Fernando noticed wooden street signs marked in Spanish. He was relieved and surprised, having thought everything would be in English.
"6a Avda/Calle 16".
The Ybor City train station was on the corner of 6th Avenue and 16th Street. Glancing down 16th street, Fernando could see row after row of curious looking wooden houses, fairly narrow but rather long. They were lined up like dominos...their roof lines almost touching. He had never seen anything like these. They were almost identical looking, with gingerbread trim along the small front porches. He stopped and directed the attention of his companions toward the structures.
"Por favor. Explícame algo de esas casas."
Fernando had asked Belarmino and Ignacio if they could tell him more about the houses.
"Esas se llaman "casas de escopetas" porque dicen que puedes disparar una escopeta desde la puerta principal y no golpear ninguna pared. Las pelotillas saldrían por la puerta trasera."
Ignacio had explained that these were called "shotgun houses", because supposedly one could fire a shotgun through the front door and not damage any walls. The pellets would exit through the back door! The front and rear doors were aligned along the left side of the house, all rooms to the right. He elaborated that this had evolved because many of the home builders were Sicilian and they had copied the style that was very prominent in New Orleans. Ignacio, always curious, was told by a Sicilian carpenter he knew that this style of house had been brought to New Orleans from West Africa via Haiti, with which old New Orleans had many connections. Many immigrant families were able to afford living in them because the prominent cigar manufacturers had the houses mass-produced and offered them at reasonable rents or purchase prices. This was intended to motivate the workers to stay in Tampa. Ignacio reminded Fernando that it was the arrival of the Cuban cigar manufacturing business that essentially created the boom town in which they were standing. The success of this industry, and that of Tampa, depended on a stable and prosperous work force.
While Fernando had been impressed with the physical appearance and interesting history of these homes, he was even more impressed with the concept of affordable, private housing. Perhaps the "American Dream" was truly a possibility. (Tony Carreño, Chapter 8)