled by streetcar. There were no automobiles.

M: Do you remember when your father returned at the end of the strike, what was Ybor

City like when the strike was over in 1910, 1911. Do you remember your father returning?

C: Yes. He went to work right away.

M: Uh huh. In management? or

C: No, no. I think he went to work in the cigar factory and then he eventually he went

into management.

M: What abbut the 1920 strike?

C: 1920 strike. That was a short strike. I was already working at the bank. I didn't

have too much to do with that.

M: How about the 1931 strike, the last great strike over the

C: Oh, those strikes were small strikes. The real big strike, the one that really created

the big sensation here was the ten-month strike and a lot of violence took place and

a lot of people were hurt.

M: Many, many people, if you read the newspapers at the time, the Tribune aTd 6 ie-r


Hills-Ybor 454
Page 29

-i-k lecCr( 2^- ^
M: for these strikes. That the lectores were radicals, they were fomenting

revolution from the Tribuna, what do you think? -...

C: Well, you see, this business of being radical is jthe moment that people become educated

one of the things about education of course my son used to go to the University of

Chicago, and he used to worry about some of these things, you begin to question, see.

If you're ignorant and they tell you this is good, and you know no different, you

accept it, but if you've been in a place that is nicer than this, you say, wait a

minute. I don't buy that. And then if you know in the working field that other places

people are being treated better and there are other advantages and so forth and so on,

socially, then you begin to say hey, why can't I have some of that? You know, we go

in to a list of hey, everybody in the United States, I used to be in the psychiatric

field and like the medical doctor used to tell me, every kid that walks through that

door, he says he is entitled and of course I have to tell him that when he walks through

this door, he's not entitled to anything except to that which he showed me he deserves.

Don't you see, and of course, the lectores were reading all of this Rousseau, French

philosophy, and who was the founder of, which brought about the revolution in France

and they said, V 'but we are just being abused, and they began to question that.

"So, now, that's what you call fomenting communism.

M: I think it was kind of interesting, you mentioned most people would regard Cesar

Medina today as a prominent banker, financier,etc, that you once had communistic

tendencies. Do you want to elaborate on that?

C: Communistic tendency and i ln. Ad that I would have felt that if you were

oppressed, I think that oppression is wrong. Ever since I was young, and I, I am

of that opinion today, that you cannot push people around cause they are human

beings, see. And of course I had a business like you say. To me, that's the best

thing that I ever have given to my employee. We demand performance, but everybody was

treated like a human being and he was rewarded according to the way, if he deserved/

he was recognized. And we had a very, my competitors had the money, I had the people.

Hills- Ybor 45A
Page ^

C: My people were loyal and fighters. They would fight like nobody's business, and I'd

rather have people that would fight than money. I can get what I want with that. And

I did. That's why, when I was a kid and I used to read about all these injustices and

allyou come out here and you beat people up in the street just because

they don't want to work, I call it my privilege whether I want to work or not. Nobody

has got to force me to work. I don't want to work, and I want to stop, that's my

business. douth

M: Do you think Latins were, in the old days, growing up, you think they were mis-

treated in Tampa, Italians, Cubans, Spaniards?

C: c_'_ I Yeah. That I can, yes. To grow up in Tampa during those days and having

a Latin name was a tough undertaking because you know we had signs here in this city

that said no Cubans or dogs allowed. A Latin couldn't cross Twenty-second Street,

that way, goigto Gea cause he would be beaten up and and of course that

was the reason again that my father when I was a very young child taught me how

to box because he said in this environment that you live, you have to be able to take

care of yourself physically and he says, I don't want to ever hear that you've slapped

anybody. He says when you hit somebody, you knock them on the ground so they won't

bother you anymore. And you know, fortunately, 've only had one fight in my life,

cause everybody knew that I box everyday and they pick a fight, there's going to be

trouble, see, so it was a good source of prevention. Being prepared.

G: It worked in your case, didn't it.

C: Yeah, I think it did. It works in every case. Being prepared is ...

G: Was your father a member of the Circular Cobano?

C: I'm still a member of the Circulo

G: Still a member.

C: Um hm.

M: What do you remember about it as a young man, a yo-ung boy going over there?

C: Oh, I, one time I was a member of the board, when I was very young. It was a very

Hills-Ybor 45A1

C: interesting social place. Have you been in there? They had, one of the nicest ballrooms

in the city at that time and they had a good theatre and they had a good cantina

and of course I've always loved to dance, so I used to go there on Sunday and dance

with all the girls.

G: The T-dancers. You'd go to the matinee.

C: Uh?

G: You went to the matinee?

C: I did. And of course in those days, to take out a girl was a kind of a problem.

There were no automobiles and generally you'd have to take the mother with you.

Yeah, you'd have to take the chaperone or there wasn't no soap.

M: Would the mother walk behind you?

C: No, no. She would walk on the side or maybe the aunt or the sister. It was a pain.

Because you couldn't hardly move. They were watching everything you did.

G: How did you meet your wife? Did you meet her at 4 dan- .

C: At a dance, yeah, that's right. At the Italian club where I seldom went. It's a funny

thing. My wife was a secretary and

M:At the Lu

C: Ta rn a-L Ttali i nn *' I used to work, I used to work at the Bank of Ybor City.

Are you familiar with Seventeenth Street which now, I have an office there because

I'm involved in a redevelopment. so after 1917, sixty-seven years, I went

back to the same office I used to have. Can you imagine that? I was amazed.

M: What was your wife's maiden name?

C: Alonzo. Generosa-Alonzo.

M: Uh huh. And she was a secretary there. Why did you go to the Italian club that particular,

evening? ,P a

C: Because her mother was Italian. An Italian. And her father was Esaliu. Spanish.

It was a, there was a lot of these mixtures between Spanish and Italian and Cuban

and Italian.

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 32

M: Mixed marriages.

C: The Italian girls, and of course that, the Italian fathers resented thatIcause they

did not want these girls marrying outside of their own race you know. Yeah, some of

them took it very bitterly.

M: What, when you first met your wife's father, what did he think of you?

C: Oh, well, he, being that I had a job in the bank, he thought I was all right but then,

at that time after that I went into the baking business, right after that. Two Brothers.

M: Let's kind of go back just a second. Describe the evening at the Italian Club. A

typical evening when you were dating, what

C: Well, mostly most of these dances would start around nine, from nine to one and the girl.

would go there with their chaperones and the boys would go generally by themselves

unless they dated a girl and they had to go with a chaperone too. I did not. She went

with a chaperone and I went by myself,

M: And you could, as a Cuban, you could go to the Italian Club without any problems?

C: Provided you had somebody, no, you knew, not everybody. You had to be a member.

You had to be a member or invitd by a member because they would not let you in unless

you have what they call a recebo which was a, and my wife used to go by the bank

everyday and I never sa hre, never knew who she was and I went in there. You know

the expression of love, how it works out, I don't even know. You've reached a vine,

there you go.

M: Right. And what was your, how long was your courtship?

C: About thirteen months. Everything was thirteen. Thirteen months and we married on the

thirteenth and the Italians were also very reluctant about marrying on the thirteenth.

You know, they say that's a bad day. But of course it happened to fall wherever it wts

convenient to me.

G: What month was it.that you got married?

C: December.

G: December the thirteenth. Right before Christmas time.

Hills-Ybor 45AJ
Page 33

C: December the thirteenth. 1926.

M: Did you have to ask the...

G: So you've been married sixty years. Quite an accomplishment.

C: Long time. Have three children.

G: C__rd_ __( j

M: How did the groups get along in Ybor City? The Italians, the Cubans, the Spaniards.

C: Unfortunately not good. was always this feeling that every group wanted to be on its

own little segment, see, and that was particularly true even unfortunately among the

Spaniards who had the Gallegos, Centro Espanol, Centro etAdiro. Both of them are from

the northern part of Spain, but they each feel, you know Spain, you probably familiar,

is not a country as such. It was about twelve different kingdoms, independent kingdoms

that became united in 1492 just about the time that Columbus discovered America. That's

when Spain became, so each of these kingdoms, even today, has their own, like we used

to have here which is the yankees and the southerners, you know, and over there, I work_

in Spain for a large American company I was doing an economic study there, and when I

used to go to these different areas of Spain, I was headquarters in Madrid. Boy, some

of these places didn't have any use for anybody from Madrid cause that's the political

cento and they say they are a bunch of lazy good-for-nothing politicians, see.

M: What's the basic difference between a Gallego and Asturians?

C: In what sense?

M: Well, you know, from your reflection and observing these groups in Ybor City.

Are there any differences? Or how did they perceive [ f d r-Srere5

C: I would say the Gallego was the one that was more proud, that the fact that he was

better than anybody else. And the Asturianans, as far as the Gallegos were concerned,

the Asturianans were just black. Of course the Asturianans also were very tough. They

were the only part that the Moors could never conquer. Asturia was never conquered by

the Moors. The Moors came in and they advanced o and of course, the

Gallegos have a great deal in common with the PortugueZs the language, the language

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 34

C: of Portugal, and the dialect of the Gallego, is very similar. They can understand each
Cail4 i tt a]
other. So there's more similarity between the portuguese and the Gallegos,1nd &7aot of

the people of southern Spain. The people of southern Spain for example in Sevilla and

Andalusia where the Moors were there for a long time, they are more or less like the

Cubans. Their philosophy of life, yopu know, having a good time and easy going and so

forth. The Gallegos are just hard workers. My partner, that guy has,

M: Senor Diez?

C: That's the smartest Gallego that came from Spain.

G: So the 1j/SOL Gallego, that soup came from the

C: Gallego is said in a very, in a kind of, he's a Gallego, e's nobody, see. Stupid.

But this Gallego has very little schooling but he had a mind. Keen mind. Analytical


M: They were regarded as, Spaniards in general, as the elite workers in Ybor City. Do

you agree with that?

C: They what..

M: In terms of, they were the elite workers in the cigar industry. Is that right?

C: Well, now they, in : sense, that the Gallegos, see, being that the factories were

owned by Spaniards, the better jobs again, we talk about this discriminatory business,

the better jobs were given to the Spaniards, and the Cubans and the Italians never

got any of the better jobs, so the Gallegos and the Asturianans, as you said, were

the selectors and they were the cigar packers who worked, even in the working

philosophy, you know, you had different categories hat category was considered

to be in the upper group.

M: What group occupied..

C: No Cubans hardly ever became a cigar packer. They couldn't.

M: Who occupied the lowest stratum of the cigar industry?

C: Cubans and Italians.

M: What characterized the Italians in Ybor City?

Hills Ybor 45AO
Page 35

C: Italians in Ybor City, they were, in my opinion, they were har+orkers, very thrifty,

very concerned about the future. Like I said, they were very concerned about their

children, education, even if they didn't know how to read and write. Most of them didn't

know how to read and write. The less educated of all the people here at the beginning

was the Italian. Very few knew how to read and write but they were concerned about their

children and that's why you would see the Italians in Tampa accomplish what they have.

That they are attorneys, they are doctors, they are judges and what have you because

their fathers always insisted'that those kids go to school and get an education and I

admire them for that, and of course, they were concerned about their future and they

would buy one little house and then they'd buy another house and another so first

thing you know, every little Italian had three or four houses. In those days you could

buy a house for five or six hundred dollars. My job was to inspect, cause I used to

work at the bank and I had to inspect the houses and they were hard workers. They

loved to eat spaghetti.

M: What was the stereotype as a young man, about dating Italians girls and their fathers?

What was the stereotype of the fathers?

C: Well, of course, like I said, the fathers objected very strenuously. And for a long time

the only way that you could take one of these girls, you'd have to run away with her.

G: You'd have to elope?

C: That's right. You had to elope. And I threatened to do that with my wife because her

grandmother wanted me to have a big church wedding because when they did have a wedding,

you know, there's two things in the Italian life that is very important. Getting married

in a big wedding and having a big funeral with a big orchestra going down the street.

Of course, my joB was to go to all the funerals because my boss wouldn't go to a

funeral for love or money. And of course you go to a funeral at two o'clock and you

wouldn't get home until seven at night, but you had to go and walk the coffin in

front of the Italian Club. You had to go to the cemetery. They had a lot of speeches.

Then you had to go home and shake hands with everybody again before you, you're

Hills-Ybor 45At
Page 36

C: familiar with that? So, that was my job.

M: How about the Cubans? It's difficult to stereotype your own group, but how would yodu

have characterized the Cubans of your era?

C: Hotheaded.

M: Hotheaded, uh huh. Successful or not?

C: Successful?

M: As a group?

C: Why, yeah, we're successful, but they were never oriented economically like the

Italians cause they always thought they were going to go back to Cuba--soon. So that

their idea was not Tampa as a permanent thing but Tampa only as a stepping stone to

eventually going back to Cuba when they became able, financially, to undertake that.

G: How many people actually went back to Cuba?

C: Very few, very few. And of course you know it's very disappointing and I've talking to

many people, Whoe Spaniards, when you leave a country as a young person and thirty

or forty years elapse and you go back to that country to where you were born, you find

out that you've been accustomed to so many things that they don't even know anything

about that it's very frustrating and disappointing. What you thought as a dream is a,

it's a nightmare.

M: How about in terms of morals, the dating etc. How would you characterize the Cubans

compared to the other groups?

C: You know, this question of morality is something that has changed so much in the last

fifty or sixty years. In those days of course, the girls probably were more moral because(

they just had to be. They couldn't get away from the eyes of their mother from here to

there, so of course nothing could happen. And of course with us have gone through

raising children and grandchildren, and I always, you know, for my wife who is partly

a Spanish and Italian, some of these changes that women have gone through, this young

lady, you see, a girl today, as I see it, feels that she can do anything that her

brother can do, and that if it's all right for her brother to do it, there isn't a thing

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 37

C: wrong for her to do it,and of course, before, the only thing that prevented them from

doing that was the fact pregnancy would occur, but now since that has been controlled,

there's a different change. Whether it's good or bad, I think, I think we went way

down and now we're beginning to come up again. That marriage is beginning to be

recognized as probably one of the good institutions that we have to live with, see.

But his business of just having a guy tonight and then another one next week leads to

nothing because when you get old, what in the devil happens to you? You see, we all

wear out and a woman as long as she's pretty and young fine, but then, one day she's

forty and k( eighteen years old running around, see, and forty is no longer

in demand. Am I right?

G: I don't know. I'm almost forty, Mr. Medina. I don't know if I want to comment on that.

C: /e(iert tl ou don't look like it.

G: Well thanks, but sometimes I feel like it. ------ --

C: You look like you're in your late weie.

G: Well, thank you. You're very kind.

M: Mr. Medina, there was a fourth group in Ybor City that not many people studied. The

Afro-Cubans, the black Cubans. What are your memories of that group as a young boy

and man?

C: They were not a very strong group.

M: In what sense?

C: t socially oriented in the work. There were too few. That is, the Afro group

of the Latin extraction. Now, I'm not talking about the black. Now you say black,

that's a different story. But, they were never any factor. Now they had their own

little social gatherings and I think they had at one time a club, and they still

Mate Maseo, Mate Maseo, this didn't exis cause they came to see me the other day at

the Ybor City re-development, that they wanted some kind of a recognition. I said well,

why don't you come to the meeting. State your case.

M: Where did they, where did black Cubans live in Ybor City?

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 38

C: Pretty well scattered.

M: Um hm. Segregated?

C: They were not segregaged. No.

M: How do you think they were treated?

C: More or less like the blacks. Very badly. You know, until integration came about. Blacks,

if a man was a black, was walking on a sidewalk and I was walking, he had to get off the

street, see.

M: A black Cuban?

C: Any black, any kind of black.

M: In Ybor City, on Seventh Avenue, a black Cuban

C: Not so much in Ybor City.

G: How was it different in Ybor City than it would be in say the rest of Tampa?

C: Well, of course, the Ybor City element, the Spaniards and the Cubans, were not as

discriminatory as the Americans. Especially what we call the typical southerner.

Are you a southerner?

G: I am.

C: Where are you from?

G: I'm from, I was raised in South Carolina. So I understand what you're talking about.

C: And of course you know, the Cubans were treated badly by the Spaniards here, but the

colored were treated, see, they used to take them out and hang 'em at the drop of

a handkerchief. I remember that very, and it only took some very strong sheriffs in

Tampa to say, you can't take that guy until he's judged by the court as to whether he's

guilty or innocent, and btee-.hd go out there and go to jail and open the door and

hang him to the first tree.

M: But you, you were saying a while ago that there was conflict within Ybor City. Can

you give us some instances or your own personal experiences

C: Not conflict as such. I mean the lack of communication or willingness to mix and go

for a common goal, see? Now for example, the Spaniards had had a common goal, they

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 39

C: wouldn't have had all the problems they are having today in the health care field.

See, they have two small hospitals that are not doing anything instead of one. See?

They would have had only one. By the way, you notice that the Spanish club has been

sold. Centro Espanol. Now they are talking about building one. That's foolish. The

Centrol Ftu4d4!e is practically empty, see? They could use that..

M: So there was more of a rivalry rather than conflict, you would say.

C: Not conflict. A lack of acceptance of the ideas of each other. I want to do it my


M: Um hm. Right.

G: Do you think ultimately Ybor City could have been a stronger community if there hadn't

been this rivalry?

C: Oh, absolutely. Sure. Absolutely. The Spaniards would have been a very strong force

here because for a long time they controlled the industries.

G: What about the, since you were so interested and your father was so interested in the

medical aspects, did, did he ever talk about the doctors who were on salary with the

clinics and the mutual benefit/clubs?

C: Of course, as you know, when we say medicare in this country, medicare basically

originated in these Latin American countries. And in Europe with socialized medicine

has been in existence,for example, I was in Denmark. In Denmark for a hundred and

sixty-three years, they have had socialized medicine as we have it here, and of course

the Latin groups all had the so-called sociedades that provided care, hospitalization

because one of the things that we are talking about, cultural background, these

people were very proud. They did not want anybody to give them anything. So if they

had a child that was sick, they wanted to be able to take it to a hospital where they

felt they were paying. If his wife was sick, the same thing was true, but in order to

do that, they formed these so-called prepaid groups, which now we know today, like the

Kaiser group in California. And we have 4 here, you've probably seen this advertisement

that's in the paper now, the goal group. That they're going to take care of everybody

Hills-Ybor 45A
Page 40

C: if you turn your medicare card over to them, which is a prepaid program that originated

here in Ybor City from the beginning. That's the first thing. Centro -uFjon,

Centro Espanol, go back to 1890 and 1895, 1902, the Cuban Club, the Italian Club.

G: Well, now the doctors who worked on salary for this, for the clinics and the hospitals,

wasn't there some sort of discrimination by the American Medical Association ct --wf

these dollars? -

C: /Not only discrimination. They could not belong to the HillsboroAMedical Society, and

if any doctor in that organization was found to be practicing what they call contract

medicine, even today, you know, that's looked upon by the medical profession, hm mmm.

None of that. Not as bad as, so many of the doctors k like Dr. Alltry in

Tampa who was connected with the Central Eauda44eo, and Dr. Winton who was connected

with the Centro Espanol, they were ostracized.

G: Are they still wTi =

C: No. Dr. Winton was ------
/ f
M: One of the giants of the mutual aid was Jose Ae6a0itl Did you know him well?

C: Oh, yes. You know his son just passed away recently.

M: Right. I'm talking about the father

C: I was very close to him because at that time I was working at the bank and he was

one of my good customers and I got to know him. And being that I've always been, I've

liked, been involved with doctors. He and 1l became very friendly. He was not only

a good doctor, he was a rare species. He was a very good businessman. Doctors as a rule

are not good businessmen. But he was.

M: What about his son?

C: Huh?

E -soca Of course his son was completely... I remember when he, when I was going to

school and that was during World War I, that he shot this little German boy in the eye

with a little air rifle. He, he was the only son. He was a terrible thing for that

family because his father was such a wonderful individual. But...

S-1 U"

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs