'Fernando's Footsteps': Port Tampa

Fernando arrives into Port Tampa via a steamship named the Mascotte from Cuba in 1900.Click here to see where ships would have entered Port Tampa City.

As the steamship turned eastward in the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, there was enough of a jolt to awaken Fernando. He had managed to get a decent night's sleep, even though his "bed" was really a long wooden bench, and he had slept in the sitting position. Like for many of his fellow passengers, his youth, not quite 18 years of age, had made this possible. The 22- hour journey from Havana had been uneventful, and short......much shorter than his eight day crossing from Santander, Spain to Havana four years earlier.

"Please begin organizing your passports and related documents for processing in about one hour!" shouted a crew member.

This was followed, mercifully, by a translation into Spanish. As the young man complied, he began walking across the cabin to a doorway leading to an exterior deck, eventually making his way to the bow of this vessel, and saw his first view of the United States dead ahead. As they passed through a somewhat narrow strait, he was amazed at how flat the terrain was. Before him was an incredibly large estuary. A fellow Spaniard who was returning from a visit to Havana approached him.

"Sabes lo que es esto?" he asked Fernando. The older gentleman had asked if Fernando knew what he was looking at.

"No" he replied.

"Esto se llama La Bahia de Tampa. Y muy cerca queda el pueblo de Tampa, y su vida nueva. Bienvenido!" His travel companion had pointed out the waters of Tampa Bay, and warmly welcomed him to the booming town of Tampa and a new life.

The humble ship, Mascotte, steamed toward Port Tampa from Havana. (Tony Carreño, Chapter 1)

"Name? Fernando Suarez Menéndez.
Birthplace? Spain.
Province? Asturias.
Town? San Román de Candamo.
Date of birth? November 17, 1882.
Age? 17."

The official continued to process this information, not looking up at all. The translator looked at Fernando and gave a "it's OK, don't worry" look, with a slight smile.

"What will be your address in Tampa?"

"Su dirección en Tampa?" asked the translator.

Fernando somewhat nervously searched for yet another piece of paper in his pocket. He handed the paper to the translator. Turning to the official the Spanish-speaker said, in accented English, "1822 14th Avenue East. Ybor City".

After a bit of shuffling and lots of rubber stamping, the official handed Fernando his passport and some of his papers. He then handed Fernando yet another paper, this one unfamiliar to him.

DATE OF ENTRY: NOVEMBER 9, 1900" (Tony Carreño, Chapter 3)

Fernando became aware that his arrival point, Port Tampa, was a small town distinct from Tampa itself. Soon after the train had emerged from the moderately sized maritime complex, the scenery abruptly changed to flat, vast, emptiness. Never before had he seen mile after mile of empty land, broken only by occasional stands of curious looking pine trees. After the euphoria of seeing Zapato after so many years, Fernando's face must have revealed the renewed sense of trepidation and concern that this unfamiliarity had caused him.

"Gaitero, no te preocupes tanto, hombre! Tampa no es toda salvaje y selva." Ignacio had assured him that Tampa was not entirely wild and a jungle. Fernando hesitatingly smiled, though he was already nostalgic for the vibrant, urban atmosphere of Havana, or the verdant, mountainous familiarity of his native Asturias. (Tony Carreño, Chapter 7)