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1 Spanish Civil War Oral History Project Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: S64 00018 Interviewee: Amalia L. Owens (AO) Interviewer: Ana M. Varela Lago (AVL) Interview date: March 24, 1997 Interview location: Centro Asturiano de Tampa Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview changes by: Mary Beth Isaacson Interview changes date: November 25, 2008 Additional changes: Arlen Bensen Additional changes date: December 18, 2008 Final edit by: Maria Kreiser Final edit date: January 26, 2009 Ana M. Varela Lago : This is an interview with Mrs. Mollie Owens. Mollie, first of all I would like to start by talking a little bit about your family. Could you tel l me where did your family come from and what did they do here in Tampa? Amalia L. Owens : Well, my father, I guess, came before WWI, my mother came during 1918. She came through Cuba, and she spent almost a year over there and came in to Tampa at the end of December of 1918 AVL: Where was she from? AO: She was from Asturias, Llamero. She had brothers in Cuba and so she went there and spent, like I said, almost a year, and then came in to Tampa and stayed here. She was a seamstress and so, although she worked in the cigar factory for a little while, she went back to sewing and staying at home and then, of course, when she got married and had me she wanted to stay home, and my father had a bakery. AVL: Was he also a Spaniard? AO: Yes, he was from Asturi as also. I'm not sure, he and a few of the union members got together and had a bakery; they called it La Unin and they were I'm first generation American, I was born here. AVL: How old was your mother when she came? AO: Middle twenties, she was already in her middle 20s because she had been working in Spain already, sewing.
2 AVL: And she had siblings here already, that is why she decided to come? AO: Yes, actually I think some friends talked her into going to Cuba and then she, like I said, since she h ad her brothers there she came with them. AVL: And what was her name? AO: Her name was Josefa L pez. AVL: And your father's name? AO: Francisco Lpez AVL: Okay, tell me a little bit about your memories of growing up in Ybor City. Did you grow up in Ybor City or West Tampa ? AO: Yes, I was a little, not right in the middle, I was just off Columbus Drive, but, yes, I used to come to Ybor all the time. My mother being a seamstress, we used to come to Little Katz, which was a fabric place and buy fabric s and thread, stuff, zippers, but then we used to go over to Wolfson's and they had a trimming store. I think somewhere in town there's still somebody that's got a little shop that has part of that, and we used to get all our trimming there. They had beaut iful things, laces, I mean, you name it, buttons and anything you wan t for your dresses, so. And then I also remember, on Saturday mornings walking all t he way from my house to 7th Avenue and down to the Ritz Theater to see the serial every Saturday morni ng Buck Rogers. AVL: Did you like that? AO: Yes, I remember I we use d to come Saturdays in the aftern oon and walk around, up one side and down the other, you know, looking at the boys and I guess the boys were looking at us. And then, my last year in hi gh school I worked at Kress', that last year before I took some secretarial courses and went out to work. And, yes, it was nice. We had the Columbia on one end, on 22nd and Las Novedades on l5th [Street] and then in between we had one or two other little p laces. We had t hree dime stores and, you know, everything that we needed, we had right here. AVL: How about the clubs, did you belong to any of the clubs? AO: Oh yes, we belonged to the Centro Asturiano and also, you know, whenever we needed a doctor, y ou know, we had the mutual aid societies and we used to go over there, for whatever, you could go and also to the dances. As a matter of fact when I was a little older I remember going to the dances at the Centro Asturiano on Saturday night and we weren't partial, Sunday morning we went to the tea dances at the Centro Espaol from 4 to 8 and then at night we'd go to the Cuban Club from about 9 to 1. We weren't, you know, we went to all of them. We enjoyed it. And during the holidays, too, when they'd
3 have the New Year's dances it got to the point that you could mingle, you could go to either of the clubs, you know, you got your table and brought your own bottle, I guess, and sometimes you would go a little while to the Asturiano then you'd go a little whil e to the Centro Espaol and you had the Italian Club too that had they had a movie there for awhile there during the war, so Oh yeah, it was a very friendly place. Like I said, when I went to the movies on Saturdays I couldn't have been more than 8 or 9 or 10, and my mother had no problem in letting me walk from 21st Street, where I used to live, I'd walk all th e way up 21st Street to 7th Avenue and then all the way over to 15th Street to the show, and then walk back home. Sometimes you'd walk back with some kids, sometimes you didn't, but it was very safe, you know, even when we got out of the dances at night, sometimes we'd even walk home, even when it was late. And you never had any problems. Anybody any other guys who watched you would probably watch you to see that you didn't get into trouble as you went down the street, you know, and we'd always be three o r four of us together anyway so a nd no I think parents didn't have some of them went with the kids, but as a rule I don't think they really worri ed about it because it was really very safe, everybody seemed to almost everybody knew everybody, you know. AVL: When did you leave Ybor City, after the war or later? AO: No, I guess I stayed around Ybor City well when I got married then we moved out b ecause my husband was in the service then and we moved over on the other side of town, but oh, I guess I was still living around here '54, '55, maybe '56, you know, not in the same place, we moved, but we were still in Ybor City. AVL: The same area. AO: Um h m. AVL: Did you speak Spanish in your home? AO: Oh yes, my mother didn't speak English, she understood and she could read the newspaper and understand, you know, make out what she was reading, but yes, I had to speak Spanish at home, and what little she did speak, if I had my Anglo friends call she would get very nervous. She knew what they were saying and she probably could have answered them but she'd get very nervous, you know, because she felt like she wasn't doing it right, but I had to speak Sp anish at home. AVL: What do you remember of the Depression and the 1930s in general? AO: The Depression? AVL: Um hm AO: Well, to tell you the truth, not much, you know, except that we were a lot of people
4 at home. My mother and I and she had two of h er single brothers that were living with her. And then we had one married brother of hers and his wife and eventually his son and, of course, I'm very close to that part of the family. Yeah, they, we all lived at home. Well, I guess I never felt the Depres sion that much because, since my mother was a seamstress, I always had a dress, you know, she could put a dress together from anything and I wasn't a big eater, so whatever was p ut before me was fine. I really wasn't that aware of the Depression like some of my friends. I remember one friend kept talking about eating, I don't know if it was Spam or something. I never had Spam, you know, I guess we had potajes you know. We always had either Spanish bean soup or collard green soup, or turnip green soup and, I don't know, I never, and not being a big eater then you could get a filet for 25 cents and my mother would spoil me sometimes with, I didn't like them (whispering) AVL: Were you the only child? AO: Yes. Yes, I was my mother's only child. There were two other half sisters that my father, but they were not at home then, and yeah, of course, my mother spoiled me. But, no I really what was bad now I had some friends who did, since my mother worked at home, and I'm sure that she had a hard time because you couldn't charge much for clothes or dresses and so it was very but she was such a good manager, she was so creative in her handling of the money, that I guess, you know, and she never complained to me, I guess I never heard her complain about not having en ough money for things, she always seemed to have enough money to pay for the essentials, you know, the rent, the food, and whatever. So, I really never was that aware of how bad it was, but I know some friends who were like even in the factories, you kno w, they would lay them off for certain times and it was hard. We had some family across the street from us who, the minute that they were thinking about being laid off for Christmas they would be buying, you know, big sacks of potatoes and big sacks of ric e and things like that, and they had cows at home. I know it was in the city but no code then, we could have we had a cow at home too, you know, oh yes, my mother always, yes honey, my cousin Joe and I had to take five glasses of milk a day. We weren't b ig eaters but we were fed milk. AVL: That was common in Ybor City, people having animals? AO: Oh yes, chickens and cows, yes, and nobody complained. I can assure you we had great big beautiful flowers at my house. But, yes, no but people did have a hard time because, you know, cigar factories were slowed down and but other than that, I really, you know, personally I really don't feel I didn't feel that pressure from the Depression. AVL: Your family stayed here in Tampa? Because I heard many families lef t for other places They remained here? AO: Yes, well I think, one of my uncles, who was married, he and another friend went up north but they came back, I guess. You know, Ybor City was so much like a family
5 and so many people knew each other and, you k now. And even when things were bad like that, you know, it's funny that even when you had someone steal, like for instance if you left your clothesline, you know, clothes on your clothesline, you never heard people saying all of the clothes were taken or t hey were torn they would take one pair of pants and a shirt, or maybe a dress, or whatever it was that they needed at the moment, you know, but they didn't tear up anything else, they didn't come into your and the doors were, half of the time, didn't close well, you know, there weren't S o, you know, I don't it was a different climate altogether, it's not like now, you know, they just don't steal, they have to hurt you too. Not then, you know, it was and then people helped each other, since we had a cow w hat we didn't use, she sold some of it, and what we didn't use she had people in the neighborhood that she would give the milk to, you know. And if we had chickens and they had eggs, the same thing, you know. People shared, it wasn't I guess we just, lik e I said, we were like one big happy family, I don't care whether you were Italian or Spanish or Cuban, you know, it was because I had the people across the street from me were Spanish, they were from the Canary Islands, the next door neighbors were Italia ns, I mean it was mostly the next door neighbor was Italian, there was a Puerto Rican family, you know, mostly were we were all just close. AVL: How about the Spanish Civil War? We are going to start talking about it now. What are the memories that come to your mind when you think of those years? AO: Well, how upset everybody was and how they had to, they felt like they had to do something, you know, my mother for instance who was a seamstress, used to do a lot of sewing. She would sew from remnants, you know, the little short pants for the boys and the little shirts, and the little dresses for the little girls and I remember AVL: For all these events that took place? AO: At where? AVL: She used to make the dresses for all these events that took place ? AO: No, not to send to Spain. AVL: Oh, I see. AO: These were to send to Spain, because they had, I think it was at the labor union that they had different organizations, because they got organized and they would send boxes and my mother, after she go t through working and sewing to make a living she would sew, she was very fast, too. I wasn't as fast as she, so you can imagine. But, yes, she used to do sewing and of course we attended so many of the fundraisers that they had here at the Asturiano. Most ly I remember coming to the Asturiano. Like Fernando de los Ros and Blasco Ibez. No. Yes he was, but it was the nephew to the writer, what was his
6 name? AVL: Do you have it here in the book? AO: Yes, this gentleman, what was his name? Felix Mart Iba ez, I said Blasco Ibaez, Felix Mart Ibaez, and yes, he was here and Fernando de los Ros was here twice and, boy, these places got full! You know, because people came in, they were fundraisers and of course the kids all used to get together. We used to collect newspapers and we used to collect the foil from the cigarette package, you know, that was foil then it wasn't and you'd collect the foil, and I understand that what they made from it, the boys knew more about this than I did, they made like sinkers and things for fishing and would sel l them. And I had a friend that I think must have stripped his mother's lemon tree because he was always selling lemons to collect money. AVL: Oh yes, who was that? AO: That was Pepn Carreo, Segundo's brother. Yes, I used to tease him about that, oh yes. They were from West Tampa, but over in Los Cien there was a community of Spaniards, you know, and we were always pretty close. We also belonged to the Loyal Knights of America and it was a juvenile chapter and we us ed to do a lot of things together. I think these are some of the kids that are dressed up in their uniforms [looking at photographs]. And, yes, it was very, they were very active here, and I'm sure some more so than I was, you know. Like you heard Pilar ta lk about her mother putting on the shows, they were always putting on something to collect money and the ambulances that they sent. AVL: How did you learn about the war, do you remem ber a day when you actually learn ed there is this war in Spain? AO: No, I don't, unless it was on the newspaper or the radio. AVL: Did you have family there? AO: Oh yes, I did, oh yes. I had two of my mother's sisters and one was married and he had, well three boys, the one that I got to know, the youngest one was very y oung, but the two older ones who were already, I think they were electrical engineers or something. One of them went with the Republican but the other one was grabbed by [Francisco] Franco and so, they were on either side of and, yes, they were and my unc le was in charge of a committee for, I don't know whether it was supplies or whatever it was, you know, so, yeah, they were over there and were active too, you know. So, of course, the family here was always worried about them, not knowing because you don' t get instant news like you do it now. You had to depend on the radio or the newspaper or letters, if they were able to get through and, of course, everybody was very upset, as much as we loved Roosevelt, we were very upset with that embargo that he had. Y ou know. AVL: What do you remember of that?
7 AO: Well, they had demonstrations, I don't remember that, I don't think I was with them, but they did, they went all the way they had a couple of one demonstration about that and then they had other parades but this one demonstration, yes, they went all the way downtown protesting it. Of course, years later I tried to be rational about it and I said, "He was looking out for us," but since "us" was divided, me for instance, was divided it made it very hard, you know, but they were very upset with him. As much as they cared for him, they were very upset. AVL: Where did you get the news from? You mentioned before the newspapers, what newspapers did your family use to read? AO: Well, they had La Gaceta Manteiga, you know, Roland's father. A gentleman, such a distinguished looking gentleman, and we had two or three Spanish La Prensa La Gaceta and I can't remember what other. Probably some that sprang up, you know, but AVL: Did they all share the same ideas? I me an, La Gaceta was pretty much Republican but the others AO: The Prensa ? You know, I don't remember, because I guess we used to get La Gaceta was the real paper here, you know, and, we did get the [Tampa] Tribune at home, too. Well, then you had two, you had the Tribune and the [Tampa Daily] Times which was in the afternoon, but I think what my mother was getting was La Gaceta And, yes, through them and whatever we heard on the radio, and not everybody had radios. AVL: Right. AO: Y ou know, back then, I don't even remember whether we had one. AVL: So, did you hear news from Spain from, over the radio? AO: Some people were very lucky and would get it, yes, but and of course that was spread, you know, disseminated by but no, I don't recall our having a radio at home at that time. AVL: So, what do you remember of your family here talking about, regarding the war. I mean did they think, for instance, that it was going to take that long? How were they feeling also as the war was evolving? AO: After the war of course, everybody was very upset. No, I think they were kind of optimistic maybe that, you know, it wasn't going to be perhaps quite as long as it was, or the outcome, you know, they felt like maybe the Republic should have been a little more ruthle ss in getting rid of some of the trouble makers but, I mean, you can't have a democracy and be ruthless, you know, you have but yeah, they were and, of course, my mother who always wrote to Spain, we used to have to send them, this youngest cousin of mine who got sick, I think he went he had to serve, and he came back home
8 with a spot on his lung and they had to take care of that, but we had to send him medicine, they used to ask us for the medicine, we used to send not just my mother and I but my uncles, they would send him medicine, and then my mother would always send little packages instead of one big one, small ones more oft en, and what, she couldn't get over sending chocolate, chocolate to Spain, she used to always say, "I can't believe I'm sending c hocolate to Spain." To her that was where chocolate came from, you know. And, a small, like two pounds of flour so they could make bread, because he used to say that the bread was a different color every week. AVL: Yes, that was after the war. AO: After the war, after the Civil War. Um hm and things like that, you know, and I think when somebody went to Spain we always tried to send clothes. And, as a matter of fact, the funny thing was that they would send shirts for these boys, long sleeved shirts, and they're all six feet tall and have long arms, you know. As we say in Spanish, como la esperanza de un pobre you know. And so, I don't know, they were always, the sleeves were always short until we got told that they needed longer sl eeves. But, it was, ye s, it was I used to write to him in my bad Spanish but I used to, he said, I sounded like a Gypsy speaking Spanish, what I wrote to him, but, yeah, we always kept in touch with them and so well, I think, mostly my mother was the one that kept in touch wit h them. You know how the boys were, they never they weren't very good at writing, but my mother kept up with them all the time. AVL: What do you remember of the other communities here in Tampa, how did they respond to the war in Spain, the Italians and th e Cubans? AO: Oh yes, they were yes, they were involved. The Italians very much so, they were involved, and so were the Cubans. Well, I guess we did have a pretty big community of Cubans, but yes, I remember, I especially remember the Italians getting ve ry involved in it, too, yes, um hm AVL: In what ways, what do you remember them doing? AO: Well, I guess some of it was fundraising, and, if you've noticed, some of those things I've got there, we had an Italian, a couple of Italians, who came over, you know, and I think they brought them over and they had fundraisers with this gentlemen and, yes, they, more or less I don't know if they were quite as but they were, yes, the Italians were pretty involved with the AVL: Do you remember any conflicts betwe en the Italians and Spaniards? Because Mussolini was supporting Franco in Spain AO: Yes, but I think a lot of them were just as angry at [Benito] Mussolini as they were you know? So, no, I don't remember. I mean, yes, there were some, of course, but I gu ess they were in the minority. I never paid attention, you know, it didn't make that much of an impression I guess, at least me, some people may have remembered incidents,
9 you know, but I don't really I remember somebody and I don't even remember names, yo u know, so and so, you know, he sends money for the other side, but and even though a lot of the people felt, like the cigar manufacturer the owners were mostly for Franco, I don't know that that was true also, you know, it's but, I don't think it was so overt that I was very conscious of it, I really wasn't. AVL: How bout the Americans, were the Americans also involved in these activities? AO: I don't think I don't really remember about that at all, isn't that funny? But the only thing that I can assum e is that, unless they had friends that were connected with the family somehow, you know, it just like now with all the wars that are going on, it's just another war, you know. Which is sad because I really think the t hird World or s econd World War starte d there, you know. AVL: Do you remember any kind of events taking place kind of in downtown Tampa or, I mean, outside Ybor City at all? AO: No, I don't, I mean, some of the others may but I really, off hand, don't remember. AVL: So, do you think it wa s pretty much a Latin ? AO: For me, yes. For me everything was here in Ybor City. The Spanish clubs, you know, the Latin Clubs AVL: How about the Catholic church here in Ybor City, do you remember any ? AO: No, I well, the only thing I remember is when the war started a lot of the people pulled their kids out of school. AVL: Um hm why was that do you think? AO: Well, because they felt like the Catholic Church was against the Republic. I don't know why, because I'm sure I know that my cousin told me s everal times that there were many priests who were helping, you know, the people and helping to hide some of th e soldiers, you know, that were so, I think it was a general feeling and I don't think that it was entirely true, but oh yeah, they most of the families pulled their kids right out of school. I wasn't in Catholic school, I was in public school, but those that went, did, they I don't know how soon they went back, or if they went back, but those first couple of years they were pulled right out. And I don't remember that the church had any activities against it, I really don't remember that, you know, but I do remember the Spanish families pulling their kids out. AVL: Do you remember any conflicts between Franco supporters within the Spanish communit y, people who supported Franco, who weren't supporting the Republic? Were there any debates, discussions, problems within the societies, you know, the clubs, at all?
10 AO: No, I really don't, I'm not aware that because I think that there were so many of us that I think they kept their mouths shut. They didn't want to get into trouble. But, no, I really don't remember I'm sure that when the men got together to play cards or dominos there were some, you know, but I don't remember any of that, or hearing about it, you know, so I don't know. AVL: Why do you think the Latin community was so supportive of the Republic? AO: Was so supportive? AVL: Um hm how would you explain that? AO: I don't know, I think that since they lived in a country like this, you know and were especially those that came after they were adults, from Spain, or even 14 or 15, like I think my cousins, my uncles came. It was a different way of life and I think that they were used to the freedom, even though at that point maybe there wasn't a heck of a lot of money going around but they had the freedom of moving around and working where they wanted to as a rule. I don't know, their outlook, I guess, decided to support the Republic. And I supposed that many of them, too, heard from their fami lies and perhaps they were hearing what was going under Franco, or what he was trying to do, and, of course, they were also probably supporting their families back there. You know, that's I don't remember anybody actually dis cussing as to why but they were definitely those that were for it, were for it. AVL: Do you remember any of the families who ac tually had sons, I guess, fighting for the Republic. There were at least 20 people from Tampa who fought in Spain. Did you have any contact with any of their f amilies? AO: No, the only ones that like I said, when Eladio Paula came, and I'm sorry to say that I don't even remember what he looked like, isn't that awful? But, we did he talked here at the Asturiano and I got his autograph and Rojas, I think, too, wa s another one that went. But see, I didn't know Tony's uncle had gone, Tony Granell's uncle had gone. AVL: Um hm this is a picture of Tony's uncle. AO: I know, and, he almost looks familiar, you know. AVL: Um hm and this is Felipe Rojas. AO: Felipe Rojas. I remember he came AVL: Before they went, I mean, did you know their families or anything? AO: No, but when they came back they must have been over here and talked because I remember like I said, I got their autographs and
11 AVL: Do you remember anything at all about those events when these people would come back from Spain and they would come to speak at the Centro Asturiano? What was the mood of the people? AO: No, except that, you know, it must have been a very positive feeling for them becaus e they would, you know, come over here to hear them talk and they would fill up the auditorium, you kno w. But, I really don't remember being 12 or 13 I wasn't interested in what they had to say. AVL: I know, I just had to ask AO: Absolutely, absolutely AVL: Now that we're talking about the speakers, we have here your book with autographs of almost everybody who came to Tampa to talk. AO: Yes, most of them [Jos] Miaja I don't think came, or the other lady, but AVL: These are postcards that how did you get these postcards, did you buy them? AO: I don't well, it must have been at some fund raiser that they gave them out, I don't know how I got hold of them. The fact is that at my age I don't know how I saved all of this stuff, you know. I guess becau se it was so important to my family and to my mother, see this is a postcard, that whatever I got my hands on I saved, you know, because it was important to them, so it was important to me. AVL: Did you mother go to all these events with you? AO: Most of the time she went that's who I came with, yes, oh yes, most of the time she came. AVL: Did she belong to the women's branch of the popular committee? AO: No, no, I don't think she belonged to she attended some of the well when they wanted to do some s ewing or when they had some project she attended but I don't think she really was a member that was there all the time, you know. AVL: Do you remember any women in your neighborhood that were more into the organizing of things? AO: No. The lady across th e street, th is lady from Canary Islands, was although I didn't yes, I don't think I saw her in any these things, but she AVL: What was her name? AO: Rosala Daz. She's in something that you had pictures of but she was involved in
12 some of these things, and she belonged to the Loyal Knights of America, who also did things, you know, but, no, not that's Delia's writing. AVL: Oh, yes? Tell me about Santi ago Philemore, this general who you have pictures here of him? AO: Philemore, well, yes, he came and ev erybody was all excited with having him here. He was staying at de la Fuente's home and AVL: Who were this family, de la Fuente? AO: De la Fuente? AVL: How come that he stayed there, were they related or ? AO: Well, they were, I guess, involved in a l ot of and they happened to have a big house and so they had yeah, it was Severino la Fuente and Evangelina la Fuente, are the daughter and son of these people. She, Evangelina has passed away, but, she was a teacher and this was their house and so my two c ousins and myself and Deli a went over there one Sunday morn ing all spruced up and had to take pictures of him and her and took pictures with them and AVL: Why did you have to take pictures with them? AO: Well, because he was a general in the Civil he wa s supposed to be a general in the Civil War, and to us it was like a celebrity, it was some, you know, it was very important, and then we it turn ed out to be he was fake. AVL: Uh huh tell me about that. How did you find out about that? AO: Well, I don't know, after he was gone. People gave them money and welcomed them with open arms and took care of them, showed them around and all the festivities and then, I don't know who found it out, I don't know whether some of the committee people or but they learn ed that he was not, it was all a scam and t alk about people being upset. This one uncle of mine I understand had given him, you know, quite a bit of money and at that time no one had a lot of money and so he was very upset and very angry. Yes, everybody wa s AVL: So, he wasn't really a general or he was a general but he wasn't with the Red Cross ? AO: I don't think he was a general at all, to tell you the truth, I think he did a good job in dressing up. AVL: Um hm do you remember anything of talking to him, I mean his personality or anything?
13 AO: No, but I remember that they were both very nice, you know, very friendly, and but no, I don't even know if he was Spanish, would you believe that. AVL: I think he was Mexican. The people from Mexico really su pported the Republic. There were a lot of Mexicans that were supportive AO: Absolutely, I know that but, you know, he really took us in, I'm telling you. AVL: So he came and then he stayed here for a few days. AO: I don't know, 3 or 4 days or so at y eah, and I guess he moved on to the next community and living well I guess, you know, because I'm sure people put themselves out to feed him and show him around, yeah, it was v ery and this, well I don't I think his name is somewhere in there so I can't r emember '36 or '37, I guess, '37 probably. Yeah, see he even had you know, his gloves. (looking at photographs) AVL: Yes, he looks very dashing. AO: Oh yes, absolutely. Oh, that's right, she's there too. AVL: Right, both of them. AO: Absolutely. AV L: Okay, let's move on. How about this Felix Mart Ibaez, what do you remember about him? He came here in 1938? AO: No, it can't be '58. AVL: Thirty, thirty eight. AO: '38 yes, uh huh AVL: And he was the nephew of Vicente Blasco Ibaez the writer? A O: Yes, so I understand yes, I understand he was a nephew of w ell, he just, you know, I can't remember the talks because to me they were over my head mostly, but yes AVL: Yes, but just anything you remember particularly or ? AO: Yes, he was a very nice person, well very educated, very, people were very taken with him and AVL: Was this event at the Centro Asturiano, most of them?
14 AO: Yes, most of these were at the Centro Asturiano See, this is Philemore, '38. (looking at book of autographs) AVL: Phil emore '38, August'38. AO: Um hm Then, of course AVL: Armando del Moral AO: Armando del Moral. I think he was a newspaper man, and then because later on he must have gone to Mexico to work because I caught this in the newspaper in '50. He was intervi ewing Armando del Moral, Ricardo Montalbn. So, that's how I figured out where he was, you know AVL: I see. AO: You know, because he came, he just came and there were just people who, when they came through, they would have them talk so that then we cou ld pass the hat and collect money for. AVL: Were you one of the ladies who went around then and took the hat around? AO: No, I guess I wasn't old enough to be allowed to and, of course, they always gave us these little ribbons, you know, with the AVL: Ribbons with the colors of the flag. AO: Um hm um hm with the three colors and some of them had the ribbons with names on it, depends, you know. And, of course, Fernando de los Ros, he was here twice. AVL: He was the ambassador. AO: A very distinguis hed gentlemen, very kind and AVL: He also spoke at the Centro Asturiano? AO: Right, he spoke here too, yes. Both times, I think, he may have spoken somewhere else, this is where I saw him. This is where AVL: Um hm How about this signature? AO: No, I can't figure out that name. AVL: Um hm this is '38 this is Coco
15 AO: This is Italian he was, see they had a little ribbon pr inted for him too. AVL: So he fought in Spain with the Italian brigade? AO: The Italian brigade. AVL: How about the nurse s, do you remember the nurses? AO: And these are the two y es, that they had a AVL: What do you remember about them? AO: Well, I couldn't have they were like two little celebrities, you know, and they were picking up, I think they were picking up one of the ambulances that they paid for here, because they were always sending the money that they gathered, you know they collected here, they were sending not only clothes and food stuff, but they were sending ambulance. And Fraser told me the other day t hat this Ruth Davidow is still living, and I told him, if she ever comes in I would like to see her. AVL: Yes, I'm sure. AO: Yes. He told her that somebody down here had her autograph, she couldn't believe it. Oh yes, she and Evelyn [Hutchins], the othe r lady, um hm that was in '39. And Robert Ravern, this is that young man that was blind, and he and his nurse, Tamontana is it? I can't figure out her name. AVL: Tamminhouse, Mary Tamminhouse? AO: Tamminhouse, something like that, and, yes, he spoke her e, too. He had fought over there. I don't remember the year I didn't have the year on there. AVL: I think this is near the end of the war, '39, the beginning of '39, maybe. AO: Yes, it must have been, um hm And then, of course, Eladio Paula, yes, that's the one that was from here. And at that time I never thought of putting down dates but and, of course, this is Felipe Rojas. AVL: Felipe Rojas who was another volunteer. And how about this? AO: Luis Soto Fernandez. I'm trying to think of what it was, I don't know whether he was in whether he was a member of Congress, I mean, you know, in Spain of the Republic, of the Parliament over there, or isn't it funny, I can't remember what but what he was. AVL: I think he was a union le ader with the teachers, tea cher s union. AO: Oh was he? I can't remember at all.
16 AVL: He came in a tour with Castelao, I don't know, Castelao was a very famous Galician nationalist, and he toured the United States with Castelao. Although he came to Tampa alone, Castelao went to another place. AO: Oh, I see. Well, I can't remember. AVL: I think he was involved with some kind of teacher's union, and I believe that he got sick here and then he stayed a couple of days at the Centro Espaol. AO: Oh, really! AVL: Yes, he wrote a bo ok of memoirs AO: Oh, really! AVL: Yes, a nd he mentions Tampa. He said, "O h I got sick in Tampa. AO: Oh, he got sick in Tampa. I hope it wasn't anything he ate here. Yes, he was here in '39. Well, that's Mart Ibaez again, he came back, yes. AVL: S o, what were the people doing at this point. This is already November? No, September. AO: September the 26th of '39. AVL: So the war is already over, why do they keep coming ? AO: Yes, I guess so. I g uess they were still wanting to well there were A VL: Was the popular committee, the Comit Popular, still very active at that point? AO: It's been it was fairly active for awhile, and I guess there was AVL: Even after the war? AO: Yes. Because I know that they felt like they needed all the help they could have get, you know, especially people having so much family over there and knowing what was going on, so I guess they were still collecting money and sending supplies or whatever, food supplies, that they could, and clothing, of course, I can rememb er we were sending clothes I don't know how long, every time anybody went to Spain you always managed to get a box to send with them, you know. For your family or for whatever, whoever could use them. AVL: I see. How about this Alberto Diana or Triana?
17 A O: I don't remember that one, at all. Oh, and General Asensio in '41. AVL: So you were still getting AO: Yes, in '41. I was, yeah. AVL: You were attending all these events AO: Oh yes, we were right there on the stick. Fernando de los Ros came back again, I guess, you know they still needed help and AVL: This one is 1941. AO: Mallo? AVL: Jeronimo Mallo? AO: I think that's what it is. AVL: Do you remember anything about him? AO: No, him I don't remember at all, but AVL: Apart from the spea kers that came here, do you remember like movies and documentaries about the war, anything at all like that, going to a theater and watching some pictures? AO: Not of what was going on over there. News, maybe. You know, how the at that time they had, af ter the movie, they would have that Paramount no, I don't remember what it was, but anyway, they'd have the news and they'd have something but nothing ever, you know, I don't remember anything. I don't know who this is oh, Del Vayo. Side B begins AVL: Th at's Julio Alvarez del Vayo, he was a minister, he was a member of the government, during the y es, so he came in what, '43? AO: Um hm '43, gosh! I was already 19. AVL: So, were people really attended these events, I mean ? AO: My family did! AVL: Yes uh huh AO: My mother and I were here all the time.
18 AVL: Who would organize these events, now that the Comit Popular wasn't working I mean in 1943, that's already four years after the war. AO: Well, it must have still been working. I thought I heard I thought I read something the other day that, until about 1970 they were still maybe it wasn't el Comit Popular but some people were still working and doing things, so it must have been them. And I think la directiva here at the Centro Asturiano probabl y, you know, somebody always knows about somebody that's coming in, you know how it is, and I'm sure that they must have put it together. AVL: Were they still gathering money, you have the sense, like when they would come to these events, or were they co ming just more to speak? AO: No, I'm sure they must have gotten some money, you know, because it seems to me like, yes, that they were collecting money. Whether they collected it at the end, you know here or whether they went down I don't think they went down each row but I think they must have collected it afterwards, you know, sort of AVL: This is the last one. Now, do you remember then how people reacted here, for instance when Franco died in 1975? I mean he was in power AO: They probably had a ba ll! AVL: Was he still pretty much in the minds of the Spaniards here after a ll these y ears or ? AO: Well, I guess, through the years, you know, things do get a little dull and I have to admit I was there in '74 and in spite of AVL: In Spain, you went t o Spain in '74? AO: Yes, and in spite of the fact that I did not like him, I had to admit that my son, who was 11, was very safe in walking down any street in Gijn, for instance, you know, and I was very comfortable about that. But, I guess there were ot her things that since I didn't live there I didn't know what the problems were. AVL: Did you talk to your family about it? AO: Yes, my cousin was very outspoken and, obviously they did not have a hard time, you know, nobody did anything about it, they co uld speak and say whatever they wanted to, nobody was jailed for saying anything. So either he was getting old and wasn't paying attention or, you know, he just got more liberal through the years, I don't know but they were not it wasn't what I would hav e expected, in other words, you know. AVL: What did you expect?
19 AO: Well, I don't know if it was a dictatorship I would have expected ; maybe rigidity, you know, and you can't do this and you can't do that, but they seemed to be able to do almost at least in Gijn, I don't know how the big big cities were, but I didn't see anything in Madrid either. Everybody seemed to be going along and doing what they wanted to do, and didn't seem to be having any problems with the only thing is there obviously was a l ittle tighter control when it came to crime and stuff like that, you know, it wasn't and when I went back in '83 I noticed the kids with their painted hair and green and blue and stuff. I didn't see that in '74, so you know h e did have some control. He w as the police was obviously watching, but I never felt res trained or, you know, I was not I suppose now, of course my cousin used to complain about now, too. AVL: Do you think people, I mean with time, came to think of him like well maybe he wasn't that b ad or were those feelings still ? AO: Well, I heard people say, no, yes, something like that, but, in spite of the fact that they didn't like him, and in spite of the fact that he was a dictator, still, you know, he did keep a lid on a lot of the stuff th at's going on now, there and here, you know. So, I suppose that you want a democracy but in a democracy anything goes and you have to learn to accept that or get to a more restrictive government and people don't want that so they have to put up with what t hey're getting. They want a liberal government or they w ant a democratic form of govern ment they have to accept what's going on, you know, whatever goes on. You know, I mean everybody has rights, unfortunately so it's not only the victim but the perpetr ator has rights too, so, you know. And I did notice, like I said, in '83 is when I really noticed the difference. I saw these little, not little kids, but they were like and they were probably not even Spanish, who knows, you know, but, kind of green hair, I said, "O h, oh, you can tell Franco is not here. AVL: So, how did your mother, for instance, feel about Franco when she would ? AO: Very strong AVL: Against him? AO: Yes, very strong. AVL: What kind of things do you remember she used to say about the whole situation? AO: What she used to say? It's probably unprintable. Well nothing except that she was un happy because see what we caught was a lot of the crime, the people that got killed because they didn't agree with him and the things that were happening in the little town where she came from, the little village. And those were the things that upset her. I guess she wasn't into the philosophy of the whole thing, the close things were the ones that bother you, and I think that's, with most people it's the same thing. What really bothers
20 you is what's close to you, your little town or your family and so, yeah, she was very upset. And then one of the boys that came back, I think it must have been Avelino that was with Franco, I'm not sure, or maybe not, I don't know, I know he was in jail for awhile and when he came back he died of, I think it was kidney problems, and they don't know whether he was mistreated or what it was. AVL: What was his name? AO: Avelino Carreo. AVL: Uh huh so he came back to Tampa? AO: No, no, I'm sorry, no, no, he didn't come back to Tampa AVL: He came back from the front to the AO: He came back from the front to Gijn, because they, yes, he lived in Gijn, and shortly after that he died, you know, a little while aft er that, and I used to think that it was because, that he had been mistreated while he was in prison but, I think my cousin finally said, no, it was just something he may have picked it up at the front well, he wasn't really at the front, being an electric al engineer there really weren't he nor the other brother were at the front, they were really, you know, I guess somewhere in the background working with whatever they had to do but, he it was very upsetting because, you know, we didn't know the whole stor y here, and t hat's about it. AVL: Did people, after the war was over, do you remember people trying to get out of Spain and, you know, families here trying to bring family members, or that wasn't really a concern? AO: No, none of my family. The only tim e my cousin ever had trouble is, the youngest one, when he wanted to come in '53, they wouldn't let him out because he said that they kept saying that he didn't have a reason for coming back to Spain, going back to Spain. So he was going with his wife, the one that he and so he had to marry her so and she had to stay there so that that would have he'd have something to come back to is what there if he had really meant to stay out I don't think, you know, he would have tried bringing her over later, but ye s, that's but, other than that, no, my family never tried to get out and I don't remember that many people getting out. I don't know that the Spaniards were that even in years before were immigrating that much, do you? AVL: Before the war you mean? AO: E ven before the war, even, I don't think it's the country that had the most people leaving. AVL: Oh yes!
21 AO: Did it, really? AVL: A lot. I have the idea that a lot of people who came, well maybe not to Tampa, but a lot of people who did leave Spain, Ast urias and Galicia AO: Yes, Asturias and Galicia came here. AVL: Yes, had this idea of just leaving for a few years and then go back. Was that the case here in Tampa, do you think? AO: Some people did, yes t here were a lot of people working here and sen ding the money to Spain and then they lost it all when the war, I guess, when the Civil War started, they lost it all. AVL: Do you think were there people who had plans kind of to go to Spain, to retire in Spain and then maybe they got caught up there wit h the war, or people really never return ed to Spain, I me an, once they were settled here? AO: Oh, well, not my family but, y es, there were families here who there were some of the men who were working and and I heard them, I heard my paren my mother and my uncles talking, you know, so and so, which I, like I said, I wasn't paying attention but, he's working and sending his money back, he says, let's hope he doesn't lose it or something, you know, and some of them did. They had family there and some people were just banking it I guess. AVL: With the idea of returning and retiring there AO: Yes, yes, right. Well, at the Loyal Knights of America we had Tojo who was from, I think it was gallego AVL: Manuel Tojo? AO: Yes! Did Delia tell you about him? A VL: No, no, no, I know him because I did research on Galicians and he was from that area. AO: Uh huh well, my he went back, he was from yes, he went back to Spain. AVL: Where was he from, do you remember the area? AO: Delia would know, Delia would kn ow. But he was one of the people who was running the juvenile chapter for the Loyal Knights of America and I k new him well. Delia did see him when she went to Spain. He met her somewhere, and she got to see him, you know.
22 AVL: When did he leave, he left d uring the war, you s aid, or after the war AO: I don't know whether it was no, it must have been after the war, I think, it must have been after the war and yes, he went back and I don't know whether he's still living but I know Delia went back to Spain, one of the first times and got to see him and talk to him and I'm sorry I didn't do that, I didn't even think about it. I didn't even realize, I didn't even know where he was, she knows, so he did, he went back and is living there. I don't know many, but, yes. AVL: There were then a few who did that. AO: I used to work for Cuesta Rey years ago and Mr. Cuesta, and he's probably turning over in his grave when I say, "old man Cuesta." I worked for his son Angel and the old man was knighted because he went ba ck and, I guess you probably researched it, and had electricity, everything put in his house, in this little village, you know, he did a lot for his village and I don't know whether Angel ever went back, his brother could speak Spanish, Angel couldn't. His brother, I can't even remember his name, but AVL: Karl, Karl Cuesta? AO: Karl, Karl and the sister was Carlotta, you're right. Karl, Karl was a sweetheart. They were both very nice people to work for, but Karl had spent a lot of time in Cuba because he bought the, you know, he'd check on th e tobacco over there, so he learn ed to speak Spanish, because their mother was Anglo so I guess they never really picked it up at home, and but they were very nice people. I really liked them. But, he did, the old Mr. Cuesta did a lot for his village back home and he had a big place there that he went back to a lot. AVL: Yes, a lot of immigrants actually from Galicia and Asturias built schools and improved their little hamlets in any way they could. It's very common w hen you travel from the little places you see the school and the school would have something like "paid by, or built by the sons of" whatever the name of the hamlet or something, in Cuba, or in Argentina AO: Yes, so many others went That's why maybe I th ought that because so many went to Cuba and AVL: And South America, a lot of them, too. AO: Because my uncle and his brother had a business in Cuba and that's why my youngest cousin came in '53, to check, to see what was left, his dad was dead and his u ncle was so old, and I don't know that there was much left, you know, there, but AVL: Okay, let me just ask you to finish up with the war in Spain. Looking back from today, what would you say was the impact of the war in your life, if any?
23 AO: The Spani sh Civil War? AVL: In your life or in your family's. AO: Well, ye s, I think that was the central because everybody, you know, war in Spain, that was what everybody talked about, you know, and everybody worried about, and since, especially being first g eneration American, my family, my parents had family over there, you know, so, yea h, it was something that you almost lived with everyday. Definitely, and I guess it colored a lot of the things that you did. Even though as young as I was, you know, but oh yeah, the Spanish Civil War was the theme, I think, of most of our conversations, you know. Not the young kids, I suppose, but if you were home you always, there was always something about it, and this uncle Manin, Manuel, he'd come by to see my mother, yo u know, and that's what they talked about, and, H ave you heard anything ? or, you know. Oh, yes, it was and I think later on when I was older, that I realized that what I think angered me is about being called "reds" when really all that Russia was doin g there was checking, I mean, you know, testing her armaments and her guns and everything just in case she had to use them somewhere else. AVL: Who were called "reds" and by whom? AO: The Republicans, they were called "reds" mostly by the Americans who see, nobody's going to like this, but they see a communist behind every tree, you know. They did for awhile, you remember McCarthy, so, you know, it's we were now that used to make me angry! Even when I was young, you know, to be called "reds". And it was, you know, not and then I realized that really this war started there, you know, really. AVL: But was there Communist activity here in the 30s, there was some, do you remember? AO: I remember that this, my half sister, was working in the cigar factory a nd, yes, you know, the communists would take advantage of any unrest, so, yes, they had as a matter of fact if somebody ever saw the Daily Worker at my house they'd probably have called me a "red" too. I was interested in reading about it and one of my fri ends gave me a whole stack of them. I never got to read them and I finally threw them away, I don't know if I burn ed them, but, yeah, my sister there was this song that they had, too, about AVL: About what? AO: I wish I could think something like Avanz a pueblo, ser comunista ." Something about the worker, but I forgot it, but, yes, she was teaching it to me. AVL: Oh yes, she was? Was she in the union? A O: No, she wasn't, she was just but see, what the communist was doing is telling the
24 worker trying to advance it well making them think they were going to be advanced to o so, and, of course, things were bad here, and well, even unionizing was a bad word around here, even unionizing was a bad word here. I understand that people from downtown took hold of these union leaders and took them somewhere and left them on an island or took them down to Central America, I don't know what, and they got back, you know, so unionizing was a bad word, so, of course, the but there were, yes, the communists were here, but I don't think it ever amounted to much, you know, I really don't, or maybe I'm being naive, I don't know. AVL: But, for instance, in these events in support of the Republic, do you remember that there was a lot of political activity or, I mean, were comm unists, or union leaders participating in a way b ecause, I mean, they were supporters of the Republic also in Spain, so maybe it would be a way to AO: I guess I don't remember, you know, maybe I wasn't I guess I was too young to realize get into the poli tics of it, or I was naive, I didn't think so, but, you know, I don't remember, I don't remember the family talking about the communists getting involved, you know, but for all I know they may have but I don't remember them talking about it. You know, some body else who was maybe more involved in that might be able to tell you but I really don't AVL: And were there strikes at this point, you know ? AO: Oh the cigar makers had several strikes. They had one that they called la huelga de los siete, siete me ses, y otra. Otra was AVL: de los diez meses AO: de los diez meses and I think they had one for nine months and they even struck because they wanted to take the lectores AVL: Right! that was AO: And they were paying for it, but they were getting t oo smart, see. These people were reading the newspapers from everywhere and the cigar maker maybe a lot of them couldn't read and write, but they knew what was going on in the world, and getting smart and I don't think the cigar owner, I mean the factory o wners were very happy about that, so they And you know they could discuss the classics, you know, because they read to them all these novels in the morning, and boy, everybody you could hear a pin drop, everybody was listening. Yes, those were the days Ana. And I miss them. It was such an innocent time, you know, it was such an innocent time when you could just walk around town my mother and I used to go to the Spanish movies once or twice a week and it'd be 10:30 or 11 o'clock and we'd walk home, you know, never gave it a second thought that anybody was going to even say boo nothing, nothing, it was well, you know, when I was doing the tours at
25 the Casita, and I read a little bit about it, you know, people would leave half of the time the doors were o pen. My uncles who had an ice plant, and one of them delivered to the houses, they would either leave the back door open and he'd go around the back and leave their 10 or 15 cents worth of ice in the icebox, and either they'd leave the money there, or some times they'd leave the keys under the doormat, he'd open the door, leave the ice, lock the door, leave, put the key back under the doormat. AVL: Not anymore! AO: Not any more, no way, no, not any more, goodness. AVL: Okay, before we conclude this interv iew I would like to ask you is there anything else you would like to add or some aspect that you think we should have dealt with that we didn't? AO: About the Civil War? AVL: Um hm or life in Ybor City or yo ur family, anything that you wan t to AO: Yo u don't think I've talked enough? AVL: There's always room for more. Anything that you want to make sure that, you know, gets included in the AO: No, I've pretty well talked myself out. No, off hand I can't think of you know. AVL: Okay, so this conclud es the interview with Amalia Owens and I want to thank you very much for participating in this project. AO: You're welcome. End of interview
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Owens, Amalia L.
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Ana Varela-Lago.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (69 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Spanish Civil War oral history project
Supplemental material available in the USF Tampa Library Special Collections area.
Amalia Owens discusses how the Spanish Civil War affected Ybor City. Particular emphasis is given to the various guest speakers and events that took place.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Interview conducted March 24, 1997.
Owens, Amalia L.
Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.)
y Civil War, 1936-1939.
Varela-Lago, Ana M.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
USF ONLINE ACCESS