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interviewed by Ana Varela-Lago.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (93 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.
Melba Pullara discusses the ways Tampa's Latin community supported the Spanish Civil War. She describes selling churros to raise money, and participating in a play at the Centro Asturiano.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Interview conducted April 18, 1997.
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
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 00025 Interviewee: Melba Pullara (M P ) Interview by: Ana M. Varela Lago (AVL) Interview date: April 18 19, 1997 Interview location: Tampa, Florida Transcribed by: U nknown Transcription date: U nknown Interview changes by: Arlen Bensen Interview changes date: November 25, 2008 Additional changes by: Mary Beth Isaacson Additional changes date: N ovember 26, 2008 Final edit by: Maria Kreiser Final edit by: January 28, 2009 A na M. V arela L ago : This is an interview with Ms. Melba Pullara. Melba I would like to start by talking a little bit about your family; where did they come from? W hy did th ey come to Tampa? Could you tell me? M elba P ullara : They came from S pain. AVL: Where in Spain? MP: Asturias. AVL: Your parents were from Asturias? MP: My father was from Arriondas and my mother from Campo de Caso. Well that's w h ere her parents were from, Campo Caso. AVL: Campo Caso. Could you tell me their names? MP: Ay! Ahora si me fastidiaste Now you got me messed up there! I think my grandfather o n my mother's side was Angel, and you know what? I don't remember the others. AVL: Okay, what wa s your mother's name? MP: Purificaci n. AVL: Purificaci n. And her maiden name?
2 MP: Bartolom AVL: Bartolo m And your father? MP: Benjam n Blanco. AVL: Benja m n Blanco. Why did they come to Tampa, do you know? MP: Well, my mother, they brought her when she was five; her uncle brought her to New York when she was five, and he raised her in New York. And my father just came to the N ew W orld, I guess. AVL: Did he come alone? MP: Yes, he [did] An uncle brought him from Spain. AVL: Did he go through Cuba or did he come directly here? MP: He went to New York, through New York I think. Yes, because I don't remember him saying anything about Cuba, but I know he went to New York. That's where my mother and my father met. AVL: What did they do in New York? What kind of business did they have in New York? MP: Well no, my mother's uncle he had a little well, we call it a buckeye, un chinchal AVL: I see, chinchal which is like a small cigar factory. MP: Right. And being that my father's uncle was associated with the cigar industry, well my father went to my mo ther's uncle and got a little j ob there as an apprentice, and that's where he met my mother. And my mother did not speak a word of Spanish. AVL: Really? MP: And my father didn't speak any English. AVL: So did they live in different areas in New York? MP: No, no, the same area but not real close by. AVL: I see. MP: And my father taught my mother English, Spanish I mean, and you couldn't, you would think that my mother was raised in Spa in. She had the Spanish accent. And also, you couldn't tell where she was from, from Spain or from the States.
3 AVL: I see. That's interesting. Did your father lea rn to speak English? MP: When he was by himself, when there was no one around that spoke bot h languages he would speak it, but if there was somebody around he would not speak it. He said nobody was going to make fun of him. AVL: I see. How about you? Did you lea rn English at home or when you went to school? MP: I lea rn ed it at home, English an d Spanish both. AVL: Yes, they were both spoken MP: My Spanish is a backyard Spanish. AVL: Oh, really? It sounds pretty good! Okay, so why did they decide to come to Tampa, your parents? They were there in New York, they got married in New York? MP: N o, as a matter of fact, they got married in Tampa. AVL: Oh. So, they met in New York but then MP: Yes. Well, my mother's uncle moved to Tampa and, of course, she came with him. AVL: When was that, do you think, in the 20s, the 30s? MP: Well, my m other married when she was 19. My father was 4 years ol der than her. Okay, let's see. I was born in '21. I think she got married in 1919 or 1920. AVL: So, you think they came here before World War I, for instance? MP: When was World War I? AVL : 1914 to 1918. About that time it's not important. But, before the 1920s they were here. MP: Yes, they were here. I think she married. She was 19 when she married, I'm not sure, but I think so, because I was 20 years younger than her. She had me when I [she] was 2 0, that's what I'm trying to AVL: And they came together. Your mother came with her uncle. MP: No. My mother came with her uncle, right. AVL: How about your father? MP: He came later.
4 AVL: He came later. But they already knew each other. MP: Yes, y es, yes. AVL: So why did they decide to move to Tampa. It was the job situation, or family or ? MP: Well, I think, my father because he didn't come following my mother his uncle that lived here sent for him. AVL: Oh, that's interesting. MP: See? His un cle claimed him from Spain. And my father lived in New York for a little bit until a brother of his came in to the States also, because, you see, my uncle claimed his brother. So. AVL: What was the name of that uncle, do you remember? MP: Miguel Rodrigu ez. AVL: Miguel Rodriguez, I see. So that's why they decided MP: That's why my father and his brother came into Tampa. But I think, I think, I am not sure, that my mother was already here, or if not she came a little bit alter that. But they already kne w one another. AVL: I see. So they got married here in Tampa? MP: Um h m. AVL: And they lived in Ybor City most of their lives? MP: Um h m. AVL: You were born here already, in Tampa? MP: Yes. AVL: Okay, tell me about your childhood. What memories do y ou have of growing up in Ybor City? What comes to your mind when you think about those years? MP: Well, up until about 5 years or five and a half, I remember few things, not anything to amount to anything. Child's kids. I remember a man that got electrocu ted in the telephone post, but that's not interesting. AVL: It's interesting that you remember that.
5 MP: There was a storm and the electrical wires were o n the ground, and the electric company came over to fix them and he climbed up the post to grab the thing and he was electrocuted right then and there. I remember that, and I re member playing with a kid, but I moved over here when I was five and a half. AVL: To this house where we are now? MP: No. The one right behind me. And I remember a kid playing. I was playing with this kid and his aunt came, and she used to hit me, so my mother says, "W hen she comes in and hit you, come home. I went home and o n the way, half way down the lot, she called me and I turned around and when I turned around I received t he bottom of a bottle, glass bottle, and it cut my chin right here. It opened it up. That's about all I remember until I was about five and a half, and then we moved over here and that's when the fun started. AVL: What do you remember of living in this ho use? MP: Oh gosh! AVL: If you had to pick out two or three moments of your growing up, what would you choose? MP: Two or three moments growing up? I was always climbing trees and what have yo u. And I remember one, his one I never forget it, Carmita d e la Grana she used to live up the street here. She was Carmita Rubio at the time. And she had d one something to me that I didn't like, and I wanted to pay her back. And we had made a swing, there was a big tree there, we had made a swing out of a rope and she climbed o n the swing and she wanted me to push her. And I pushed her. And she was scared of heights, and the more I 'd push her the more she yelled, "S top! And I kept pushing her, and pushing her, and pushing her, and the rope broke and she landed wa y over there and it knocked her unconsc ious. And I ran over there and I said, "Carmita, no te mueras, no te mueras! I remember that. There was a house here and one of the girls was looking out the window and, they had no screens, and when she flew, the g irl jumped out the window. I remember that part. And I was hitting her and yelling, "Don't die! Don't die!" AVL: What happened to her? MP: Nothing. She came to. AVL: You were scared? MP: Yes, because she flew. But, I mean, I wanted to pay her back bu t not that way. Oh well. And we played with all the kids around here. In the summer we used to go out right after supper and play around here. Because there was a big pond over here and right in through here there was a ditch and we were the only house he re. You had to cross the ditch to get to my house. Now there was no no garbage man would come here, they'd go through there. Well, we had no gas, because the gas would not reach here. It would reach up the street and over there and over there but not over here, so we had kerosene stoves and we had cows. We had two cows. I remember
6 milking them. We also had chickens. And they used to give these picnics, el parque La Columna, and where was the other park? AVL: That's in West Tampa, La Columna? MP: Yes. And the other AVL: De Soto Park? MP: No, De Soto Park. But the big picnics were not there. There was another place. AVL: Ballast Point? MP: No. They had them there once in awhile, but it was el parque La Columna, and I can't remember AVL: Nistal? La fi nca Nistal? MP: Finca Nistal! And we used to go, and there was always yellow rice and chicken. And we always had to leave early because we had to milk the cows, and I hated that. That's about AVL: Your parents, were they both working in the cigar indust ry here in Tampa or ? MP: No, my mother never worked, my father did, yes. AVL: I see. And what did he do, was he a cigar maker or ? MP: My father was a selector, rezagador AVL: In what factory? MP: At that time he was working in Corral [factory] but there was a selectors' strike, and it wa s a long one, and after that he he only knew how to make cigars, so after that he said, "To heck with it. I'm going into cigar making." So, he went into cigar making. And I remember he worked in Villaz n, and th at's where I learned, and from Villaz n he went to Corral as a foreman, and later I worked there too. And then I went up north during the war. AVL: During World War II? MP: Um hm And my father passed away in '43. So I came o n down, planning to go back, but I had my mother and my sister here so I decided to stay. AVL: To stay. Where were you up north, New York? MP: No, I was in Rahway, New Jersey.
7 AVL: You mentioned one of the strikes before, what do you remember of the strikes here in Ybor City? MP : The only thing. Really and truly, I don't remember anything. I know there were two strikes. There was one that they call it la huelga de los diez meses You heard of that one? AVL: A little bit. MP: And all I remember. I was little, and all I remember was that we went to the beach. There were three families that went to the beach. The men stayed here, working in the phosphate mines and we went to the beach, the women with the kids and I was one of the kids. And they used to go over there o n Fridays and come back Sunday or Monday, I don't know. And the only thing I remember of that was that I didn't want to eat. AVL: You didn't want to eat? MP: I didn't want to eat. AVL: Why, you didn't have any appetite ? MP: No, I guess not. And this lady, she used to run with a plate in her hand, she used to run a f ter me, and the spoon, and I used to run down the edge of the beach, and she would run. That's the only and then I remember there were two older kids that they used to play with near the water and they use d to pick me up and throw me in the water. That's all I remember, I don't remember anything else about the strikes, I don't remember. Now, that one that I said that the guy got electrocuted AVL: That happened during a strike also or ? MP: No! N o, that wasn't no I got it mixed up, no. It wasn't during the strike AVL: So your father was working in Corral, and then there was this strike and he left? MP: How was that again? AVL: You mentioned that your father first was a rezagador in the Corral factor y and then there was a selectors' strike. MP: Yes. I don't know when, I don't know what, no. No, that was another strike. I think, I think, I'm not sure oh, I'm getting my dates No, that storm was a big s torm, that was what I was getting confused. It was a big storm and it was in t he 20s I was born in '21 and I might have been 5 AVL: So around '26. MP: Around there, I think there was this big storm at that time, I'm not sur e, but I think there was
8 a big s torm. I don't remember anything about the strikes really. AVL: How about the Great Depression, what do you remember about those years here in Tampa? MP: Well, we weren't rich, but I remember I didn't go to bed without eating any day. Of course, what we had to eat was a lot of potajes AVL: Potajes ? MP: Yes. Every day it would be one or the other, and my mother even invented a potaje made out of pork and beans. AVL: Really? MP: And a man came over one day and my mother had a little bit of it left over. Because he was a rezagador with my father, a se lector with my father, and he came over for lunch with my father. My father would bring friends unexpec ted for lunch, and when he said, "Look, I brought so and so." My mother didn't have anything to give him but that potaje And he said, "Oh, that potaje w as so good, with sweet beans And she gave him that day potaje pork and beans, and huevos fritos and arroz that's what she gave him. And he went home and he told his wife, "A sk her how she made it, because that was good potaje ." And it was made out of p ork and beans. My mot her would invent a lot of potajes Meat, steaks, forget it! We wouldn't eat fried chicken, we ate arroz con gallina because we had chickens and they raised chickens so we had the fried chicken when they had the roosters, but otherwi se it was old hens what we used to eat. And, you know, we had meat, of course, like stew and all that, but it wasn't the fancy meat, forget it! So, we really didn't go to bed hungry at any time. And for lunch my mother used to make me sandwiches out of o melets or whatever. But I do remember that there was a supermarket downtown, and she would go. My father would take her there once in a while, because around here there weren't any supermarkets, it was downtown. That I remember there weren't any here, ther e could have been but I don't AVL: On 7th Avenue there wasn't any supermarkets? MP: Supermarkets, no, not that I know of. But there was one downtown, it was across the street from the telephone co mpany. It was either the Big Barn I think it was called the Big Barn, I'm not sure. And my father used to take her there once in awhile and they had, every once in awhile they would have the picnic hams on sale for 24 cents a pound, so my mother would buy it and cook it and we'd have sandwiches, one meal out o f that and then the s andwiches. So, we had ham sandwiches. And we had a lot of my mother would bake a lot. We had eggs, we had milk, so she would bake. Every Friday she would bake, and that was for Saturday and Sunday. My mother wasn't a very good cook, but pastry, she used to make good pastry. And, of course, our dessert for the
9 week it was natillas homemade stuff, arroz con leche Oh, and the butter, oh, I used to hate it! AVL: Why? MP: Homemade butter. O h, I couldn't stand it! I couldn't stand it! My mother used to also make cheese. She even made a cream cheese, very similar to our cream cheese, the one that we have, very similar to it. And we had what they called cuallada AVL: Guayaba MP: Cuallada no guayaba, cuallada AVL: Oh, cuajada MP: Cuajada Los Asturianos call it cuallada AVL: I see. MP: We had that. My father used to eat that with sugar, I used to put s alt to it. And they used to eat guava. Guava cheese, guava paste with cheese. That's what our weekly dessert was. Now Sundays, Sundays my mother would open, when she could afford it, a can of peaches. That was a special! And I remember I used to get a peach and cut it up in little tiny pieces so it would last. AVL: How about the jobs, what was the job situation during the Depress ion here with the cigar industry? Was it hard to find a job? MP: Well my father was working. Now his brother lived with us AVL: What was his brother's name? MP: Jos AVL: Jos Blanco? MP: Uh huh. AVL: And he was also a cigar worker? MP: Yes. AV L: So, was it hard for them ? MP : He lived with us, but then he I guess he was fired or something, I know he didn't have a job. Now, my father did, he had the job. Now, I don't remember how much he made. I do remember that once this man, you got the daugh ter's picture here but I'm not going to mention her name, he tells my father, "How is it that you work alone and when I ask you for a couple o f
10 dollars you can loan it to me? And in my house my wife works and I work, and I'm always short of money?" And my father told him, he says, Well very simple. I have a good manager in the house." He says, N ow we don't eat the pork chops, we don't eat the steaks, we don't go to the bakery to get all the stuff, and our chocolate milk my wife makes it for my daughters, your wife buys it from the dairy, so that's the reason that I can handle it better than you. I've got a good administra tor at home." That I remember, I remember that because I heard it. They didn't know I was there but I heard it. Yes. And I think that th ey made, between the two of them, they made $12 a week, because he said they made double what my father made. So my father must have been making $6 or $7 dollars a week, and they made $12. I remember that part. AVL: Was there a lot of unemployment at that time in Ybor City, generally, do you remember how people dealt with the Depression? MP: Really, I don't, I couldn't tell you because I do remember this had nothing to do with the Depression but this does have something to do with the strike of the rezaga dores This man, he lived up the street here and they were o n strike, and we had two cows. The man used to come and my father would give him milk and eggs and cheese and butter, once in a while. But the milk, he'd give it to him every day, because they had two kids. He came home one day, because he was a selector too, he came home one day, to the house one day, and told my father, "I'm going to go to work tomorrow." He says, "W hat you mean you're going to work?" "Yes, I got to have money." Well look I ma ke more that you are but I'm staying home, don't go out."Oh yes but you got a cow." He says, "Y es, but I gotta feed the cow." He said, "No, no, I am going." My father told me. He said, "Look, I'll do something, I'll let you have a cow so you can have y our milk," you know, that stuff. "When we go back to work, either you give me back the cow or you buy it off of me." And the man said, "Y ou thin k I'm I don't want to say the word, bobo That I have to work and all of that, you know, milk the cow and all that." My father says, Bobo soy yo entonces ." It didn't sound as good. So, my father says, "O kay, I'll keep the cow and I'm not giving it to you." And he did talk him out, but that was during the strike, one of the strikes. AVL: Why was your father o n s trike and why were the selectors o n strike, do you remember? MP: No I don't. AVL: Was he a member of the u nion, was he active in the Selector s' Union? MP: Well they didn't have a u nion yet. I don't think they had a union, no. The cigar makers did not have a u nion. AVL: Who organized this strike? MP: I don't know. AVL: But you don't re m ember your father really belonging to the union or being ? MP: No. Well he was active, but I don't remember any union. No. There were a few of them that
11 were activ e but I don't remember any union, I don't think there was a union. AVL: How long was this strike that you were talking about? MP: Well I don't know if I don't think that AVL: Was it one of the long ones ? MP: See. That's where I'm a little bit conf used, because they had the selector s strike and they had another strike, it was what they called, I think it was, la huelga de los diez meses I think it was diez meses ten months. Now, I don't think that that was the selector s strike. AVL: How about l a huelga de los lectores do you know about that? MP: Lectores no. No, I didn't, no. Because when I went to work they didn't exist anymore. AVL: Did you have radios? MP: Beg your pardon? AVL: Did you have radios, at that time, or nothing at all? MP: Well, when I went to work the only thing that they did at work. I don't know if anybody took a radio. But during the World Series they would come in with a truck. I don't know how they worked it but I think the truck had a radio, or something, and he woul d relate it inside the factory and he'd put loudspeakers all over the factory and I remember once they did that for years now once, there was like a storm or something, and he had this panel truck outside the factory, right alongside the wall there at the factory, and he was giving us the foo tball game and he was saying, Y se va la pelotica And it was rea lly, really windy and he said Que se lleva el truck," you know. He would say it in Spanish, he would give in English and translated it to us in Spani sh, and boy sometimes those Spanis h Un fly, el fly, mira que la coje el fly." And we would hear the ball game but then we would laugh at the sa m e time at the way he would do it. But then later o n it got a little bit better when he had his own equipment a nd all that, but it started with the truck outside the factory. AVL: Who was the person who did that, do you remember? MP: I think, as a matter of fact, one of them lived back there, I think it was Beiro. AVL: Oh, Beiro? MP: I think so, I'm not sure b ut I think it was Beiro. He used to have a place did you ever hear where the [ La ] Gaceta [newspaper] used to be, on 15th Street and 10 th [Avenue]? Let's see o n 15th Street, you know where the HCC [Hillsborough Community College] is? Is it catty corner?
12 No. Wait a minute, La Gaceta is on HCC is o n what? Well, it's around that area. AVL: They used to have a business there, Beiro? MP: Yes, I think it was him, the one that was there. And la clinica del Centro Espaol was right there, then La Gaceta was there, right next to it. It was all the sa m e building. There are so few people that cou ld give you so much but they're Wait, let me go in the back. AVL: Let's talk now a little bit about the Spanish Civil War. Tell me, what are the first memories that come to m ind when you think of the war in Spain? MP: The first members? AVL: The first memories, the memories that come to mind. What do you remember most vividly when you think of those years? MP : Okay, what I remember is that my mother and myself, we were goin g to go to Spain. Because my mother was sick and we were going to go to Spain, and we had already packed to go. It was a trunk, I remember that. But then the war started in Spain. AVL: So you were going to leave in 1936, in that summer? MP: Um hm (Phon e rings). AVL: We were talking, you were planning to go to Spain and stay there probably for a number of years maybe? MP: We were gonna stay there, I don't know how l ong, but we were gonna stay there and then this war started. But my mother was sick, so my father says, "Look." He had a sister in San Francisco, so he said, "Look, the climate in San Francisco is very much like the one in Asturias, so why don't you go to San Francisco?" So, that's what happened, my mother and myself we went to San Francisc o. My sister, my un c le and my father stayed here. They went just to visit around Christmas but, we went that summer. And I do remember when the war in San Francisco they had some committee or something, I don't even know the name of it, but they did have s ome committee and they had these outdoor picnics to raise money for AVL: Was this Spaniards or just ? MP: No. Spaniards. AVL: Only Spaniards. MP: Yes. Because my aunt was from Asturias but all of her friends, they were from different parts of Spain mostly gallegos AVL: I see.
13 MP: And they had this group. And I went two or three times to different things. Now, that is the only thing I remember there. Now, there was a family that had two nephews and one niece, and they were born here in the States but they were living in Spain, and they brought them in because they were Americans. Now, I do remember the girl I don't remember her name, Margot I think her name was that her fingernails were all wavy, an d I asked he one day, I says, "What happened?" S he says, "T he cold." And she said, I asked her, I said, W as it bad over there?" she says, Well we didn't have any food, and the worst thing that ever happened to me, I was standing in line to get some food, and all at once the planes came over the top, the Italian planes came over, and they started bombarding. And I was with my friend, and my friend was standing behind me, and when the planes came everybody started to run and I started to run and when I looked back A bomb had hit her friend. And then s he said that [the nails] was an account of she didn't have enough clothes, and they froze. That I remember. And from over there that's all I remember. AVL: What was your aunt's name? MP: My aunt se llamaba Visitaci n Beltr n. AVL: Beltr n. That was her married name Beltr n? MP: Yes. El era cataln And then I came over here and I remember we arrived in Tampa o n a Saturday, and that night my father tell s me "I got your name down for el Frente Popular ." I said "What?" Because we knew about the Frente Po p ular over there, see? I said, "W hat, I'm not going no Frente Popular." He says, "W ell you're not going by yourself, you're going wi th Carmen Ram rez." Now, this is my own little private thing, I already told Pilar, her daughter. When I was a kid they had all these shows, stage shows at the Centro Asturiano and Carmen Ra m rez and Pilar Ram rez they were the main And Carmen was real thin and I saw her over there. Now rememb er, I was little and I saw her o n stage and she had a beautiful voice, to me, it w as the prettiest voice in the world! And I admired her, and to me I thought she was so pretty! But I never had met her. Well, I grew up with that in my mind, what I had s een. So my father tell s me W ell, I'm going to take you to Carmen Ram rez's house and then you're going to the meeting with her." I was so tickled, because I was going to meet Carmen Ram rez. So, I met her and I went with her. And that first day that I went to the meeting the president was talking, you heard about this already? She was tal king, and Carmen was vice president. AVL: Who was the president? MP: I think her name was Elisa, ask Pilar, Pili, because she knows. I think AVL: Elisa Morris? MP: I think so, I'm not sure. But she was up there talking and all at once she started I w as sitting right along Pilar, because we had gone to school together so we knew one another and
14 she started going "B uh, buh, buh, I said, S he' s making fun of us," you know, "B uh, buh, buh, and t hen Carmen said, "Wait a minute. Something was happening, she was having a stroke! AVL: Oh my God! MP: I don't remember if she died right there or if she died later, but she did die. And then Carmen became president. Now I do remember that when she died they buried her at the Centro Astur iano, the old Centro Asturiano C emetery. And we went from the Centro Obrero, we walked from the Centro Obrero we passed by the Centro Asturiano now this was walking I guess they took her in a hearse, pero we were walking. From the Centro Obrero we passed by the Centro Asturian o, walking, and then we went to the cemetery, walking. And then we ha d to walk back to get our c ars. That part I remember. AVL: Was there a lot of people? MP: Yes. And another time that I remember walking. I don't remember where we started really. We had the American flag, and we were a bunch of girls in all corners and in the middle, you heard about that one? AVL: No, tell me about it. I think I have a picture of that, it's one of the demonstrations? MP: Yes, collecting money. AVL: Yes, tell me more about that, what do you remember of that? MP: Well, I remember. Where we started I don't remember. I do remember that we were carrying the flag. The flag's not here! [looking through photographs] AVL: Yes, I ha ve one with the flag. Have you s een that? MP: No, no, no, no. AVL: Maybe it's one of the ones I don't have a photograph of. Maybe I don't have a photograph of the one that you're talking about. MP: The flag, let's say this is the flag. There was one girl here, one girl here, here, here, here, al l over, and we were carrying it like this. AVL: That's the American flag? MP: The American flag. And as we walked people would throw money in there, change. I guess they threw some dollars, I don't know. But I know there was change because it got real he avy, and I think we were going to the City Hall with it. And, if I'm not mistaken it was to raise money to send an ambulance, or one or two or something, to Spain. I think the ambulances you got a picture of them around here somewhere.
15 AVL: Yes, I have on e right here. MP: See? I don't remember. Did they bring the ambulances? I don't remember whether they bought the ambulances here ? AVL: No, they bought them in New York. MP: In New York, that's what I thought. That part, let's see if I can, I don't thin k I can see that. AVL: These people are from New York so I don't MP: They are from New York? Then I don't know them. Yes, I knew that they had two or three ambulances that they bought. But I do remember carrying the flag, but not up lengthwise, I mean spread out. And I forgot how many girls, I know Pili was there and there were quite a few of my friends. They were are hauling it. We were all young girls carrying it. AVL: Why were there just young girls do you think? MP: Because we were the ones that could do all the walking! AVL: Why was that? MP: Because we could walk, and we had to walk. I think we came out of the Labor Temple, I'm not sure, I think. AVL: So it was from the Labor Temple to City Hall? MP: I think it was from the Labor Temple, I 'm not sure about where AVL: What year would that be, do you think? Because you were in San Francisco in the beginning MP: Yes, I came back from San Francisco AVL: In '38 do you think? MP: In '38. AVL: So was this like a Labor Day demonstration o r was it a specific demonstration for Spain? MP: Yes. To raise the money for the ambulance. AVL: I see. MP: Now what the date and why it was at that particular date, I don't know. No, I don't know about that.
16 AVL: Were there also men and women partic ipating in that demonstration that you were telling me about? MP: They were walking behind the flag AVL: Everybody was walking MP: Yes. Everybody who wanted to walk behind the flag, they were walking. I have a vague idea of it but I do remember carr y ing the flag. Now what was behind us and in the front I don't quite I have a vague idea but not too much. AVL: So then you took that money to the Centro Obrero, and everything went ? MP: I don't know, I don't know where they took it or what they did. See ? this was people walking. [looking at photograph] AVL: Right. MP: And here they w ell, we were in the middle somewhere, with the flag. Yes, we were in the middle with the flag. And this was Ybor! This was in Ybor City, this picture. I think, o n account o f the lights, the street lights, see how they ? AVL: Yes, that's Ybor. MP: See the street lights? Well, we were walking down. I think it was to City Hall. AVL: So what did you do once you got to City Hall, did you do anything there? MP: I don't rememb er. I bet us girls got with our friends and then we went I don't know what we did af ter that. AVL: There wasn't like any s peech, or any event, or anybody? MP: If there was, I don't remember it. AVL: A party, a picnic, or anything like that? MP: Not that I know of, not that I remember. AVL: What other things did you do? MP: Well we sold churros We made churros Let's see. We started making churros I forgot where we started making churros Well, I didn't make them, I sold them. But we started to m ake them I don't know where and there was a man here he had a grocery store, it was called Alfredo y familia which was o n the corner of Columbus Drive and 16th Street, that was Alfredo
17 y familia And the women were making the dough by hand, and we also ha d a bakery, it was called La Palma. And the owner of the bakery, she was a S paniard also, and she told the l adies that they could mix the dough in her bakery. So, they would mix the dough in the bakery. Now when they started making the churros really I don't remember when, but I do remember that the owner of Alfredo y familia he told them, he says, "Look, I have an empty garage there behind the s tore, why don't you all use it for that?" So they did use it to make the churros there. And every Saturday yo u'd get at least, anywhere from 10 to 15 women, making them and this and that, and everything that was involved with that. And they got older people and young girls, whoever wanted to sell them. And I remember we us ed to go out with two baskets fu ll of chu rros I think they put five in each little bag. And I had 7th Avenue, all of 7th Avenue, and I went with sometimes two, sometimes three. We were two or sometimes three and we each had two baskets, and we used to yell Churros !" AVL: And people would come out? MP: People. We walked, you were walking down the sidewalk, C hurros !" and maybe you stopped and gave us a nickel, a dime, whatever AVL: So, they knew when they bought the churros that it was for the Frente Popular? MP: Yes. Side B begins AVL: Ok ay. You used to wear something? MP: I think we had like a little AVL: Ribbon or something? MP: A little ribbon. I think, I 'm not sure. Now it wasn't the s ame flag we have now. AVL: Right. MP: It was orange, gold and purple. AVL: Red, gold and purpl e. MP: Yes, that was it. And I think that's what we had. And I rememb er if we did have it I hardly ever wore it, because I hate to wear any of those things, even now I hate to wear it. AVL: You didn't wear like a uniform or anything? MP: No. Oh, for thi s I think we wore an apron. I think with
18 AVL: For the demonstration? MP: with the Spanish colors. I think. I know we had an apro n with the Spanish colors, and I think here we wore it. Whe n we would walk down the street (doorbell rings) Oh gosh! Reco rding paused [Interview resumes the following day, April 19, 1997, at the Centro Asturiano] AVL: Okay Melba, you mentioned before about the demonstrations and you used to carry the American flag MP: The American flag. AVL: And that demonstration was from Ybor City to the courthouse? MP: To the courthouse, and people would throw money inside the flag, and when we got to the courthouse it was very heavy! I don't know how much we collected, because I don't remember, but I know it was very heavy. A lot o f people didn't know what it was about. They just saw us coming. But they started asking and then they started throwing money, mostly change. There was a few papers, you could see it, pero I remember it was mostly change, you know, and at that time, you k now, there wasn't much to go around. So that was one demonstration that I saw, and this other one was not a demonstration, well I guess you could I don't know, you call it what you want to, but when I first joined el Frente Popular the president was Elisa I don't remember AVL: Morris, Moreno? MP: Moreno or something like that, and that same day tha t I joined she had a stroke. So AVL: Was she young, what do you remember of her physically, do you remember anything? MP: Really, no, I don't. But to me sh e was more or less like Carmen Ram rez. I don't know how old Carmen Ram rez was, but she was more or less. I think she might have been in her 50s or something like that. Because I was in my teens or 18 or 19, something like that. So to me she was an old l a dy, you know. And that same day that I went, during the meeting she had that stroke. AVL: I see. MP: Now I don't remember whether she died right then and there, which I have a vague id ea that she did. And Carmen Ram rez was the vice president and we wen t, we marched. I remember my father picked up this friend of ours. My mother was sick so she didn't get to go. But this friend of ours, myself and my father we went to the funeral. But we parked the c ars and went to the Labor Temple, that's where we starte d walking. Now the hearse I don't remember, you know that? I remember that people, we all formed a line, and we started walking down and we passed the
19 Centro Asturiano and we paused there a little bit I think. AVL: There at the Centro? MP: Right here at the Centro. And then we continued down to the cemetery which was o n Ola and Indiana. AVL: The old Centro Asturiano? MP: The old Centro Asturiano, yes. And it wasn't too far from the comer, they didn't bury her too far from the comer of Ola [Avenue] and Indiana [Avenue] Because I remember that we stood close to the fence, so it wasn't too far from there. And that's the only think I remember about that. But I do remember picnics. We had a picnic at De Soto Park and I had some pictures. Le t's say I have, l et's not be negative, some pictures that I took at De Soto Park and there was a big gathering and the girls were all dressed asturianas I have that picture somewhere. AVL: Good. Let's hope I can get to see it. How about oth er meetings at the Labor Temple ? How often did you go there, I mean, how was that organized, did people go every night or once a week or how was that organized? MP: Well. No, no. I really don't remember, I know it was quite of t en. Maybe it was once a month or every two weeks, I don't remember the time. AVL: How did you know that there was going to be a meeting? MP: Well, see, when I w ent the first time they said, "W ell, we ll meet next time whatever date." AVL: I see. What kind of things did people discuss there in the meetings, if you remember? MP: Now, you're asking me a question! About what they were gonna do, I remember that they said, W ell let's see if we can get together and do this picnic or pick up clothes," because they did have a lot of clothes donated, shoes, coats, dre sses, whatever. And we would take it to Rosete's, they would take it to Encarnaci n Rosete, they wou ld take it there and she would, if there was any mending to do I understand that she would do it, because she was a seamstress. And I remember that people w ould write letters and hide them in the shoulder pads, or inside of a pocket in the lining, and sew them like a "T o whom it may concern" letter you know, whenever they donated the things over there. I know of one man that he received a letter from whoever got the whatever it was. AVL: What did people write in these letters? MP: I don't know. I guess they were asking questions, different questions, and this and that and the other. AVL: Information about relatives ?
20 MP: Information. Yes. I really don't k now. I had an uncle that was there, and he fought and [Francisco] Franco caught him, they had him as a prisoner and they sent him to France to a concentration camp in France. And him and this other guy that had people here in Tampa, I think the name, I don 't remember, I think he was Ordieres de apellido Ordieres they became friends and they escaped together through somebody from Tampa with somebody there, you know, they escaped together. Now, t he Ordieres, I don't know how soo n after he escaped, I don't t hink it was real soon, but I know he came to Tampa. Now, my uncle which was my mother's brother, he never did come into Tampa and I never met him. My sister did but I didn't. And, that's all I know about them. Now, there were people trying to get, the same way that my uncle got out, through somebody else, you know. I mean they would hide here and there AVL: And people here were trying to get them out? MP: Yes, the underworld, the underworld. Is it the underworld? Yes. I think that's what they called it. AVL: The underground? MP: Underground! Underworld is racketeers. AVL: So was your father involved in any of that, in helping people get out of Spain, your father or the Frente Popular at some point, or anybody people you knew? MP: No, not that I know of. Well [for] my uncle, yes, he did all he could because that was my uncle o n my mother's side, but he helped. Whatever he had to donate, money or this or that or the other, he would help and write letters to whoever was doing all of this. That part he d id but I don't think he did with anybody else. But he was involved in all of this whatever, whenever they needed him, he was there. AVL: These meetings at the Labor Temple were just for women? MP: Yes, those were just women AVL: And men used to gather in other places? MP: Yes, they used to have other days for them. No w, once in awhile, the women and the men would get t ogether. Now I don't remember mu ch of that because, remember, I was a teenager and when you're a teenager AVL: You have other things o n your mind. MP: Right! AVL: But did you still work then with other teenagers, was that the idea that teenagers would do things together?
21 MP: Well, yes. Like Pilar, Carmen's daughter, was there and others like this lady that was here, and the teenager s, we used to get together and if they told us "T ake this flag over there" we used to do it. Whatever we had to do that they told us to do, we would do it. Now like churros we all sold churros AVL: Who came up with the idea of selling churros ? MP: I do n't know. I don't know who came up with that idea, but I do remember that there were quite a few women making churros and it was the women. Now, when we started making the churros I don't remember w here they made them. That part I don't remember, maybe P ili knows. I don't remember where they made them, but I do remember that they were mixed by hand and the owner of La Palma bakery, she told them, "W hy don't you mix them here in our bakery? which wasn't too far. Now Alfredo y familia the owner of Alfredo y familia grocery store had an old garage behind it was on the cor ner of 15th Street, I'm sorry, o n Columbus Drive and 16th Avenue there was a barber shop and there was a little garage right behind it, that belonged to Alfredo y familia So he told us tha t we could use that to make our churros But before that, I don't remember where they were made. AVL: I see. MP: And, o n Saturday, early in the morning, everybody would be there, all the women would be there. Everybody doing their own thing. And there we re no captains there, everybody knew what they had to do. The worst job was f r ying them, because the women's hands would get red as a tomato and some of them would get swollen from t he heat, you know? You had to fr y them there. Now, us girls, we used to ge t baskets fall of churros two baskets a piece, you know the big ones like that? And we used to go out and s ell them. Now, I used to go to 7th Avenue, you know, all around in there. And we'd start early, gee, I don't remember what time we would start but I remember it was early, and we stayed there until 9:30 until all the stores closed. AVL: So you just walked up and down 7th A venue? MP: Yes, yelling Churros I remember, I'm not gonna say where it was, it's a very popular place. And we used to go there and sell churros And the men were all they were all men, and they had their heads down, doing what they were doing at the tables. And they had their head dow n, and we'd go in there and say, Churros Churros !" We stopped by there and nobody said nothing! We couldn't sell one churro So we went there two or three times. Every week it was the same thing. So, we'd go across the street, we're across the street, and here is this guy that used to go a lot to this particular place and he said, "Have you been in there?" I don't know, one of us says, "Ye a h, we've been in there but we don't go there anymore because we try to sell them something and those men don't raise their head." He says, "What do you mean?" We said, "No, they don't buy anything from us." So he s ays, "Come o n over." So we followed him, and we went in there and that man yelled out a scream and everybody raised their heads and he talked, and I mean he gave everybody heck! AVL: What did he say?
22 MP: He says, "And I want everybody in here to buy chur ros ." I mean, we finished two baskets in no time! AVL: Who was this man? MP: I just don't want to mention that, I hated to. AVL: Yes. Okay, so then you s old all those churros MP: Oh, we sold the churros Every week we'd go over there and sell churros And we sold churros from 22nd Street to Nebraska [Avenue] And if we were walking, when we started walking from where we made the churros to 7th Avenue, whoever we saw along the way we'd say Churros !" And very few people said no. We would get anywhere from a nickel to a dollar. AVL: People knew it was the churros for the Frente Popular? MP: Ye a h, ye a h. AVL: How did they know that you were selling them for that, did you wear anything that ? MP: I think. I have a vague idea. I think that we wore a ban ner at one time, but I don't remember if we wore it every time we went out. AVL: I see. MP: I know at one or two times we did have a banner, which in some of those pictures they have it. Then people just, you didn't even have to say what it was for. Ever ybody knew what it was for, you see? But, we sold! I mean, we sold! And there were not just 7th Avenue in Ybor City, people used to go to West Tampa and sell it in West Tampa, and wherever they could sell it they would sell I don't know what other part of Tampa they went. Maybe some other people went, maybe Hyde Park, I don't know. That part I don't know, but I know Ybor City and West Tampa that we churro ed them out! AVL: So, that happened every Saturday? MP: Every single Saturday! Every single Saturday! That was, to us teenagers it was a fun thing, you know? B ut the poor women that had to fr y those things! And see? One of them went and mixed it, and then they came back. The others were ready to f r y and they were using the regular churreras the s mall one s. They weren't using the big ones like the Centro Asturiano over here. They had a churrera which was a homemade job, it was this big. I had it for as a matter of fact I still have the piece of wood that goes in to push the dough, I still have that. The o ther I got rid of it because it wasn't stainless ste e l or anything, it got corroded, so I threw that out. I said if ever I want to make it I'll have somebody make it for me, but the thing that goes inside, it's a piece of oak and it fit in there perfect. Well they had the regular churreras the little ones, can you imagine? And where they were
23 doing it I think it was kerosene stoves. I'm not sure, but I think it was kerosene stoves. They had two or three of those. And those women would take turns, becaus e their hands were real especially one around there, she's in one of those pictures, Joaquina, her hands would get like this. Red. From the heat. They worked like an assembly, one would make the dough, and, of course, that one would come back and help, but then this one would fry, maybe two or three fr ying, then the other one would take them out, put them in manila paper or something to take the grease out, and then the other one would cut them, and the other one would put the sugar over it, and the other w ould put them in bags. You know. Like an assembly line. And then the other one would wrap it. AVL: And then you would take them MP: Then we would take them out. AVL: And you would go back and forth, once you were done with ? MP: Once we were done sel ling them we'd go back AVL: To get more? MP: To get some more. AVL: And you did that until 9:00? MP: 9:00, 9:30. AVL: All day l ong. MP: I mean we did. Now what they did towards West Tampa I don't know, but we did. Because we were in walking distan ce from 7th Avenue and then, see? my father, he would be around 7th Avenue there was a place there that was right across the street from the Spanish Casino, El Cafe Express and he would be there, so I would walk to the cafe and he'd take me home. My sister was too small and my mother wasn't well, so it was just my father and I the ones that did the work. Now the churros it was just me, of my family. But there were a lot of girls and women, and older women, that Joaquina, she was an older lady. Sometimes she would say, "No, I'm not gonna fry today, I'm gonna walk with you girls." So she would walk with us, but usually it was the girls. Recording paused [Melba narrates an incident off the record] That's the only incident that ever happened, but I let him ha ve it! AVL: How about other things. What other things did you do to get money for the Frente Popular, that you remember?
24 MP: Well, they had picnics. And at the picnics churros never they were always there! Churros were always there. And really, I don't know. I don't know of any other AVL: What would happen in a picnic? Were there any other ? MP: There was food. Dancing, bailaban la jota, el tamborilero, el gaitero Really I don' t know if there was any other fund raiser. And, see? T o belong to the Fre nte Popular I don't know if you had to pay a fee or not, I don't remember that. Maybe you did, and my father paid for it, because I don't remember. I don't remember ever paying for that. AVL: How about the collections in the factories, do you know about t hat? MP: See? At that time I wasn't in the factory. But I guess they did have them. I assumed they had them, I don't know. I wasn't in the factory at that time. Let me think. No, I don't remember that part. There were other collect ions for different thing s, but I don't remember. Most probably there were because there were other collections for other things, you know? Fulanito, he broke his nose there was a collection, there was always collections for different things. So, most probably there were, but I ca n't guarantee it, I don't know. AVL: Do you reme m ber any of the speakers who came here to the Centro? MP: Yes, I been trying to find to think about that man. And he wrote a book, and he gave it to my father, and he dedicated it to my father. Was there su ch a person as Blasco Iba ez? AVL: Yes, but I don't think he came to Tampa. MP: Find out because that AVL: Oh, Marti Iba ez maybe, he was related to Blasco Iba ez, Vicente Marti Iba ez? A young man? MP: No! AVL: No? MP: No. No, this was about my fat her's age. Well it could have been my father's age because my father died when he was 49. But, of course, he was my father I saw him old! Blasco Iba ez, I remember that that man, he came in to Tampa and he had a jewelry collection and a coin collection. Y ou know who I'm talking about? AVL: No. MP: Okay. And he came in and was it la aduana immigration? AVL: Customs?
25 MP: Customs! They took them away from him, and even the coin collection. He said that was his private collection. It wasn't too big, beca use I saw it. He took it to my house. AVL: How come? MP: Because my father and him they became friends. And they took the collection away from him. But they took it away from him after I saw it. He took it to my house. And I remember he brought it in one of these things where you put your jewelry and he had it in his pocket, and there were some kids at my house when they came in and I remember am I getting this in? This has nothing to do with that, I don't think. I don't know why I have Blasco Iba ez in m y mind. AVL: What's the name of this man Bu uel? MP: I don't remember. No, that name doesn't sound familiar. AVL: Okay. MP: And my father tells me, "See if you can get rid of these kids." So I got rid of them and then when we were alone he opened brou ght it out of his vest and he opened it up. He had beautiful jewelry, beautiful! Now, they had already taken the coin collection away from him but the jewelry collection they had not taken it away from him yet. And I distinctly remember a necklace that he had. It had in the center a diamond about the size of a chick pea (garbanzo) and then it had pearls, then it had diamonds de mayor a menor It was beaut iful! And then it had the clips o n the side, you unclip it and you have two bracelets. And then I re memb er, I put it on. He put it o n for me, that and the bracelets. And then, now I don't remember, I may be a little mistaken here, they might have given him back the jewelry collection and kept the coins. But I know that he sold some of those jewelry because h e wanted to get his coin collection back, something like that. I have a vague idea. And this friend of mine bought a ring, it was diamonds and emeralds, beautiful! After that I don't know what happened. AVL: Was he in jail? MP: No, no, no, no. They said that he was trying to smuggle it in, and he says, nope, that was his private collection. And I have a vague idea that they were talking that he either had written to Spain or somebody high in Spain to verify that that wa s his private collection. Now, I do know that they did take the coin collection. Whether he got it back or not I don't know. And I don't remember whether they took his jewelry collection and then gave it back to him and he sold it, that part. He didn't sell it all, he sold a little bit becau se he wanted that collection, he wanted his collection but he had to get rid of something because he had to get money. And there was a man here that loaned him money, because he needed some more and he loaned to him. And I think the man got it back. I'm no t too sure of that, but I think he did get it back. I'm not gonna mention names but AVL: What happened to this he came here to speak ? MP: Yes, he was here to speak or he wrote a book or something. And then he came back. He
26 came here two or three times Now I don't remember his name. I know that he wrote a book and he autographed the book and gave it to my father. Whatever became of that book I don't know. AVL: Do you remember any others? Do you remember the Spanish Ambassador? MP: Besides from the G eneral. AVL: Tell me about the General. You were in the picture with General Philemore and the group of women from the Frente Popular. MP: Oh, yes. Everybody was behind the General like he was Clark Gable. AVL: What do you remember about that day, befor e the picture was taken, what happened? He was there with you at the Labor Temple ? MP: Well, he was at the Labor Temple that day, and of course everybody wanted to take their picture. But he lived en casa de l a Fuente. AVL: De l a Fuente? MP: Yes. He li ved there. AVL: Why, why did he live there? MP: I don't know why. Most probably so that he wouldn't have to pay AVL: Did he know them already or ? MP: No, he didn't know anybody here. To my knowledge, he didn't know anybody here; that's why he took everybody and his un c le, because he didn't know anybody here. But, you know, he came in this uniform and the man wasn't bad looking, and the woman with her hat and, you know. He knew his stuff, he took everybody. He ate, he slept, he AVL: How long did he stay here? MP: I don't remember. I do remember that my father comes in See? Some of the men already knew that he wasn't the real McCoy. They knew it, but they hushed. That part I know because my father knew it and he came home and he said, I'm going to tell you all something." He told me. I mean, he said it, but then he said, A nd you," because he knew I was involved with it, says "I don't want yo u to breathe a word of this out; t hat man is a phony." "Why don't you ?" "We don't want to say anything becau se he's got a couple of days more to stay here and we want him to leave." But, one day he comes home before it was time for him to leave and he says, "The women, they fel l in love with him and they want him to stay longer." My fat her was so mad! He was o ver at de l a Fuente's house, and the women were over there like this, you know? And they wanted him,
27 but I think he left. He might have stayed a couple of days but not what the women wanted. The men were just pushing him. What was his name? Mart nez was th e president at the time, of the men's group. Creo que se llamaba Ma o Mart nez. There is his son, que se llama Ma o Mart nez tambin AV L: The president, wasn't he Jos Mart nez? MP: Jos Mart nez! And his son, his name is Ma o Mart nez. He might remembe r stuff, he might have something. Jos Mart nez, he was the president. So, the men, I don't know if they all knew it but I know my father knew it, and a group of them knew it. Could have been that all of them knew it but they didn't want to, you know, upse t him, they wanted him to just leave. AVL: So what happened when people realized that he had taken all the money and he wasn't ? MP: They found out after he left. AVL: Did they blame the people in the Frente Popular? MP: I don't think so, I don't thi nk so. No, I don't think they did. Don't quote me o n that, but I don't think they did. AVL: Did you like the g eneral, did you get to talk to him? MP: Oh, ye a h. I got to talk to him. He looked good in his uniform and he talked nice, had a pleasant voice, I remember that part. And his wife was very nice. But really and truly I didn't have, us kids we didn't have too m uch, w e just looked at him and say, "H e is nice," you know? But that's about it. But the women, oh my god, they went bananas! Of course, he k new his way. He always had his uniform on, that I remember, always had his uniform on. AVL: So he was supposed to be from the Spanish Red Cross, that was who you thought he was? MP: I don't know, I don't know. I know he was there. AVL: Okay. Anybody el se that you remember? Fernando de los R os, you don't remember him coming? MP: Fernando de los R os, he came. AVL: Do you remember anything about him? MP: No, I know he came. I'm glad you said that because I had forgotten him. Mention others and maybe I will AVL: Marcelino Domingo, do you remember Marcelino Domingo? MP: Yeah Marcelino Domingo was here too.
28 AVL: He also came. Isabel de Palencia? She was one of the first women to come. MP: To come here to Tampa? It might have been before I came fro m San Francisco. AVL: Oh, when you were in San Francisco, right. Okay, how about Luis Soto, do you remember Luis Soto? MP: No. AVL: No. How about the volunteers, the people who went to fight in Spain? Some people from Tampa went there, do you remember a nything about their families, Eladio Paula and Aurelio Paula? MP: No. AVL: Granell? MP: No, I don't remember anything about that. I don't know a thing about that. AVL: How did people who supported the Republic get along with people who weren't that sup portive, you know? There m ust have been people who supported Franco. MP: Well you heard what Carmen said about the churches. AVL: Yes. Tell me about that. MP: Well. As a matter of fact we knew a family that the daughter. It was the father and the dau ghter and they were both o n our side, let's put it that way. But her husband wasn't, he was the other. And we used to ask for clothes, sometimes. Your neighbor here, "Y ou got any clothes that you don't want, whatever you don't want ? So we would ask them, but we had to ask them in the hush, hush, so that the husband wouldn't find out. So she would, when her husband wasn't home, she'd get some clothes and put them in a bag and maybe throw it in her car or something. Or she would tell us, G o by the house whe n he's not there and they would give us the clothes and money, and whatever they had that they could afford to give they would give it. But it always had to be when her husband wasn't home. Her father and her the same thing. And now o n the co rn er of my house there was a little grocery store. He was a man, he didn't have any family, it was just him alone and the dog. And they would even hit the dog, yeah And I remember see? I have a vague idea that these places, businesses, if you weren't with the thing they would put, I think it was a stripe or something that they would to indicate that you were against us. I think it was, maybe you ask one of the others they might remember. Because I have an idea that they would put something o n the window, because I t hink that little old man there in the co rn er of my house they put something, I don't remember what it was. And he would pick it off and they would put it back on.
29 AVL: Oh, I see. Because I thought they would put something o n the businesses that were suppo rtive, you know, but not o n the ones that weren't. Do you have the idea that it was the opposite, that they would put something o n the ones that weren't ? MP: I know the old man o n the corner of my house. I don't know who did it, whether it was the commit tee or just people around the neighborhood, but I know that one they used to put something when the s tore was closed. AVL: Right, to indicate that he wasn't. MP: That he wasn't. AVL: So people wouldn't buy there, was that the idea? MP: Yes. Now, the ot her, you're right there; they used to do put something that you were for it. AVL: Right, and what would that be like, do you remember anything? MP: I don't remember, I don't remember, no. But I do remember this little store that they put something and h e would take it off, and they would put it back on. Now, who did it? I don't know. AVL: Were ther e a lot of people who supported Franco? How many people would you say? MP: Oh, no, I haven't got an idea, but they were bastantes quite a few of the m that w ell I know. No, I couldn't tell you how many, but I knew of a few, not too many, but I knew of a few. AVL: Did they get organized in any way to support Franco as the people who supported the other side did? MP: If they did it was o n the hush hush. I don 't remember ever hearing of anything like that. They could've, but it was quiet, you know? No, I don't. And then, excuse me, with the Catholic that AVL: Yes. What happened with the Catholic? MP: Some of them, men specially, they got nasty! With the reli gion, oh, they got real nasty! You know? I mean, all right, they said that between the rows in the churches in Spain the skeletons of babies, and this and that and the other. And some of the men they were very very nasty, especially one that I knew, he g ot real nasty! AVL: Against the Catholic Church you mean? MP: Yes, yes, yes. AVL: Tell me.
30 MP: There was one priest that I heard that myself and he started to talk to him about religion, and the man turned around and he let hi m have it with both barre ls. O h, but he was insulting! And I was listening to that he didn 't know I could hear him. And after he finished he says, "Now, as a man you can come visit me anytime, but as a priest don't show yourself around." AVL: It was a Catholic priest he was talki ng to? MP: And when the man left I came out, and I told him I said, "Boy, you let that poor man have it." I said, "I tell you something, if I was him I wouldn't come to visit you not even as a butterfly." I did tell him that Ni una mariposa Boy, I mea n, that man left that place, ooohph! And some of them were very very very nasty. AVL: Why do you think they were that anti Catholic? MP: I don't know, I don't know why. Because they said, you know, the babies found in the walls and this and that and th e other. And pictures came. I remember seeing one picture I don't know where it came from, I guess it came from Spain because that was a church in Spain and they were skeletons of babies of whoever, they were skeletons that they had found when they threw the bombs, in between the walls they found these skeletons, but that was their problem. AVL: How about the Catholic church here in Ybor? Were they in any way supportive of Franco? MP: I don't know, I don't know. That I don't know anything about. Well, yo u saw what Carmen Morales just told you, they used to throw rocks at her. AVL: Yes. Did you know about that? MP: No, no. Because, like she s aid, her father insisted that she went to Catholic school. Now, everybody else had drawn their kids out of school. She was still going to Catholic school. So, the other kids would throw rocks at her. No, I didn't know about that. AVL: You never went to Catholic school growing up? MP: No, no. AVL: Your father wasn't into religion? MP: No, no. We all believed but o ur own way. AVL: How about the other communities here; the Italians and the Cubans and the Americans? Were they supportive, or neutral, or how do you remember that? MP: The Americans I don't know, because at that time I was just only around the Latin peo ple. AVL: But do you remember many, like events taking place outside of Ybor City, maybe
31 downtown? MP: Those other groups to raise money? AVL: Yes, speakers or movies or something like that? MP: No, no, I don't remember AVL: Nothing outside of Ybor? MP: Well, yes. Maybe they went to a park or something. But it wasn't the Italians or the Cubans. If it was the Spaniards then the Italians and the Cubans would go, you know. But I don't think, don't quote me, but I don't think that they formed anything p articular. AVL: Right, but they would come to the events? MP: They participated, yeah yeah AVL: Pretty much they shared with the Spaniards there or was there some conflict between the communities? MP: I don't think so. AVL: [Benito] Mussolini of c ourse, was helping General Franco, so do you think that the Italians here had a different feeling that the Spaniards might have had? MP: I don't know. I don't know. That part I don't know. I know Mussolini was helping Franco, because of that girl that I t old you, they dropped the bombs. I really don't know. AVL: The thing you just mentioned, was that the theater performance you told me about yesterday? Do you want to repeat that? I don't think we got it o n tape. MP: Okay. I think the s how was named, the performance I think it was Los Hores de Madrid And I think the one that wrote it was, I said it yesterday and I said it today and I can't remember. AVL: Aparicio? MP: Aparicio! I think it was him, I'm not sure. And they made the play, and it was right here in the Centro Asturiano. I remember Arturo Mor n was one of the actors, he was supposed to be the grandf ather. And Carmen and Pilar Ram rez they were always in there. There was a little boy, I don't re m ember who it was, and Amelia Mor n, Arturo's wif e, was always there too. And they had this thing up here, and my father had been helping them set up the stage and he had tol d us when he came home, he says, "Look I never saw this, and l ook at how they do it." They had a bag of something with, what is it this ? AVL: Stucco?
32 MP: Oh my gosh! Side A, Tape Two begins AVL: Okay, they would have MP: Like small pieces of sheet rock or something similar to that. And they'd put it in this particular bag, and they put it way up there in the ceiling, way up there. And the others were supposed to be bombing the village and, of course, one of those bombs exploded in this house, and the ceiling came down. And that's when it hit that bag and all of that thing fe l l all over t he house. And they put ketchup o n Artu ro Moran's forehead. And the kid, he had died, and he had ketchup all over him. And of course all of that stuff fell. And Arturo gets the kid and he started crying and here comes this other. Now, this was a very very sad scene I'm not going to say the end but I knew how they had set it up. And everybody was crying. AVL: Except you, you were laughing. MP: And, as I say, I knew that everybody I mean there wasn't a dry eye in the place, except mine. And I was laughing, can you imagine? After that, really, I felt bad. But it tickled me so m uch, because I knew, my father had explained everything that they were gonna do: drop that thing, put ketchup o n that. And I saw it, and I wasn't thinking of AVL: The meaning of it. MP: of the meaning of it, I was jus t thinking that that thing fe l l, the ketchup, and everything and I started laughing. Loud, low. I even stuck a handkerchief in my mouth. And I remember, this gi rl was looking at me, she says, "You should be ashamed of yourself!" The more she told me I shou ld be ashamed of myself, the more I laughed. I really was embarrassed but I couldn't stop laughing! I had the giggles. And when I told my father! AVL: He wasn't happy about that. MP: Don't tel l me you laugh! I said, Well you shouldn't have told me what was going to [happen]" I'll never forget that part! You're not going to print that, are you? AVL: Yes, it's okay. So, the play was about the bombing of Madrid? What do you remember about it? MP: Yes. I don't know. It was in a village. I don't know where it was, it was someplace in Spain. Most probably it was, because the title of it was Los Hroes de Madrid Now, I don't remember if that one was the one that Carmen Ramirez's Pilar daughter was in it too and we had to sing el No Pasarn! And I remember we were all dressed up in uniforms, and Pilar was always the last one to come in, so she got the big one, they had to pin her. And the pianist was Larueda. And we were all in line I don't remember if that was the s ame
3 3 play and we were all in line, and t he pianist would get cross eyed, stick her tongue at us and make funny faces at us so we would laugh instead of, you know? We were supposed to be serious and singing but, you know, with that thing down there making funny faces at us we couldn't sing. We'd go like this once in a while. And Pilar was next to me and she was singing, "I hope that old lady shuts up and singing like if we were singing I'd say, Yeah I hope so too." And nobody knew that we were talking, but that's what the pianist was doing to us. And I didn't think that was too nice, because we were trying AVL: You weren't supposed to do that. MP: No, we were trying to sing. Now I don't remember if that was the same play or not. AVL: You would sing these songs we were listening to today? MP: Oh yeah yeah yeah AVL: No Pasar n! Was that pretty much the s ong MP: Oh, that was it! That was it! AVL: at every performance MP: Yeah yeah yeah yeah And I think it was with our left hand, I'm not sure. AVL: With the f i st raised? A VL: Yeah And another thing, I don't know how far back after the war, I think it wa s quite far, they made a movie For Whom the Bells Toll I don't know what year, what year did they make that, do you remember? AVL: It was after the war, maybe '40 or '41, something like that. MP: In what year? AVL: '40, 1940 or 1941? MP: It was fairly after the war. AVL: Yes. The war ended in '39, in March or April. MP: Of what, 39? AVL: Uh huh. And that film was made later. MP: With La Pasionaria. Wait a minute, was n't there a woman by the name of La Pasionaria?
34 AVL: Um hm MP: And that movie was about her? I saw it not long ago. It was somebody by the name of La Pasionaria. AVL: Right. Yes, there was a w oman in Spain called Dolores Ib rruri, and they used to cal l her La Pasionaria. She was a very good speaker. MP: Did she used to fight too? AVL: Yes. MP: Then I think that that movie was about her. Because she was very active, she used to fight and everything. AVL: Yes, a strong woman. MP: Yes, I think that was I saw it not long ago, I think it wa s the end of last year, it was o n TV, with AVL: Gary Cooper MP: Gary Cooper, yes AVL: and Ingrid Bergman. MP: Yes, yes, Um hm AVL: Did you watch any films related to Spain during the war, you know, newsree ls or anything like that? MP: Whenever we went to the movies they used to have the news, and whatever they showed o n the news, that's what we used to watch. AVL: What was the reaction of the public, if you remember, when you would see whatever was happen ing there, I mean, did people say anything, or ? MP: Well, some of them would yell, "W aaaaay." But not too much commotion, no. And then, sometimes, over here at the Centro Asturiano, they would come and talk, different men would come and talk, you know, t hat came from different places, but, to my knowledge, they weren't those big you know? And of course I used to come. Whenever I had a chance I used to come with my father, but that's about all I can think of. AVL: How about the radio, did you have a radio at home? MP: Yes.
35 AVL: Did you listen to news from Spain, do you remember? MP: No, my father did. I don't remember. Maybe of something that happened, yo u know, and my father would say, "Hey, wait." And we'd listen to it, but really I don't remember an ything. But my father did. AVL: Did you get in touch with your family in Asturias while the war was going on? Were you still communicating, corresponding? You lost contact with them during the war? MP: Yes. No, after that, yes, but not during that. To my knowledge, let's put it that way. Because my mother's brother, when he escaped from the concentration camp he went to France. And then from France we don't know where he went. All we know, the last we heard of him he was in Mexico. And that's it, we don't know whether. I guess he died or something. We haven't heard any more from him. He would never keep in touch with us at all. And the other, Ordieres, I know he got married here, because I went to the wedding. Now whatever became of him I don't know eithe r. AVL: Why do you think, Melba, that people here were so supportive of the Republic? How would you explain that to somebody who didn't know anything about Tampa? MP: No, I don't know. I guess because it was, I don't know. It was from Spain and it was fa ll of poor people and, I don't know, I really don't know. I just, my father told me and I went and I did what, you know? I really don't. Remember, we were teenagers and teenagers don't go too much into all this other stuff. But what I heard, tu sabes ther e's always the good people and the bad people, the white hats and the black hats. AVL: So your father, for instance, thought that the Republicans were the good side MP: Yes. That's what the majority of the Spaniards here in Tampa thought. And the others they said it was for the rich people. Like the Republicans and the De m ocrats mostly. I'm using that as an example. AVL: What happened here when Franco won the war, what was the feeling like here? MP: Do you know that I don't remember? I don't remember o ne word. I do not remember. You would think. I'm not going to say it in this thing [the tap e recorder]. AVL: Do you wan t me to stop it? MP: It's a nasty word what I'm going to use. Recording paused [Melba explains off the record]
36 AVL: So people were upset at the thought of Franco winning the war? MP: Yeah I remember that. That part I remember, including my father, and he never used cuss words. AVL: So they were calling Franco names? MP: They were calling him names, but I wanted to tell you exactl y what they said. AVL: Exactly, bad names. Did the people in the Frente Popular disband? MP: Yes. AVL: So, there wasn't any more activity ? MP: No. I don't know if it disbanded, I don't remember if it disbanded right away or when, but it did disband. AVL: I see. So the war in Spain disappeared from Tampa? MP: The what? AVL: The war, I mean, the situation in Spain disappeared once the war ended? MP: Um hm But the y did send a lot of clothes, wuf f. AVL: Later? After the war? MP: Well, I guess a fter the war they sent it to their own relatives, but during the war, whoever. And they were putting those, like I told you, those little notes and letters in different places. AVL: What did people in Tampa think about the United States policy n ot to hel p any side, neutrality? Do you remember people discussing that in meetings or something? Were they happy with the way the United States was responding? MP: No, I don't remember any of that. As a matter of fact I don't think they even discussed that. I'm not sure. AVL: Do you remember any reaction here when Franco died in 1975? Do you remember people reading newspapers or the news and saying or commenting o n anything? MP: No, I don't. The only thing, it came in the papers, and he died. Maybe somebody, so me of the older people might have said the same thing I just told you when this was all He died. AVL: Right.
37 MP: You know what I mean? And that's it. But I tell you n ow. That, I'm not gonna put it o n there. Recording paused AVL: Okay. Melba, bef ore we conclude this interview I would like to ask you is there anything else you would like to add or some aspect or questions that we haven't dealt with that you think should be included here? MP: No, I don't think so. I think I said more than I didn't know I had so much that would interest you. AVL: Yes, you do. Okay, this concludes the interview with Melba Pullara and I want to thank you very much Melba for participating in this project. MP: Okay. Well, I enjoyed it and I hope to see you next Saturday. AVL: I hope to see you there too. MP: Well, if I can get somebody to go. AVL: Thank you very much. End of interview