'Fernando's Footsteps': L'Unione Italiana

L'Unione Italiana was the social club and mutual aid society for most of Tampa's Sicilian and Italian community.

Ignacio told him the woman's name is Giuseppina Licata. She is 19 years old and single. She was born in Sicily and immigrated to Tampa ten years prior, after a brief period in New Orleans. According to Ignacio's sources, her father had done well financially, having turned a small vegetable farm into a thriving wholesale produce business. She was said to be very friendly and charming, but demure and soft-spoken. Apparently, she rarely discussed her family with the other women, or anyone else. One of Ignacio's lady friends went on to say that apparently her father is extremely strict, and she is not allowed to date. Her social contacts are rigidly controlled by her mother and other female relatives and are limited to close family friends and extended relatives.

"Si su padre tiene mucho dinero, por qué trabaja en la fábrica?"

Gaitero had asked the obvious question. If Giuseppina's father was wealthy, why is she working at the cigar factory, in a relatively low-wage position?

Ignacio said that apparently there was a shroud of mystery surrounding the Licata family. His sources told him that whenever anyone would ask Giuseppina or her Sicilian co-workers and friends anything about her, they would be met with an awkward silence and a quick change of subject.

Fernando grew even more intrigued with the beautiful and mysterious Giuseppina Licata. (Tony Carreño, Chapter 22)

"Si, soy Salvatore Licata, me llaman Turiddu"

In broken but understandable Spanish, the Sicilian had confirmed that he was Salvatore Licata, and is known by the Sicilian diminutive for Salvatore, which is "Turiddu".

Gaitero was relieved that Turiddu's demeanor had quickly changed and found him to have a certain charm. He went on to ask if he knew of a young woman called Giuseppina Licata and might they be related. At the mention of Giuseppina, Turiddu appeared to tense up.

"Comu si canusci a mè soru? Allura, mi dispiaci....Como conoces a mi hermana?"

In a frenzied mixture of Sicilian and Spanish, Turiddu questioned Fernando as to how he knew his sister, apologizing for initially asking in Sicilian.

Fernando quickly explained that he had never met her, but that he worked at the same cigar factory.

"Allura, te piaci a mè soru e voi canusciri a idda. Sugnu giustu?"

Turiddu asked Fernando if he was correct in that that he liked his sister and wanted to meet her. Since he blurted this in Sicilian, the Spaniard remained silent with a quizzical look.

"Te gusta a mi hermana y quieres conocerla, verdad?"

In his limited Spanish, Turiddu, with a smile, repeated his assumption. Fernando, with a smile, slowly nodded his head, reaffirming Turiddu's suspicions. The Sicilian smiled. He went on to tell Fernando that if he had a dollar for every time a young man told him this, he would be extremely wealthy. Apparently, Giuseppina's beauty was as legendary as it was obvious. The conversation had become rather awkward, not just linguistically but also due to the subject matter. Not wanting to mention Turiddu's father, Fernando decided to use a different approach. He remembered Ignacio explaining the importance of respect within the Sicilian culture.

"Quiero respetar a tu familia y tu cultura. Por favor, cual sería la manera más respetuosa para empezar a conocer a tu hermana Giuseppina? Te pregunto sinceramente y de mi corazón."

Fernando, speaking slowly and looking directly into Turiddu's eyes, had told him that he wanted to respect his culture and his family. He also asked what would be the most respectful way to begin to know his sister Giuseppina. He concluded by saying that this request was sincere and from his heart.(Tony Carreño, Chapter 24)

Turiddu made it clear that Fernando was to follow him. They walked about two blocks west on La Séptima. At the corner of 18th St, Turiddu stopped in front of a rather large building. On the front window was written "L'Unione Italiana"..."The Italian Union". This was the social club and mutual aid society for most of Tampa's Sicilian and Italian community. On either side of the main entrance were long benches, filled with men speaking loudly in Sicilian or Italian. Several of the men stood up, walked over to Turiddu and gave him kisses on both cheeks. It was obvious that Turiddu Licata was well-known and respected in the community. He introduced Fernando to several of the men. The conversations were in very rapid Sicilian and Fernando could only determine the gist of what was being said. He assumed, and hoped, that this was merely normal polite conversation.

Turiddu gestured to Fernando to follow him into the building. It was similar to the Spanish Center but smaller. The main level, like that of the Centro Español, seemed to be off-limits to women. The room was filled with men sitting at tables. Most were playing cards, some dominoes. Turiddu gestured toward a staircase in a corner of the room. Fernando followed him up the stairs. At the top they passed through large double doors and entered what appeared to be a ballroom filled with round tables set up for a formal dinner. The attendees appeared to be well-dressed families enjoying a quiet dinner. A string quartet provided soft background music. Candles adorned the tables. (Tony Carreño, Chapter 25)



At the corner of 7th Ave. and 18th St.