Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage - Vol. 2

By Erlinda Gonzales-Berry; Chuck Tatum | Go to book overview

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The Tradition of Hispanic Theater and
the WPA Federal Theatre Project in
Tampa-Ybor City, Florida

Kenya C. Dworkin y Méndez

The new theatre should fulfill only one condition: stage
and auditorium should alike be open to the masses, con-
tain a people and the actions of a people.

—Romain Rolland1


Introduction: "We Live in Order Not to Die"2

In order to reconstruct the rich and meaningful past of Hispanic theater in Tampa-Ybor City, Florida, we must first understand how it was that in the 1890s Cubans, Afro-Cubans, Spaniards, and Sicilians were brought together in a sleepy southern town to forge what is known as the Tampa Latin community. This community's uniqueness lies in the extraordinary alliance that it created. Ybor City's already indisputable diversity was further enhanced by the presence of several hundred Cuban-Chinese, Spanish-speaking Rumanian Jews, German Jews, and African-Americans.3 Born of socio-economic and political necessity, Ybor-City became an enclave that allowed literally tens of thousands of immigrants to escape political and economic oppression, racism, and national instabilities. As a result of the entrepreneurial, immigrant bourgeois class and the tremendous capacity of its concomitant working class, the one manufacturing industry that would single-handedly bring prosperity to Tampa flourished—the hand-rolled cigar industry.4 The magnitude of this feat, which in itself is a wonder given the fact that it was accomplished by non-Anglos in the predominantly Anglo, agricultural south, is augmented when one considers that the people who were responsible for it were 'racially' segregated from most of the city that benefited from their success.

Accompanying this enormous economic and population growth, and in an effort to take 'personal' responsibility for the health and well-being of its resi-

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