Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

As Francesco turned away to complete Ignacio's usual order, the Spaniard added another item.

"Y también una docena de galletas de giuggiulena!"

Fernando understood that Zapato had added a dozen cookies, but was puzzled, never having heard the word "giuggiulena". Ignacio explained that it meant "sesame" in the Sicilian language, which was distinct from, but somewhat similar to, Italian. Ignacio not only loved these traditional treats but took pride in having embraced elements of another culture. The new arrival was surprised and pleased that Tampa, though small, was such a cultural mosaic.

Francesco returned with the sesame cookies and three loaves of bread, one of which looked very familiar to Fernando. The other two looked totally bizarre to him...very long, narrow, and their crusty tops had long, thin leaves in the middle.

"Hombre, que clase de pan es esto?"

Fernando asked Ignacio what type of bread it was. He explained that it was a local bread called "Cuban bread", and had recently become very popular in Tampa. Gaitero was puzzled by the name and told Zapato that he had never seen anything like it in Havana. Why was it called "Cuban" bread?

"Creo que fue los americanos que empezaron a llamarlo 'pan cubano'. Para ellos, cualquiera cosa que sale de Ybor tiene que ser cubano. La verdad es que creo que solo se encuentra aquí en Tampa, inventado aquí. Es delicioso, y barato"

Ignacio clarified that Cuban bread was a local "delicacy", probably named by the Anglo-American community that tended to label anything in Ybor City as "Cuban". In any case, it was delicious and, more importantly, cheap!

"Dieciséis kilos, por favor".

The bakery tab was sixteen cents. As Zapato was paying Francesco, Fernando was struck by two things. Sixteen cents was a fair amount of money, and the word for cents, "kilos", was distinctly "Cuban Spanish" as opposed to "centavos", which was used in Spain. He had learned this while in Cuba. It appeared that in this small, multi-cultural city, the emerging "lingua franca" was Spanish with a Cuban "accent".

The two Spaniards left the bakery and continued walking north on 19th St. When they reached 12th Ave, Ignacio paused, reaching for Fernando's arm. Typical of the area, this street had a high density of shotgun houses. Zapato gestured in both directions.

"Casi todas estas casas están ocupadas por familias asturianas, y algunas gallegas. Aunque todavía estamos en La Pachata, aquí tenemos un trocito de nuestra tierrina, hombre! Esta zona se llama 'La Pequeña Asturias.'"

Ignacio had explained that even though they were still in the pre-dominantly Sicilian neighborhood of "La Pachata", the houses on 12th Ave were occupied by mostly Asturian, and a few Galician families. This was a small piece of their beloved homeland, and of their neighboring province, Galicia. Locals called it "Little Asturias".

While sharing some of Ignacio's pride and nostalgia, Fernando also asked a question. He wanted to know why there appeared to be so many more houses occupied by Sicilian families, as compared to ones with Spanish families. It was known that there were many more Spaniards than Sicilians in Tampa. Ignacio explained that, for a variety of reasons, the Spaniards who immigrated were mostly single men, while the Sicilians tended to immigrate with their wives and children. Fernando recalled that this was also the case in Cuba.

The two men had continued walking. At 14th Ave, Ignacio stopped. On the northwest corner of the intersection, there was a rather attractive three-story structure. Each level featured a large porch. Surrounding the building was a well-maintained garden, surrounded by a picket fence. Just beyond the entrance gate, there was a sign:

dueños: Aniceto Fernández y Maruxa Varela"

The sign indicated a boarding house for gentlemen called "The Galician Woman", and the owners' names were proudly displayed.

"Gaitero, estamos en casa!"

Ignacio announced to Fernando that they were home.


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