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Fernando's Footsteps

About the author

Tony Carreño, a Tampa native with Spanish and Sicilian roots, has been engaged in preserving Tampa’s cultural heritage for more than four decades. In the past few years, as a member of the Board of Directors of Centro Español de Tampa, he has been instrumental in the production of two documentary films about Tampa’s Spanish immigrant community. Carreño has provided knowledgeable “guided tours” to Asturias for Tampa locals to further their knowledge and appreciation of this unique history. Carreño is a former trustee and current member of the Ybor City Museum Society.

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As the steamship turned eastward in the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, there was enough of a jolt to awaken Fernando. He had managed to get a decent night's sleep, even though his "bed" was really a long wooden bench, and he had slept in the sitting position. Like for many of his fellow passengers, his youth, not quite 18 years of age, had made this possible. 

Ignacio explained that "La Gallega" is where he has lived for the past 3 years. Ybor City had many boarding houses that catered to single men, mostly Spaniards, but this one had earned the reputation of being the best. He had arranged for Fernando and him to share one of the larger rooms. Zapato gestured to Gaitero to pass through the small gate.

Centro Asturiano de Tampa on Nebraska Avenue, 1926.jpg

Fernando and Ignacio finished their snacks and continued walking home. Gaitero was frustrated yet mesmerized by the mysterious Giuseppina Licata. His thoughts were interrupted by Zapato's voice.

"Hombre, mañana es tu día especial. La costumbre aquí es que a llegar a los dieciocho eres un hombre. Tenemos que celebrar!"

"Por favor, Fernando. Llame a María Messina. Rompí aguas, y los dolores vienen muy fuertes!"


Giuseppina, in her now perfect Spanish, asked Fernando to call María Messina because her water sac had broken and her pains were quickly becoming very strong. María Messina Greco's skills as a midwife had become legendary throughout Ybor City and West Tampa. 

Two men standing at the 19th Street crossing at the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, Ybor Cit
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Fernando was grateful for the high ceilings and huge fans in the Licata warehouse. His office was toward the rear of the vast space, and was semi-enclosed. It was a stifling hot and humid day in June of 1936. Almost five years had passed since Fernando joined the Licata family business. Having expanded beyond fresh fruits and vegetable, the company was now called "Licata Food Distributors". Focusing on Mediterranean food products, it was one of the main suppliers of wholesale food items to restaurants in Tampa and the west coast of Florida.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m. the "Phoenix" docked in lower Manhattan. Captain Winchester informed the Tampeños that they must stay on board until an immigrations officer inspected their documents and approved entry into the U.S.A. About an hour and a half later the immigration officer arrived. He apologized for their wait, advising them that more passengers than usual are arriving in freighters. He attributed this to the political instability in Europe, especially in Spain.

1957 new citizens being served refreshments by women of Ybor City Presbyterian Church, 951
Men and airplanes at McDill Airforce parade 1940 Courtesy, Tampa-Hillsborough County Publi

"Los Helados", named for their delicious homemade ice cream, was known for serving some of the best food in Ybor City and West Tampa. Fernando and Giuseppina didn't mind waiting for a table. Though it was a Tuesday afternoon, the dining room was filled to capacity. It was two days before Thanksgiving, 1941, and Fernando relished this yearly tradition. He would work half the day on Tuesday, and not return to work until the following Monday.

This is a work of fiction. With the exception of references to known and publicly documented historical entities, the following apply:

Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. ©Tony Carreño 2020

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The Ybor City Museum Society is dedicated to preserve and share the unique story of Ybor City through exhibits at the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Lopez House and through the Mobile Museum, as well as through special events throughout the year. See what is coming up and join us in celebrating the historic cultural community of Ybor City.

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