"Being Latin for a Day"
Fiesta Day celebrates the ethnic diversity of Ybor City. In its early years, Ybor City was primarily an immigrant district, populated by Cuban, Spanish, Italian, and German immigrants, in addition to a small population of African Americans. These diverse populations turned Ybor into the “Cigar Capital of the World.” The first Fiesta Day was held in the late 1800s. It was seen as a day of rest for the cigar worker.
Over time it became an event that has cemented itself deep in the roots of Ybor. Held every winter, the event has two distinct parts: the “Promenade of Flags” and the “Heritage Trail.” The Promenade of Flags is a parade that shows the participants’ pride in their heritage by having them march from Nebraska Avenue to 10th Avenue. The “Heritage Trail,” on the other hand, features many different cultures in festive outfits, including competitions for the best costumes. A significant portion of Ybor City is closed, including all of 7th Avenue, where many vendors set up tents to sell souvenirs to tourists and locals.
Fiesta Day was not only seen as an event to bring cultures together, but was also designed to be Ybor City’s alternative to the Gasparilla Festival, held each spring in downtown Tampa. One of the largest Fiesta Day celebrations happened on February 13, 1993, when Fiesta Day combined with the Illuminated Knight Parade hosted by the Knights of Sant’ Yago, another Ybor City cultural event. Historic clubs like the L'Unione Italiana (Italian Club) and the Circulo Cubano (Cuban Club) support Fiesta Day to show the unity of Ybor during a festive celebration of different cultures.
“Be Latin for Day” is a quote often associated with this social occasion because much of the cuisine revolves around Latin culture. One famous palate pleaser is the “Spanish Bean Soup” that is reminiscent of the cigar workers’ food during the early years of Ybor City. Many local artists, including music performers, dancers, and street magicians come out to entertain the crowd.
2019 marked the 73rd annual celebration of Fiesta Day. Ybor City’s festive event is still supported by the community and attracts thousands of people each year. The free event caters to young and old. Fiesta Day is a celebration of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion – traditions with a long history in Ybor City. It is an event that stands the test of time because locals strive to keep the values of unity alive.
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