Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update Working Americans book series And More Food

This is just a short update for the book, Working Americans, by Grey House Publishing that I talked about in my last blog.  Fortunately, I was able to locate it online through the university library catalog.  Here are just a few excerpts from the section on Cuban cigar workers to give you an idea of the kinds of information in it.

In 1912, they did a family profile of the Cuban Rodenas family of four:  

"The father of the Rodenas family...works as a hand cigar maker, making $.45 per hour working about 46 hours weekly; the average worker receives $.29 per hour.  Since cigar makers are paid on a piece rate, the man makes more than 1,000 cigars each week.  The woman works as a bander, making $.18 per hour,...the average wage for that type of work....cigar workers through the country set their own hours and protect that privilege vociferously."  

"...family lives in a one-story house which is very close to its neighbors...windows are left open...conversations between neighbors take place from window to window..."  

"Parades, picnics, and festivals are important to the energy and social action of the society and take place often.  Seventh Avenue is a social magnet for the family, who promenade down the street on a Saturday night where everyone speaks and visits.

"Church attendance among Cuban cigar makers is poor, and donations to the Catholic Church are low, even while large social clubs are being constructed.   

"The social life of the family is centered around the El Centro Asturiano....The club includes more than 5,000 books, a staircase of Mexican onyx, a dance hall with a marble floor and magnificent chandeliers.  It boasts approximately 3,000 members...also includes a bowling alley and gymnasium for members...This club, like most Latin clubs, protects and promotes the idea of the supreme Latin male; women's auxiliaries exist to serve the male members.  

"Yellow fever is a constant threat to the family, along with typhoid, dengue fever, malaria, and tuberculosis..

"82 percent of Cuban males work in the cigar industry compared with 45 percent of the Italians and 78 percent of the Spanish men.

"Cigar workers, many whom are unable to read and write, are able to quote Shakespeare, Voltaire, Zola, and Dumas...become educated thanks to the traditions of lectors...or readers...hired to entertain the cigar roller.  They are paid by the cigar workers...they are usually seated in a chair elevated above the cigar roller tables so their voices can be easily heard...begin the day by reading excerpts from a local newspaper and a newspaper from Spain or Cuba, followed by a reading from a novel or the works of a political philosopher.

"West Tampa sections, where the Rodenas family lives, boasts 10 cigar factories, a $20,000 opera house, and streetcar service. 'West Tampa is just like the wild west, a frontier town.  There are cock fights, boxing matches, horses tied to hitching posts in front of cantinas.'"  

I think you can see how valuable this information could be in understanding the lives of your ancestors.  Numerous pictures were included in the article.

Here's a link to an article that talks about Cuban foods.

Among the foods mentioned that are typical to Cubans in Ybor City are:  black beans, Cuban-style yellow rice, shredded beef ropa vieja (Cuban staple with roots in the Canary Islands), plantain, cafe con leche, avocado, and of course the Cuban sandwich, which originated in Tampa.

Last blog I talked about making a good Cuban sandwich which could only be done with authentic Cuban bread.  The above article stayed  that  "La Segunda Central Bakery at 2512 N. 15th St. in Ybor City. It's the source for many a grocery and restaurant in Tampa."   The bread is also good by itself with butter.  I am getting so hungry for Cuban food.   So if you visit Tampa, you can at least know where to get it fresh.  Cuban bread gets hard fast, so it's best eaten the same day.  

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Working Americans, Visiting Tampa, National Park Services, Cuban Sandwich, and The Columbia Restaurant

“Working Americans” Book Series, Greyhouse Publishing:        

I just discovered this series of books that would be valuable for the American history and family history student or enthusiast.  I’m linking you to the publisher because if you scroll down you will see the titles of all the books in the series. There are ten volumes.  Click on the volume that interests you.  The book cover will appear in the top right.  On the top left of the page you will see a link “Table of Contents,” which will allow you to view the contents.

 Since these books are pricey at $145 most of us will want to check libraries for access to them. II believe they are worth the effort, because if you find them, you will have a resource that will add details to your histories and help you understand what your ancestors’ lives were like.  This would also be a great resource for writers.

Here is an example from the Table of Contents that will give you and idea of the kinds of material in these volumes.  Since this blog deals with Ybor City, and I assume you are looking for information about it, my example is about Cubans.  It's from Vol. 1, The Working Class. 

1912 Family Profile: Cuban Cigar Makers from Florida pg.129-141
    Annual Income
    Annual Budget
    Life at Home
    Life at Work, The Cigar Industry
    Life in the Community: Tampa and Ybor City, Florida
    Historical Snapshot 1912-1913

As you can see from this example, the material in the chapter is not massive so it would be a good place to start or a good place to go if you just want to add a few details. 

Now I’ve found this information, I’m going to make a trip up to the university library and check it out in person.  I'll get back with you.    

New Link List: “Visiting Tampa” 

In case you didn’t notice, I’m adding a new link list called Visiting Tampa. It is located at the bottom of the blog page.  These links will be to places, as a historian, you might like to visit if you ever go to Tampa, which I hope to do in a few months.  I actually lived in Tampa when I was in High School, but back then I knew little about my family history there, and even less about the history of the area.  You would think they would teach local history in high schools.  I never even knew who Henry Bradley Plant was, and my high school was named after him.  And he was a big deal in the history of the area.  So sad.  Anyway, I’m compiling a list of places I want to make sure I see.  I’m sharing them with you in case you  ever visit Tampa some day.  Even if you aren't of Cuban descent from there, they will be worth visiting as a historian.  

Added New Links:

Cigar History You can’t talk about Ybor City without talking about cigars, but this site has information about history, and about Cuba as well.

Lesson on Ybor City This is a really good lesson prepared for teachers to use about Ybor, which is short and has pictures.  If you want a good starting place to learn about the city, this is the one I first read when I started my journey into my family’s past in Ybor.

National Park Services--History

For the history researcher take a look at the National Park Services site. 
Tried linking directly to the Ybor City information, but something failed.  So I'm linking you to the main page, http://www.nps.gov/history/history/resedu/index.htm  Top left is links to the past search. Click and then on the top left is a box for entering in your search query.  Type in Ybor City, anything else you are looking for.  A couple things I learned from the site:

"Ybor City became Tampa’s 4th District in 1887, but retained its name and distinct identity as “Little Havana” for its prolific cigar production and high concentration of Cuban cigar makers." 

It also had the following information about the boundaries of Ybor City within Tampa:

Roughly bounded by 6th Ave., 13th St., 10th Ave. and 22nd St., E. Broadway between 13th and 22nd Sts.

This site has historical information for various subjects, so snoop around.  I know I would never have thought of going to the National Parks Service site for historical research.   

The Cuban Sandwich, History 

Anyone who has been in Tampa or Ybor City knows about the Cuban Sandwich.  I wish I could provide you with a taste if you’ve never had the pleasure, but even if I could make one for you, I couldn’t.  I would need Cuban Bread, and I don’t know of anywhere to get real Cuban Bread, except in Tampa.  Without the Cuban Bread it’s just not a Cuban Sandwich!   So when you make that trip to Tampa, try to find one and let us all know where to get it.  Make sure you ask a Cuban.  If my Aunt Dalia were available she would be the one to who could make you one.  She has to be the best Cuban cook I know.  The only place coming close to her cooking is The Columbia Restaurant, the last link I added today in the Visiting Tampa list. 

The Columbia Restaurant, Ybor City

http://www.columbiarestaurant.com/   Not only can you taste some of the history of Ybor City, but you will be experiencing history.  The restaurant was started in 1905 by Casimiro Hernandez, Sr.  Even though there are now other locations, the place it started was Ybor City.  The address is 2117 East 7th Avenue, Tampa, Florida 33605.   Seventh Avenue was the main strip in Ybor, but that’s another story, for another day.  Check out the site for the history of the restuarant as well.  For the food lover, there is a cookbook you can buy on their site, but I just found it on Amazon for $16.47 (weird price again).  I have to to get one!  You really can’t understand your Cuban relatives in Ybor unless you eat the food! 

I tried getting recipes from my Aunt Dalia, but she hangs on to her secrets as only a Cuban can.. She once owned a small lunch “shack” and when she sold it I heard the new owner made her an enormous offer for her deviled-crab recipe, but she turned it down.  Sometimes Cuban tenacity is a pain.  

P.S. I just ordered the Cookbook.  An early birthday gift to myself. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sideways and Down, All Around, and FL Death Index, FL State Census 1935 and 1945.

Doing family history is a challenge, Cuban or not, but that’s the fun of it. Sometimes to find your direct line ancestor, you may have to go sideways (siblings, cousins, etc.) and down (descendents), and all around, rather than just back.  Going sideways or down in research is a valid research method, and in a Latino ancestry is also relevant, because in the Latino community family includes almost everyone tied to your family in anyway. 

One day I was talking to a cousin (whose mother is the daughter of the only child of my grandfather and his second wife, Guillermina).  I’m related to his first wife, Pastora.  My cousin told me that our cousin had died. When she told me who he was, I didn’t recognize his name at all. After some research I discovered that our cousin was the son, of the daughter of the daughter, from Guillermina’s first marriage.  In spite of the fact I share no common ancestor with him, he is “our” cousin.   Anyway I’m happy to claim him, because what I read about him in an article in Cigar Magazine, he was a person with many admirable qualities and abilities.   

For the Cuban genealogists, the challenge will be to determine the actual relationship of all these “family” members, but in the process you may also find your direct line relatives.  And remember these non-direct lines are usually the people your direct line relatives associated with, because they were family in some way.  Searching this way is how I discovered my great-great grandmother, Dolores, and the mystery woman, Amparo that appeared on my grandmother’s delayed birth record.  Amparo turned out to Dolores’ daughter from a first marriage.

That was also how I recently connected to another “cousin”, Linda. Our common ancestor is Dolores.  Linda is related to Amparo.  I’m related to Dolores’ daughter, Mercedes from a second marriage.  From what I could work out on the relationship chart at http://www.islandregister.com/cousin.html, we are 3rd cousins one time removed. I think.  Anyway, the point is that Linda knew the first name of my maternal great-grandfather, who she is not directly related to. Something I did not know, or anyone in the family I talked to.     

Once I knew who Dolores was, and her maiden name, and  suspected name of her second husband, Tomas, I could search in Family Search, Pilot record search, which indexes everyone in the records.  Using Dolores with her maiden name I found her daughter, Mercedes.  It listed her father as Tomas, which matched the information Linda gave me. If I hadn’t researched Dolores’ first marriage family, I wouldn’t have found my grandmother’s death certificate.  Both my aunt and I had been searching over a period of twenty years, but until I searched sideways and down and all around, I never had the information to find her and be able to recognize that it was her, because the last name on the death index was misspelled so badly, I couldn’t search by that, and I didn’t know the names of her parents to know this Mercedes was mine.   

Are you totally confused by my sideways and down and all around journey? 

Well, here’s a source for you that is simple.  Go to www.FamilySearch.org and click on the Search Record tab on the left, go to Record Search Pilot, then under the discover your ancestors option is a link that says browse our collections, click on it and you will be taken to a page that gives you three options, click on the map, or click on down area to identify  the record area you are interested in or click on browse collection, which you may want to do just to see what they have.  

Under the United States you will find:

Florida Deaths 1879-1939 (index, no images of records) What is neat about this index is that it indexes everyone as I said, so if you can’t find the person, and know the name of the parents, try those.  You should search by the parents’ names as well, even if you do find the person under their name, because you may find siblings of your relative you didn’t know about.

Florida State Census 1935 and 1945.  (index and images of records).  This is a real bonus because U.S. Censuses are only available through 1930. 

If you find someone in the Florida Death index at this site, you can go to the www.familysearch.org, library catalog, place--Florida, vital records, deaths 1879-1939, click on the “view film notes” button on the top right, and find the microfilm number for the film that the record would be in…or  go to:
By going to any LDS family history center near you, you can have the film sent to you for a small fee, and if you are lucky, there may be more than one relative on the same roll of film.  

Here’s where you find a family history center near you.  On the www.familysearch.org site, under the library tab is a find a family history center near you option, fill in the information, click, and there you are, or go to: http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/library/FHC/frameset_FHC.asp.

Well, enjoy the roller coast ride-sideways, down, and all around, and check out the Florida sources at familysearch.org, if it’s the right time period.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Tampa, Historical Background

First off, if you are researching your Cuban relatives in Tampa, you will want to learn about Ybor City and West Tampa as well.  Though both were later incorporated into Tampa, they started out as separate cigar factory towns.  Ybor City was started by Vicente Martinez Ybor, a cigar manufacturer from Cuba, and Ignacio Haya in 1885, when they decided to move their cigar factories from Key West to the Tampa Bay area.   Though Vicente Ybor was not happy about it, Tampa annexed Ybor City in 1887.  West Tampa was built by Hugh MacFarlane who watched the achievement of the Ybor City cigar manufactures and decided to copy them.  By 1895 he was successfully competing with Ybor, and by 1905, West Tampa was the fifth largest city in Florida.  In 1925 Tampa annexed West Tampa.   Though both areas were annexed, they were distinctly Latin communities with personalities and histories of their own.  Initially the cigar workers were almost exclusively Cuban cigar makers, but later large numbers of Spaniards and Italians lived and worked there.   

For genealogists, this means reading and searching for material using the names of all three cities.   For family historians it means that you will find a different cultural history in Ybor City and West Tampa, then in Tampa. One of the best books on the history and culture of Ybor City that  I have read  is The Immigrant World of Ybor City, Italians and Their Latin Neighbors in Tampa, 1885-1985 by Gary R. Mormino and George E. Possetta.  The bibliography alone is thirty pages long, and each chapter of the book has endnotes. So this is a great book for history students. Even though their focus was on the Italians, it has very detailed valuable information about or related to the Cubans as well.  Chapter two of the book is a good short history of Tampa.  I bought the book for $20, but today, as of this posting, it is available on Amazon.com for only $13.57, a bargain price for the information.  (What’s with the $.57?  Are they catching on that we know that $13.99 is really $14?)    

If you are doing African American ancestry, be aware that there are African Cubans and African Americans from the South in Tampa.  Being located in the South, Tampa created a unique circumstance for the African Cubans.   The mixed race of the Cuban community created challenges for all Cubans.   For an interesting article on this subject read The Afro-Cuban Community in Ybor City and Tampa, 1886-1910 by Nancy Raquel Mirabl, OAH Magazine of History, Volume 7, NO 4, Summer 1993, online at:  http://www.oah.org/pubs/magazine/africanamerican/mirabal.html.   

The last thing I want to mention is that if your family was living in Tampa during the l800s-early 1900s  and  seem to disappear, don’t assume they died.  So far in my work there seems to be a lot of movement back and forth between Tampa, Key West, New Orleans, New York, and Cuba.  This movement has a lot to do with the history of the Cuba.   Also they may not have become U.S. citizens.  Many intended to go back to Cuba, many did, or many just went back and forth between U.S. Cuban communities and/or Cuba.