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Alice Perez


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Alice Perez
Series Title:
Spanish Civil War oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file (69 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Perez, Alice A
Varela-Lago, Ana M
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
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Subjects / Keywords:
Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.)   ( lcsh )
History -- Spain -- Civil War, 1936-1939   ( lcsh )
History -- Songs and music -- Spain -- Civil War, 1936-1939   ( lcsh )
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )


Alice Perez describes how Tampa's Latin community supported the Spanish Civil War. She describes participating in demonstrations with other children, and goes into detail about the songs they sung.
Interview conducted March 5, 1997.
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Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System Details:
Streaming audio.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Ana Varela-Lago.
General Note:
Supplemental material available in the USF Tampa Library Special Collections area.

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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 029487417
oclc - 316064911
usfldc doi - S64-00023
usfldc handle - s64.23
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COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2009, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


1 Spanish Civil War Oral History Project Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: S64 00023 Interviewee: Alice A Perez (AP) Interviewer: Ana M. Varela Lago (AVL) Interview date: March 5, 1997 Interview location: Temple Terrace, Florida Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview changes by: Mary Beth Isaacson Interview changes date: November 26, 2008 Additional changes: Arlen Bensen Additional changes date: January 5, 2009 Final edit by: Maria Kreiser Final edit date: January 27, 2009 A na M. V arela L ago : This is an interview with Mrs. Alice Perez. Alice, I would like to start by talking a little bit about your family. How did they first come to Tampa, what did they do here in Tampa? A lice A P erez : Well, the actual events are dim recollections because I was so young The emotions are still very vivid because as a child, you know, the impressions that you get kind of remain with you for the rest of your life, and you go, well, I in particular go over the events very frequently, especially in my childhood, mainly beca use I didn't want to forget them. To forget them would be like forgetting a big part of your childhood and I'm a dweller in the past and there are things that I want to remember so I go over them in my mind. I've gone through them in my mind, through the years. So, what I remember of, particularly my father telling us stories about how young he was when he left his land. AVL: How young was he? AP: I believe he was between the ages of 14 and 1 6. He had a relative, an uncle in Cuba that owned a restaurant, and he was his sponsor. So, he left a widower father with two of his sisters and came to live with his uncle, and he was placed in a camp where aliens are kept until the sponsor comes to claim them. AVL: That was in Cuba? AP: In Cuba. And I remember him telling us that he staye d there the allotted days, and o n the very last day he thought for sure he was going to be shipped back because the uncle hadn't come to claim him. But, o n that last day he showed up. And, he worked for this


2 uncle washing dishes i n this restaurant. And he would tell us about how his skin would come off in chunks after working the fields. He had all these calluses in his hands, which he didn't even realize that they were calluses, and having his hands in water constantly, the skin w ould just peel off by the chunks and that was very impressive. I hadn't thought about that for a long time, and it just came to me, you know, recollecting events. And, then, I guess, things didn't, weren't my father was a very ambitious man, he liked to al ways better himself. So, I guess he didn't that he would go very far there in Cuba, so he decided to come here to the United States. It was easy because the communities already had been established as far as the Spanish speaking communities were concern ed. The cigar factories were established and the communities were established, so he felt comfortable coming over. AVL: Did he know already somebody in Tampa, I mean, he knew that he wanted to come to Tampa? AP: Yes, he had a cousin and he lived with them, he boarded there. AVL: What year was that, do you remember, when he came to the States? AP: I think to Cuba he went when he was 14 and I think around 16, in his early, in his late teens rather. I definitely don't know the date but he still was in his teens, and he boarded with this family for I don't know what period of t ime. I just don't remember. But he came here and he worked in a grocery store. He didn't go straight in to the cigar factory. I don't know when that transition occurred. I imagine he might have worked as a practitioner for some period of time but he worked in a grocery store, I remember that. And then, I don't remember the transition, but he eventually ended up being a cigar maker. I think he was a roller. AVL: Roller is the one who actually makes the cigar. AP: No, he's the one that puts the last cap o n it. My mother was what you call the buncher. She was the one that formed the cigar and she was the one that had to feed the two rollers that worked with her. S he had to make enough bunches AVL: So the three of them worked together. AP: No, no, she didn't work with my father. AVL: Right, but I mean the roller and the bunchers. There is one buncher and two rollers? AP: At its peak, when cigar making was at its peak, the buncher would have two rollers and she really had to work hard to keep up with those, but she was a good one so and he was a good roller too. AVL: Where did he work?


3 AP: He worked in a factory that is no longer there, as a matter of fact he worked across the street fr om the house where I was born, o n 14th, it was called La Pila [Cigar Factory] And it was right across the street from where we lived, where I was born. AVL: And your mother also worke d there? AP: My mother always worked in West Tampa. She worked mainly in Garcia y Vega [Cigar Factory] in West Tampa. So, I'm at the point where my father was a teenager. Whenever there was a strike he would go to Virginia to work. He was a very industrio us man. Then when the strike was over over here he'd come back. AVL: In Virginia he would also work as cigar maker? AP: Yes. Virginia grew the tobacco for the United States, so they had the industry over there. But really, you know what, I really don't know, I really don't know if he made cigars over there because my mother would talk about him, or he would anyway, about his leaving Tampa, and at one time he went to New Jersey, worked over there, but now that you mention it, I can't tell you that he work ed as a cigar maker. He might have worked at a restaurant or doing I have no idea. I don't know. AVL: Now, why Virginia, did he have somebody there or ? AP: No, but I imagine that he didn't go alone that there were others that felt, you know, that they had to leave too. I'm sure that they left, maybe two or three or in groups. I never asked and he never mentioned, but I don't see him going by himself. I'm sure that, you know, there were others that were out of work too. AVL: Yes, it was like a network o f people going. AP: Right. All right let's go to my mother's side. Things were very bad in Cuba and I imagine that my grandparents left there for the same reason that my father left at the time he did. Now, my mother's family came earlier than, you know, than when my father did. My grandfat her came over by himself to find work and find a place to live. He had my grandmother and two daughters, at the time, and then he went back for them and came down. I don't know if he was the first of his family to come, there were some nieces of my grandmo ther that came, but of her family, she and another sister were the only ones that came. And I don't remember too many other relatives, just some nieces of my grandmother that came and another sister, with a son. I believe my mother came one time, when sh e was two I believe, but then they went back. I guess things didn't work out. But I believe that about three years later they came back and never left, so she was about five, I think, and my other aunt was about e ight. I think there was a three year diffe rence between the two of them. Then three more children were born here, two siste rs and a brother. And my parents met at dances, organizations, you know, the clubs, these clubs that were


4 established. AVL: The mutual aid societies. AP: They had dances and she was 21 when they got married. AVL: What did her f amily do in Tampa? Was it ? AP: Oh, cigar. AVL: Cigar workers AP: My grandmother stayed home and cared for the children and my grandfather worked in a cigar factory. He worked in a factory called El Reloj. There's another name, Regensburg. A VL: The one with the big clock o n the tower. AP: Yes, and that gave us the time because we lived very close and I'd look out the window and I would see the time, but I didn't even have to, the clock would chim e every hour and quarter hour. That was some institution. I mean, you k now, m y grandfather worked there, and a couple of aunts. AVL: Was he also a roller? AP: He I think he was a roller. Okay, so he worked there and she raised the children. The two older ones kept the traditions. The three younger ones weren't too traditional. The oldest third, the oldest of the three that were born here, married a Spaniard, so that kept her within the tradition, but the other two, especially the younger brother, didn't a bide too much by the Spanish tradition, he kind of, you know, got into the, his peer group and it was a little different with him. And, so now where are we? Okay, the girls marry into the Spaniard world. All of them married Spaniards, all of them married a sturianos AVL: Was that common, that intermarriage between Cubans and Spanish or was that atypical? AP: I think so. I don't focus too far away from me, I'm more introverted so I only remember things that kind of affected me but the marriage to the youngest of my aunts didn't work out. She, he was older and he was very traditional with his customs and things and my aunt having been born here and being the younger didn't conform, didn't conform, so that marriage broke up and t hey had one daughter. And incidentall y, she married, this cousin of m ine, married a Cuban and when the Castro revolution started he talked her into going back to Cuba, and here this Americanized daughter of immigrants with this Americanized daughter, havin g had an American little daughter, also, was talked into going back to Cuba.


5 AVL: She did go there? she went? AP: Yes, oh yes, she's been living there since the Castro regime took over. So there was a big influence, they were very close to my grandmothe r who was Cuban and my grandfather. And I think this, being raised in this ambience it was easy to talk her into going to Cuba. Especially having married a Cuban fellow. Very, very devastating to me personally. Grace and Dalia [Alice's sisters] have been t o Cuba to visit this aunt and cousin, but I just haven't been able to get myself to do it. I just see them as traitors, kind of, so, well. Now they're all married and they have children, so they rent this big house, and here's the grandparents with the dau ghters having children and having to go to work. Everybody worked, so my grandmother takes care of the children when they're very young and they each have their apartments in this great big two story house. AVL: Where was the house located? AP: The house was o n 14th Avenue, it's not there anymore, I think between 18th and 17th Street. And that's where my sister, Grace, was born. And, well, within a year's time everything broke up, they all went their way. And my grandmother and my grandfather rented this house. My mother, my father and Grace came to live with them. My mother stuck close to my grandmother, and I was born in this house, right down the street, o n 14th [Avenue] across the street from this factory, La Pila. And that's where I grew up until I was 16 years old. My oldest aunt and the third daughter, lived o n the northeastern part of, it was rural, it was really rural, but they lived close to each other and my other aunt stayed close to, my youngest aunt stayed close to my grandmother, being she was divorced and had this daughter. My grandmother took care of her and the three of us sisters, the three. So, she had her hands fu ll for quite a few years with little children. That was really and then she also took care of anot her cousin. She had her h ands fu ll. But it was a nice childhood. You know, we didn't have to weather the weather, we were home, if it was bad weather we stayed home and the truant officer would come and she wouldn't see any reason why, if it was raining, we wouldn't be in school and I was later able to confront her because she's a very active person in the community and she takes pride in what she's done, she did a good job. And I told her, you know, just imagine an elderly lady who is taking care of children and here is this downpour early in the morning and she's not about to send her granddaughters walking in it to school. But, of course, I forget that there are galoshes, that there are raincoats, and there are umbrellas, okay? But I should have seen the social worker's po int of view in that regard, you know, but Latin grandmother is very protective and it wa s easier to just keep us home, I imagine. So this is what Mrs. Velasco had to do, go find those who were truant. Over protective AVL: How old were you at that point? Were you already going to school? AP: Oh, I was six, six years old, seven, I remember.


6 AVL: So Grace also stayed home? AP: Yes. AVL: or being older she was ? AP: No, no, no, no, my cousin who was the oldest of t he four that my grandmother took care of, all stayed home. It wasn't going to rain o n us, we were overly protected. That's just funny things that I remember. And okay, so everybody is growing in their own part of the world. Now where do I go from here? AVL: What do you remember just growing up in your family, your parents ? AP: All right, now I'll just focus o n my own AVL: Did you speak Spanish, for instance? AP: Oh, that's all we spoke. AVL: When did you learn to speak English, when you went to sch ool? AP: Well I had picked up little bits of the lan guage because I was, you know, I had my older cousin and my sister Grace, she already had spoken a little bit of English, so I picked it up here and there. The school that we went to, [V.M.] Ybor School prohibited the speaking of Spanish, so you can imagine how quiet that school was, I mean there was not very much noise in there. If you couldn't speak the language, then you didn't speak, because you hadn't had, you hadn't mastered the English. AVL: Di d you have American teachers? AP: No, we had Italian teachers, we had American teachers and we had Spanish speaking teachers. AVL: So they chose not to use Spanish. AP: They didn't allow it. Mr. Geeters was the principal, an d it was not allowed, not even o n the grounds. I imagine that this is how they felt, you would learn the language by using it and not falling back into the Spanish. I had my name changed and Grace had her name changed at school. She was Graciel a and it was changed to Grace. I was A licia and it was changed to Alice. Now, I remember my father always saying that we had to have simple names, we were not going to have these elaborate Spanish names because it would be to o confusing, it would end up in we would end up being nicknamed and h e abhorred nicknames, he just thought that that was just low class. AVL: I've heard that a lot of people had nicknames


7 AP: Oh yes, but not my father. He was such a friendly man, he was so down to earth, he wasn't the typical asturiano that's very staun ch, he just in a way, I think, inside he was, he had some of that, but yet it showed up in this name situation. They had to be simple names where either the Americans or the Latin people could say it, so he was very staunch about that. No nicknames, that w as awful! So, that's the way we ended with the names, but as simple as they were they were still changed in school, we had to go by the American name. And I always tended no t to want to be different. So I tried as much as I could to fit in to whatever ci rcumstance I was in, you know. In other words, we leaned more to being Americanized. I think it was because my father felt strongly about this country. He always said that his country never fed him well, it didn't do for him, why should he be loyal to that country that didn't make it easy for him. I mean, at least make it halfway decent for him, so. He broke alliance well, I think the war had a lot to do with it. I think that alliance finally came to an end when [Francisco] Franco took over. So, his alliance was to the United States. He was very proud of being an American and he and my mother would go at night to classes at Ybor S chool, they held classes. I imagined, yes, and they would go every night and oh, they were so pro ud when they came back with their little American flags, that they had passed the test AVL: Were those citizenship classes? AP: Yes, those were citizenship classes. AVL: When did they become citizens, do you remember? AP: Well, I had recollection, so it must have been when I was six, seven AVL: So, that would be in the '40s? AP: maybe even younger, because my memory goes way way back but I just can't, you know. It might have been in the late '30s, It might have been in the l ate '30s. I was born in '31, so it probably was in the late '3 0 s. AVL: So, he never wanted to go back to Spain? AP: Oh, no, no, to live there, no, no, no. AVL: How about the family that he left there, was he still in touch with family there? AP: Yes, oh no, yes, very much so. As a matter of fact he went back. He would sell cigars, he was an industrious man, he not only worked in the cigar factory, but he would sell cigars and he won a big prize, I think for having sold the most, and they had saved up so he took my mother in early '29 and while they were in Spain, they stayed there six months, and while they were in Spain the market crashed so they went just before they


8 would have lost all they had in the bank. Towards the end of '29, I think, was the crash. They went early early '29. AVL: Right, in the summer, um h m. AP: And the crash happen while they were over there. They came back and my mother was pregnant. She hadn't been able for so many years that they had been married, I think eight years th ey had been married, and she hadn't been able to conceive and here they go to Spain and they came back while she was expecting Grace. And, of course, delivered Grace here. Being Grace was conceived in Spain she always wanted to go back, so she did, after m y father died, they went back there to visit. But he kept in touch. I remember when his father died, I knew something was terribly wrong. We received a letter with Grace would always open the letters that came from Spain, she j ust loved to read them, she learn ed to read Spanish, and I remember that day my the mail came and my grandmother was holding this letter with the black frame around it and Grace wanted to open it, it was from Spain, she had to open it, and she says, "N ope, you can't open this letter." So right away I knew something was wrong and my grandmother was very sullen about it and put it aside, and when my father came he opened it and he was just so crestfallen, you know, and he was just so depressed and I kep t saying, Papi, what's wrong with you, what's wrong?" And then later on, you know, my mother told us that his father had p assed away. It was really hard o n him, it was really bad. I mean he didn't outwardly cry or anything, but just the expression, his w hole body language was so, he loved his father very much and then he kept in touch with his his father remarried and they had a daughter and a son. His oth er sister, his older sister was well eventually she became blind, she was very nearsighted and she became blind, so she stayed with the father. Another sister, I think there were three, the middle one, left with an uncle to Argentina, with an uncle and an aunt, and she passed away when she was 21, she had pneumonia, she caught pneumonia and passed away That really hurt my father too, very badly. So, he kept in touch with the half sister that he had over there. She was very faithful about writing, my mother would exchange letters with h er. The brother was very aloof. I always had the feeling that he was afraid that my father would be looking after his interests in the l and over there and that was the furthest thing from my father's mind. He just didn't wa n t, not a grain of soil from there. His life had been too hard ove r there and he lost his mother when he was 12, 10, 11, 12, very young. So what he had from over there were very depressing memories. I don't know if you've seen the movie, How Green was My Valley ? Oh, I wish I had never seen that movie, and I associate that movie with my father's life in Spain. That's the association that I make. No t that he's told me, but that's S o, but I always think that that's what and when the communication between my


9 mother Oh! my mother was in the hospital bed, in her death bed and she kept saying, you know, I haven't heard from Rosal ’ a, I haven't heard from Rosal ’ a, would you believe that a couple of days after she died, a letter from Rosal ’ a came? AVL: That's the stepsister of your father? AP: My half sister. And she never but those were her last thoug hts, I haven't heard from her, I haven't heard from her. So, then the communication just stopped, even though Gracie and her son Robert d id they go back? I don't remembe r. I'd better not say, because I don't remember whether they went back after my mother passed away. I thought they did but maybe they didn't. But anyway, the communication stopped and I imagine that this aunt has passed away. And, I don't think that the brother, my father's brother, want ed t his exchange, so it's over. So, but Grace and Robert, her son Robert, you know, know where they a re and they know about them, so But since they haven't reciprocated then, you know, you may as well just leave that alone. AVL: What do you remember of your father, and your mother also, their reaction to the war in Spain? AP: Oh, my father was devastated when it was over, it was bad. My mother didn't feel that much about it, she just, you know, went along with my father. He was a very friendly man, he l iked social contact so he wanted to be in it, you know, so he joined all these clubs and he was active. AVL: What kind of things did he do, when you say he was active, in what ways was he active? AP: Oh, well he held office in some of those clubs. I rem ember him going to meetings. My mother didn't appreciate this too much because she AVL: Was she against it, or she just wasn't one way or the other? AP: Well, she just i t's not that she was against it, but she didn't like him going to meetings too much, she wanted him home. But, it wasn't in his nature to be away from it, he had to be with people, he liked to belong to these things, to keep up with whatever was going on. See, he was a Spaniard, he had to belong to these things to keep up with them. And, she was here so young, you know, this is all she knew and those things were no t important to her, really. But she went along, you know, when the functions came along she went but she didn't participate. Now my other aunt, the, not the oldest, but the one j ust below her, the third daughter, was very socially inclined, she liked to belong to things and she participated in a lot of things, much more than AVL: What was her name?


10 AP: Josefina Huerta, yes, they were more socially active. Now my oldest aunt, he r husband wasn't interested. He was a Spaniard, he was asturiano but those things didn't interest I don't remember them participating in any of these things. And, of course, the other aunt, the youngest aunt, was divorced from her husband who was asturiano so she didn't par ticipate in these things. Now, o n my grandmother's side, she belo nged to the Circulo Cubano, and Hi, Ol. [Mrs. Perez's husband en ters the room ] Recording paused AVL: You were telling me how some of your aunts participated in the events more than others. AP: Yes, yes. You know how it was, the husband initiated it of course so, because that's the way it was then, whatever the husband initiated. And my oldest aunt, her husband wasn't wasn't motivated by any of this patriotism. Now, my Josefina Huerta's husband join ed all these organizations but I don't remember the part that he played during the war. I just don't remember it, I think he wanted to block it. He had a brother in Spain that was taken from his home and never seen again, so AVL: Where in Spain were they from, Asturias? AP: Yes, from Asturias, yes. AVL: He was taken from what side? AP: From his home, they came AVL: Who took him ? AP: Well, Franco's militia AVL: From the other side? AP: Right, the other side, and right, and never seen again, so that was an emotional thing. But, I never, in conversations, you know children sit and listen, I never heard anything about it from that uncle. I had heard it from my parents, but never anything from him, he as far as I wa s concerned, in front of us, he never discussed it. And AVL: What kinds of things did your parents talk about in relation to the war, that you remember, as you s aid ? AP: No, just about the picnics, the fundraisers that were coming up and that we needed uniforms and that we needed to learn songs, but, and how terrible Franco was. And that was the extent of it that I remember as a five year old. I mean, the excitement was get ting uniforms and learning the songs and I remember my father was always very emo tional about it, and every time I sang those songs I got chilled, very emotional about it.


11 Because that's when I could feel, more than listen or understand, it was this feeling that youngsters get about things that are emotional around them. And there was a lot of excitement and, you know, eating together and everybody and the music and socializing and AVL: What would happen in some of the meetings? I mean how do you remember the whole process of knowing that there's going to be a picnic or a meeting, and getting ready for it, and the n the kind of things that went o n in the picnic? If you could give me a sense of how AP: Oh, there were always speakers, but of course AVL: How did you hear from them, I mean how did you know, or your parents k new, that so and so was coming, or how did they choose to invite somebody? AP: No, I have no recollection of that. Now, my father would go to these meetings and, of course, they would that's the way he would hear about it because he was in it, and AVL: But, for instance, I have a picture of you here in one of these picnics, you remember? This picnic at La Columna. AP: Oh yes! we had j ust performed, we had sung the song. AVL: What do you remember about this day, about how the day was? AP: Lot of exci t ement, getting ready, putting o n the costume, and thinking, O h what an ugly color. AVL: Who made the costumes?. AP: Well, I have no idea. There was this lady o n Sanchez Street that sewed for us, Manuela, and I'm thinking that maybe she mi ght have made the costumes but I don't know. AVL: Did you know at that time what those uniforms meant? AP: Miliciano uniforms, soldiers from Spain, ye a h, Spanish soldier. And that's what we were portraying, the Spanish soldier AVL: So you were told t here is going to be this picnic. AP: And there was just going to be this gathering and there were going to be lots of people there, and we were going to sing these songs. By the way, this is the cousin that is living in Cuba now. AVL: O h, Angelina?


12 AP: Yes, she is th e one, my youngest aunt's daughter. She was raised with us because my grandmother would care for her. So, she did participate in it. AVL: Who took you to the picnics? AP: My parents. AVL: Um h m so every parent would bring their children and the whole family? AP: Yes, the whole family. AVL: And then all the young children would be dressed as this, because the teenagers then seem to be dressed differently AP: They dressed differently, right AVL: So there were like different groups? AP: Right! And I imagine they learn ed different songs, the more difficult songs would be sung by the older ones and the simpler songs would be sung [by the younger ones]. AVL: How would the event start? AP: Now, you know, I don't even know who taught us tho se songs, I really don't know. I don't remember gathering together to learn the s ongs, I really don't remember how we went about it. I just remember put ting o n the uniforms and going over to La Columna I guess, was one of the ones that I remember, and so many people being th ere and all this talking going o n and then just singing those songs, and that's my recollection. AVL: So, you would sing the s ongs like to an audience and people would be there? AP: Yes, yes, uh huh. AVL: Now, did you attend many of these picnics or is this the only one, I mean was that a very common ? AP: No, not too common. AVL: And did you go to other events apart from picnics? Do you remember going to other things? AP: Oh, yes, growing up. I remember but I never really was in to it. We joined the Damitas Club and they would have picnics at Centro Asturiano and we would serve yellow rice and chicken. We would help put the plates o n the tables and we would meet every month. No, they tried to keep it going, you know, although these people were so


13 possessive of the club. The young people were intruders. They were sure we wouldn't follow the traditions that they would set, so they weren't willing to open it up to us, they were c onstantly in control. And, as a teenager, I remember this group of girls that were just like their parents, wanted to control, you know, very controlling. And Recording paused AVL: Alice, you mentioned before that when the children would get together they would sing these songs. Could you sing one ? Side B begins AVL: Yes, we are ready to hear the s ong. AP: Okay, now, I have sung this in my mind through the years, because forgetting these songs is like forgetting part of my childhood and this was a v ery emotional time and I knew it was very important to my parents, so I didn't want to lose this part of my childhood. And, one of the s ongs, I don't ev en remember the title, but it's, Al sonar de las metrallas A l estruendo del ca –— n L os valientes milicianos Van formando el batall— n. Miliciano espa – ol M iliciano valiente E l orgullo del sol Es que est‡ s en el frente, L a victoria ha de ser tuya Al final de la j ornada Y esa sangre que hierve E s la sangre que redime Y ha de salvar a Espa – a OLE! AVL: What was the reaction of the p eople when you children would ? AP: Oh, I m ean, forget it! You know, it was I was so involved in my emotions so that I just didn't it was just something. And this other one, I'll sing the first verse and then I'll give you a version of what we used to say alte r it was all over. And this one you have the title here, No Pasar ‡ n ." Ah ’ van marchando los milicianos Van para el frente con gran valor


14 A dar sus vidas, se van cantando Antes que triu nfe Franco el traidor En el espacio van los fascistas Bombas aereas destrozar ‡ n La bella urbe capitalina Pero a Madrid No Pasar‡ n! Matan mujeres, ni – os y ancianos Que por las calles suelen andar Esta es la haza –a de los f ascistas Que all‡ en la historia se ha de gravar AP: Now, the rest I am not going to sing because I have forgotten those verses and I've lost the tune, but anyway, when the war was over, we would sing, my cousin Angelina, that was there, Gracie and I would sing the last few vers es a nd we would say, La bella urbe capitalina Pero a Madrid ya pasar — n So, you know, we did that as a kind of like a joke, but I'm sure it wasn't to my father. It was a very serious thing, but it was over and it was over. And then we just didn't think about it anymore, so AVL: He never mentioned that anymore, I mean AP: No, that was a closed chapter, so. AVL: Do you remember if the people, I mean most of the people obviously supported the Republic but, how about the people who weren't that supportive of the Republic, do you have memories of that? Any confrontations between people, if not physical, but, you know, understated? AP: No, we just avoid ed them completely. My father was that way, he was not a person that confronted people, he was, he wasn't that type of a person, he was very much to himself, very private, and we just avoided anything that had to do, there were many ramifications, I mean, forget, forget the Catholic religion. And that's all my father knew, so as far as religion went we were raised very much without it. Now AVL: Because of the war? AP: Oh yes, because of that, yes. Now, I was unaffected, I was very introverted and I had my own ideas. Now Grace was very much affected because she was more in touch with what was going o n around her than I was, I kind of isolated myself. And the church to her meant something terrible. And, like I belonged to the Girl Scouts and they are affi liated with the Methodist Church, but she wouldn't have anything to do with that, and


15 I would go to Sacred Heart by myself. My grandmother was very Catholic and she would, whenever we were ill, she would take out her religious articles and things and she w ould bless us and all this, but very secretly, she would say, "D on't tell your father about this, you know this is just between you and me, don't mention it to your father," so we knew that there was something there that was to be respected. AVL: Why do y ou think he was so anti clerical? Why do you think your father was so anti clerical ? AP: Beca use the church supported, he fel t that the church supported the fascists. And I remember my father me ntioning someone and say, oh, "H e's a F ascist," you know, he branded them as such. AVL: So you wouldn't have anything to do with those people. AP: Well yes, I mean, because I would go along with my parents to social functions and AVL: Do you remember if the church in Ybor City was, in fact, supportive of ? AP: No, oh no, I had no idea. I was too young for that and I wasn't in touch with things that went around me too much. I would go to churches, my own, with other friends. The Girl Scouts would promote going to summer programs in the churche s and I loved bein g in church, I loved it. I loved it. I liked the ambience in there, and I would go by myself, as a teenager I would go Recording paused AVL: Okay. Why do you think, Alice, that the Tampa community was so supportive of the Republic? Do you have any explanation for that? So overwhelming. AP: Okay, my views now, as an adult, okay, do you want that? Because I have none as a child, I have no idea. They were peasants, okay, and they needed help. They had socialistic tendencies, because, I imagine from th e class that they came from, they didn't have wealth so they organized, like these social clubs, the hospital. How could they have survived without something like that? They would have been what it is for some people now, or before w elfare, let's say. But, these people have a lot of pride in maintaining certain living standards and they had to do something, so they socialized. So they believed in this way of living, socializing medicine, so, I imagine that that's why they supported this kind of government. Not that they wanted it to be com munistic, but a socialized govern ment for sure. AVL: Was your father politically active in the sense of supporting any party or ? AP: No, the way that he was involved was through these clubs. Now, they might have had some political implications but, I don't know how it would have affected anything


16 here. Now, later o n there was a big communistic movement going o n in Tampa. As a teenag er I remember it. My father was not involved in that. No, there we re people who were very very l eaned very much towards communism at that time but this was, I mean, in the l ate 40s. I'm talking about way back in the 30s and in the 40s when the war had ju st ended in Like I told you then, that was a closed chapter, that was the end of that, but he in no way was invol ved in this undercurrent going o n here in Tampa. That was another class of people that were involved in a and like I told you about that cous in that went to live in Cuba, that was something else totally. Those were the Cuban elements that were involved in that and that was apart from no, no, that was as far as my family was concern ed, that was the end of that. And it was a more socialistic for m of govern ment that they wanted for their people in Spain. Take some of the power away from the rich, create a middle class, I guess. AVL: Let me ask you just this last question. Looking back from today, what would you say the impact of the Spanish Ci vil War was on your family and o n yourself personally? AP: Lack of religious training. AVL: Lack of religious training? AP: Yes. AVL: Any other aspect of your life that you think the fact that there was this war in Spain really affected you in any parti cular way? AP: In that area, completely and totally. AVL: Yes. AP: Like Grace has told you that her son researched, he's a very bright boy, and he knows that well, since he was little he had a tendency toward religion, and he would set up these ceremonies and celebrate all kinds of holidays with religion as a focal point, and he insisted that Grace become Catholic so, of course, she had been married originally in the sa m e church that I was, a Methodist church, and he insisted that to become a Cat holic they had to marry in the Catholic religion. Well, she did it without letting us know, I mean she just went ahead and did it and we never even knew. My husband and I didn't even know that they had renewed their vows in the Catholic church. That's how much affected she was by this change. She fel t like a total rebel, you know. But sh e shouldn't have felt that way; I used to go to the Catholic church, knowing that my father but, I liked it and I wanted to be in there and be part of it. Nothing came ou t of it because when we got married he felt the same way about the Catholic religion so we just didn't pursue it. I thi nk that was the main influence o n my life, religion, the rest of it is as we saw it. You know, those are the formative years, it was ou r formative and that's where


17 he could have the most influence. School wasn't part of it, it was just your social upbringing and whatever control a parent has over a child growing up would be religious beliefs and that's where he had the most influence, so I hope I make sense. AVL: Yes. Before concluding the interview I would like to ask you, is there anything you would like to add to this interview that we haven't discussed? AP: No, I think AVL: A question that you would have liked me to have asked you? AP: No. I wish I had, as an adult, I probably had lots of opportunities, being that I went to college and all, to research it but I never had any interest in researching it. And now I think back and, I should have, being that it was part of my child hood growing up, but like I say, I feel very American, my father made us feel that way. AVL: Did the Americans react to the Latin community in any way. What are your memories of that relationship? AP: Oh sure, oh sure. They always I didn't receive the brunt of it as much because, as years went by, there was more tolerance, if you will call it. My husband and his crowd weren't allowed in Sulphur Springs, they would be stoned, they didn't belong there. An American girl, if her father found out that she wa s going with a Latin boy, wow, that was a no no. Now, we grew up in this elem entary school that was strictly very f ew, you could count the Anglos o n your fingers, so, I mean, this was my world When I went in to junior high it was about the sa m e. Now, in high school we chose to go to Hillsborough instead of Jefferson. The Latin community went to Jefferson. My cousins, my older cousins have set the tradition of Hillsborough and Grace insisted that we follow that tradition. Oh, when I said I wanted to go to Jefferson, wow, I mean, the world crashed down o n me, "How can you? Y ou're breaking tradition! Well when my youngest sister was going to high school there was no question, she was going to Jefferson, but that was being isolated at Hillsborough H igh S chool, everybody was Anglo and there was just this little group of Latins that insisted o n going to Hillsborough because they liked it better, they liked the ambience, I guess, they wanted to get away from the Latin element that was loud and overbearing an d but that was isolating yourself. Now the Italians integrated better with the Anglos, they were accepted but the Latins Spanish, Cuban w ell when Grace graduated they got together, they had a bigger group then when I came along, and they nominated thei r notables and that was the first time any Latins had come out as notables in Hillsborough, and it's because they got together and chose their notables and and then, you know the cheerleaders, o h forget it! N o Latins in there, and then my daughter's gene ration gets she gets to be the head cheerleader at Jefferson. See how things changed so much? But, a Latin cheerleader, there was one guy, I think, that was Latin, two of the guys were cheerleaders, all the rest, forget it, you were


18 outnumbered. You were t reated nicely and respected, you know, they respected you but you weren't part of them. You just weren't part of them. And we, of course, we had our social group. We went to the Centro Asturiano, there were still dances going on, and besides, a Latin gir l marrying an Anglo was looked down upon, you know. Parents wanted to keep their culture going so, that's where we are now. My daughter is married to an Italian Irish, and all my son knows are Anglos, that's all he deals with, that's all he lives with, tha t's all he as sociates with, no stipulations o n our part. Whatever religion and whatever suits them, their way of life. Now they're very proud of their he ritage. My son just spend $200 o n a tile that, the family crest for the Perez e s. He came down here duri n g Christmas and went to 7th Avenue and found this place where they made the tile with the family crest and he wanted the Lopez and I said, "Y ou don't want to spend $200 of the Lopez crest, Perez is you r name, you keep that one. So I'm looking for a mug or something that has the Lopez family crest to send to him so he' ll have it, but he's very proud of his heritage and so is my daughter. They both understand Spanish. Their first language was Spanish because my mother in law took care of them, but then, i f you don't live the language, you don't keep it and this is what happened to them. But, they're very proud, they love their grandparents dearly and their grandparents love them. We were much of a family unit. They grew up together and so that's at the poi nt we're at now. AVL: This concludes the interview with Mrs. Perez and I want to thank you very much for participating in the project. AP: Oh you're welcome, it was my pleasure. AVL: It's been a pleasure talking to you. AP: Yes, it was a very important part of my life because of my father and I don't mind sharing it. AVL: Thank you very much. End of interview

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Perez, Alice A.
Alice Perez
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.
Alice Perez describes how Tampa's Latin community supported the Spanish Civil War. She describes participating in demonstrations with other children, and goes into detail about the songs they sung.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Streaming audio.
Interview conducted March 5, 1997.
Perez, Alice A.
Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.)
x History
y Civil War, 1936-1939.
Civil War, 1936-1939
v Songs and music.
7 655
Oral history.
2 local
Online audio.
Varela-Lago, Ana M.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Tampa Library.
4 856