Afro-Cubans in Ybor City, 1880s-Present - Part Two
9: Tony Pizzo Interview
Tony Pizzo was a longtime Tampa resident and local historian. In this 1979 interview, he discusses urban renewal and the strained relations between African Americans and Afro-Cubans. Pizzo tells the story of a wealthy doctor who refused to move during Urban Renewal because he had “made his money” in the city and “his people” lived there. Later on, Pizzo attempts to explain tensions that arose between Afro-Cubans and African Americans in Tampa. Pizzo claims that Afro-Cubans worked side-by-side with their white counterparts in the cigar industry and experienced little discrimination within the Latin enclave (a point that several other documents in this section would seem to contradict). Pizzo explains that most Afro-Cubans had obtained a formal education in Cuba and therefore were more educated than African Americans. He says that these experiences may have encouraged Afro-Cubans to feel superior and to separate themselves from African Americans, in spite of their shared oppression.
10: Francisco Rodriguez and School Desegregation in Hillsborough County
Mannings et al v. The Board of Public Instruction of Hillsborough County was a court case pertaining to school desegregation. This document, dated August 21, 1962, offers a proposal related to the racial composition of classrooms. Francisco Rodriguez Jr., an Afro-Cuban attorney from Tampa, represented the Manning family. NAACP leaders asked Rodriguez to take the case due to his success as an attorney throughout the southeastern United States. Rodriguez worked hard on the case and for the desegregation of Hillsborough County’s schools, going so far as to raise money himself in order take the case to the appellate court. The Board of Public Instruction of Hillsborough County, which later became the Hillsborough County Public School System, was under the jurisdiction of the courts until the early 2000s due to its failure to adequately promote integration.
11: Francisco Rodriguez, Jr. Interview
NAACP attorney Francisco Rodriguez, Jr. grew up in Tampa under Jim Crow’s oppressive sanctions. In this 1983 interview, Rodriguez discusses Florida politicians LeRoy Collins, Bob Graham, Julian Lane, and Sumter Lowry. Rodriguez provides an Afro-Cuban perspective on the political supporters and opponents of desegregation. From Rodriguez’s perspective, LeRoy Collins (Florida’s governor 1955-1961), Julian Lane (Tampa’s mayor 1959-1963), and Bob Graham (Florida’s governor 1979-1987 and senator 1987-2005), were progressive politicians who labored to dismantle segregation. Sumter Lowry, on the other hand, was a staunch segregationist. Lowry ran in the 1956 Florida gubernatorial election against LeRoy Collins. Lowry ran on the white supremacy ticket, in opposition to desegregation, but lost the race. Rodriguez’s interview aids in capturing the zeitgeist of Florida during the Civil Rights era, discussing states’ rights, segregation, desegregation, and local politicians’ actions and goals.
12: The Continuing Struggle over Afro-Cuban Identity
Jim Crow laws created a lingering separation between white Hispanics and black Hispanics. In this Tampa Tribune article published in the 1980s, Cloe Cabrera interviewed Afro-Cuban women who experienced struggles for an inclusion and acceptance in the Hispanic community. Even after the Civil Rights Movement, Afro-Cubans suffered racial discrimination in Tampa. The women in this article discuss feelings of rejection and describe their attempts to navigate their racial identity. Amelia Caridad, for instance, faced confusion and doubt when she was required to choose whether she was white, black, Hispanic, or other. She recalls this moment as the first time she had to distinguish herself based on the color of her skin instead of simply identifying herself as Cuban.