Friday, September 09, 2005

Jose Marti in Ybor City

September 5, 2005 (Monday)
10:14 p.m.
Tampa, Florida

I saw Jose Marti.

Ybor City is Florida’s Latin Quarter District where one can go back to another era with its iron balconies, globe streetlights, brick-lined walkways and the architecture of cigar factories, social clubs and unique buildings.

I walked around the small city, a few blocks actually from Tampa, after taking the trolley or what is known in the Philippines as the tramvia. Ygor is rich with culture and history. It’s where I saw the statue of Jose Marti, Cuban poet and revolutionary. There are many landmarks of Cuban and Latino history in the city, where the ancient art of hand-rolled cigar making lives on.

The city boasts of at least 60 restaurants, bars and nightclubs. It’s colorful with all the tattoo shops, tight skirts and margaritas. For instance, there’s the Columbia Restaurant, which was established in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez Sr. It began as a small corner café frequented by Spanish and Italian immigrants. It is now owned by the fourth and fifth generation family members and is the oldest restaurant in Florida and largest Spanish restaurant in the world.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is a vibrant waterfront on Florida’s West Coast with the nature-rich Hillsborough River where the yachts are anchored. Originally, Tampa Bay is the name of the body of water on the west coast of Florida.

Alan and I took the trolley to Ybor. We went around the small city looking for a place where Alan could eat and I could have a bottle of beer. But the shops were closed for the holiday so we came back to Tampa and spent the evening at Channelside for my beer and for Alan’s dinner.

We talked about the Philippines, about American history, about cowboy movies, especially “The Magnificent Seven,” which we watched on the plane on our way here from New York.

I will discover more tomorrow when we go to St. Petersburg for my appointment at Poynter Institute. I will be meeting with Paul Pohlman, the associate dean of Poynter, and Kelly McBride, Ethics Group Leader at Poynter.

I am scheduled to have lunch at the Salvador Dali Museum, the site of the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by the late Spanish surrealist.

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