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Tampa Bay history.
n Vol. 18, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1996).
p (Download Complete Issue Adobe PDF version)
Tampa, Fla. :
b Dept. of History, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of South Florida.
c Spring/Summer 1996
Tampa Bay Region (Fla.)
Tampa Region (Fla.)
University of South Florida.
Dept. of History.
t Tampa Bay History.
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SPRING/SUMMER 1996 VOLUME 18, NUMBER 1 CONTENTS Acknowledgements 2 From the Editors 4 ARTICLES Remembering Ybor City: The Life and Work o f Jose Yglesias ................................................by Robert P. Ingalls 5 The Goodbye Land ...................................................................................by Jose Yglesias 29 Searching for a Dream from Tampa to New York ...................................by Jose Yglesias 35 The Depression Years in Ybor City ..........................................................by Jose Yglesias 38 La Nochebuena: The Best of Nights .........................................................by Jose Yglesias 42 Un Buen Obrero: A Short Story ...............................................................by Jose Yglesias 46 The Bittersweet Legacy of La Madre Patria ............................................by Jose Yglesias 52 Jos Mart in Ybor City ............................................................................by Jose Yglesias 58 The Radical Latino Island in the South ....................................................by Jose Yglesias 71 Jose Yglesias: "I Am a Gallego" ......................................................by Alberto Avendao 75 Ybor City and the Social Vision of Jose Ygelsias ...........................................................................by Jos Marcelo Garza 78 Jose Yglesias, 1919-1995: A Eulogy ...................................................by Robert P. Ingalls 102 A Rose Battered by Stern October .......................................by Pablo Armando Fernndez 105 A Bibliography of Works by Jose Yglesias .................................................................................107 Notes on Contributors ......................................................................................................... ........112
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We extend our appreciaton to the following people who have made special contributions to TAMPA BAY HISTORY. PATRONS East Hillsborough Historical Society (In memory of Judge Bruton) John M. Hamilton, M.D. Gerald Hermes William R. Hough Mark T. Orr Roger Rodriguez Roland and Susan Rodriguez Mr. & Mrs. Sheldon J. Shalett Mr. & Mrs. Theodore Wade Bill Wagner SUSTAINERS June Alder Stephen Andrews E B Billingsley Frank DeBenedictis George D. Curtis Sandra & Sol J. Fleishman, Jr. Carlos D. Gonzalez Michael J. Grattan James V. Hodnett, Jr. George Howell Sally & John Arthur Jones Dr. & Mrs. Robert E. King Victor H. Knight Robin Krivanek M. Craig Massey (In memory of Manny Garcia) Mr. & Mrs. Solon F. O'Neal, Jr. Dr. & Mrs. J. Wayne Phillips Mrs. Jean W. Robbins Thomas & Marsha Rydberg J. Thomas Touchton Copyright 1996 by the University of South Florida Typography and composition by RAM Printing by RALARD PRINTING, San Antonio, Florida.
FRIENDS Mary Wyatt Allen Eric Jarvis Raymond Alley, Jr. Marshall Kelley Steven F. Anderson David C.G. Kerr Cynthia Aprile Robert F. Landstra, M.D. Marvin Barkin Morris Love William Barlow W.S. McKeithen Delores Barnett Lt. Col. George W. McRory Bruce H. Bates Mr. & Mrs. Sam Militello Mr. & Mrs. James Baxter James E. Mills Norma Lopez Bean Harris H. Mullen Shelby Bender Dr. W. Mahon Myers Joan F. Berry Owen & Elvira Niles Carolyn Blethen Mrs. Lester Olson Dean R. Briggs, M.D. Lois Paradise Donald Buchanan R. Rex Patrick Ken Burke John F. Pearce Selma Cohen Vernon Peeples Claire A. Cardina Mr. & Mrs. Mark A. Prater H.L. Crowder, Jr. Angel Ranon C. Fred Deuel Harley E. Riedel, II Dr. Frank M. Edmondson David & Susan Rieth Charles Emerson R. James Robbins Mary Figg William E. Rumph John M. Fitzgibbons Martha Jane Ryan Nancy Ford L. Gray Sanders George E. Franchere James Shimberg Robert G. Gadsden, III R.E. Shoemaker Michael Gallant, M.D. Dick & Raymetta Stowers Howard L. Garrett Maynard F. Swanson Joseph Garrison Charlton W. Tebeau William H. Gates Dr. Jamie Torner Dale Mackenzie Gross Mary J. Van der Ancker Leon R. Hammock Mrs. David E. Ward William N. Hayes Wilbert Wichers Brice O. Headley Charles L. Williamson Mr. & Mrs. E.C. Ingalls Kathleen M. Wolan
FROM THE EDITORS For Tampa's Latins the path to fame and occasionally a measure of fortune has often been through sports. The sons and grandsons of Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants have won a name for themselves in sports, especially baseball as evidenced by Al Lopez, Lou Piniella, and Tony LaRussa. One reason Latins-and others-have pursued this particular road is that Americans place greater value on sports than the arts, and when the latter bring success, it often goes unnoticed. Who in Tampa knows, for example, that Adel Sanchez, the son of a Tampa cigarmaker, is the principal trumpet player for Washington's National Symphony? Jose Yglesias, another native son of Tampa cigarworkers, achieved national and even international recognition as a writer, yet he is little known in his hometown. His death last November, at the age of seventy-five, provides an occasion to review his life and work, which includes eight novels, four books of nonfiction, four plays, and countless short stories, essays, articles, and reviews. Yglesias's significance for the Tampa area transcends the mere accident of his being born in West Tampa and growing up in Ybor City. More importantly, he drew his inspiration from this background and incorporated it into most of his writing. As he once said, he "tried to make American readers aware of Ybor City and its Latin cigarmakers." This issue of Tampa Bay History is dedicated to Jose Yglesias and his legacy. The bulk of the pieces reproduced here were written by Yglesias himself over a fifty-year period, and they provide an introduction to his work, revealing the role of family and community, as well as history and memory, in both his fiction and nonfiction. The one short story included is "Un Buen Obrero" and it deserves reprinting in a publication devoted to local history because it captures the essence of Latin experiences in Tampa. All the other articles are nonfiction. The issue also features five pieces about Yglesias. The opening article by Robert P. Ingalls and the concluding one by Jos Marcelo Garza examine the nature and significance of Yglesias's contribution. In addition, an article by Alberto Avendao, translated from the Galician language, gives a Spanish view of this Latin writer of Galician descent. Finally, the issue closes with two eulogies one delivered at his burial in Tampa and the other (a poem) written by one of Cuba's leading novelists, Pablo Armando Fernndez. The editors wish to acknowledge their debt to Dalia Corro, Jose Yglesias's sister, who generously provided most of the photographs used as illustrations. Only those photographs from other sources have individual credits. We hope readers enjoy this unusual issue, which memorializes the most important writer yet produced by Tampa.
REMEMBERING YBOR CITY: THE LIFE AND WORK OF JOSE YGLESIAS by Robert P. Ingalls Jose Yglesias left Ybor City in 1937, but Ybor City never left him. Several years before he died in 1995, he explained that in all my work as a writer I tried to make American readers aware of Ybor City and its Latin cigarmakers.1 His memories of growing up in Tampas Latin community provided Yglesias with the material for numerous books, articles, essays, short stories, and plays. Although he never returned to live in Tampa, he kept track of local Jose Yglesias in 1989. Photograph by James Salzano.
developments through correspondence with relatives and frequent visits. Thus, time did not stand still in 1937, and he recorded life in Ybor City not only during its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, but also in the postwar period when it steadily declined and its Latin residents dispersed after the collapse of the cigar industry and the devastation wrought by urban renewal. Even as the remarkable community he had known disappeared, Yglesias put it on the map, documenting its lively past and bringing its rich ethnic heritage to the attention of a national audience. Just as the novels of James T. Ferrell and Henry Roth preserved an insider's view of early twentieth-century Chicago and New York, so too the writing of Jose Yglesias captured the drama of Tampas Latin community. Sadly, Yglesiass achievement has gone largely unnoticed in his hometown. No self-promoter, he expected his writing to speak for itself. However, the audience for his novels, as well as nonfiction that appeared in places like the Nation the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine was more likely to be in New York, his adopted home, rather than in Tampa. Nevertheless, his literary output and the recognition it received warrant calling him the best writer produced by Tampa. His local significance is all the more noteworthy because Tampa and its Latin community formed his primary subject. Even his two books about Spain and two others about Latin America have links to Ybor City, which provided Yglesias with the inspiration and knowledge to report the lives of Spanish-speaking people wherever he found them. His international concerns were motivated by family and politics the two touchstones in his life and work. In one of his novels, Yglesias has a member of an extended Ybor City family say pointedly, The ties of family are the strongest there are, arent they?2 Family meant dozens of Latin relatives in Ybor City and West Tampa, all of whom traced their roots back to Cuba and Spain. He first traveled to Cuba as a small boy to see his ailing father, who had sought medical treatment in Havana. In the 1960s Yglesias went to Spain in search of the place where his father had died. In addition to his strong sense of family, Jose Yglesias had a passion for politics, which he inherited from his parents, both of whom were Ybor City cigarmakers. My background was very class-conscious radical, he told an interviewer in 1990. You know how people say I vote Republican because my parents did? I'm a socialist because my parents were socialist.3 When asked about his politics, he once cavalierly responded, Should like to overthrow capitalism.4 On another occasion, he reflected privately: I dont think Ive ever called myself a marxist; at first because I didnt think I was smart enough to be one; later because it seemed meaningless. He added, In fiction youre no good if you dont know life is complicated. I enjoy my Cuban friend Miguel Barnet when he tells me, No, no, no, I dont need to be a marxist! Whereas being anticapitalist and pro-socialist is something tangible and that Ill always say I am. What was good enough for my folks is good enough for me.5 Although he never concealed his left-wing sympathies, Yglesias was no propagandist. Independently minded, he loathed phoniness. In one of his last novels, he complained: We drown in the half-baked, imprecise, lying words of the mediocre and the hustlers.6 Yglesias valued honesty and frankness more than any political line. These qualities explain why he provided a platform even for people with whom he disagreed politically. In his novels
and extended interviews that became books, he recorded the words of people across the political spectrum, and they all ring true to their sources. As a result, Mr. Yglesias himself comes across as a nice guy, one book reviewer observed. We like him, as much for what he restrains himself from saying his personal views on property, on rhetoric, on heroism as for his enthusiasm for the people he meets. He is a kind skeptic.7 In a similar vein, another reviewer commented that he interprets his subjects emotions with eloquent objectivity.8 Yglesias himself declared: [I] should like in my work to bring into clear view the moral views and approach to experience of workers, something which seems to me missing from most fiction.9 As with his family and politics, this concern with workers' views and experience had its roots in Ybor City, a Latin island in the South, as he often referred to it. Yglesias arrived there in 1921 at the age of two when his family moved from West Tampa, Tampas other Latin community, where he was born on November 29, 1919, the second child (his sister Dalia was born in 1914) of Georgia and Jos Yglesias. His mother and sister were also native Tampans, and his father was from Galicia, the northern province of Spain that sent so many emigrants abroad that it became known as the goodbye land.10 In the late nineteenth century, thousands of Gallegos (natives of Galicia) and Asturianos from the neighboring Spanish province of Asturias found their way to Cuba and the United States, both of which offered jobs in the booming cigar industry. One of these was the Gallego Jos Yglesias who at the age of thirteen left his village in Geo rgia Milin, the mother of Jose Yglesias, as a child in Tampa. Georgia Milin (right) with her father Rafael and sister Mina.
about 1902, traveled to Havana, learned the craft of cigarmaking, and eventually made his way to Tampa, where he met and married Georgia Milin in 1913.11 The elder Yglesias worked as a cigarmaker along with some 8,000 Cubans, Spaniards, and Italians in Tampa. They produced expensive, hand-rolled cigars that rivaled those from Cuba. They also possessed a work culture and union traditions that placed them among the most radical workers in America. They fought owners over control of the factories on issues that ranged from wages to the quality of tobacco and the amount of supervision that factory foremen were allowed to exercise. These disputes led to long strikes that closed down Tampas factories in 1901 and 1910 and for ten months in 1920.12 Jos Yglesias, the father, had a reputation as a good worker (un buen obrero) and a strong union man. Thus, when he suffered a creeping paralysis that prevented him from working soon after his sons birth, fellow workers contributed funds for him to seek treatment in Havana. The severity of his illness kept him from returning to Tampa, so his wife and two young children traveled to Cuba to visit him in 1925. There they stayed with relatives for several months while Georgia regularly visited her husband in a Havana hospital. With the senior Yglesias unable to accompany his family back to the U.S., Georgia and the children returned to Tampa, never to see their husband and father again. In search of a cure, he went back to Galicia, where he died in Dalia, the sister of Jose Yglesias, with their fatherJos, i nabout1916. Rafael Milin, maternal grandfather of Jose Yglesias, lived with the family until his death in the 1940s.
1931. The story of this family tragedy is told in the book, The Goodbye Land which Jose Yglesias wrote in the 1960s.13 As a twenty-eight-year-old, single parent with two small children, Georgia worked as a cigarmaker in Ybor City. At least as important as her job, she had a support network of family A family as protective and serene as a giant oak, according to her son.14 Her father, Rafael Milin, was a widowed cigarmaker who lived with the family and contributed financially and emotionally to their well-being. Nearby lived various aunts (Georgia had four older sisters, including one with twelve children!), uncles, and dozens of cousins.15 All shared an ethnic and working-class culture based on mutual aid fostered by the local Latin population of over 30,000 immigrants and their descendants. Ybor Citys Centro Espaol, for instance, gave Georgia Yglesias fifteen dollars a month as a benefit for her ailing husband, a long-time club member.16 As a product of this extraordinary Spanish-speaking enclave, Jose Yglesias always remembered its diversity and solidarity. The workers who settled the swampy area that Tampa officials turned over to the cigar manufacturers [in the 1880s] were not only Cuban, Yglesias noted in 1977. They were also Spanish and Sicilian. A typical Ybor City Tampan of my generation has, like me, a mother of Cuban parentage and a father from Galicia, uncles from Asturias and Cuba, at least one cousin or sister or brother married to a Sicilian. In Ybor City there is a Crculo Cubano and a Centro Espaol and a Centro Asturiano and Sociedad Italiana. They were wonderfully active cultural centers, for those cigarmakers knew how to organize more Jose Yglesias at the age of about one year in 1920. Jose Yglesias and his sister Dalia in the early 1920s.
than trade unions, and two of them built hospitals for their members, the best in Tampa at the time. Moreover, Yglesias emphasized, These social clubs all had libraries, auditoriums, gyms, dance halls, and canteens where the men gathered in the evening. At the Centro Asturiano we saw zarzuelas performed by local amateurs. I remember as a boy going to a free art class summer evenings at the Crculo Cubano. Most importantly, Yglesias emphasized, All the clubs were organized and run by the cigarmakers. All their officers and committees were democratically elected, and no one was paid for his troubles.17 The young Jose Yglesias (nicknamed Pepito by his family and called Pini by his mother) was clearly precocious. Although he did not speak English until he went to V.M. Ybor Grammar School, he quickly mastered the language and became a voracious reader. From his earliest years as a public school student, he devoured whatever literature he could obtain. His mother even took to hiding his books because he stayed inside to read rather than going out to play in the fresh air. His health prompted concern because at the age of five he had been confined to bed for several months due to a persistent low-grade fever, apparently caused by a malarial disease. Overcoming this illness, he grew up to become a physically imposing figure, reaching a height of six feet, four inches.18 His intellectual prowess won him recognition in the Anglo-American community, where he was determined to compete successfully. When an American got mad at any Latin, he called him a Cuban nigger, Yglesias later recalled. This was one of the first feelings I remember: I want to be an American. You become ashamed of your community.19 Reflecting his decidedly mixed feelings as a bilingual teenager caught between two cultures, he wrote in 1946: I wanted to be Spanish, but I didn't want to be Ybor Cityish. And so I always felt held in.20 His academic achievements brought him many honors, including an American Legion award for leadership, service, and scholarship. In both junior and senior high school he was selected to speak at graduation ceremonies. At Hillsborough High School, he was one of the most active students, serving as a member of the student council and as managing editor of the school newspaper, The Red and Black Editors of the high schools yearbook dubbed him brightest in his class and added that Jose has the ability to excel and the will to persevere.21 His closest friends were American students involved in similar activities, especially the newspaper.22 I was sixteen and no longer hung around my family, he later wrote, because I was in high school and had a lot of American friends. He noted that he was stubbornly intent on being American.23 He certainly had no time for sports. Instead he dreamed of a different escape from Tampa. The future would be, I told myself when I thought of it, what it indeed became. I would live in New York, travel on assignment for magazines and newspapers, see my name in print and my books reviewed. I'd never hide my background, of course, from the friends Id make, the intellectual leaders of my generation; no, it would give me a certain glamour, though I would make certain that my accent would be intransigently American.24 In addition to dreaming and attending school, Yglesias helped support his family by delivering groceries for an Ybor City cooperative. This experience brought him into contact with an older Latin worker who helped initiate the teenager into the adult world. He taught Yglesias to drive the delivery truck, a truck that figured prominently in Yglesiass life (and later in his short stories
and novels), because it provided much-needed transportation for family emergencies like getting a sick relative to the hospital.25 His desire to become an American did not stop Yglesias from continuing to absorb the Latin culture that infused Ybor City. As a twelve-yearold, he observed the 1931 readers strike, in which cigarworkers walked off the job to protest the removal of the reader ( el lector ), who had long been hired by the workers to read to them while they silently rolled cigars. Factory owners accused the readers of selecting radical texts, a specious charge considering that cigarmakers themselves chose the reading material through a democratic process. The strike left a psychological scar on me, Yglesias told an interviewer years later. I was in junior high school and a member of the student patrol. I wore an arm band. During the strike, workers marched into the schools to close them down, bring the children out. The principal closed the gates, and had the student patrols guard them. If they come, what do I do? My mother was in the strike.26 Yglesias ultimately overcame these conflicting loyalties, and forty years later he wrote an autobiographical novel, The Truth About Them that featured the defeat of the readers strike as a central event. If the readers strike aroused ambiguous feelings in the twelve-year-old, the Spanish Civil War represented a political coming of age for the teenager. When the military, under the leadership of General Francisco Franco, launched the three-year civil war to overthrow the constitutional government that included Communists and Socialists, radicals around the world rallied to the cause of the Spanish Republic in 1936, and Ybor City residents were in the forefront of that movement, collecting funds and staging marches. As Yglesias recalled, The cigarmakers in my Jose Yglesias (upper right-hand corner) with high school friends.
Jose Yglesias in about 1930.
hometown whether Spanish or Cuban organized themselves into a solid block of support for the Spanish Republic because its enemies the aristocracy, the Church, the military were also the forces that had ordinarily led the Spanish to emigrate and the Cubans to fight for independence.27 He always carried with him the memory of learning No Pasarn, the song sung by Spanish Republicans and their supporters in places like Ybor City and New York City. Pursuing his dream of becoming a writer, Yglesias left Tampa for New York within a few days of his graduation from high school in 1937. (In America all writers leave their hometowns, he once observed.28) New York had become a Mecca for Tampa Latins, including his sister Dalia, who sought refuge and opportunity there in the midst of the depression which had hit the sale of cigars a luxury product especially hard. Once the first Tampa migrants found jobs in New York City, word spread to Ybor City and other Latins followed. They clustered in apartments on Manhattans West Side. Yglesias initially lived on West 100th Street with his sister, and then they moved to a large apartment on 163rd Street in Washington Heights, where they were joined by their mother and other relatives.29 Almost all my family were in New York by 1937, Yglesias recalled. There, we all stayed together. The only place people didnt sleep in was the kitchen. A bed was even in the foyer.30 At times, as many as twelve people lived in the crowded apartment, and they earned money at a variety of jobs. Dalia Yglesias worked in a W.T. Grants five-and-dime store, and she got involved in helping organize fellow employees, who went on strike for higher pay.31 Jose found a job as a dishwasher in a cafeteria, and the experience tested his sense of ethnicity. In one of those ratty employment agencies where you could buy a dishwasher's job for $5, he later wrote, they were willing to send me down to a cafeteria on 14th Street but only if I called myself something American. Moran, I replied, thinking of a surname that was both Irish and Spanish; but by the time I reached the cafeteria on 14th Street I was so appalled by my self-betrayal that the first thing I blurted out was that Moran was not my real name and that I had taken it because the agency had thought it wise. I dont care what you are, the man who hired me said, but I suspected he did. Reflecting on the incident, Yglesias noted, I like to think it was Ybor City that inoculated me against passing, that at 17 I was sufficiently appreciative of the unique community where I was reared not to deny it by changing my name.32 Despite taking pride in his name and the culture it reflected Yglesias Americanized his first name by always omitting the accent mark on Jose. He considered himself an American of Latin descent, which meant that he wrote in English for an American audience, but his subject matter was definitely and defiantly Latin. Emphasizing that assimilation does not mean abandoning our past, but enriching an already very rich mix, he once summarized his credo as follows: To me, assimilation has meant that in all my work as a writer I had tried to make American readers aware of the existence of Ybor City and its Latin cigarmakers.33 In another reflection on the question of assimilation, he observed: If to be American is to be some sort of homogenized descendant of Great Britain and northern Europe, you cant qualify with the background Ive got without turning into some kind of ghost. And you can only question the homogenization if you have a useable past.34 Ybor City provided that past, and it served Yglesias well. His 1937 entree into the world of New York politics had a decidedly Latin connection. The first time my Cuban grandfather and I
went to a Madison Square Garden meeting for the Spanish Republic, I thought the top of my head would come off to see that enormous gathering come to its feet. Incredible! With New York accents, the audience of americanos chanted, No pasarn!35 Despite such reminders of life in Ybor City, Yglesias claimed that New York opened up a new world for him. I left Tampa, Fla., for New York City, too late by a few months for Nazimova in Hedda Gabler, but in time for Helen Hayes in Victoria Regina, whose posters I could see as my bus maneuvered into the station. In those pre-air-conditioning days, some seven plays made it through the summer (the theater was always in trouble), and I saw them all for 55 cents a balcony seat. Walking around Times Square, Yglesias never gave a thought to Tampa and its special Latin enclave, Ybor City; I had put them behind me. Or so he thought at the time.36 The next four years, prior to U. S entry into World War II, he spent working long hours, soaking up New York culture, and socializing with relatives and friends. Family snapshots from those years show a debonair and seemingly carefree young man, posing with his elegant-looking sister Dalia. As the economy steadily improved, so too did his employment opportunities. On the eve of war, he worked on an assembly line at an Emerson radio factory, where he joined the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, a CIO union led by Communists and Socialists.37 Yglesiass memories of these years are reflected in the words of a supposedly fictional artist from Ybor City who says in the novel, A Wake In Ybor City : I went to New York when I was seventeen. I got a job and met a lot of artistic and political young people, and so I got excited about ideas and girls, although I spent most of my time just working to make a living. That went on until the war.38 Jose Yglesias (second from right) on the day of his high school graduation in 1937.
Jose and Dalia Yglesias in New York in the late 1930s.
In 1942, Yglesias enlisted in the Navy. For him, this was a p olitical act. The draft board had classified me 3A because I was my mothers support, he wrote in a fictionalized account, but I volunteered anyway because I believed in the war, in the popular front against fascism, in the New Deal, in socialism and the brotherhood of man. .39 Enlisting in New York City, he served over three years, primarily in the Mediterranean in support of Allied landings in Italy and France. He became a naval aviation radioman-gunner. Stationed aboard an old cruiser, he flew with a pilot as part of a two-man crew in an old Navy biplane that was catapulted off the cruiser in order to seek out targets for the ships heavy guns. For his wartime service, he was awarded the Navy Citation of Merit. He subsequently wrote a long, autobiographical short story, entitled One German Dead and published as a limited edition book in 1988, relating the exploits of an aviation radioman-gunner who volunteered in 1944 for a commando raid on the southern coast of France.40 With the end of the war in 1945, Yglesias like millions of other servicemen returned to an uncertain life as a civilian. Veterans benefits gave him access to his only formal education after graduation from high school. As he once pointed out, There was a time in our country when the children of workers did not go to college.41 The GI Bill of Rights provided him with that opportunity. In 1945, two months out of the military, he went to Black Mountain College, a radical experiment in North Carolina that qualified as a college in name only. Established in 1933 by a small group of iconoclastic professors committed to a communal approach to education, Black Mountain featured a nonstructured learning environment with no required courses, no formal grades, and few examinations. Encouraged to develop individual programs of study and then present themselves for exams when they felt ready, most students never formally progressed far enough to graduate, but Black Mountain gained a reputation for nurturing artists. Over the years it attracted a number of very talented people, such as Josef Albers, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, and Willem de Kooning, who were, or became, luminaries in their fields.42 For Jose Yglesias, a budding writer, Black Mountain College represented a haven where I could, at the governments expense, spend my time reading and writing. At long last. In 1945, Black Mountain had some twenty-five faculty and over seventy students, and all shared in running the college. Ah, Yglesias recalled, the pleasure of jumping up and down in a silo to pack down the feed for the cattle on the colleges ranch. Repairing a manhole in the sewage system was less pleasurable, but there was a certain exhilaration in doing this task, noses to the wind, with your political science professor. Whom you addressed by his first name, of course. In some ways, Black Mountain proved a liberating experience for Yglesias. Until then, if I was asked what I did, I answered busboy or stock boy or aviation radioman-gunner. Now, following an embarrassed exchange during the first week with another student, I learned I could reply, Writer. The wish became a fact and that was wonderfully self-liberating.43 However, disenchantment soon set in. Discussions in the community (one soon stopped using the world college) turned ugly when Yglesias suggested that more black students be admitted. This and less overtly political issues such as the kind of building additions proposed became a matter for taking sides, subjects of furious discussion in a community where discussion was all, and I could begin to see that the apoliticals in command of the college were indeed political. Feeling irritated and bored by the end of the first year, he left as from a burning building.44
He did not leave emptyhanded. While at Black Mountain, he had written a short story, Un Buen Obrero, that became his first publication. Appearing in New Masses in November 1946, the autobiographical tale is set in Ybor City and tells about a Latin teenager who learns about his long-dead father while delivering groceries with an older man, known as El Isleo (the Islander) because he came from the Canary Islands. El Isleo made me feel proud of my father, the storys narrator says, and for the first time I was able to see him as a man, not as a wound or a pitiful thing I carried in me.45 (See page 46.) Following the year at Black Mountain, Yglesias returned to New York. During his four-year absence, most of his family, including his mother and sister, had returned to Ybor City to work again in the cigar factories that underwent a temporary revival. In 1948, Dalia Yglesias married Jose Corro, an Ybor City resident from Asturias, and her mother lived with them in Ybor City until her death in 1979.46 The postwar years in New York could not have been easy for Yglesias. In one of his novels, he has a character resembling himself say, I lived in a furnished, windowless, tiny room in the badlands west of Central Park and sat under the skylight and wrote miserable stories. I did not know who I was and I had not found a girl that year to tell me. He survived on veterans payments.47 Jose Yglesias in Italy during World War II. Yglesias on leave during the war with his mother i nY borC i ty.
In 1948, he managed to combine his interests in writing and left-wing politics, taking over as film critic for the Daily Worker In a two-year period, he wrote hundreds of reviews that were filled with sharp criticism, interesting insights, and biting humor. Reviewing an Italian movie, entitled The Spirit and the Flesh he warned, dont let the title fool you....the movie is quite a bore. Set in the seventeenth century, the black-and-white film was chock full of reactionary nonsense, and he concluded, When it comes to historical nonsense, well take Hollywood. They have technicolor.48 However, in another column, he condemned the bankruptcy of the Hollywood mind in pursuit of Art. Too often, it produced pretentious, boring hokum, poison to the American people who need to get a straight, unflinching look at the world.49 Despite what some readers of the Communist newspaper may have thought, the Russians also turned out some clinkers, according to Yglesias. In one of his first reviews, he attacked Admiral Nakhimov a Soviet epic about the Crimean War, which he dismissed as a ponderous, lifeless and meaningless film and on the whole for Americans [a] pointless story.50 This critique created some controversy. One reader complained that the review was shocking and that Yglesias failed to realize the political significance of this film in relation to contemporary history.51 Other readers praised Yglesias, including one who wrote, We are enjoying his well-balanced, keen and well-written reviews, and feel we can trust his judgment.52 He remained on the staff of the Daily Worker until 1950, during a time when Cold War hysteria claimed its first victims. Anyone associated with the left was suspect and subject to blacklisting in employment. Yglesias later wore his refusal to be silenced as a badge of honor, even though he undoubtedly paid a price for it. He had, for instance, nothing published between 1950 and 1962. In his novel A Wake in Ybor City which is set in 1958, a character resembling Yglesias confesses to his wife: The Red scare has frightened me. They have cut off my balls.53 During the 1950s, new responsibilities preoccupied him. In 1950, he married Helen Bassine, a writer who had two children, Tamar and Lewis Cole, from a previous marriage. The family of four increased to five in 1954 with the birth of a son, Rafael. To support his family, Yglesias went to work for the pharmaceutical firm of Merck, Sharp & Dohme International. Beginning in 1953 with an entry-level job doing translations, he moved up to an executive position, as assistant to the vice president. Taking an enormous risk, he left Merck in 1963 to devote himself full-time to his dream of writing.54 His first success came in 1962 with the publication of two recent books by Spanish writers that he translated into English Island of Women by Juan Goytisolo and Villa Milo by Xavier Domingo.55 Yglesiass big breakthrough came in 1963, when his first novel appeared. Issued by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, a leading New York publisher, A Wake in Ybor City was clearly based on his life. The character resembling the author is Roberto Moran (the surname Yglesias had used briefly when he arrived in New York in 1937). The novel focuses on the Ybor City family of Roberto, a Tampa-born artist who went to New York in 1937 and returns in 1958 with his wife and children to spend the summer with relatives in Ybor City. Disillusioned with left-wing politics (in New York radicals never do much more than sign petitions and distribute leaflets) and frustrated by his own lack of artistic success (Im afraid the truth is that Im just not talented), Roberto finds himself renewed by Ybor City relatives, who have managed to preserve
their culture and working-class politics in spite of adversity and some defections, such as the cousin Elena who cries out, The difference between you all of you! and me is that you love this mudhole, whereas I hate it!56 On the eve of Castros victory, she refers to Cuban revolutionaries as fools. You are wrong, Roberto responds. Those young rebels may be fools, but they are in the right, like the cigar makers were fools to go on strikes that they never won.57 Roberto himself acts on his beliefs by agreeing to drive a truck from Tampa to Sarasota, knowing that it is loaded with guns destined for Cuban rebels. This act makes him feel he can go back to New York feeling as young as when I first left Tampa.58 The year after publication of his first novel, Yglesias embarked on a pilgrimage to Spain, where he spent a year with his wife Helen and eleven-year-old son Rafael. He went in search of information about his father, carrying with him a copy of his fathers baptismal records and the last letter his Galician grandmother had written in 1933, two years after her sons death. Family papers indicated that the father was a native of a village in Galicia that Jose Yglesias referred to as Miamn in his writing. Although certain that he had no more relatives in Galicia because his grandmother had never mentioned any, Yglesias was on a family mission: I promised my mother and sister to go to Galicia, look up Miamn, find Fathers grave, and talk to people in the aldea who might remember Father or the old woman [his grandmother]; I had a camera and I planned to take pictures to send back to them in Tampa and thus lay to rest this ghost which haunted all three of US.59 Yglesias located his fathers village and, to his surprise, encountered cousins he didnt know existed. He wrote about the search and his year in Spain in a book entitled The Goodbye Land that was serialized in the New Yorker and published by Pantheon in 1967 (see page 29 for an excerpt). By the time The Goodbye Land appeared, Yglesias was deeply engaged in a project that took him to another part of the Spanish-speaking world where he also had roots. This time it was Cuba, and he spent three months in early 1967 living in a small village in the eastern province of Oriente. His purpose was to conduct research for a book that was to be part of a village series financed by Pantheon, which had already published works by Jan Myrdal on China and Studs Terkel on Chicago. Going alone, with no tape recorder and no sociological disciplines, Yglesias interviewed ordinary people about their lives in socialist Cuba.60 The result was his The book jacket for A Wake in Ybor City
second nonfiction book, which appeared in 1968. Entitled In the Fist of the Revolution: Life in a Cuban Country Town the book was hailed as a thoroughly charming, affectionate, but nonetheless critical account of day-to-day country life in Cuba. Another reviewer said it reads like a very good, very low-keyed novel.61 This may explain why it found a wide audience in this country and was translated into a number of languages, including French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, and Japanese.62 Yglesias moved back and forth between writing fiction and nonfiction. Indeed, only a fine line separates the two in much of his work. His novels read like history and his books of nonfiction read like novels. The success of The Goodbye Land and In the Fist of the Revolution led to requests by leading newspapers and magazines for journalistic pieces, but he also continued to write fiction. I write to have my say, he once confessed. There are feelings and ideas that conversations and speeches and articles and reviews will not accommodate; these are the things that fiction, always so undiscriminating, finds room for. I thank God for the novel form.63 In 1968, he published his second novel, An Orderly Life Relating the story of Rafael Sabas, the son of a Tampa cigarmaker, who moves to New York in the late 1930s, joins the Navy, and goes on to a career as a business executive, the novel contains some obvious autobiographical details, but it seems also designed to be a pot-boiler since it emphasizes Rafaels use of sex to advance himself. This probably explains why it brought Yglesias more money than any of his more overtly political novels.64 Jose Yglesias and his son Rafael posed in 1965 in front of the Galician village where their father/grandfather was born.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Yglesias wrote regularly for several magazines and the New York Times In addition to frequently reviewing books for the Nation and the New York Review of Books he went on assignment as a journalist to cover a variety of subjects, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he interviewed shortly before his death, to the Chinese ping-gong players who toured the U.S. in 1972. However, Latin America remained a special interest, and in 1969 the New York Times Magazine sent him there to chronicle developments in four countries Cuba, Brazil, Peru, and Chile. The resulting articles were later published as a book, Down There which opens with an insightful introduction that describes his feelings about Latin America and its relation to Ybor City. Having published books about Spain and Latin America after writing A Wake in Ybor City Yglesias returned to Tampa for the subject of his third novel, The Truth About Them parts of which first appeared in the New Yorker in 1971. Perhaps his most revealing work and arguably his best novel, The Truth About Them depicts three generations of an Ybor City family, and it also provides an anecdotal history of Tampas Latin community. Indeed, the book apparently began as a work of nonfiction, but once again, Yglesias found he could relate the truth better in a novel. Yglesias wrote two more novels in the 1970s before returning briefly to nonfiction. Both Double, Double (1974) and The Kill Price (1976) focus on characters that have no direct connection to Ybor City, although The Kill Price features a Chicano from El Paso who wrestles with conflicts between his Latin heritage and dominant American values, a theme that resonates throughout Yglesiass work.65 In 1975 and 1976, Yglesias returned to Spain to conduct interviews about life under long-time dictator Francisco Franco. In an eerie turn of events, Franco died while Yglesias was there, giving the author an opportunity to observe Spain during a period of transition. The resulting book, The Franco Years was hailed by one reviewer as a powerful work about survivors who found strength in their oppression.66 After the appearance of The Franco Years in 1977, Yglesias did not publish another book for a decade. This silence was not for want of effort. He continued to write but had no success finding a publisher until Arbor House accepted Home Again in 1987. This novel his sixth follows a retired novelist back to Ybor City after fifty years of working in New York. Wanting nothing The Yglesias family in Ybor City celebrated the publication of In the Fist of the Revolution with a cake duplicating the book jacket.
more than to be left alone, he is drawn into the intrigues of his Latin relatives. What results is some bizarre, often comical adventures that give the novelist-narrator an opportunity to reflect on his life, his work, and his community. At one point he observes with a touch of bitterness that Tampa made me forget who I was. In this town I am only somebodys cousin. But what the hell, everybody forgot who I was anyway.67 Two years later, another Ybor City-based novel appeared, entitled Tristan and the Hispanics (1989). In this revealing book Yglesias deals with his own mortality and his legacy both literary and familial. He does this by imagining reactions to the death of a famous Latin writer from Ybor City. The main character is the fictional writers grandson, Tristan, a Yale College student who travels to Tampa to settle the estate and arrange for burial. In Ybor City he meets Latin relatives who try to outwit each other and Tristan in a series of hilarious and moving encounters. Gradually, Tristan discovers more about his relatives and, above all, his grandfather. In a document written shortly before his death in Tampa and left to be discovered by Tristan, the aging (fictional!) novelist exclaimed: I believe literature is the grand repository of our best feelings and ideas, I believe the working class will yet liberate us all, I live in hope and die here and mix my bones with theirs. Human goodness supervenes.68 During the 1980s, Yglesias turned to playwriting as another means of dramatizing his Ybor City. He felt that the theaters immediacy, its unmediated confrontation with the audiences sensibilities, is the best vehicle for those Latins from Ybor City.69 By 1989, he had completed a trilogy of plays that trace three generations of an Ybor City family called Milin (the maiden name of his mother). The first play is set in 1912, the second in 1920, and the third in the present. The plays await full productions, but they received staged readings (with no costumes or sets) at Miamis Coconut Grove Playhouse in 1989. Each of the three separate readings was followed by a panel discussion that included Yglesias and several professors who had written about Ybor City and Cuban Americans. What an extraordinary issue, Yglesias reflected afterwards. Ybor City was not only not forgotten but was the subject of sympathetic and scientific research from the men beside me. He wondered what his grandfather Rafael Milin, an Ybor City cigarmaker, would have said. He might well have cautioned wariness at first, Yglesias suggested, for he had known many defeats, but he would have been pleased, and might finally have felt redeemed.70 Yglesias himself undoubtedly felt redeemed. As Ybor City became a subject of scholarly concern, his own work received more recognition, even in Tampa, where it had been ignored for so long. Significantly, the attention came from newcomers to the city professors at the University of South Florida (USF), who began studying Ybor City and discovered Yglesiass novels. This helped lead to the universitys awarding him an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1989. Although long overdue, this recognition of his achievement certainly pleased him. His first contacts with the University of South Florida actually dated back to 1963. Three years after the first students entered the university, Yglesias visited the fledgling institution following the publication of A Wake in Ybor City He met with students and faculty, answered questions in a Meet the Author program, and signed copies of his novel. When asked how he could write about a town he had left over twenty-five years earlier, he responded that he kept in touch
through wonderful letters from his mother and frequent visits t o Ybor City. Thomas Wolfe is wrong, he said. You can go home again.71 Subsequently, he incorporated references to USF into his novels. In The Truth About Them the narrator notes in passing that the children of a cousin were students at USF and his sister attended peace rallies there.72 In the novel Tristan and the Hispanics a USF professor praises a deceased Latin writer resembling Yglesias himself.73 In 1992, Yglesias publicly paid tribute to scholars at the university. In a lecture delivered at a conference on Jos Mart, sponsored by USF and held in Ybor City, Yglesias speculated about where Marti might have gotten the idea for his central metaphor of pinos nuevos (new pines) to describe the generation of rebels fighting for Cuban independence from Spain in the 1890s. The image of seedling pines growing among the fallen ones in the acid soil they prefer is much more typical of Florida than of Cuba. Did he look out the window of his train and see such a sight before he got to Union Station? asked Yglesias, referring to Marts first trip to Tampa to rally Ybor City cigarworkers in 1891. Perhaps in North Tampa where the University of South Florida now stands, a university that has done the most to give him and Ybor City back to us.74 The book jacket for Home Again The book jacket for Tristan and the Hispanics
Yglesiass association with USF grew closer in the 1990s. He worked with a class of creative-writing students in the Department of English and delivered occasional lectures at the university. Under the direction of Professor Denis Calandra, the Theater Department staged a reading of his play Chattahootchee at the Ritz Theater in Ybor City, and in 1993 he scripted Studs Terkels book Race for a stage play produced by the Theater Department. Yglesias clearly enjoyed this interaction with students and faculty; it not only provided him a measure of recognition, but it also brought him home again. His last visit was in 1994. Already suffering from cancer, a fact he concealed (even from his sister), he spent a week at Clearwater Beach, which he had first visited with his family in the 1920s. Returning to New York, he continued to write and plan future projects, all the while undergoing treatment for his terminal illness. He finally succumbed on November 7, 1995, the anniversary of the Russian Revolution and a date that had once energized Ybor City cigarworkers. His passing brought notices in the New York Times and Time magazine, as well as the local press in Tampa.75 However, as columnist Steve Otto pointed out in the Tampa Tribune Most of us in Tampa really didnt know Yglesias. He was better known in New York and around the world than in his hometown. Speculating on the reason for that, Otto suggested, Maybe it was the biting bluntness of Yglesias that kept him from being beloved in his own hometown.76 Yglesias lecturing at the University of South Florida in 1963. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections. Yglesias (left) receiving an honorary doctorate from University of South Florida President Frank Borkowski in 1989.
Never forgetting his native soil, Yglesias left explicit instructions that he be buried in a plain pine box at Tampas Centro Asturiano Cemetery, where his mother is interred. He also willed that there be no funeral and that only a friend (a USF professor) speak at the cemetery (see page 102). Yglesias left a literary legacy that is not yet complete. A new novel, entitled Break-In and published by Arte Publico at the University of Houston, appears this year, as will a new collection of his short stories, under the title Guns in the Closet Set in north Tampa, Break-In tells the story of an aging Latin who strikes up an unusual friendship with a black teenager. Their relationship reflects the kind of hope that Yglesias always clung to. Jose Yglesias achieved what he set out to do become a writer and preserve his memories of Ybor City so that Tampas Latin community would not be forgotten, even though it died out. His work remains a permanent testament to his success, and he lived to see recognition of his accomplishment, even in his hometown. As Tampa Magazine succinctly declared in 1981, Jose Yglesias is the best fiction writer Tampa has produced, if not the best writer, period.77 1 Jose Yglesias, Buscando un Sueo de Tampa a Nueva York, Mas 3 (July-August, 1991), 61 (translation by Ana Varela-Lago). 2 Yglesias, A Wake in Ybor City (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962), 265. 3 Suzanne Ruta, The Joy of Five Characters All Talking at Once, New York Times April 22, 1990, H-7. 4 Jose Yglesias, entry in Contemporary Authors ed. by Ann Evory (Detroit: Gale Research, 1979), vols 41-44, p. 792. 5 Yglesias to Jos Marcelo Garza, April 27, 1984, in Jos M. Garza, Deaths I Have Known: The Literary Radicalism of Jose Yglesias (Ph.D. dissertation: University of Iowa, 1986), 341. 6 Yglesias, Tristan and the Hispanics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), 249. 7 John Leonard quoted in Yglesias entry in Contemporary Authors 793. 8 Robert Stephen Spitz, review of The Franco Years, Saturday Review (November 12, 1977), 28 9 Yglesias entry in Contemporary Authors 793. 10 Interview with Dalia Corro, February 7, 1996. 11 Yglesias, Buscando un Sueo, 59. 12 Robert P. Ingalls, Urban Vigilantes in the New South: Tampa, 1882-1936 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993). 13 Yglesias, The Goodbye Land (New York: Pantheon, 1967). 14 Yglesias, The Truth About Them (New York: World Publishing, 1971), 171. 15 Interview with Dalia Corro. 16 Yglesias, The Goodbye Land 5.
17 Yglesias, The Radical Latino Island in the Deep South, Nuestro: The Magazine for Latinos 1 (August 1977), 5. 18 Interview with Dalia Corro; Yglesias, The Truth About Them 100. 19 Jose Yglesias interview in Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel (New York: Pantheon, 1970), 109. 20 Yglesias, Un Buen Obrero, New Masses 61 (November 26, 1946), 19. 21 The Hilsborean (Tampa: 1937), 56. 22 A newspaper story lists the names of the staff of the Red and the Black and Yglesias is the only one with a Spanish name. Tampa Daily Times October 2, 1936, p. 22. 23 Yglesias, The Truth About Them 60. 24 Ibid., 171. 25 See, for example, Yglesias, Un Buen Obrero. 26 Yglesias quoted by Terkel, Hard Times 110. 27 Yglesias, The Bittersweet Legacy of La Madre Patria, Nuestro 2 (April 1978), 26. 28 Yglesias, A Trilogy Takes Playwright Home Again, New York Times April 23, 1989, 5. 29 Interview with Dalia Corro. 30 Yglesias quoted by Terkel, Hard Times 111. 31 Interview with Dalia Corro. 32 Yglesias, Bittersweet Legacy, 26. 33 Yglesias, Buscando un Sueo, 61. 34 Yglesias, Bittersweet Legacy, 26. 35 Ibid. 36 Yglesias, Playwright Home Again, 5. 37 Interview with Dalia Corro. 38 Yglesias, A Wake in Ybor City 83. 39 Yglesias, One German Dead (Leeds, MA: Gehenna & Eremite Press, 1988), 6. 40 Ibid.; Yglesias entry in Contemporary Authors 793. 41 Yglesias, Coming Down from Black Mountain (a review of Black Mountain College by Martin Duberman), University Review December 1972, clipping in possession of Dalia Corro. 42 Martin Duberman, Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972), 11-12, 49-50.
43 Yglesias, Coming Down from Black Mountain, 15. 44 Ibid., 15-16. 45 Yglesias, Un Buen Obrero, 19. 46 Interview with Dalia Corro. 47 Yglesias, The Truth About Them 182. 48 Daily Worker November 2, 1948. 49 Ibid., April 1, 1949. 50 Ibid., November 25, 1948. 51 Ibid., December 2, 1948. 52 Ibid., November 30, 1948. 53 Yglesias, A Wake in Ybor City 175. 54 Yglesias entry in Contemporary Authors 792-93. 55 Juan Goytisolo, Island of Women translated by Jose Yglesias (New York: Knopf, 1962); Xavier Domingo, Villa Milo translated by Jose Yglesias (New York: Braziller, 1962). 56 Yglesias, A Wake in Ybor City 83 (second quotation), 143 (first quotation), 275 (third quotation). 57 Ibid., 276. 58 Ibid., 280. 59 Yglesias, The Goodbye Land 9. 60 Yglesias, In the Fist of the Revolution: Life in a Cuban Country Town (New York: Pantheon, 1968), 30, 33. 61 Jules Feiffer and the Kirkus Service quoted on the back cover of paperback edition of In the Fist of the Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1969). 62 Copies of the translations in possession of Dalia Corro. 63 David M. Heaton, Jose Yglesias, in Contemporary Novelists 2nd ed., ed. by James Vinson (New York: St. Martins Press, 1976), 1554. 64 Interview of Yglesias, The Lyre: Jesuit High School Literary Magazine 9 (1989), 34. 65 For an insightful survey of Yglesiass fiction, see Critical Survey of Long Fiction ed. by Frank N. Magill (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1983), vol. 7, pp. 2993-3003. 66 Spitz, review of The Franco Years 28. 67 Yglesias, Home Again (New York: Arbor House, 1987), 154. 68 Yglesias, Tristan and the Hispanics 250-51.
69 Yglesias, Trilogy, 5. 70 Ibid. Another play by Yglesias, New York 1937, was staged in New York during April 1990. Ruta, The Joy of Five Characters. 71 Tampa Times August 5, 1963. 72 Yglesias, The Truth About Them 89, 202. 73 Yglesias, Tristan and the Hispanics 116. 74 Yglesias, Mart in Ybor City, in Jos Mart in the United States: The Florida Experience ed. by Louis A. Prez, Jr. (Tempe: Arizona State University Center for Latin American Studies, 1995), 114. 75 New York Times November 8,1995, B 12; Time November 20,1995, 47; St. Petersburg Times November 9, 1995; Tampa Tribune November 9, 1995. 76 Tampa Tribune November 10, 1995. 77 Jose Yglesias Is One of Our Own, Tampa Magazine 1 (October 1981), 74.
THE GOODBYE LAND by Jose Yglesias When I was five, the cigarmakers in the Latin section of Tampa, Florida, held a collection on payday to send my mother, my sister and me to Havana to see my father. Four years earlier, he had become ill with encephalitis the Sleeping Sickness, they called it then and when he got over the first attack, he began to wander away from home for the second time in his life. When he was thirteen, he had left the province of Galicia in northern Spain, accompanied by a cousin the same age and from the same tiny aldea in the mountains. First, he went to Havana, where he spent four years as an apprentice in a cigar factory, like a young Dickens hero. From there, already the owner of a dark suit with thin gray stripes, high starched collars and a straw hat, he went to Tampa to work in the cigar factories; and at a Wednesday night social of the West Tampa Methodist Church, run by missionaries who quite rightly considered they were bringing the gospel to virgin territory, he met my mother when she was not quite sixteen. They got married and, of course, never went back to church. My grandfathers pleasure of having the youngest and last to marry of his five daughters safely given away was soon dampened by my fathers sociable and gay habits: having come of age in Havana, my father liked to stop at the cafe on his way home for his espresso and to return after dinner to talk and play dominoes. Not at all like Grandfathers other Galician son-in-law, a sober-minded man, not given to leaving the house after work, which was what you were to expect of Galicians. Father first got sick on the eve of what was to be the ten-months strike of 1920 a watershed in the Latin community of Tampa, from which a generation now dying out dates most events in their lives and the crippling fever did not make him as anxious as did his knowledge that he could not be at the factory the next day. He had been chosen by the strike committee for all the factories to get up from his worktable at the secretly appointed hour, and call down the block-long floor of rows of closely packed tables, in a voice that hundreds could hear, Outside, comrades, outside! He had already received the folded piece of paper and read the date and the hour he was to do this; he kept it in the back pocket of his brown pants, the one with the button-down flap. Months later, when the strike was over and he could not go back to work because his right hand without warning would open spasmodically, he still kept the piece of paper with him when he left for Havana. He was a member of the Centro Espaol, a mutual aid society of cigarmakers for which there was a counterpart in Havana, and although the cigarmakers in Tampa had months to go yet before they could pay the grocer's bills accumulated during the strike, they held a collection, as they did for us later, to pay for Fathers trip to Cuba: surely the doctors of the Centro in Havana would know how to cure his creeping paralysis. It affected not only his hand but his right leg, which he dragged behind him, and his throat, which would suddenly cause him to stutter or be unable to swallow. The doctors did not cure him, of course, and Father began to believe that if he could once more breathe the air of Galicia and eat the food they grew in their tiny farms along the mountainside, and if he could do that for a few months, he would surely get well. There was still some money left from the collection, to which he could add the fifteen dollars a month the Centro in Tampa gave Mother and which she passed on to him, so he went back to Galicia to visit his mother and sister in the aldea. His sister had just been widowed, and for a while he helped them work the land, and he answered, Do not worry to Mothers letters reminding him that since he was a resident alien in the States he must return before the year was out. It turned Reprinted from The Goodbye Land (New York: Pantheon, 1967), 3-11.
out that Mother was right to worry, for Father contracted typhoid in Spain and did not make it back in time. Weak but desperate, he arranged to be smuggled back to Cuba on the regular liner which left from Vigo, and, like hundreds of others, would have gotten into Cuba illegally had not a recurrence of the typhoid on board ship made him very ill: the ships officers would not take the risk and turned him over to the Cuban authorities when they came on board on their routine visit. He was transferred to a hospital for infectious diseases in Havana, and that was when Mother (who was twenty-eight and had never been out of Tampa) and my sister and I went to Havana in the hope that we would, somehow, bring him back with us. I remember vividly the slum street where we stayed with Fathers uncle; but I did not know that Mother, besides seeing Father at the hospital every day (she took him a bottle of milk because the diet there was bad), spent her time seeing the Cuban authorities, the Spanish embassy, and the American embassy. She took me to the hospital only once, and when I saw my sister run ahead to one of the long rows of beds, I went after her, looked at the man she kissed, and asked if he was my father. He smiled and I jumped on the bed and kissed him too, not to be outdone by my sister who saw him almost every day. He had not shaved in several days and his beard was scratchy; that is all I remember of him, but the story of how I instinctively knew who he was and how eagerly I kissed him has been retold often by my Tampa aunts, always to my glory. Mother failed; neither Cuba nor the United States would have him, and the Cuban authorities were only waiting for him to get over the attack of typhoid or the Sleeping Sickness they were not sure what he had to put him on a ship back to Galicia. The Spanish ambassador, who could afford to be candid, told Ybor Citys Centro Espaol, as it looked in 1941. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections.
Mother, Madam, if you or your family were wealthy, you would have no problem with your countrys immigration laws. Mother waited until she was sure there was nothing else to be done to tell Father, and then only when the sailing date of his ship was near. I do not want to go back, he said. If they put me on that ship, I shall jump overboard when it is in the middle of the ocean. I do not want to live. Man, what are you saying! You must not be in your right mind, Mother argued. You know I am going back to Tampa and that our whole family will work to bring you back. We shall write to Washington, you shall see. It was a coincidence that the ship for Spain left on the same day as ours for Tampa. I was sorry that the voyage to Tampa lasted only a day, for we had a cunning little cabin with two berths and I liked the idea of sleeping with Mother in the lower one. When we went to bed, Mother called up to my sister and told us for the first time that Father was on his way to Spain and that she wanted us to pray with her for his safe trip. Then she began to pray, and I was so astonished to hear her speak English that I could not respond. Our Father who art in Heaven, said Mother, remembering those Wednesday night meetings at the West Tampa Methodist Church, and my sister, who was nine years old and knew English, echoed from the upper berth, Our Father who art in Heaven. At first I did not like it, and I interrupted Mother to tell her I did not know English, and she said, That is all right, you listen and wish your father well. Lying on my side, absorbing my mothers warmth and watching the moonlight coming in the porthole, I felt good, and went off to sleep, as on Christmas Eve, certain that when morning came some aunt or uncle or sister or cousin not Santa Claus would have made my good wishes come true. Forty years later, in the spring of 1965, I went to Galicia to see the country where my father was born and died, feeling excited at the prospect, emotions which were but a slight resurgence of my childhood feelings, for intellectually I was cool now: I had long ago assimilated the knowledge that the goodbyes of the poor are forever, their ten-months strikes are never won, and the letters they write to Washington are not read but weighed. My father went back to Miamn, the little aldea on the mountainside, writing seldom and then not at all when the paralysis got worse; after a year, he was good only to take care of the cows, getting up before dawn to lead them up to the forest where, if the flies bit, they could not run into fields under cultivation. When he could not do that, he lay at home, and when the women could no longer take care of him, they took him to the hospital at Santiago de Compostela; the hospital kept him a few weeks only, until they realized that he was incurable and could only be given nursing care, so they arranged to transfer him to a charity home; there he spent the last three Jose Yglesias at the age of five in Havana to visit his ailing father.
years of his life. Just before I left for Europe in the summer of 1964, I asked Mother what she had heard about his stay there and what was the name of the place. Well, you can imagine, his mother could not see him often. They were poor and the city was far away. I remember that she said or the man who used to write the letters for her anyway, she wrote that he did not talk to her. She did not know whether it was the paralysis or whether he just did not wish to talk. Mother rubbed the lobe of her right ear between two fingers, a habit with her when pensive, and said, Your father was a very sociable man. Mother came to New York to see me and my wife and our eleven-year-old son off to Europe, and she brought a copy of Fathers baptismal papers for me; also, the last letter she received from Miamn, two years after Father died, announcing the death of his widowed sister. After that the old woman, which is how we always referred to Fathers mother, never had another letter written to her daughter-in-law in America; that last letter was written in 1933, so I knew I had no more relatives in Galicia, for the old woman had never mentioned any. I planned to spend a year in Spain, however, and I promised my mother and sister to go to Galicia, look up Miamn, find Fathers grave, and talk to people in the aldea who might remember Father or the old woman; I had a camera and I planned to take pictures to send back to them in Tampa and thus lay to rest this ghost which haunted all three of us. And so, I said to Mother, you did not write again after the old woman didnt answer your last letter? Mother sighed, as if the memory of those years were a hard rock so imbedded in the past that it was too much to drag it up now. Oh no, I wrote several times. Though not too often, for I liked to send ten dollars or at least five with each letter and and, you know. There it was, the old uncrushable rock of guilt: the old woman had had an invalid son dumped on her and what had we done to help? My sister and I had gone over the situation many times in the past: the old woman had been widowed before Father left Galicia at the age of thirteen, so was her daughter by the time Father returned, life in Galicia was hard, and in her old age the old woman had without warning to take care of an invalid son and a sick daughter. And it had been her terrible task to turn him over to hospitals and charity homes. Charity homes! We knew what they were in our country and could imagine how much worse in Spain. Even after the war, when my sister and I had married and had less pity for ourselves (for anyone could see that we had Jose Yglesias in front of the Galician village whereh i sfatherwasborn.
survived the terrible blow to ourselves) we would often sit out on the porch, after the others had gone to bed, and talk about what must have happened after Fathers ship reached Vigo with him still thank God! on board. By the time we recounted the last visit the old woman paid him, walking many miles to Santiago only to sit before a mute man who simply stared ahead, we would decide it was foolish to lacerate ourselves that way: we were kids, after all, when it happened, and Mother did send what little money she could find. One of the reasons we still thought about the old woman after the war was that Mother regularly mailed packages of clothes to a Spanish family in Toulouse. They were one of thousands who crossed into France when the north of Spain fell to Francos army, and the cigarmakers in Tampa, supporters of the Republic, passed around to each other the names of families in exile now suffering at the hands of the French. Galicia had immediately fallen when the civil war broke out, and often my sister would say, What a problem! What if Father had lived or the old woman? We would have been sending things to the fascist side! And when I decided to go to Spain, my sister said on the long-distance phone, You know isnt it funny? you may be able to find records of the old woman and Father because they say nothing was destroyed during the war. It wasnt like Asturias where people who go back cant find records at the churches or city halls. We left in October and entered Spain at Hendaye, for we had a week before we were due in Barcelona and there was time to take a quick look at the north before settling down for the Helen and Rafael (right) Yglesias posed in 1965 with two distant cousins in the entrance of the Galician farm building where the father of Jose Yglesias was born.
winter. I had a year in Spain ahead of me: no need to hurry to do anything. But I did want to see the north first because my family in the main came from there. Besides my father and my Galician uncle, there were uncles who came from Asturias; my brother-in-law had spent several years in a country village in Asturias, and he gave me letters to people there. The Spain that most drew me was not the one everyone had heard about: not Madrid, Barcelona, Andalusia, but Asturias and Galicia. Asturias because it is rebellious, Galicia because it is my fathers province. Jose Yglesias during his 1965 visit to Spain.
SEARCHING FOR A DREAM FROM TAMPA TO NEW YORK by Jose Yglesias translated by Ana Varela-Lago I was born and raised in Tampa, or rather, in a section of the city called Ybor City, where only Spanish was spoken. My father, a peasant from Galicia, immigrated to Havana as an adolescent to work as an apprentice in a cigar factory. When he became a cigarmaker, he moved to Tampa to search for work in the cigar factories of Ybor City. Ybor City was a Latin island in the South of the United States, and I did not speak a word of English when I entered public school. There, we students spoke Spanish among ourselves and broken English with the teachers. Ybor City had its own Spanish press, theaters, and mutual aid societies, with dance halls, libraries, gyms and medical services. It was a self-sufficient world, a wonderful community that I left behind when I headed for New York, at seventeen, to discover the great American world, feeling as American as any other white adolescent. Why? I would not have asked myself that question then. I do it now because the past twenty years have seen the rise on the national scene of the Hispanic minority, a group with such a strong separatist culture that it can use the word Hispanic without irony, something still impossible for my generation. The playwright George Bernard Shaw said that Englishmen and Americans were a people divided by a common language. He said it jokingly but to make us think. His irony, it seems to me now, is even more appropriate for our new Hispanic family. We Latins are sometimes as much Mayas, Incas and Africans of various nations as we are Iberians. And our Spanish language reflects this variety. In classifying our new immigrants as Hispanics we take for granted that their countries and cultures are cut from the same cloth. And it is forgotten that we Latins have a long historical presence in what is today the United States and that we are already part of its history. We do not even have to turn to the West, where Mexicans preceded everyone else, except for the indigenous nations. In my own town of New York the Hispanic tradition existed before I arrived in 1937. Castelao, the father of galleguismo [Galician nationalism], lived and wrote in the neighborhood of Chelsea. Jos Mart, the Cuban nationalist hero, organized from New York the Cuban movement for independence in the 1880s. And Arthur Schomburg, who gave his name to the noted African-American cultural center in Harlem, was of Puerto Rican origin. In separating ourselves from the American world we become accomplices to the American historians who, with their prejudices, have ignored this history. How many Latins will there be in the United States who are bothered by this new separatist label of Hispanic? It bothers me so much that I forget the most important question: Why do the New Latin immigrants feel this way? The answer is known to other ethnic groups in the United States, because almost without exception, we have not been welcomed. When I came to New York in 1937, I walked along *Reprinted from Mas 3 (July-August 1991), 58-61.
Sixth Avenue where the employment agencies were located and went into one where for five dollars I could buy a job as a waiter. The man who took my money and gave me a piece of paper with the name and address of a popular coffee shop exclaimed, upon seeing my name, that I would not get work. If I wanted the job, I would have to make up an American name. You can give them any name as long as you use the same social security number. I was so shocked that I did not object. I thought of the name of a Tampa neighbor that sounded more or less Irish: Moran. When I got to the job, I was so angry for what I had been asked to do that I immediately gave my real name to the person who was interviewing me. I said with rage: They told me I would have to change it to... The man did not let me finish. I dont care what your name is. And he hired me. I will never forget his name: Peck. He was Jewish. He had probably changed his name and knew how I felt. He was my first ally in the defense of my americanismo. Well, not exactly. In Tampa, Ybor City Latins did not go to school with the americanos until we got to high school. My third grade teacher was a beautiful non-Latin young woman and I, of course, was in love with her. One day, when I was turning in a test, she said to me: You have a beautiful name. Never change it. I have been loyal to her all my life. I had and still have to pay for this loyalty. For years, my name filled with anxiety potential landlords. They only calmed down when they spoke with my wife, who was not Latin. I will never forget the time when I returned to Tampa from New York, on leave from my ship in the Navy during World War II. I stayed talking in the club car with two other servicemen. Believing that I was a New Yorker, they praised the virtues of Tampa. The only warning they gave me was about Ybor City: Dont go, its a dangerous place, full of spics. Those prejudices were nothing new to me. I had always known that was what the americanos in Tampa thought of us. Then, why did I feel as American as anyone else when I left Tampa at seventeen? The prejudices were then even stronger than they are now, but a light shined like a halo the American dream of equality. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the nations president. Fiorello La Guardia was New York Citys mayor. In Europe, Fascism was on the rise or already in power, but we were excited with the fervor of the labor movement, and crossed ethnic boundaries to fight against the elite who held power at that time. Yglesiass high school graduation picture.
Nowadays, perhaps immigrants from all over the world may be well received. But, more than anything, what they are offered is the opportunity to earn money, fill our shopping centers, and with time, get that little piece of plastic that has become more important than the citizenship papers. If that is all the United States has to offer, then it is right for us to cling to our Spanish language and our customs, and to resist accepting the lifestyle prevalent here. The United States has to convince us if we are to abandon all we brought with us. Other immigrants resisted too. In the 1930s, when I first came to the north, the city of New York was full of ethnic neighborhoods. They were the ones who would not surrender. Almost all those neighborhoods have disappeared. Latins do not surrender either, and sometimes it seems that our neighbor hoods grow instead of them being abandoned. It is not our fault, it is the stars, and the northern star has lost its shine, I believe. However, the star shines from time to time, offering equality. In the past, other immigrants used this egalitarian ideal as a wedge to get ahead, and even today it is a useful tool. I believe that for those of us who live in the United States, assimilation does not mean abandoning our past, but enriching an already very rich mix. Hispanics (whatever we may choose to call them) newly arrived to this country are like the proverbial father of the bride: they do not lose Bolvar or Mart, but gain Jefferson and Lincoln. To me, assimilation has meant that in all my work as a writer I had tried to make American readers aware of the existence of Ybor City and its Latin cigarmakers. It is a fact that Ybor City is already part of Americas own history. And my assimilation does not mean that I do not take pleasure hearing how Andy Garcia (in the film Internal Affairs ), playing the role of a policeman, the prototypical American hero, speaks in Spanish to another Latin unexpectedly, without preparing the public. Here we are, that is what assimilation means: We are American. I like when jazz and salsa mix, and every time they mix more and more.
THE DEPRESSION YEARS IN YBOR CITY by Jose Yglesias In the sunlit town, the Depression came imperceptibly. The realization came to me when Aunt Lila said theres no food in the house. My aunt, who owned the house we lived in, would no longer charge rent. It would be shameful to charge rent with $9 a week coming in. The grocery man would come by and take a little order, which he would bring the next day. When my mother would not order anything because she owed, he'd insist: Why are you cutting down on the beans? There was a certain difference between the Depression in my home town than elsewhere. There werent dark, satanic mills. The streets were not like a city ghetto. There were poor homes, that hadnt been painted in years. But it was out in the open. You played in the sunlight. I dont remember real deprivation. Ybor City was an island in the South. When an American got mad at any Latin, he called him a Cuban nigger. This was one of the first feelings I remember: I want to be an American. you become ashamed of the community. I was an ardent supporter of Henry Ford at the age of twelve. The strike of 1931 revolved around readers in the factory. The workers themselves used to pay twenty-five to fifty cents a week and would hire a man to read to them during work. A cigar factory is one enormous open area, with tables at which people work. A platform would be erected, so that hed look down at the cigar makers as he read to them some four hours a day. He would read from newspapers and magazines and a book would be read as a serial. The choice of the book was democratically decided. Some of the readers were marvelous natural actors. They wouldnt just read a book. Theyd act out the scenes. Consequently, many cigar makers, who were illiterate, knew the novels of Zola and Dickens and Cervantes and Tolstoy. The works of the anarchist, Kropotkin. Among the newspapers read were The Daily Worker and the Socialist Call The factory owners decided to put an end to this, though it didnt cost them a penny. Everyone went on strike when they arrived one morning and found the lecture platform torn down. The strike was lost. Every strike in my home town was always lost. The readers never came back. My uncle was a foreman. He was ill-equipped for the job because he couldnt bear to fire anybody. He would discuss it with his wife: We have to cut off so many people. What am I going to do? My aunt would say: You cant fire him. They have twelve children. Youd hear a great deal of talk. You knew things were getting worse. No more apprentices were taken in. My sister was in the last batch. The strike left a psychological scar on me. I was in junior high school and a member of the student patrol. I wore an arm band. During the strike, workers marched into the schools to close *Reprinted from Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel (New York: Pantheon, 1970), 109-12.
them down, bring the children out. The principal closed the gates, and had the student patrols guard them. If they come, what do I do? My mother was in the strike. One member of the top strike committee was a woman. That day I stood patrol, she was taken off to jail. Her daughter was kept in the principals office. I remember walking home from school, about a block behind her, trying to decide whether to tell her of my sympathies, to ask about her mother. I never got to say it. I used to feel bad about that. Years later, in New York, at a meeting for Loyalist Spain, I met her and told her. Everybody gave ten percent of their pay for the Republic. It was wild. The total community was with Loyalist Spain. They used to send enormous amounts of things. It was totally organized. The song No pasarn that was taken to be Spanish was really by a Tampa cigar maker. It was an extraordinarily radical strike. The cigar makers tried to march to City Hall with red flags, singing the old Italian anarchist song, Avanti popolo, Scarlet Banner. I thought it was Spanish because we used to sing Avanza pueblo. You see, the bonus march made them feel the revolution was here. It was a Latin town. Men didnt sit at home. They went to cafes, on street corners, at the Labor Temple, which they built themselves. It was very radical talk. The factory owners acted out of A lector reading to Ybor City cigar makers in about 1930. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections.
fright. The 1931 strike was openly radical. By then, there was a Communist Party in Ybor City. Leaflets would be distribu ted by people whom you knew. (Laughs.) Theyd come down the street in the car (whispers) with their headlights off. And then onto each porch. Everybody knew who it was. Theyd say, Oh, com est, Manuel. (Laughs.) During the strike, the KKK would come into the Labor Temple with guns, and break up meetings. Very frequently, they were police in hoods. Though they were called the Citizens Committee, everybody would call them Los Cuckoo Klan. (Laughs.) The picket lines would hold hands, and the KKK would beat them and cart them off. The strike was a ghastly one. When the factories opened, they cut off many workers. There was one really hated manager, a Spaniard. They would say, It takes a Spaniard to be that cruel to his fellow man. He stood at the top of the stairs. Hed hum The Scarlet Banner: You-you can come in. Then hed hum The Internationale: You-you can come in. Then hed turn his back on the others. They werent hired. Nobody begged him, though. When the strike was lost, the Tampa paper published a full page, in large type: the names of all the members of the strike committee. They were indicted for conspiracy and spent a year in jail. None of them got their jobs back. A march in May 1937 by Ybor City residents in support of the Spanish Republic. Courtesy of La Gaceta
The readers strike lasted only a couple of weeks: La huelga de los lectores I just dont know how they kept up their militancy. There were, of course, many little wildcat strikes. Cigar makers were just incredible. If they were given a leaf that would crumble: Too dry out! When cigar makers walked out, they didnt just walk out at the end of a day. Theyd walk out on the day the tobacco had been moistened, laid out. The manufacturer lost a few hundred dollars, in some cases, a thousand. There were attempts to organize the CIO. I remember one of my older cousins going around in a very secretive manner. Youd think he was planning the assassination of the czar. He was trying to sign people up for the CIO. The AF of L International was very conservative and always considered as an enemy. They never gave the strike any support. It was considered the work of agitators. People began to go off to New York to look for jobs. Almost all my family were in New York by 1937. Youd take that bus far to New York. There, we all stayed together. The only place people didnt sleep in was the kitchen. A bed was even in the foyer. People would show up from Tampa, and you'd put them up. We were the Puerto Rican immigrants of that time. In any cafeteria, in the kitchen, the busboys, the dishwashers, you were bound to find at least two from Ybor City. Some would drift back as jobs would open up again in Tampa. Some went on the WPA. People would put off governmental aid as long as possible. Aunt Lila and her husband were the first in our family, and the last, to go on WPA. This was considered a terrible tragedy, because it was charity. You did not mention it to them. That didnt mean you didnt accept another thing. There was no payday in any cigar factory that there wasnt a collection for anyone in trouble. If a father died, there was a collection for the funeral. When my father went to Havana for an operation, there was a collection. That was all right. You yourself didnt ask. Someone said: Listen, so and sos in trouble. When Havana cigar makers would go on strike, it was a matter of honor: you sent money to them. It has to do with the Spanish-Cuban tradition. Neighbors have always helped one another. The community has always been that way. There was a solidarity. There was just something very nice. People working in the cigar industry no longer have the intellectual horizons that my parents had, and my aunts and uncles. They were an extraordinarily cultivated people. It makes it very difficult for me today to read political analysts, even those of the New Left, who talk in a derogatory way of the glorification of the working class. The working class I knew was just great.
LA NOCHEBUENA: THE BEST OF NIGHTS by Jose Yglesias *Reprinted from Nuestro, 1 (December 1977), 18-21. Nochebuena I have never been able to find out how Christmas Eve came to be named this by Spaniards, but in Ybor City, the Latin section of Tampa, it was truly a good night. Indeed, it was the best of nights. Why this was so is difficult to explain. After all, there were other occasions that should have been more exciting for me and my cousins and the other kids on the blockchildren's day at the State Fair, outings to the beach in summer, the times the Ringling Bros. Circus came to town, the training games of the Cincinnati Reds. Our happiness was not due either to the expectation of gifts left by our bedside while we slept that night; there was no Christmas tree and hardly any toys in the 20s and 30s, not for the children of workers. The gifts we did receive were mostly clothes, and we had a pretty good idea of what those would be. Why then was Nochebuena so special that it has left me with the finest of gifts the belief that like most Latinos I was given a touchstone for true gaiety and good feeling? Let me describe it. For us it was a secular holiday. True, some Latinos went to the Catholic Church for midnight mass, la misa del gallo but these were mostly the few who attended the parochial school and it was another way of not letting go of the day, for Nochebuena was the one night when we were allowed to stay up as long as we could. The younger kids were carried off to bed when they turned into little heaps of sleep, and the older ones were guided there in their stumbling daze. I don't remember ever wanting to cross the backyard that joined my aunt's house, where we all gathered, to our own, but I never walked the few yards home, while my Cuban grandfather firmly grasped my elbow, with any energy left to spare or any room in my bloated belly for another mouthful of turrn I once said to him, "I stole a third glass of wine when no one was looking, and he replied, "Aha!" in a tone I heard myself use years later with my son when I pretended to have been taken in by some maneuver of his. When I think back about Nochebuena in Ybor City, I can see that although it was not a religious occasion it was certainly a reverent one. Our altar was the dinner table. All the preparations and expectations and excitement of the day led to that marvelous feast. We sat down to it at least four or five hours later than our usual 6:30 dinner, reverting in this way, by a kind of racial memory, to the right time for a proper Castilian cena The very timing creates suspense: in any Spanish city, even today, you can observe the happy buzz of anticipation that invades the people out for the paseo Whether they are dashing out on last-minute errands or meeting friends at cafes or simply strolling down the main street, they are all really preparing for the cena The cantina of Ybor City's Centro Espaol with members playing dominoes in 1941. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections. But whereas the Spaniards in the cities are somewhat blas about their paseos and cenas we in Ybor City never could be about Nochebuena Ours was a cigarmaking community that kept U.S. working hours, and although on ordinary days the men went after dinner to the canteens at the Cuban, Spanish, Asturian, and Italian clubs to play dominoes and chat and have a second cup of caf solo with perhaps a trago of cognac, everyone was back home and ready for bed at eleven o'clock. On Nochebuena this was reversed: about six o'clock, when they were assured that there
were no more errands to do the pork well on its way to being perfectly done, the house stocked with wine and liquor, the long Cuban loaves brought home from the last freshly baked batch at the bakery the men of the family went off in little groups to make the rounds of the cafes and the homes of friends. We boys would see our fathers and uncles leave and we longed for the day when we too could go off to be treated (making the women a little anxious that we might return too drunk to appreciate the dinner) and come back four hours later flushed and happy, sneaking dimes and quarters to the kids. Not that the men were uninterested in the preparation of the dinner. In Ybor City families, they took no part in shopping for food or in preparing meals on ordinary days, except, of course, to make the caf solo when dinner was done: handling the colador was a man's job. But Nochebuena was another matter. A week earlier began the discussions of where to buy the big fresh hams that, crisp on the outside, juicy inside, are the great baked wonder of the meal. Sometimes it was the men who cooked it too. I was startled out of bed one Christmas Eve morning by agonized squeals coming from the backyard and ran to help whoever was in trouble. Mother yelled from the kitchen, "Don't go there!" Too late. The men of the family were struggling with a pig, and I was just in time to see Cousin Viola's husband, who had been reared in the Cuban countryside, plunge the knife. I was rooted to the back steps by curiosity, and I did not turn away despite the blood and my mother's calls, because it would have been unmanly. The pig had to be degutted, scrubbed with boiling water, and its hair plucked, while others dug a pit for the charcoal fire. It took much work and discussion to do all this and set the dressed pig on a spit. Also, many swigs from the gallon of wine. Cousin Pancho had prepared a huge pot of the mojo made with sour orange juice, garlic, and paprika, and during the long hours ahead there were always two men there to turn the pig and baste it with mojo After the novelty of this had worn off for them, I was allowed to dip the new paint brush into the delicious-smelling pot and coat the now unscarifying pig. My mother and aunts no longer live in those three houses on Ybor Street with a common backyard. Some have died and all have scattered to better homes, but to this day Cousin Pancho, now in his mid-seventies, prepares the mojo on the 23rd and takes it round in half-gallon jars to three or four of our family's homes. He insists on personally puncturing the legs of pork to show the women, who are certainly no novices, just how to soak mojo into these interstices. That Nochebuena they cooked an entire pig because we were sharing it with neighbors. Otherwise, two hams (eighteen pounds each) cooked at two stoves will do. We were never less than two dozen at dinner. Some families took their pork to the bakery to be done. On our block there were always variations of this sort from family to family, but what made Nochebuena a true rite was that the menu never changed. There were (and are) no surprises in that only confirmed delights. The menu was black beans, white rice (each grain firm and separate), sweet potatoes, yuca, salads, chicken baked in lemon and garlic sauce (in families with closer ties to Spain than Cuba, this might be substituted by whole red snappers in escabeche ) and the pork. The hams were not brought to the table whole. They were sliced in the kitchen, the brown crisp skin put to one side, and the slices and drippings placed in long pans and given a last turn in the oven just before being served with the crackling skin as garnish. On the table was red wine and sangria
This menu rolls off the tongue so easily that I forget how complicated is the preparation of the least dish. Take the black beans; they must be soaked overnight, fortified with garlic, onions, green peppers sauteed in fine olive oil, along with oregano, wine, and hot pepper, and simmered for hours. These ingredients are added at careful intervals so that the sauce will coagulate while the beans remain whole and firm. No mean trick. No less than getting the white rice perfect and hot to the table. One Nochebuena the rice was ruined because at the last moment, when the men were already late from their rounds of the clubs, two empty homes behind our alley burst into flames. So suddenly, so thoroughly, that we all knew without being told that the fires had been set. It was 1932, the Depression was well under way, and the insurance would come in handy. What a memorable Nochebuena that was for us kids what a disaster for the cooks! Of course, no one owned a dining table that could seat 24, and kitchen tables were brought from the other houses, placed in a row, and made to seem one by overlapping tablecloths. Our excitement was already at a high pitch by the time we sat down at it, but the very novelty of so long a table made for further happiness. Also, the tolerance and good humor that prevailed. We children did not cease to be children, and our mothers and aunts yelled at us when we threatened to get out of hand, especially when the table was cleared and the turrones and guava paste and cream cheese and flans and brazos gitanos brought out for dessert; but the admonishments carried no threats: everything the adults said, and especially the laughter of the men, contained a license for our youthful mischief, so long as it was harmless. After all, it was Nochebuena There was enough of everything for everyone. On this one night we were the privileged of the earth. Or so that groaning board made us feel. Only the adults knew what sacrifices it may have taken to provide this plenitude, but I believe that even they when they sat at the table felt they had achieved the good life. Not just for themselves, nor for what in the non-Latino world is called the immediate family, but for the whole of the family the least cousin or in-law and the neighbors on the block and that island of Latinos called Ybor City. If an americano had wandered down our street, we should have gathered him unto us with a whole heart. There is not much left of my home town. It is scattered and broken up, and its old ambiente seems to me almost entirely gone. I am bitterly sad about it, but three years ago my wife and I were down there for Christmas and our two grown sons, who are New Yorkers, joined us there. Mother got up at six on the morning of Christmas Eve to start the pork cooking, and we three fellows got out of the way by driving to the beaches 40 minutes away and spending the day with the tourists from up north. It was after six when we started back, so interested in our talk that we had no sense of what day it was. As our car approached Nebraska Avenue, the outer rim of old Ybor City, the car was invaded by a new odor. "What's that?" one of them asked, and I immediately recognized it pork baking in that pungent mojo Heavenly pollution, may no wind ever waft it away.
UN BUEN OBRERO: A SHORT STORY by Jose Yglesias El Isleo drove the truck for El Bien Publico when I first started to work there. It was my first job. I was to help him deliver groceries and for working every afternoon and all day Saturday I was to get two and a half dollars a week. El Bien Publico was a cooperative grocery store and meat market. About thirty cigarmakers owned it collectively and took turns working as salesmen and at the cash register. Since it did not open until the afternoon on week days the system worked well. However, there was nothing impersonal about it. It was not a business concern. Everyone seemed to have a hand in everything; when the wives of members came to shop they moved about as if they were in a well-stocked kitchen of their own. That last bothered me. I was in high school and had absorbed some of the American mores. Ybor City, that section of Tampa where the Spaniards and Italians who worked in the cigar factories lived, made me impatient when it did not make me feel ashamed. It was an anomaly, an island of Latins in the South. El Isleo was a member of the store but he got paid for his work as driver because he did it regularly. He was a large dark man and he moved slowly. I liked him a lot but I was also a little contemptuous of his ways. I certainly would not have wanted to meet any of my high school friends when I was with him. He could not speak English, and he seemed a little dirty to me. My high school friends, all of whom belonged to the part of Tampa that was not Ybor City, would not have said it but they would have thought him greasy. Perhaps they would have thought him peculiar. Since I was Spanish I always suspected that their lighthearted talk about Latins hid a contempt from which I just barely escaped. But then no one, I think, liked E1 Isleo very much. He was called El Isleo because he came from the Canary Isles, and his temperament was not like that of other Spaniards. He seemed a sullen man. He, too, seemed ashamed of something. With me he was frank and even talkative, and I sometimes felt that I was his confidant. He never talked about his family in the store, and he never went by his home when I was with him. Yet once he volunteered, My boy is sick. What's wrong with him? I asked, remembering the five-year-old boy who came with him once to the store. Hemophilia. I had seen a glamorous movie about a noble Russian family, and I was lost in wonder that in Ybor City one could find diseases of the great. The kings left us ignorance and poverty and disease, he said. It keeps us weak. He was always kind. He never was one who would ask me to do little errands that kept me on the run. Though the other members liked my industriousness they put my good intentions to a great test: perhaps it was thoughtlessness but there were a thousand little things that they did not hesitate to ask me to do because I always seemed so willing. Reprinted from New Masses 61 (November 26, 1946), 17-19. 
El Isleo would stop them. He is my assistant and he isnt going to run around doing what you fat asses can easily do. Then when we were out in the truck he would say, Dont let them order you around. They dont pay you enough. All day long they kowtow to the foremen and then they come here and want to play boss. El Isleo did not like them much either. I liked him, you see, because he said the things that I felt but could not say if I were to be polite as my mother had taught me, or successful in the manner that school, with the essays of Elbert Hubbard, had also instructed me. With El Isleo I felt a freedom that I had never felt with anyone. At home, how could I be free? I was too close to it to see anything but the contrast to the American life that my friends in school lived naturally. At school I always felt that I was different in a shameful way. It was true, I reflected, though I never said it, that I was beginning to think in English. But my name was always going to be undeniably Spanish. I wanted to be Spanish, but I didnt want to be Ybor Cityish. And so I seemed always held in. but E1 Isleo was critical of both and so relieved me of my guilt concerning these ways of life that pulled me in what I thought were opposite directions. There was always home to go to after work and school the next day, but while we were in the delivery truck we were on ground. El Isleo treated me as an equal because he let me argue with him. It was not the equality of the simple-minded who is older only in body, nor yet the conscious levelling of natural differences Hillsborough High School as it looked when Yglesias attended it in the 1930s. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections.
that the well-meaning educated attempt with the young. He taunted me and ridiculed my opinions, but he took me seriously, for he wanted to teach me things. And he respected my intelligence: he knew I was a bright student in school and all Spaniards in Ybor City respect that. He taught me how to drive the truck, and he walked me home the first time I got drunk. It was with him that I first began to feel like a man. To be a man in Ybor City meant for most that one had finally visited a whorehouse and could then join in the conversations of the men at the cafes and street corners. One Saturday noon we were so busy that we were still out with the truck long past the time that we should have gone home for lunch. We passed a brewery and El Isleo asked me if I wanted some beer. We were both thirsty, and since the store bought beer from that particular brewery, we could go in any time and drink beer from the big, cooled barrels they kept for thirsty wholesale customers. We drank two large glasses and went back to the truck. The bright hot sun seemed to dim and light up as we drove back. I looked at the people and the narrow, short streets of Ybor City, and I seemed not to recognize either. The streets seemed very long, the afternoon strange, and I could not remember what I was doing in the truck. I looked at El Isleo, and I felt very giddy, seeing him stolid and heavy at the wheel. I was glad I was not driving, and I kept quiet so that he would not know that two glasses of beer had so unsteadied me. The long journey ended abruptly. He let me off home instead of taking me to the store. Ill come by, he said, to pick you up after I have lunch. I stood grinning at him until he drove away. Inside there were sandwiches my mother left for me. I ran to the bedroom to see how I looked in the mirror when I was drunk. My face was a little flushed and I laughed at the sight. Then I walked back to the kitchen very soberly, the thought that E1 Isleo might have noticed my face bracing me up a bit. What happened? I asked, a little startled when he shook me as I lay on the porch swing. What is it? I looked at the clock on the factory tower two blocks away. I had slept three hours. You were asleep, he said, I guess that the work and the beer helped. He had come to get me, but seeing me asleep he had worked all afternoon by himself. You should have awakened me! Thats all right. You had worked enough. I felt better after I had lunch myself. I didnt want to tell you, but the beer made me feel very strange. It gave me a kind of fatigue. Thats why I drove so slowly. That day we worked very well together. On Saturdays the store was open until midnight, and every time we were out with the truck El Isleo talked and argued with me. That evening he told me that he had known my father. There were very few people in Tampa who remembered him. Once in a while a visitor who had known my family for a long time mentioned him. That would happen when I was called in to be exhibited to them. I was very tall for my age and I would stand awkwardly and listen to their comments about me.
He doesnt look like Julian, they would say, then add as if to remind me of someone I must not forget, He was a good young man. El Isleo said something else, El era un buen obrero That meant not just that he was a good worker but that he was a union man. The good referred to his relationship with workers as a group. Always before when I had been reminded of my father by other people it had been a sad thing, and although he said it with solemnity, there was something of grandeur in El Isleos tone. The others reminded me that I had been left fatherless when I was three, that I had a great debt to pay my mother, and that when my father had left Ybor City to go to hospitals in Cuba there had been collections in the factories to pay his passage and expenses. That we had to accept charity was what their remembrance of my father meant to me. El Isleo made me feel proud of my father, and for the first time I was able to see him as a man, not as a wound or pitiful thing I carried in me. In those days, El Isleo told me, the cigarmakers were no so Americanized. In those days the manufacturers had respect for us. Now look at them. Look how glad they are to have San Martin, who is a foreman, in the cooperative. But my uncle is a foreman, and hes a good man. Hes very friendly and he doesnt act like San Martin. Jose Yglesias in high school at the time he worked delivering groceries.
Ha! he exhaled ironically, that is what you think because he is your uncle. Hes just as arrogant as the others. Dont think he doesn't like adulation, he is just as puffed up at the factory as the manufacturers. Thats not true. Its only the Italians who flatter him, but he doesnt like it. They used to leave chickens on his porch because they thought that would help them keep their jobs but he stopped them. I was surprised by El Isleo. No one had ever said a bad thing about my uncle, and I had always felt proud that he was a foreman in a factory with the power to hire and fire cigarmakers. If I believed El Isleo, I could no longer feel good that he was a foreman, and, therefore, important in Ybor City. I would lose importance in my own eyes if I lost such belief. One knows a lot about vanity when one is young. All right, all right, he is better than the others, El Isleo conceded. But he made me see the difference in behavior that existed among the cigarmakers in Ybor City. A foreman was always treated with friendliness wherever he went. The rough jibes that Spaniards cast at each other were never aimed at the two or three that came to El Bien Publico When they came to the store they and their families, even their children, were never treated matter-of-factly. A stranger would not have noticed the difference, just as I, who had not known the life in the factories, was unaware of the subtle humiliation that was involved until E1 Isleo began to point out specific instances. Why did no one say anything to Segunda when she walked through the store sampling vegetables and fruit? She was a greedy woman who covered her miserliness with banter and good humor. Before she arrived at the cash register with her purchases she usually had eaten a tomato, an apple, a banana; but that was never included in the bill she signed. Her husband was president of the cooperative but he did not really owe the dignified aura surrounding him to his position, nor to his dyspeptic manner. His brother had until about two years before been in general charge of one of the cigar factories. The brother was dead but an air of privilege still lingered about his family, and so Segunda could exercise her appetite with impunity. When I was not out with the truck I helped the women with their groceries, weighed their purchases and carried their bags up to the desk where the cash register and adding machine were. Segunda liked to have me along with her when she came to buy. She knew my family and she always made me tell her about them while she devoured the green peppers and plums. In Ybor City one was taught when very young to ask about the health and well-being of the family of whomever one met, and every encounter was ended by each asking the other to be remembered to their respective families. This was a fine point in good behavior, and with this solicitude Segunda hid her scavenging while I helped her shop. Besides, young people were not to correct adults. She felt safe with me. I told El Isleo about her and he simply nodded his head: he did not insist when he saw I was learning his lessons. That Saturday night Segunda and I made our little tour of the store, she eating and asking me questions and complimenting me, I being weighed down with bags. There were a lot of people in
the store Saturday nights and she was safer from detection then than at other times. It seemed to me that she looked at the potatoes longingly and was a little resentful that they could not be eaten there. When we arrived at the desk, she had eaten more than usual. Her husband was on duty at the register that night, and he began to add up the items on a machine. The procedure was to get the slip signed by the purchasing member for totalling later into a weekly bill. Segundas husband was a very meticulous man. He always paused after he had punched each separate item and asked, What else? Two pears, I said when he repeated the ritual for his wife. Segundas perpetual grin vanished. But they were samples! she expostulated when her husband shifted his questioning stare from me to her. Did you eat them? he asked. She grimaced, and he punched the adding machine. One apple, I said again before he totalled the list. He punched the machine again. Two plums, I told him, a little clearer-voiced this time. Segunda hurrumphed as the machine figured them in. What else? This time her husband looked at me. Several other members were also looking and I was too excited to remember the banana with which she had begun. Come, El Isleo said to me loudly. We have four boxes to deliver. He had been standing by, and I realized in that brief moment, when the aftermath of what I had planned was on me and I was lost as to what to do next, that I had done this because of him and for him. And that he was coming to my rescue. It was if he were saying: you have done well, let me take over now. We loaded the boxes of groceries in the truck quickly and in silence, but as soon as we drove away he smiled widely at me as I had never seen him smile before. Like a proud father. They may fill your head with poison about Henry Ford at school, he said, but you are going to be a good worker.
THE BITTERSWEET LEGACY OF LA MADRE PATRIA by Jose Yglesias When someone asks if I am of Spanish descent, I sometimes say, No, Cuban. Or I reply, with strict truthfulness, My father was born in Spain, my mother here of Cuban parents. Often I add to this last statement, My father was a gallego There is a common denominator to all those replies, and I dare say only a Latino knows without further explanation the emotion obliquely expressed by my responses. It is this: I dont want to gain anyones favor by going along with snobbish, and often racist, notions about differences between Spaniards and Latin Americans. The question about my background could very well be innocent, but there are any number of non-Latins whose smidgin of knowledge about us leads them to believe, sometimes without admitting it to themselves, that Spaniards are more culturally elevated and racially purer than Latin Americans. Indeed, such people ask if youre Spanish only when they have decided that youre a superior specimen of the human race and are certain that when you speak Spanish you lisp the cs and never pronounce them as ss. (Some of the more foolish Hispanophiles even lisp their ss.) They have already, of course, decided that there is no dubious Indian or Black among your antecedents, and they have probably conferred on you at least middle-class status. I wont be of Spanish descent on those terms, and I pity any Latino who would. That is why when I admit my father was born in Spain I add that he was from Galicia, which is to say that he came from the poorest of the poor, from a province which has always been the source of supply of cheap labor for the big cities of Spain, as well as for the colonies in the Americas. A gallego is as far removed from the Castilian hidalgo as it is possible to be and still be born in the Iberian peninsula. But to me Galician is beautiful. Sometimes Spanish is not beautiful, and those sometimes occur when I susupect that the virtues of hispanidad are exclusive, virtues like Castilian speech that the rest of us Latinos cannot claim since we are not to the manor born. It is then I like to point out that, just as everyone in Great Britain does not speak with an Oxford accent, neither do all Spaniards speak with a Castilian one. Accents seem to be a matter of geography and climate. Early in life I had noticed that the people of the Caribbean shared the same quickness and lightness of speech, and it seemed somehow right when as an adult I first went ashore in the Canary Islands, on the other side of the Atlantic from Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and Cuba, that these island people did not lisp their cs either and spoke as fast as the Cubans in my family. The other prejudice that lurks in the invidious comparisons of Latin Americans with Spaniards is the belief that in the new world there has been too much traffic with the Indians and Africans for their descendants to qualify for the ethnic purity of the Spaniard. What a laugh! For all the thousands of years that make up what we know of history, most of Europe and much of Africa has been in and out of Spain as conquerors and procreators. Out of it all has come a country that only a few centuries ago was still called las Espaas in acknowledgment of its diversity. Spains kings and dictators have in modern times obscured this among nonLatins, but it is impossible *Reprinted from Nuestro 2 (April 1978), 24-28.
today to ignore the fact that Catalonia, the Basque country, and Galicia, with their distinctive languages and traditions, are separate nations within the peninsula; and Andalusia too is demanding autonomy from the central government. So much for racial purity and cultural unity. Oh, there are many things that make me uneasy about claiming Spanish descent. I think of the depredations of the Spaniards in the Americas and don t want to be associated with them. One image never leaves me: the account in Bernal Diaz's diaries of Cortss men melting down the great sculptures and ornaments and jewels of the court of Montezuma into gold bars. To me this act stands for the destruction of peoples and cultures ones as great as the Aztec and the Inca. Ah, the arrogance of the Spaniard when he dominated the world. If I were a Chicano, a lisped c would make me flinch. If I were a Black from South America, I should feel enormous skepticism about the historic values of Hispanicism. I should want, also, to oppose the single Spanish cultural tradition, the casticismo of Castile that snobs among Latinos wish us to claim as our only one, with the greater richness of the mixed culture that in reality is ours. This last is as true for Spain as for the Americas. I remember one Corpus Christi Day in Redondela, a small town in Galicia, where this holy day is always celebrated by an open-air mass held in the plaza in front of the towns best church. It was a centuries-old ceremony, and the local bishop came down for it. He and the priest and altar boys stood in their brilliant vestments in the doorway of the church and watched a primitive dance which traditionally precedes the mass. Danced by young men of the town, wearing white pants and shirts and red sashes, it was a Members of Ybor Citys Crculo Cubano at a family outing on July 4, 1928. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections.
frantically physical affair in which the men, tied hand to hand with swords, wove intricate patterns with their turnings, all to the accompaniment of drums and bagpipes. In the middle of every pattern that the young men completed, there would always turn up one woman holding on her shoulders a young girl dressed as an angel. This child, with arms held high, moved her hands graciously as if blessing all of us below her-priests and laymen alike. No one knew the origins of the dance, nor when it began to be performed in Redondela as part of the celebration of Corpus Christi, nor what its connection with the Eucharist might be. But from the nature of the music it could be placed in pre-Christian Celtic times. It certainly made for a more exhilarating Corpus Christi than the strictly Catholic one. Another example: I do not think I should have cared much for Santa Brbara had I not seen in Cuba that she is also Chango, one of the great gods of the Yoruba religion. Everywhere in Cuba they make altars for her, even in the nightclubs, and, on the stroke of midnight of December 4th, they start bringing her flowers. I shall never forget the first time I saw this happen, nor when I first heard the great Celina sing to the Virgin of Regla, whom she calls virgencita negra Ay, mi Yemay, qutame lo malo, qutame lo malo y chalo en el mar! If the Virgin is also Yemaya, I might well be moved to turn to her in times of trouble, and if I were a catholic, I should reinforce my Hail Marys with African bead necklaces to ward off evils. There is a whole body of humor among Latinos about the attempts of some of us to be old-world Spanish. I remember in my hometown of Ybor City in Tampa the jokes about cigarmakers who returned from a short trip to Spain lisping more strongly than the Bourbon kings and pronouncing every consonant with as much precision as those careful people who teach Spanish on language records. Oh, yes, people said about them, they now eat bacalado and hail from Marianado I am sure that throughout Latin America people defined themselves by refusing to take on Spanish mannerisms. I know I did; my father died when I was very young, and I took my speech and loyalties from my Cuban grandfather rather than my Spanish uncles. I hope it saved me from some affectations, for there were still the pitfalls of the English language and the American environment outside my particular barrio to tempt me with all sorts of phoniness. Indeed, for a while I put both my Cuban and Spanish heritages behind me: I was out to be as American as all those americanos in the Tampa high school, and that meant downgrading everything I had picked up in Ybor City. If possible, obliterating it. In fact, this was exactly what was urged on me when at 17 I looked for my first job in New York. In one of those ratty employment agencies where you could buy a dishwashers job for $5, they were willing to send me down to a cafeteria on 14th Street but only, they insisted when I gave them my name, if I called myself something American. Moran, I replied, thinking of a surname that was both Irish and Spanish; but by the time I reached the cafeteria on 14th Street I was so appalled by myself-betrayal that the first thing I blurted out was that Moran was not my real name and that I had taken it because the agency had thought it wise. I dont care what you are, the man who hired me said, but I suspected he did. I like to think it was Ybor City that inoculated me against passing, that at 17 I was sufficiently appreciative of the unique community where I was reared not to deny it by changing my name. But there was another factor: It was 1937, and I had seen in Ybor City and now in
New York how people responded to the outbreak of civil war in Spain. The Spaniards were heroes in both worlds. The cigarmakers in my hometown whether Spanish or Cuban organized themselves into a solid block of support for the Spanish Republic because its enemies the aristocracy, the Church, the military were also the forces that had originally led the Spanish to emigrate and the Cubans to fight for independence. And in New York, as throughout the country, the Spaniards commanded respect and admiration because they were the first to resist the rise of fascism in Europe. Their brave example created antifascists everywhere, and young men of all nations illegally crossed the Pyrenees, eluding the French border police, to join the soldiers of the Republic. It was all this that made me take pride in whatever Spanish heritage I could claim. The first time my Cuban grandfather and I went to a Madison Square Garden meeting for the Spanish Republic, I thought the top of my head would come off to see that enormous gathering come to its feet during the playing of the Himno de Ribeiro and again when Fernando de los Ros, the Republics ambassador in Washington, got up to speak. Incredible! With New York accents, the audience of americanos chanted, No pasarn! They meant that the fascist forces of General Franco would not enter Madrid. Why? Because these stubborn, heroic Spanish democrats would not allow it. They would die first. Well, they did die, and the fascists did take Madrid and stayed for thirty-seven years. But they were never able to dislodge the real Spain from my heart. The real Spain. This is a distinction of my own making. Arbitrary, some will say, unreasoning, for, after all, Franco and those generals and the Church and that nobility were Spanish too. Yes, The house where Jose Yglesias was born still stands on Cypress Street in West Tampa.
they were, but I exclude them from my real Spain, as I do the snobs who think the lisped c is a sign of superiority. The real Spain is the one we Latinos can use. I will not be exclusive about this the real Spain can enrich everyone but it particularly strengthened me. If to be American is to be some sort of homogenized descendant of Great Britain and northern Europe, you cant qualify with the background Ive got without turning into some kind of ghost. And you can only question the homogenization if you have useable past. I began, then, to find in New York the Spain I could use. At first, without doing anything, Spain gained me a kind of reflected glory: My new friends looked at me with wonder simply because of the authentic way I could pronounce the names which were the coins of our currency Garca Lorca, Antonio Machado, Negrn, Del Vayo, La Pasionaria. But I also read Spanish for the first time, a language I had refused to study in high school, and discovered those first two poets for myself, as well as the novelists, like Perez Galds, Palacios Valdz, Valle Incln, whom the cigarmakers in Ybor City spoke about but whom I had disdained. I learned in this way some Spanish history and marveled at the fight against Napoleon, the anarchist movement, the long struggle for republican government. What an extraordinary people were the people of the Iberian peninsula. And because of the Civil War, I also read the Peruvian Csar Vallejo, the Cuban Nicols Guillen, the Chilean Pablo Neruda, the Guatemalan Miguel Angel Asturias all of whom where strong supporters of the Republic. So it was that because of Spain I gained a bit of knowledge of Latin America. Indeed, many also were the American writers I first read, beginning with Hemingway and including as unlikely ones as Van Wyck Brooks and Edna St. Vincent Millay, because they too were for Loyalist Spain. It was through Spain that I, like many of my generation, began to know and judge the world. In my newfound pride, I was forced to think about those Spaniards I knew in Ybor City and to see if they matched up to the heroes of the Civil War. I decided that these unschooled cigarmakers were Spanish in their sense of community, in the way they had organized social and medical societies and trade unions, built hospitals and held strikes, and educated themselves with readers in the factories. There are no people more loyal to their ideals than the Spaniards. They do not give them up because, for the moment, they do not work or find acceptance. They are not pragmatists. I think of Pablo Casals refusing to play so long as Franco reigned and only relenting when his concerts could advance his ideals; he was as Spanish as the refugees in the south of France swelling the ranks of the maquis as a prelude, they hoped, to deposing Franco. Don Quixotes all, we particularly need them in the U. S. Over the years, I have come to realize, too, that the courteousness of Spaniards, seemingly inappropriate in our rough-and-ready American environment, is also a valuable heritage for Latinos. I was going to call this care for one anothers feelings courtliness, but the point of the bone-deep politeness of Spaniards is that it cuts across the classes and is not simply the surface good manners that one expects only as one ascends the social scale. In Spain you are apt to notice it more in the peasantry and city workers. It has its source, I believe, in the Spaniards pride in himself, which inevitably becomes appreciation of the inviolability of the others individuality. For all the violence and cruelty one finds in Spanish history, this strain of respect for others never gives out. For example, not until the late 18th Century did it occur to any
significant section of humankind that slavery was wrong; yet, unlike the colonists of North American, the Spaniards did not deny to their slaves in South America the sacraments of the Church. In the sense that the slave was allowed marriage and participation in Church ceremonies, their equality with whites in the eyes of God was patent, and this heritage has made a great difference in the relations between Blacks and Europeans throughout Latin America. And when all is said and done about Spains value to the world and to us, I must also admit that I need Spain for myself alone. I am almost ashamed to say it, but Goyas Dos de Mayo Picassos Guernica they are like achievements of mine. I wont give them up, no more than I can give up a Valencian paella a Castilian lechoncito an Asturian fabada a caldo gallego or a butifarra catalana Just the sound of a taconeo makes my heart leap, and I simply cannot explain to anyone the ineffable joy of opening the book with which modern storytelling begins and reading, En un lugar de la Mancha de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme .... I can no more explain why I should feel less than whole without these things, why any of us Latinos without Spain is diminished, than I can fathom why we were put on this earth. It is a state of being I am happy to accept. Ol!
JOSE MART IN YBOR CITY by Jose Yglesias One of the many writers who have had their say about Jos Mart points out that it is a stylistic habit of Marts to present the object of his sentences ahead of the subject and verb, to give his conclusion first rather than the nominative and that part of the predicate by which the sentence arrives at its objective. Let me go a bit further with this tradition of Martis, and state immediately, as object not of a sentence alone but of all I say tonight, without working up to it like a good orator or laying the foundation for my denouement carefully and piling up my own little insights into a statement at the end of this talk that I should hope would bring you to your feet in thundering agreement let me say it immediately: the reason everyone comes to love Jos Mart is that without question he is the person we all dream of being, the man that in our moments of optimism, although the prospects may be disheartening and all common sense against us, the man we believe we will yet become. We love him because he keeps that vision of fulfillment alive in us to be a whole man like him: a brave uncomplaining young rebel though the jailing he suffered broke his health, a loving father to his little son, a father to his nation (the very idea of Cuba being a nation seems his), a great poet, a great journalist, a superb prose stylist, an unexcelled organizer and teacher, an utterly sincere and honest and forthright friend and correspondent, one of the few major revolutionary leaders of modern times. He is none of these things separately. They are not attributes of his. Together they are him. Take one away and the whole edifice might crumble. Whats left would not be Mart. Could Mart be Mart if we did not have that enchanting Mary Cassatt double portrait of him and his son to be found in Ismaelillo the poem called Mi caballero in which he plays with his infant son? Could we say we knew him well if we had not read his superb social and cultural reportage, from his wonderful articles on Ulysses S. Grant and Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman to those on Coney Island and the Kansas land rush? Could we take him seriously as a revolutionary if he were not the ground-breaking poet he was? That is, a poet who was a revolutionary in that field as well the father of modernism. I can easily go on this way, extending my metaphor to every corner of his achievements. He is indeed the person whom we dream of becoming because there is not a facet of personality that he did not bring to fruition in his own indivisible whole. Do you think I am exaggerating? Does all this sound utterly hyperbolic to you? This is a problem for anyone who tries to tell others about Mart. We all appear guilty of overstatement. At second hand any description of him sounds like, as young people say nowadays, too much. When I first read about Mart (I did not then this was during my youth count my family as a reliable source of serious knowledge about him but more about that later) it bothered me then that everyone referred to him in such adoring perfervid phrases. No one took him lightly. Not a joke at his expense in all the literature on Mart, not a slightly ironic comment, either. No gibes, and you certainly couldnt do a Kitty Kelley on him. God knows, Mart is the only Cuban that Cubans do not joke about. El choteo stops right there with him. No one crosses that line. *Reprinted from Jos Mart in the United States: The Florida Experience ed. by Louis A. Prez, Jr. (Tempe: Arizona State Universit y Center for Latin American Studies, 1995).
I must add that when one shakes off all that reverent talk and one approaches him directly again and sees his various roles unfold, as a historical figure, as poet, as author of extraordinary essays on cultural, political and social subjects, as orator of speeches of soaring eloquence, one begins at least I do, ineluctably, it seems to adopt the same tone as others who have been star-struck by him. Yes, we cannot help but adore him like a saint and hope to be like him. Yet why? It shouldnt follow. His was not what we call a happy life. He did not come to the end of a full life as a paterfamilias with any number of generations of his family about him, and also abundantly surrounding him, a large circle of friends who knew they were in the presence of greatness. Mart died at the age of 42 in an encampment at Dos Ros in Oriente, killed by a band of Spanish soldiers who came upon him unknowingly, a month after he landed with a reduced, somewhat bungling expeditionary force led by Mximo Gmez. On the face of it, his was a terribly humiliating end. There is, as that great Catholic poet Cintio Vitier has said, a pervasive sadness in all his life and work, and the optimism that he never failed to project and pass on to his people and his audiences (he knew how to bring them to their feet for a thundering finale) is always tinged with his pitying knowledge of the unhappy difficulties and disappointments of humanitys struggles. One cannot fault him for it: he went through terrible years after being jailed as a teenager. Exiled, living hand to mouth in various countries, losing his son when his wife broke up their marriage and returned to Cuba, where he was legally forbidden to follow. The turbulent emotions attendant on all this is evident in Versos libres the volume of poetry not published until two decades after his death, whose poems were obviously influenced by Whitman. Here he lashes out and questions the unhappy difficulties and disappointments I cited. Yet although he is openly distraught, he is always positive about existence. One could make this point with any number of the poems of this period. Here are a few lines from Odio al mar (I Hate the Sea): Que voy muerto es claro; a nadie importa Ni siquiera a mi: pero por bella, Ignea, varia, inmortal amo la vida. (That I seem dead is clear; no one cares, Not even I; but because she is beautiful, Fiery, various, immortal, I love life.) There is, believe me, no distancing oneself from this man. Jos Mart
An aside: I have always or almost always enjoyed el choteo that scathing pitiless scorn that Cubans direct at accepted mores and values. It has to be funny to be effective, or it would otherwise often be simple cruelty. It can also be what we call off-the-wall fooling and can have the effect of belittling all subjects with what seems like mere fun, as in the style of Groucho Marx. El choteo is native to Cuba; the word itself gained its full meaning there. Its bitter humor clears the air: it says we are not fooled by humbug. It is a great weapon of self-defense in our world, and I daresay I am not the first to whom it has occurred that el choteo was born in Cuba after their revolutionary struggle for independence ended as badly as it did. For it did end badly and not simply because Mart died so early in the war. It was at the expense of that heroic movement for independence that we the United States of America, as we call ourselves made our debut as an imperial power. Well... if we dont count the Mexican-American war fifty years earlier. Im also not mentioning the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Nor our treatment of native Americans. In fact, I think I shall leave this whole subject alone, this conquering interfering history of ours. End of aside. There is another kind of humor in Mart, the kind which a newly-articulated truth most often inspires. For all his romantic lan, Mart is a close observer of the ordinary life we all lead and he sees things in their wholeness one could almost say that his personal odyssey and struggle was a striving for wholeness and it is because he does see all the sides of a situation or of a person that one responds with a smile of recognition. Yes, we say to ourselves, we have experienced something of the sort or known some one like that. Yes, but not as acutely, nor could we have been able to describe the whole thing so justly until we read it in Mart. There follows, then, a sense of enjoyment when we read him or read about him which comes from the gentle, unembittered irony we share with him. I think that all these elements, plus others I have not mentioned, make him the kind of figure that does earn him the title which his countrymen have given him of El Apstol The Apostle! I was put off the first time I came upon that epithet. It had religious overtones I didnt care for, but it does not bother me now. I dont know whether I have realized that the word does generically describe what Mart did or whether I have, when it comes to religion, decided to give the other fellow the benefit of his doubt of what the real world is. Religious faith, it appears to me, is based on uncertainties, but there is none of that in Mart. He did have an unswerving, often declared faith in the power and beauty of love. He believed in love as a principle of esthetics, as a way to understand the world, as the best means of changing it: it was, perhaps, his most deeply held belief. I approach this particular tenet of his ideology gingerly: love of everyone as programmatic politics seems to me impossible to bring into being without selfconsciousness. I didnt much care for it in Tolstoy and Ghandi, and it has echoes for me of the mindless flower children of the Sixties. Even in the case of literature, loving everyone you write about is a problem for me: did Shakespeare love Iago? But, to get back to politics, Mart was not confronting the juggernaut power of late capitalism and he was not planning to place daisies in the barrels of the Spanish armys rifles. He was not asking us to do anything more than to make love a principle of our conduct and vision, and he pierces one to the heart whenever he so pleads.
In any case, Mart was an apostle even if he was not a proselytizer for any religious sect. He certainly was not a member of any congregation, for very likely he never entered a church except for those two or three occasions when it is de rigueur for a latino to do so. Truthfully, I repeat, he was an apostle. He came to teach, he had the answers, he pointed the way, and he died for it. He did not seek death but he was ready for it. His letters, his poetry, his speeches tell us that. I like to think that the last and the greatest period of his apostleship began indeed, was triggered by his first trip to Tampa, an event of a century ago which we are here to celebrate, joyously, with gladness of heart, with minds open to what he had to say to us. And with to be true to him a certain sadness. His encounter with the workers of Ybor City and West Tampa confirmed for him what he had been learning all his life in exile. He had now arrived at this knowledge with a full heart and his whole being and he expressed it directly. Lo que tengo que decir, antes de que se me apague la voz y mi corazn cese de latir, es que mi patria posee todas las virtudes necesarias para la conquista y el mantenimiento de la libertad. This is what he reported to a meeting in New York City that he had learned in Tampa, that his people were ready to conquer liberty and to uphold it, and he embarked immediately on the unceasing work of organizing the Revolutionary Party the famous Resolutions setting it up were drafted in Tampa and voted on before he left for New York City and of preparing for the armed struggle by which independence was to be gained. Ybor Citys welcome sets the tone for Pinos nuevos the speech he gave his second night in Ybor City in which he embraces the death of heroes: That tree bears the best fruit that is fed by a dead man, said this non-violent man. In three short years he himself was dead. An inexpressible tragedy, the extent of which took years to comprehend. I understand, but only through my readings about him, that Martis stature in all the fields in which he moved, and, indeed, as father of his country, was not really appreciated for what it was during thirty years or more following his death. I say that it was only through reading that I learned this surprising fact because in my family throughout the years of my growing up from the Twenties on Mart was a living presence. They had heard him speak, and my Cuban grandfather, Rafael Milin, had lived in New York and Key West, too, in the years that Mart had worked and lived in one and visited the other. By the time I came along Mart was already like some one, now dead, who had been a member of the family. En paz descanse But he did not rest in peace: his ideas and actions had to be fought for. In my family every aspect of the Cuban national struggle was discussed and chewed over. It was not unusual, to give an example I remember, for a long and lively discussion to ensue from my aunt Juanita saying, Yes, but do you believe Martinez Campos was really sincere? (Need I explain to this gathering that General Martnez Campos led the Spanish Crowns armies during the Ten Years War and as colonial rulers go was not a bad man?) I remember too the many nights on the porch on Ybor Street when the relative merits of Maceo and Mximo Gmez were gone into at length. I was a partisan of Maceo because my grandfather was. Whether Mart should have gone to Cuba and lived the life of a guerrilla was the subject for embittered talk about the treacherousness and spite of people with political ambitions who had taunted him because of the envy that genius inspires in the mean-spirited.
I can laugh about all this, now that remembering the family of my childhood calls up my love for them and not my exasperation with their obsessive concerns. God knows, I had no idea who Martnez Campos was, except that my Cuban grandmothers string of surnames included Campos among them and I had a vague notion whenever Martnez Campos was mentioned that he must be my great grandfather. In a family such as mine Mart would, of course, have received his due, but I like to think that ours was not different from the other Cuban migr families in West Tampa and Ybor City. Indeed, I am sure it was not. Its a telling comment on the sadness of the outcome of the struggle for Cuban independence that these workers who had gathered round Mart (as had my grandparents first in Key West and then West Tampa) these workers who first inspired him to believe that the time was ripe for revolution did not go back to the island when, as my grandfather used to say, el politiqueo began; that is, after the constitution with its Platt Amendment was in place and presidential elections began. Politicking, yes, that is what our brand of democracy has mostly meant to Latin Americans. How I wish I could live that childhood again. I would not be so thoughtless as to fail to write down everything those cigarmakers said and did. Now I would be sure to ask my grandfather about the welcoming committee for Mart in Key West of which he was a member. Or the committee here in Tampa, later. At which gathering was it in Key West or here at a picnic at Ballast Point? that my Aunt Lila as a girl of four or five was given the honor of welcoming Mart by reciting a quatrain at the end of which she brought forward a homemade Cuban flag? The quatrain was also handmade, but probably not by her. She last recited it to me when she was in her late seventies, sitting on the porch of her old house on Grace Street and going through the motions of hiding the small flag behind her back until she had finished the verse and I was still so thoughtless in middle age as not to have made a copy of that quatrain. I hope someone will forgive me for not knowing even then that those cigarmakers of Ybor City and West Tampa were the significant makers of our history, not the Teddy Roosevelts and the Rough Riders and the Martnez Camposes. That what my aunt Lila recited was of the greatest importance to a truthful recreation of history. Another aside: Maceo, the great revolutionary general, the Hero of Bronze as Cubans called this black giant, was not and is not known by Americans but he was known by blacks in the terrible Reconstruction years, particularly by Southern blacks who had few safe opportunities to express their pride in themselves. They named their boys Maceo and gave it the American pronunciation: May-see-oh. This was a secret pleasure and there are American blacks today who do not know how they have come to be named Maceo. Mart never made the mistake of ignoring or misapprehending or denigrating the role of the poor, for he was not looking at them like a reporter or scholar or artist though he was all of these but as a revolutionary gauging carefully the forces that could liberate his nation. You could say that he could not afford mistakes that others so airily commit. Life was too serious, also, to toss off opinions simply for effect or to work off momentary irritations. His appreciation of the working class, however, went deeper than calculation. By the time he came to Tampa he was totally concerned with what had to be done for Cuba: he had quit the jobs that he held as consul for some South American nations, he had accepted the fact that he had lost his family, he was devoting all his time to the making of the revolution. He had gone through his crucible.
He had acted and observed and pondered and grown all through that battering decade of the eighties. He had made difficult decisions remember that he had refused then to join in the military venture that the generals had proposed because he thought the time was not ripe and he was worried about Mximo Gmezs stand. As a result of those years he arrived at his mature vision of life so exquisitively displayed in Versos sencillos published not too long before he answered the Agramonte invitation to come to Tampa. Gone is the Whitmanesque turbulence of Versos libres In Versos sencillos simple only in their accessibility, all is classical composure. He was assured in what he said and sang. He was not one who denigrated any group he would not yield on the wrongfulness of hating the Spaniards and as his article on the memorial meeting at Cooper Union on Karl Marx makes clear, he did not believe in violence to effect economic reform, much as he admired Marx. He looked beyond the ruling ideologies of his time to a society just to all and devoted to ends quite different than those he saw about him. Con todos y pares el bien de todos is the title and theme of his first speech here in Tampa, exemplifying the thrust of all his work With Everyone and For the Good of Everyone a unifying work bringing people together and leading them to common action. Like Versos sencillos it is a leap of major proportions. And yet the Mart who came to Tampa was the one who, having known and appreciated all the social and class components of Cuban society, had finally concluded with the serenity that characterizes all of Versos sencillos that con los pobres de la tierra quiero yo mi suerte echar And in his very moving eulogy to the student martyrs Pinos nuevos delivered on his second night in Ybor City he enthroned death as life when it comes in the fight for liberty. The speech reminds me of Martin Luther King saying that if you are not afraid to die you can do anything. Taking the side of one class and praising death seem alien to Marts whole outlook but they co-exist in his thinking with his classless non-violent ideals, despite the seeming contradiction. A Marxist or a Hegelian, if you prefer would understand that dialectical unity. Mart was ripe, as I said, for the workers of Ybor City. And, God knows, they were ready for him. He knew with his heart and mind that their eventual loving, comradely response was a possibility, but when it took place that first night at the Liceo, it came as an epiphany for him. He wrote to others about these cigarmakers and said immediately afterwards at the meeting in New York reporting on his trip that his time in Tampa were three days of immaculate moral beauty, and he reiterated these deep feelings when a month later he went to Key West and again came to Antonio Maceo
Tampa. He was always to refer to the latino community of Tampa as the eagle, to the invitation that brought him here as the call of the eagle. A year later, after another trip here, he was to write to a colleague from Ocala: I dont think I have told you about the grand emotions of my last day in Tampa, when in front of the Liceo which had flowed out into the street to hear us, a procession of Spaniards, hundreds of them, paraded in favor of Cuban independence. Extraordinary times are getting nearer. They paraded in the shade with their white banners. There were all sorts of dangers in the act, due to excessive trade unionism and allusions to local matters and anarchist slogans. I spoke the truth, boldly and treating everyone equally, and I was acclaimed. A magnificent night! Thousands of souls; the occasion a most solemn one, of the few that can shake the human soul to its roots. In a year these Spaniards in Ybor City were being fired for their views, and the Cuban cigarmakers went on sympathy strike. In another year Key West asked the Spanish government to let them import Spaniards to replace the Cuban revolutionaries the manufacturers were firing. I know some young writer will one day come along to write a dramatic account of Martis adventures with these workers of Tampa and Key West. Perhaps, a novel. Better, a film script. It has all the elements of a great movie, visually, romantically, ideologically plus contemporary relevance. Jos Mart (top center) on the steps of the Ybor cigar factory in 1892. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections.
The special role that Tampa played in Marts life and in that of Cuban history has not been entirely ignored by historians. (We are here because of that, after all.) Perhaps I give it more emphasis than most, but the god that looks out for the destiny of my forefathers will forgive me. Still, I am obliged to point out that I learned the details of it from my reading, intuited the rest from my family. I remember my start of pleasure many years ago when revising the translation of Miguel Barnets Cimarron, the History of a Runaway Slave I came upon the century-old Cuban slave, Esteban Montejo, who is the hero and narrator of Barnets extraordinary book, referring to Mart as el pro feta de Tampa And he did not get that from any reading whatsoever. Some of those who do comment on the transfiguring rapport between Marti and his Ybor City audience call those cigarmakers los humildes and invariably quote a Cuban black as saying, We dont understand him, but we are ready to die for him. These writers are good-hearted, they are on the side of the angels, there is no question about that. They mean to show that people of humble social position can see the political destiny of Cuba more clearly than the colonials back on the island who at that time were in the main for autonomy, a status for Cuba as a nation as castrating as the one we Americans have held Puerto Rico to throughout this century. But I suspect that if indeed some Cuban black in Ybor City or Key West said We dont understand him. but we are ready to die for him, he was trying to please some one outside his class or his caste, just as American blacks for years kept out of trouble by telling whites what they wanted to hear. It is true that Ybor City as a community was not quite six years old when Mart came here, but those cigarmakers were not born yesterday, they were already well organized and they had not only their native intelligence and experience of life with which to judge a speech of Marts they had also the experience of listening to their readers in the factories for four hours of each working day, a phenomenon I must always talk about when my hometown is mentioned. What they learned from listening to the lectores read to them from newspapers and books went hand in hand with the lessons that working for a living gives a worker. (Think how cultivated our middle class would be today if it devoted four hours each day to reading.) And those lectores were not a class or a caste apart but persons the cigarmakers elected and employed and lived in community with. If we are able to talk with confidence about what Mart said during those two nights in Ybor City that are now history, it is because a lector named Francisco Mara Gonzlez took down his speeches in shorthand. My great uncle, Francisco Milin, was a lector too. Perhaps the best lector West Tampa ever had, if popularity is the criterion. He was deported to Cuba forcibly by the leaders of the Tampa community disguised as the Ku Klux Klan for his part in what was then called labor unrest, but he returned to a tumultuous welcome at Port Tampa to become eventually mayor of West Tampa. You can read the whole story in Gary Morminos book on the immigrant world of Ybor City and more about such depradations against latino workers in Robert Ingalls book on vigilantism. It is my belief that West Tampa was incorporated into Tampa in order to prevent any other men like Panchito, as my mother called him, becoming its mayor. He was one of seven or eight children of a cigarmaker from the Canary Islands who (via Matanzas) moved to Key West as soon as the Civil War was over. All those children were brought up there as my grandfather
was. And you can imagine how many institutions of higher learning Key West must have had then. Los humildes indeed. They are not to be patronized, not even by friends. Certainly when Mart traveled to Ybor City he did not lodge somewhere away from the community like a visiting politician, but lived right in its midst as he did with the migr community in New York, struggling to make a living like everyone else, without ceasing his many activities. We have all heard that he stayed with the Pedrosos in the house on Eighth Avenue across from the Martnez Ybor factory, where now that tacky white plaster statue of him stands. Only in the last couple of decades has it been emphasized that the Pedrosos were black, the point apparently being that blacks too played their part in backing Cuban independence, a seemingly generous ideological concession. It is, however, what I call a contribution to the obvious, for that struggle cannot be divorced from the struggle to end slavery, and there are still differences among historians about whether the revolutionary armies were forty or sixty percent black. To me, the significance of Marts close relationship with blacks such as the Pedrosos lies in Mart's opposition not only to slavery but to all prejudice that would keep him at any distance from friends such as they. He had first met them in Key West and then again here, for they were active in the independence movement in both places. When in a 1893 visit to Tampa Mart was poisoned, Paulina and her husband insisted on taking him into their home. They kept boarders A reader in one of Ybor Citys early cigar factories.
and they argued that he would be safer there. At night, Seor Pedroso guarded Mart by sleeping on the floor at the door to his room. I am not certain whether it was on this trip that having heard that there was tension between Cuban blacks and some whites, he immediately upon his arrival gave Paulina his arm and insisted on their walking up and down the streets of Ybor City together to greet his friends. He was making sure everyone knew where he stood. He never compromised on matters of human equality and specifically on the rights of Cuban blacks and he made his point in ways that aroused no anger in anyone. I may be stretching a point here on his not ruffling any feathers he did get poisoned in Ybor City. Somebody must not have been enchanted with him. In any case, I like to think that Marti believed in affirmative action. We must make the effort to see this egalitarian stance of his in the context of the time. What courage it must have taken to insist on racial equality in the years of the failed Reconstruction in the United States, a time of intensified persecution for blacks rather than restitution for centuries of exploitation. Parenthetically, it must be said that colonials who were won over to autonomy for Cuba within the Spanish system had two fears of annexation by the United States and of their own blacks possible power in a republican form of government. But it was, in a sense, more dangerous to hold Marts views in the United States than in Cuba. The Jim Crow laws were in effect and violence was the order of the day for white supremacists. It could not, for example, have been legal for a white man to live with blacks, no more than it was legal for blacks and whites to marry. Especially in the South where you invited lynch mobs by the slightest variation in white-black relations. Indeed, I believe Marts leadership of the Cuban revolutionary party delayed the infiltration in Ybor City and West Tampa of American racist views and ways of living. The colony here was young, there had not been time perhaps to take on mores that were not natural to Cubans, racist though their own society on the island was. The subject of this last is a large one, for there are many differences between American racism and that in Latin America; but my point here has only to do with the effect of American racist laws and beliefs on a working class community not yet infected with our own native, more fearful, more irrational racism. In time, all Cubans could not meet together at the Liceo, as they did for Mart. In time, black Cubans were forced to form the Mart-Maceo Society because the Cuban clubs here could not allow them membership that was not surreptitious and humiliating. In time, only the old-timers among Cuban blacks still worked elbow to elbow with whites in the cigar factories. They were the first to be fired, and no new apprentices were taken on from the Cuban black families: they were pushed down to the level of native-born American blacks. In time, finally, the cigarmakers children took on the racism of the crackers. I shall apologize for the use of that reprehensible term for poor whites when a black becomes governor of Florida with a smashing majority, not simply the mayor of a large urban center who has squeaked into office because the city is being abandoned by middle-class whites. Is it any wonder that remembering Mart is full of sadness? Is it fair to ask if Mart could have made a difference if he had lived?
Racism is the great issue in American life, the traumatic shame of our national psyche, the great road block to realizing the equality our Declaration of Independence says is our inalienable right. Sometimes when it surfaces to its most insane peak, it seems we shall never be able to end racisms degrading life. If we overcome it, Marts hope for the world might become a reality. Let me tell you another anecdote about my great uncle Francisco Milin, the kind that seldom gets into the history books, only into novels. One of Francisco Milins wives was a black Cuban woman I dont think he could have married her unless they had sneaked back to Cuba, as a few did, gotten married and then sneaked back and with her he had two sons to whom he gave his surname. In time, he left her and remarried, but my mother and aunts never ceased to treat her as their aunt. Her sons were members of the Crculo Cubano, and one night when they were young men and accustomed to attending the wonderful Saturday night dances of the club, one of them was turned back and not allowed to enter. It was a time, again, of labor unrest and the club was fearful that the authorities who were keeping a close watch those days might take action. They were fearful of that, or using it as an excuse. In my family this event was discussed in hushed tones, not as passionately as Cuban independence and not on the porch; but the wound went deep. Is it any wonder that the descendants of Ybor City should be among those who now carry the infection as virulently as those whom my family called the barbarians on the other side of Nebraska Avenue. They worry these days just like the worst of white Americans of other The original bu ilding of La Unin Mart-Maceo, Ybor Citys Afro-Cuban social club. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections.
backgrounds that blacks want everything, that they are taking over when it is obvious that their situation worsens everywhere. One century after Mart walked the Ybor City streets with Paulina Pedroso one hundred years and blacks are no more integrated in American life than they were then. Maybe less? Perhaps Mart could have made a difference here had he lived, here, right here, where he first found a community to support him in his revolutionary call. Perhaps racism would have been totally eradicated in his own Cuba. Perhaps there would have existed for at least as long as my parents generation lived an island of equality in Florida. Perhaps there would have been many to extend an arm to my great uncles sons and accompany them all the way up the stairs to the ballroom of the Cuban Club and perhaps there would have been many to walk arm in arm with all the blacks of the region to show where they stood. Thats the trouble with reading Mart and thinking about what he wrote you not only take on his style, you begin to dream as he did. Let us try to give our dreams life. How can we use Mart? Sartre asked that question about Jean Genet towards the end of his brilliant book on him and Genet was then a male hustler and thief who had published disturbing works that attacked most of Frances values. We may surely then ask this utilitarian question about a saintly man and his works, and feel, as he himself did about everything he wrote and spoke about, that we do not do violence to his sensibilities or to literature by putting them to use. (I have not touched on a subject that Marts poetry and literary criticism immediately places in the foreground the indivisibility of art and life. We have our own critics to do battle against those who try to convince us that literature is merely words, and art only formal relationships, but sometimes, as has happened in the academy in the decades after the second world war, the philistines are in the ascendancy. We need Mart because it is not only his writing but his very life that refutes them.) Let us use his ideals as a measure for our society. Let us come to feel as he did in the lines in Odio al mar that follow on the ones I quoted earlier: Lo que me duele no es vivir; me duele, Vivir sin hacer bien. (It is not living that pains me; it pains Me to live without doing good.) Let us begin, then, by officially incorporating him into American history. He is already there theres nothing we can do about that but he is a man whose time among us must be better known by Americans. He spent more than a third of his life with us, the most productive and creative period of his life, and he paid us attention of the best kind, incorporating into his work elements of our national and local life. The major intellectual influences in his life were, I think, Emerson and Whitman. I also like to think that he got the central metaphor of Pinos nuevos during his trip here two days before he gave his speech. The image of seedling pines growing among the fallen ones in the acid soil they prefer is much more typical of Florida than of Cuba. Did he look out the window of his train and see such a sight before he got to Union Station? Perhaps in North Tampa
where the University of South Florida now stands, a university that has done the most to give him and Ybor City back to us. I like to think this is so, because like him I mean to be an optimist: I want Marts life and Ybor Citys history to be all fortuitous happy endings.
THE RADICAL LATINO ISLAND IN THE SOUTH by Jose Yglesias Ybor City is not a place where time has stood still, but a town ravaged by time and lost social struggles. This doesnt mean there is nothing to celebrate about the special contributions this Latino community has made to Floridian and Cuban history indeed, there are many more than the article suggests but if it was inevitable that its special ambiente die out, the truth about it must not. Let me say it right out Ybor City was a radical, trade-union town. Sr. Martnez Ybor began a cigarmaking industry there in the 1880s to get away from the labor problems that plagued him in Havana. He found an equally humid climate in Tampa (necessary then to cigarmaking), but he made the mistake of hiring the same skilled workers from Cuba. The short trip across the Gulf of Mexico did not serve as ideological fumigation: even before his factory officially opened, his workers went on strike. For this reason, a New York colleague whom Martnez Ybor had persuaded to build a factory there got the credit for first producing habanos and not the man for whom that ward of Tampa was named. The workers who settled the swampy area that Tampa officials turned over to the cigar manufacturers were not only Cuban. They were also Spanish and Sicilian. A typical Ybor City Tampan of my generation (I am 57) has, like me, a mother of Cuban parentage and a father from Galicia, uncles from Asturias and Cuba, and at least one cousin or sister or brother married to a Sicilian. In Ybor City there is a Crculo Cubano and a Centro Espaol and a Centro Asturiano and Sociedad Italiana. They were wonderfully active cultural centers, for those cigarmakers knew how to organize more than trade unions, and two of them also built hospitals for their members, the best in Tampa at the time. All of them maintained a staff of doctors who served the members at no cost other than the monthly dues, and the American Medical Association bitterly fought these practices. The societies had to import most of their doctors, but there was one americano who fought the AMA ban, a marvelous surgeon named Dr. Winton whose first name, que Dios me perdone I cant remember now. These social clubs all had libraries, auditoriums, gyms, dance halls, and canteens where the men gathered in the evening. At the Centro Asturiano we saw zarzuelas performed by local amateurs. When great international performers, like Caruso, came to Tampa, it was the cigarmakers who booked them, not the americanos on the other side of Nebraska Avenue. Saturday nights young people (properly chaperoned) went from one dance to another at the four social clubs. I remember as a boy going to a free art class summer evenings at the Crculo Cubano. All the clubs were organized and run by the cigarmakers. All their officers and committees were democratically elected, and no one was paid for his troubles. (There was a fifth club the Marti-Maceo and its formation is, perhaps, the worst example of the compromises Ybor City felt were necessary with the mores and laws of Florida. The members of this club were, in the main, black Cubans whom Jim Crow kept out of the others. *Reprinted from Nuestro 1 (August 1977), where the essay appeared as a letter in response to a galling view of Ybor City, accordin g to Y g lesias.
They worked side by side with whites in the cigar factories and they were sometimes surreptitiously accepted as members of the Crculo Cubano, but they could not attend social functions at any or be hospitalized at the Espaol and Asturiano.) What gave those Latins that kind of conciencia ? Most will tell you that it was the result of an innovation that Ybor City cigar makers can claim as their own the readers in the factories. They thought of it, not the factory owners. Each worker paid about 25 cents a week to hire an experienced lector to read to them during four hours of the working day. Two hours of newspapers and periodicals, two hours of a novel or non-fiction. The workers voted not only for the reader to be hired but also for the book to be read. Many of them may well have been functional illiterates, but they were well read in the great literature of the Spanish language and in authors like Tolstoy, Zola, and Balzac. They kept alive the Cuban revolutionary tradition (Jos Mart gave some of his most important political speeches there) and also the Spanish and Italian anarchist ones. Anarchist newspapers were read by the lectores until the United States entered the First World War. After the Bolshevik revolution, Communist papers were read, too, including the New York Daily Worker which the lector translated at sight. Today there would be grants from many a foundation to help a community with so original and effective a program for adult education; but in Ybor City the readers irked the factory owners and during the Depression, they summarily did away with them. The cigarmakers went on strike. Ever heard of workers anywhere striking for culture? The Crculo Cubano (Cuban Club) built this lavish building in 1918, and it featured a theater, cantina, pharmacy, library, and a huge dance floor. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections.
Of course, Ybor City workers were used to going on strike. With their own contributions that had built a Labor Temple where they could organize without endangering their social clubs. The American trade-union movement (the AFL) would not support them, but the Havana cigarmakers sent over contributions, just as the Ybor City ones collected money for their Havana brothers when they went on strike. They marked the passage of time in Ybor City by some of the biggest walkouts: the twelve-month strike of 1910, the ten-month strike of 1920. But although they held out and fought hard, they never won a strike. It could not be otherwise they were a radical Latin island in the south and when they were not starved out, the authorities sent in the KKK. The Depression hit a luxury industry like Ybor Citys hard, and the new generations were being weaned away. With the second World War the industry rallied, and it did well too, in the postwar years. Although the readers were no longer in the factories, there was still political struggle; during the Spanish Civil War the town was almost, one might say, on a war footing to help the Republic. In the postwar period, the factory owners did finally negotiate with their CIO representatives, but in the days of Joe McCarthy the radical leaders were blacklisted nothing new for Ybor City: there had always been blacklists after a strike. The final blow came with the revolution in Cuba. You could not make first-rate cigars with tobacco from the Vuelta Abajo area of Pinar del Ro. Thats that. And our embargo cut it off. Most Latins in Ybor City were fidelistas and they did not hold it against el caballo that the end Ybor Citys main street (7th Avenue) in about 1970. Photograph courtesy of USF Special Collections
had come. For the old-timers the embargo was further proof of the barbarity of americanos the crackers with hair on their teeth who once broke up their union meetings and called them Cuban niggers. The new Cuban exiles were for them new indeed they were counterrevolutionary. And that (although no stranger will hear this from them) makes them untrustworthy. They remember reactionaries who denounced them to the FBI and with impunity, like that of the old nightriders, flung buckets of red paint at their homes. I thought your readers should know some of the history and thoughts of those women and men in the photographs in the photo-essay. Those old men playing dominoes well know what Ybor City was like. The reason the sign in the window of a bar, so well caught by the photographer, says it closes at 10 p.m. is that in the last 15 years many have been mugged on the way home and no one now lingers on dear old Seventh Avenue when the sun goes down. If the photographer had moved his camera one block away, we could have seen, in some cases, the empty fields high with weeds where once stood the clapboard houses in which they lived, bulldozed now, awaiting new real-estate entrepreneurs. The moral: we Latins are not necessarily of a piece. A cigar label from Tampa.
JOSE YGLESIAS: I AM A GALLEGO by Alberto Avendao translated from Galician by Ana Varela-Lago The story begins in a public library in Fort Worth-Dallas (Texas), where I was taken by my friend Zunilda, searching for the book through which she had discovered Galicia. Zunilda had read that book when she was living in Chicago and she never thought that she would end up meeting a flesh-and-blood Galician, as I never though that I would meet an American writer to whom Galicians were a theme, an atmosphere, an intimate landscape. In the librarys computer I entered that mysterious, yet full of resonance, name: Yglesias, Jose. Title: The Goodbye Land The screen told me how to get it. The book, now out-of-print, is one of my most precious photocopies. My goal since then has been to translate it into Galician, something that will happen if the bad fairies do not interfere. The Goodbye Land is the story of a man searching for his roots the hallucinated and hallucinating narration of an American who decides to discover the land of a father whom he barely knew. For Yglesias is the son of a Galician emigrant who falls in love and marries in Tampa (Florida) where he worked in a cigar factory. A place of strong labor activism and solidarity, as shown by the 1920 strike and, later, its support for the Spanish Republic. But that man falls very ill and decides so it is with Galicians! that the air and the food of Galicia would cure him. As a resident alien, he had to return to the United States within a year, so he boards a ship in Vigo to go to Cuba and during the trip he falls ill with typhoid fever. It is in a Havana hospital where Yglesias sees his father for the last time, for shortly thereafter the family returned to Tampa while the father was sent back to Galicia where he would die years later. In the summer of 1964 Jose Yglesias comes to Galicia as a detective of life and finds in Miamn (Ordes-A Corua) relatives who put together the pieces of the past. He gets in touch with the Galicia of Franco and learns to appreciate the ways of these people who are as rooted in the wet and dark earth they step on as if they were trees. His book deals with emotion and discovery and it clearly shows his profound respect for our language. From the conversations and the situations experienced with his Galician relatives in Miamn, Santiago and Vigo, we can see both the miseries and the greatness of a simple people, at times brutally rooted in the landscape. It is like an etching portrait without tremendismo [a technique employed by several 20th-century Spanish novelists, giving an accumulation of gory detail in a heavy and relentless manner], as real as the very country that still lives on-religious and sacrilegious, conservative and at the same time able of the most vitally progressive attitude, bacchic but suddenly filled with a disturbing sobriety, tremendously generous and yet interested because their interest is in direct relation to that degree of mistrust always hidden in a little corner of the melancholic heart of a gallego. At the end of the book, Yglesias promises to return and, in fact, his book The Franco Years dates from the time of the political transition in Spain. This time it is a set of articles about the nationalities and regions of Iberia, and its chapter 13 is titled Galicia: The Unknown Nation. *Reprinted from A Nosa Terra (June 1, 1989).
Here, he again tells the American reader about our language, our culture, our political reality at that time. He interviews Ramn Pieiro, Doctor [of Medicine] Garca Sabell, Professor Xos Manuel Beiras, Don Antonio Fraguas. He talks about the Partido Galeguista [a Galician Nationalist Party] and the Galician Popular National Assembly, about the Galician Studies Seminar, and about all that was lost with the military uprising of 1936. He talks about the Galaxia group, about the Europe-ism started by the so-called historical galeguismo, about the translations of Heidegger and Joyce into Galician in its time.... When I got the letter from Yglesias in my Texas apartment, I could read warmth and galeguismo through the English language. He said that he [used English because he] was finding it difficult to express himself in Spanish. Moreover, since he could not write in Galician, he preferred to do it in English. He was telling me, in case I did not know it, that Hemingway had sent dispatches from Vigo when he worked for a Toronto journal. He asked me whether the trolley was still in use that used to run on the coast from Vigo to Bayona for 2 pesetas at that time. He was full of morria [melancholy], warmth and pride in being a gallego. In his last novel, entitled Tristan and the Hispanics (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1989), which accompanied that precious letter, one of the characters says in English: Im a Gallego. And later on: My mother had the good sense of marrying a man from Galicia. I must admit that these things soften even the hardest heart. Yglesias (left) with a distant cousin (right) and his wife at a picnic in Galicia in 1965.
I remembered then, what Jose Yglesias used to tell about his first meeting with Ramn Pieiro. Don Ramn shook his hand and praised him for his book on Galicia. Our American friend confessed his surprise, since The Goodbye Land was not known in Spain. It was then that Beiras showed him a long article about the book which included extracts from the book translated into Galician, and which had appeared in the journal Grial in the 1970s. It was not authors vanity, he said it was seeing my work written in the language of my father which brought tears to my eyes. He learned then that his name was Xos. Jose Yglesias with his son Rafael and a Galician cousin (right) in 1965.
JOSE YGLESIAS, 1919-1995: A EULOGY DELIVERED AT HIS BURIAL by Robert P. Ingalls Were here because Jose planned it that way. A true activist, he always tried to influence events as much as he could. Through sheer will, he even continued to work until the end. In his last days in a hospice, his son found him working with the night nurses to help them with their writing. He was always active, never passive. So we should not be surprised that he left specific instructions about the arrangements he wanted following his death. He asked that I speak here, and I feel honored to do so. I cant speak for him, but I know he would be pleased that so many of you are here today family and friends meant everything to him. He would also appreciate the recognition of his accomplishments that came this week in articles in the New York Times the Tampa Tribune and the St. Pete Times But he would be quick to point out the errors: In its headline the New York Times put an accent mark on the e in Jose and misspelled Dalias name; the Tribune reported he has two books coming out next year, but the number is actually three. He would have written the stories differently. In fact he did. In a recent novel ( Tristan and the Hispanics ), he imagined the events following the death of a Tampa-born writer of Cuban-Spanish heritage who wrote about Ybor City and lived in New York. When the body is returned to Tampa for burial, Jose has a University of South Florida professor say to the press: He was the best Hispanic writer in America, and he left an account of Ybor City that is not likely to be surpassed. The professor then has to explain to relatives why they are being hounded by the media, and he says: I called the TV station because I thought they should carry some notice of the death of the most important writer Tampa has produced. A cousin of the writer puts it more bluntly: He was the greatest man ever to come outa Ybor City! Out of Tampa too. The greatest. Everybody wants to get outa Ybor City and forget it. Not him.... He didnt forget us. He wrote books, big books you oughta read them all about this place. About us Latins. He knew, he was brought up on this street and he played ball on the corner and ... he read every book that was ever written. Theyre never gonna make them any smarter than him. The writers son adds that his father was An essentially sweet man who loved people. A woman cousin says, he was a real gentleman. Especially with the ladies. He never said an objectionable word in front of a lady.... He never fought with anyone. He was always so agreeable.... Never a mean word, never. But then In a tone more concerned with truth than reverence, another cousin protests, I wouldnt go so far.... The bourgeoisie. He hated them. And the capitalists. And a few others.... Fools, ... [He hated] all fools. And he was right, right? At another point in the book, Jose has a grandson say that the writer was vinegary. Jose himself once wrote: Im not a Romantic-poet type, not me. I look for the worm in the apple. A book reviewer once called Jose a kind skeptic. That skepticism meant no funeral for him. However, he has a character in a 1989 book suggest burial in the Centro Asturiano Cemetery, noting There doesnt have to be a funeral. He could
just be buried there without any fuss....no religion either.... At the Centro Asturiano [Cemetery hell be] with lots of family and people he knew and that knew him. Jose is already missed by those who knew him. There will be no more of his postcards, letters, phone calls, visits to Tampa. But he left us so much his books, short stories, articles, essays, plays, reviews. And more is to come with two novels and a book of short stories to be published next year. (He recently said he had never been more in demand.) As important as his books, Jose left us wonderful memories. Like his books, our memories will keep him alive in images and words. My own memories go back to 1979, when I first met him. I had arrived at the Univerity of South Florida five years earlier, ignorant of Ybor City and its history. But I learned quickly about it and about him. We were first brought together by family and Cuba two of the things that mattered most to him. On a 1978 trip to Cuba, I met one of his cousins and his wife Florencio and Alfonsina Alfonso who were on the same tour. Several months after our return, the Alfonsos invited my wife and me to a dinner party, where I met Jose, his mother Georgia, his sister Dalia and her husband Jose. That first meeting slowly blossomed into a friendship that helped me understand that his writing does in fact reveal the truth about them his family and his community. He preserved your history and your memories with remarkable accuracy, eloquence, humor, and love. As a reminder of his legacy, I would like to read some short excerpts from his writings. All the words that follow are his, drawn from various works. A typical Ybor City Tampan of my generation has, like me, a mother of Cuban parentage and a father from Galicia, uncles from Asturias and Cuba, and at least one cousin or sister or [brother] married to a Sicilian. The moment I wrote and published my first story immediately after the [World] War ...Ybor City, the Latin island in Tampa,...was my subject. These cigarmakers never thought of America as a place they had come to for freedom and democracy. Indeed, they were the civilized; the Americans, as an aunt used to say, were barbarians with hair on their teeth.... [Ybor Citys cigarmakers] provided me with an inexhaustible source of material. In my case, I had to write about them, for I feared that this community, which of necessity had to die out, would be forgotten, a part of America no one would get to know. [I have a clipping about me] from Whos Who .... It lists the most important people in the United States. Every couple of years they revise it.... Its a lot of foolishness. [But] at least I didnt buy the book. I cut [this clipping] out of the one in the library when no one was looking. Youd think I was a kid, not an old man.... But its not really simply vanity. I am deeply gratified that [my mother] and father appear in Whos Who Even in such tiny print. Its a symbol of what I wanted to do with my writing. I set out to memorialize Ybor City. My little country, as the Spaniards say.... You know that when I was a young man and at least as leftwing as you that this was what I wanted to do. Put Ybor City on the map. Next to Dickens Whitechapel and Victor Hugos Paris.... I would make sure that Ybor City wouldnt be forgotten in American history.
That these radical cigarmakers would be known for what they were...the best organized group of workers in America. If you look [today] at Ybor City or West Tampa, where those unfashionable anarchists and communists lived, you see mostly mugging and decay. If you look at me, you see a battered old has-been, visited now and then by cousins and their children, none of whom has read a single book of mine. I admit I enjoy these visits. I sit on the porch and sometimes think that I was wrong to believe that literature was my grand irreplaceable vocation, inseparable from my life, my aorta. I tell myself that it is not now and probably never could have been. What a liberating discovery to make on my old porch where all my interest in stories began!... I believe literature is the grand repository of our best feelings and ideas. I believe the working class will yet liberate us all, I live in hope and die here and mix my bones with theirs. Human goodness supervenes. Finally, on the last page of his last book, Jose wrote the following lines to conclude a eulogy for a not-so-fictional writer we knew and loved: the son of a cigarmaker, [he] went out into the world and became famous. Isnt it right that having done his work he came home? The plaque on Jose Milin Yglesiass final resting place in the Centro Asturiano Cemetery.
A ROSE BATTERED BY STERN OCTOBER for Jos Yglesias by Pablo Armando Fernndez But now, Jos, that you belong to the true fist of the Revolution, to its pulse, I wonder where for the first time we met and how. Im totally convinced that you are related to my inmost being, feelings and memories of long past centuries, in which we always shared love, faith and hope. I know that you as oft before, have always come to me, my brother. It was Miguel Barnet who brought the sad, inconsolable news. I heard him in the throes of desperation. He didnt know how to tell us that you, Jos, were on a long, long lasting journey, away into the far horizons light, your land of promise. Tampa?, New York? That lot given to us at birth, or the chosen one? A place to fight and dream. For you, a place to rest in peace? No. As always, you are immersed in the worlds chorus, hymns, symphonies and odes. Jos, at times, we talked in either language or both, the one of the ancestors blood or the one learned at school, in a classroom, in books. It happens to any child of the Diaspora. Was the Jos we love, gallego-cubano de Tampa? Yes, s. S, yes, weaving the truth about them and us. There as we sat, my brother and I, made one, knew that once again wed meet to search for all the secrets of the unsearchable. Reprinted from Cuba Update (January/February 1999), 36.
Where it began! It has no end, Jos, no end. We'll always chat and laugh and, at times, write letters and books to find the truth about us all, the truth, Jos, the truth. and yet youll have to give a title to my novels, according to the metaphor. And I, for as long as I remain here, will have your letters and your books searching for all the secrets of the unsearchable. The good work done, you are where you belong, in the true fist of the Revolution. (La Habana, December 16, 1995) Jose Yglesias in 1989. Photograph by James Salzano.
A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS BY JOSE YGLESIAS BOOKS: NOVELS 1963 A Wake in Ybor City New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1968 An Orderly Life New York: Pantheon. 1971 The Truth About Them New York: World Publishing. 1974 Double Double New York: Viking Press. 1976 The Kill Price New York: Bobbs-Merrill. 1987 Home Again New York: Arbor House. 1989 Tristan and the Hispanics New York: Simon and Schuster. 1996 Break-In Houston: Arte Publico. BOOKS: NONFICTION 1967 The Goodbye Land New York: Pantheon. 1968 In the Fist of the Revolution: Life in a Cuban Country Town New York: Pantheon. 1970 Down There New York: World Publishing. 1977 The Franco Years New York: Bobbs-Merrill. ARTICLES 1962 "Four Poets of Spain." Massachusetts Review 3 (Winter 1962): 397-409. 1965 "Doha Franco Comes to Town." Holiday 37 (April 1965): 44-48. 1965 "Two Capitals of Spain." Gentlemen's Quarterly 34 (April 1965): 74, 122-25. 1965 "Cuba's Bestseller: A Gusano Returns." Nation 201 (October 18, 1965): 251-52. 1966 "Writers Confer: Good Show at the Paramount." Nation 202 (April 18, 1966): 460-62.
1966 "Pablo Neruda: The Poet in New York." Nation 203 (July 11, 1966): 52-55. 1966 "The Twenty-fifth Year of Franco's Peace." Massachusetts Review 7 (Winter 1966): 147-56. 1967 "Letter from Prague." Nation 204 (January 9, 1967): 59-61. 1967 "The Goodbye Land: The Way There." New Yorker (March 18, 1967): 51-118. 1967 "The Goodbye Land: The News From Columbus." New Yorker (March 25, 1967): 48-114. 1967 "The Boys of Santa Pola." Massachusetts Review 8 (Spring 1967): 339-49. 1967 "How Life Has Changed in a Cuban Sugar Mill Town." New York Times Magazine (July 23, 1967): 8-9, 27-34. 1967 "The Last Seven Years in Cuba." Massachusetts Review 8 (Autumn 1967): 731-46. 1967 "Whose Truth?" Nation 205 (October 23,1967): 410-12. 1967 "Che Guevara: The Best Way to Die." Nation 205 (November 6, 1967): 463-65. 1968 "Dr. King's March on Washington, Part II." New York Times Magazine (March 31, 1968): 30-31, 57-70. 1969 "Cuban Report: Their Hippies, Their Squares." New York Times Magazine (January 12,1969): 25, 43-54, 60-62, 70. 1969 "Key West: Of Sailors, Shrimps and the Way It Was." Venture: The Traveler's World 6 (February 1969): 67-76. 1969 "Report from Brazil: What the Left Is Saying." New York Times Magazine (December 7, 1969): 52-53, 162-79. 1969 "Report from Peru: The Reformers in Brass Hats." New York Times Magazine (December 14, 1969): 58-59, 128-42. 1970 "Report from Chile: The Left Prepares for an Election." New York Times Magazine (January 11, 1970): 24-25, 90, 94-105. 1970 "Right On With the Young Lords." New York Times Magazine (June 7, 1970): 32-33, 84-95. 1971 "Walking My Dog on the West Side." Esquire 75 (June 1971): 120-23. 1971 "The Case of Herberto Padilla." New York Review of Books (June 3, 1971): 3-8.
1972 "Deaths I Have Known." Ramparts 10 (May 1972): 42-47. 1972 "Chinese Ping-Pong Players vs. The Press: Love All." New York Times Magazine (May 14,1972):18-19, 59-64. 1972 "The Voice of South America." Atlantic 230 (August 1972): 83-86. 1973 "Down Those Mean Streets: The Framing of Carlos Feliciano." Ramparts 11 (January 1973): 33-36, 52-53. 1973 "Last Tango in Buenos Aires: The Re-emergence of Juan Peron." Ramparts 11 (May 1973): 35-40, 52-53. 1973 "The Chilean Experiment: Revolution in the Countryside?" Ramparts 11 (June 1973): 16-20, 59. 1973 "Did Sorensen Face Facts?" New York Times (July 15, 1973): Sec. 2: 9. [A letter to the editor.] 1973 "1909-1973. Salvador Allende: A Personal Remembrance." Ramparts 12 (November 1973): 25. 1974 "A Latin Delight Survives in Tampa." New York Times (February 24, 1974): Sec. 10: 1, 7. 1974 "Virtue American" [on Harriet Beecher Stowe]. Bookletter 1 (September 2, 1974), 1-3. 1974 "The American Sickness." Massachusetts Review 15 (Autumn 1974): 599-612. 1974 "Introduction." Chile's Days of Terror: Eyewitness Accounts of the Military Coup New York: Pathfinder Press. 1975 "A Long Way From Bloomsbury." New York Times Book Review (December 21, 1975): 23. 1976 "Going Back to Spain." New York Times Magazine (April 11, 1976): 34-35, 88-93. 1976 "Letter from Spain." New York Times Book Review (April 18, 1976): 35. 1976 "Spain Outgrows Senility: Sketches From a Madrid Notebook." Mother Jones 1 (June 1976): 34-40. 1977 "Shagy Dog Story." New York Times Magazine (February 20, 1977): 87. 1977 "The Radical Latino Island In the South." Nuestro 1 (August 1977): 5-6. 1977 "La Nochebuena: The Best of Nights." Nuestro 1 (December 1977): 18-21.
1978 "The Bittersweet Legacy of La Madre Patria." Nuestro 2 (April 1978): 24-28. 1983 "Ybor City: Cigars and Politics." New York Times Magazine (October 9, 1983): Part 2, 62-63. 1985 "Down East Almanac." New York Times Magazine (October 6, 1985): Part 2, 90-91. 1989 "A Trilogy Takes It Playwright Home Again." New York Times (April 23, 1989): Sec. 2: 5, 39. 1989 "William Humphrey." Publishers Weekly 235 (June 2, 1989): 64-65. 1989 "Passion's Promise." Publishers Weekly 236 (August 25, 1989): 13-22. 1991 "Buscando un Sueo de Tampa a Nueva York." Mas 3 (July-August 1991): 58-61. 1992 "Semper Fidel." New York Newsday February 4, 1992. 1995 "Marti in Ybor City." In Jos Mart in the United States: The Florida Experience Edited by Louis A. Prez, Jr. Tempe: Arizona State University Center for Latin American Studies, 1995. SHORT STORIES 1946 "Un Buen Obrero." New Masses 61 (November 26, 1946): 17-19. 1948 "The Picnic Picture." Worker Magazine (August 8, 1948): Sec. 2: 2, 10. 1950 "Teasing." Masses & Mainstream 3 (August 1950): 397409. 1971 "The Conservative." New Yorker (June 12,1971): 32-39. 1971 "Romeo and Julieta." New Yorker (October 16, 1971): 107-45. 1971 "Guns in the Closet." New Yorker (November 20, 1971): 50-58. 1993 "The Place Where I Was Born." Forum: The Magazine of the Florida Humanities Council 17 (Fall/Winter 1993): 12-17. UNPUBLISHED PLAYS 1988 "Chatahoochee" 1988 "The Dictatorship of the Proletariat"
1988 "You Don't Remember?" 1990 "New York 1937"
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS ALBERTO AVENDAO is a Spanish journalist who writes (in Galician) for a Galician newspaper, A Nosa Terra PABLO ARMANDO FERNNDEZ, a well-known Cuban novelist, was a longtime friend of Jose Yglesias. JOS MARCELO GARZA received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa, where he wrote his dissertation on Jose Yglesias ("`Deaths I Have Known': The Literary Radicalism of Jose Yglesias"). He is currently Chair of the Department of English and Speech at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. ROBERT P. INGALLS, Managing Editor of Tampa Bay History is Professor of History at the University of South Florida and the author of Urban Vigilantes in the New South: Tampa, 1882-1936 JOSE YGLESIAS, the son of cigarmakers, left Tampa in 1937 and became a writer of numerous books, articles, and plays about Ybor City. He died on November 7, 1995 and is buried at the Centro Asturiano Cemetery in Tampa.
TAMPA BAY HISTORY Published Semi-annually by The Department of History College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Tampa, Florida Managing Editor ........................................................................................ ROBERT P. INGALLS Associate Editor ................................................................................................GARY MORMINO Administrative Editor .......................................................................................... SYLVIA WOOD Administrative Assistant ........................................................................................... GAIL SMITH Graduate Assistant ..................................................................................... ANA VARELA-LAGO SPONSOR COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES University of South Florida Correspondence concerning subscriptions, contributions, books for review, and all other editorial matters should be sent to the Managing Editor, Tampa Bay History Department of History, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33620-8100. (Telephone: 813-974-2807). ISSN:0272-1406. Manuscripts from potential contributors should be typed and double spaced with footnotes, also double-spaced, placed at the end and prepared in conformity with the style used by the journal. The subscription rate is $18 for one year. Single issues and back files are available. Printed semi-annually, in the spring/summer and fall/winter. Tampa Bay History disclaims responsibility for statements made by contributors. Tampa Bay History is indexed in Historical Abstracts, America:History and Life Programs, activities, and facilities of the University of South Florida are available to all on a non-discriminatory basis, without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sex, age, national origin, or disability. The University is an Affirmative Action, Equal Access Employer.
COVER: Jose Yglesias standing in front of the Ybor City house (on 19th Avenue) where he grew up. Photograph courtesy of the Florida Humanities Council.
BOARD OF ADVISERS DONALD BALDWIN .............................................................. Poynter Institue for Media Studies PATRICIA BARTLETT ................................................................ Fort Myers Historical Museum HAMPTON DUNN .......................................................................................................... Histori an KENDRICK FORD ................................................................ Pinellas County Historical Museum LELAND HAWES .................................................................................................. Tampa Tribune STEVEN F. LAWSON ............................................................................... Department of History, University of North Carolina, Greensboro HARRIS H. MULLEN ......................................................................................... Ybor Square Ltd TRAVIS J. NORTHCUTT, JR ................................................................................ Dean Emeritus University of South Florida CARL RIGGS ..................................................................... Center for Excellence in Mathematics University of South Florida WALLACE RUSSELL ............................................................................................ Dean Emeritus University of South Florida ROBERT SAUNDERS ............................................................................ Tampa Branch, NAACP CATHY SLUSSER ...................................................................... Manatee Village Historical Park TERRY A. SMILJANICH ................................................................................................. Attorney JACKIE WATSON .................................................................................. Pioneer Florida Museum