Monday, February 16, 2009
The Visit - not by me....
A friend of mine (Ok, he's my boss at work) just returned from a visit with his family in Tampa. When he lived in Tampa, he participated in the Gaparilla Festival yearly. Here are a few photo's he snapped while at the Festival this year...
José Gaspar, known by his nickname Gasparilla (supposedly lived c. 1756 – 1821), was a purported Spanish pirate, the "last of the Buccaneers," who is claimed to have raided the west coast of Florida during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Though he is a popular figure in Florida folklore, no evidence of his existence appears in writing before the early 20th century. His legend is celebrated every year in Tampa with the Gasparilla Pirate Festival.
The stories of Gaspar are fairly consistent. Most say he was born in Spain in 1756 and served in the Spanish Navy aboard the Floridablanca. Among his early exploits was his kidnapping of a young girl for ransom; some versions give his subsequent capture as the impetus for joining the navy. Simpler versions of the story have him starting a mutiny and becoming a pirate soon after, but more romantic ones say he achieved a high rank and became a councillor to King Charles III. He was popular in the court, but when he spurned one lover for another, the jilted lady levied false charges against him, often said to involve the theft of the crown jewels. To escape arrest he commandeered his ship and vowed to exact revenge on his country through piracy. Renaming himself "Gasparilla", he patrolled the coast of Spanish Florida for the next 38 years (often 1783 – 1821, approximately the dates of the second Spanish rule of Florida), sacking every passing ship and amassing a huge treasure, which was stored in his fabulous den on Gasparilla Island. Most male prisoners would be put to death or recruited as pirates, while women would be taken to a nearby isle, called Captiva Island for this reason, where they would serve as concubines or await ransom payment from their families.
In 1821, the year Spain sold the Florida Territory to the United States, Gasparilla decided to retire. But while the men were going about dividing up the treasure, they spotted a fat British merchant ship, an opportunity too good to pass up. But when they approached, the intended victims lowered the Union Jack and raised an American flag, revealing that this was no merchant vessel, but the pirate hunting schooner USS Enterprise. In the battle that followed, Gasparilla's ship was riddled by cannon balls. Rather than surrender, Gaspar chained the anchor around his waist and leapt from the bow, shouting "Gasparilla dies by his own hand, not the enemy's!" Most of the remaining pirates were killed or captured and subsequently hanged, but a few escaped, one of them being Juan Gómez, who would tell the tale to subsequent generations.
Juan Gómez, or John Gómez, was a real person who lived in southwest Florida in the late 19th and very early 20th century. The old man was well known locally for his tall tales of his supposed life as a pirate, and was said to have been the oldest man in the US at the time he died (though this is very unlikely). Gómez is widely speculated to have been the foremost contributor to the development of the Gasparilla legend, though it should be noted that no pre-20th century account of him specifically associates his piratical exploits with José Gaspar, whose story, real or fictitious, does not appear in writing until about 1900, when it was included in an advertising brochure for the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad company.
|From The Black Bunny|
The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is an annual celebration held in the city of Tampa, Florida. Held each year in late January and hosted by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the City of Tampa, it celebrates the legend of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), supposedly a Spanish pirate captain who operated in southwest Florida. The theme is an "invasion" by Gasparilla and his men, which begins when the "Krewe" (made up of residents of the city) arrives on a 165' long pirate ship, the Jose Gaspar, in Tampa Bay and land near downtown Tampa. The mayor of Tampa then lends the key of the city to the pirate captain and a parade ensues down Bayshore Boulevard, one of Tampa's major streets. The krewes throw beads, coins and other items while shooting blank pistols from floats during the parade. The average attendance for the event is over 400,000 people. According to the event's official website, Gasparilla parade affected an economic impact of nearly 23 million dollars to Tampa.
Krewe memberships are highly sought after in many social circles in Tampa, and many celebrate ethnic and cultural themes. The Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, the organization which founded and sponsors the parade, is the oldest krewe in Tampa, and among its most prestigious. Members of the many krewes that now participate spend a great deal of money on beads and floats.
Gasparilla was first held in May 1904 in Tampa Bay, but the invasion originated on horseback instead of by boat. In years past, a US Navy ship would be attacked by small boats throwing Cuban bread and black bean soup. The Navy would respond with fire hoses but would succumb to the Ybor City Navy, and then surrender to the Alcalde of Ybor City. The sailors would be treated to an evening on the town. This was discontinued after the September 11, 2001 attacks. However, the invasion itself continues as "Capt. Jose Gaspar" and his crew of "Pirates" "attack" Tampa, surrounded by hundreds of other boaters as they sail the Gasparilla Ship through Tampa Bay, land in Downtown Tampa and "take over the city."
Beginning in January 2008, an old tradition which ended in 1964 was revived. "The Gasparilla March Triumphant: The Return to the Sea" gives the event a sense of closure. During this ceremony, the Krewe's pirates return the key to the mayor and board the Jose Gasparilla to return to sea. This tradition was revived as a way to officially end Gasparilla season.