Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

 

Fernando and Ignacio were distracted by the distant sound of several large horse-drawn wagons turning onto the road leading to the Licata complex. Fernando suggested that they remain unseen and pointed to a particularly tall and dense stand of bushes off of the road. Though this was clearly a place of business as well as the Licata family home, Fernando preferred to remain out of sight after the fiasco of the previous evening. He did not relish the idea of having to explain his presence on a Sunday morning. 

As the wagons passed through the large open gate, seven or eight men emerged from the warehouse. Some were clearly holding shotguns. Two of the men were dressed in suits and appeared to be barking orders at the others. Fernando recognized these two as Gaetano Licata's "assistants" from the scene in the kitchen of L'Unione Italiana. Immediately after the wagons entered the complex, the gates behind them were quickly closed. The passengers quickly descended from the wagons. There were approximately 20 people in all. Many were carrying what appeared to be large pots and trays of food. As they gathered in a group, there were exchanges of kisses and hugs. As they began walking toward the house, the horses were unbridled and taken into the warehouse. Several of the men with shotguns remained standing near the closed gate. 

"Dos de ellos estaban en la boda anoche. No quiero que me vean. Tenemos que quedarnos escondidos. Vamos por estos campos y regresamos por atrás de la casa."

Fernando explained to Ignacio that two of the men were at the wedding the night before and he didn't want them to see him. He suggested that they remain hidden from view by walking through the fields and returning from the rear of the house, well out of sight.

Luckily, they were able to find a path that was outside of the fenced-in and cultivated areas. It closely paralleled the creek, and the large trees and brush kept them from view. To their right was a barbed wire fence that enclosed the Licata property. As they approached the area, which was near the back of the house, they could hear lively music and singing. This area was dominated by a large patio upon which sat several very long tables. Beyond the patio, the lawn sloped slightly downward toward a large pond, almost a small lake. 

One of the men with a shotgun appeared to be walking the perimeter of the fence, inside the private property. Suddenly the sound of voices startled the two Spaniards. A short distance in front of them they could see several young men walking toward them. As they drew closer, it became obvious that they were speaking English. Fernando whispered to Ignacio, indicating that they should stop spying and continue walking, but not running. As they passed the group of men, one of them waved and muttered what appeared to be a friendly greeting. Fernando and Ignacio waved back at them and continued walking away from the Licata complex. 

Soon they emerged into a vast open area that was dotted with small wooden houses. Though similar to the ones that they had seen earlier, these were in somewhat better condition. They turned right onto a dirt road, heading back toward Ybor City. They encountered several small groups of people, all of whom were speaking English. Shortly ahead was a larger road, essentially an extension of La Séptima, but still quite a distance from Ybor City. They turned right and continued toward home, having made a large circle around the Licata farm. Instinctively, they had refrained from speaking until now.

"Zapato, yo creo que esa gente estaban hablando Inglés, pero sonaba un poco diferente de lo que yo había oído en La Habana, verdad?"

Fernando explained to Zapato that he thought the people they had just encountered were speaking English, but it sounded different than what he had occasionally heard while living in Havana. Ignacio offered an explanation.

"Pues sí. Ellos son lo que llamamos "cracas". Son norteamericanos sureños que llevan muchas generaciones aquí en la Florida. Hablan con un acento muy distinto, y tienen una cultura muy distinta. Ahora, en Tampa, usamos esa palabra para describir cualquiera persona blanca que no es español, cubano, o siciliano. No sé de dónde viene la palabra, pero entiendo lo que quiere decir la palabra."

Zapato had explained that the people they had just encountered are called "crackers". They are white southern Americans whose roots go back many generations in Florida. He added that they have a distinct culture and a distinct accent when speaking. Additionally, he explained that in the Latin areas of Tampa, the term was now used to describe any white person who was not Spanish, Cuban, or Sicilian. Ignacio admitted that he had no idea where the word came from but understood its meaning.

As the two young men continued their walk home, Fernando was reliving the past twenty-four hours in his mind. Certainly, this would be a birthday to remember. He realized he was vacillating between being a responsible adult and an impulsive adolescent smitten by a pretty girl. Today's adventure was nothing more than acting out on the musings of a young boy who thinks he might be falling in love with a young girl he has yet to meet. He wasn't sure what today's adventure was all about, other than an attempt to learn all he could about Giuseppina and her family.

"Gaitero, vamos a comer algo en Las Novedades. Yo te invito para tu cumpleaños. Es la costumbre aquí...al revés de cómo se hace en España. Vale?"

Ignacio interrupted Fernando's introspection by inviting him to eat at Las Novedades. He explained that in the US, the custom is to host friends on their birthday, the opposite of the way it's done in Spain.

Fernando graciously accepted. He and Ignacio were now in the middle of La Séptima, and they relished the familiar surroundings.

--

This is a work of fiction. With the exception of references to known and publicly documented historical entities, the following apply:

Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. ©Tony Carreño 2020