Ybor City, Tampa

Ybor City State Museum

Ybor City State Museum

Before we visited Tampa, I had no idea that it had a historical area of such significance. From the periphery, Tampa looks like many other modern cities in Florida, with the exception of Miami and its wonderful Art Deco buildings. Ybor city was named for Vincente Martinez Ybor, an entrepreneur who had moved his cigar business from Cuba to Key West.

Mural with Vincente Martinez Ybor

Mural with Vincente Martinez Ybor

That hadn’t been entirely successful so he decided to settle in Tampa in the 1880s. The cigar workers were skilled so many of them came from Cuba and Spain, followed by an influx firstly of Italians, then Eastern European Jews, Germans and Chinese, many of the next stage immigrants serviced the city with restaurants and other industries.

Columbia Restaurant

Columbia Restaurant

cigarshop

Cigar Shop

It was an eclectic mix that was stable because each ethnicity had their own social club with welfare and benefits. Additionally, the work was plentiful and well paid. Each worker had their own little Casita, some of which are preserved, others have been renovated. The docent at the Ybor Museum told us that they used Ybor City’s welfare system as a template when they set up Medicare and Social Security in the 40s. That fascinated me more than anything else.

Streetcar in Ybor City

Streetcar in Ybor City

Ybor City reached its zenith at the beginning of the 1900s but cigar making started to decline after the Great Depression and World War II. Surprisingly, many of the original buildings remain with their exotic tile work. Artists started to flock to Ybor in recent times and it is being renovated block by block. It is a peaceful little oasis in a busy modern city with lovely tram cars. There are free range chickens on every porch because they outlawed harming chickens to stop cock fighting. You can read more of this in the The Chicken Murder. I noticed with a chuckle that you can have an event or a wedding in the garden of the Museum , but just look out for hungry hawks…
spanish street posters2

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Meet Pumpkin

Kerry's egg2

Since it is nearly Thanksgiving, I thought I would gross you out with a scan of my cyst (water filled benign tumor). But look at that beautiful brain – I am sure it is bigger than most…. 🙂 Pumpkin, the cyst, was discovered after a bad car accident and they were scanning my neck and spine. Doesn’t everyone name their cysts?

I had to see three neurosurgeons following the car accident as the first one came to the consultation with dollar signs in his eyes holding his scalpel behind his back. The second one said, “Never have anyone operate on your spine, it may damage you permanently, but there is one other thing…” His assistant who was from Africa, where they are all sensible, had previously shown me the cyst and his opinion was that it was likely congenital and harmless. That said, the neurosurgeon said they would normally remove cysts that size in case they became malignant.

So…off to the very handsome cardiac/thoracic surgeon who greeted me with, “Whoa, you don’t look like my normal patients”. I responded that his waiting room looked like the Walking Dead. This is what happens when you don’t qualify for ‘free’ healthcare until you are older. Even his receptionist asked me if I was waiting for my Mom. His conclusion was that in order to remove it, he would have to deflate a lung, it was not cancerous and best leave well alone with regular scans to check it wasn’t growing.

The final, wonderful, neurosurgeon concurred that it was congenital, including my spinal issue and that surgery hadn’t progressed enough to do anything about my particular spinal issues. Subsequent scans have revealed other cysts in strange places like my bile duct – who would want to live there?? My conclusion is that I ate my twin. My mum’s Ob/Gyn heard two heartbeats but then I arrived alone and prematurely.

I decided not to bother getting another scan until I had two bouts of bronchitis and trouble breathing. I now have a handsome and very flirty lung specialist who sounds exactly like the cat in Shrek. My inner cougar starts to purr… He gave me lots of free inhalers (screw Pharm, VD!) and sent me for a scan. Pumpkin has lost weight – hurrah!! Truth be told, I know immediately when she is increasing in size because you can feel it. I have grown to love her and I am sorry I ate my twin – it was survival of the fittest.