Mar 31, 2023 - Politics

New mural celebrates the Latinas that shaped Ybor City

the mural and historical marker

Photo: Courtesy of Sarah McNamara

The organizer of a new Ybor City mural seeks to teach Tampa residents about the neighborhood's nearly century-old movement against fascism, led by Latinas.

Why it matters: Latino political engagement is vastly different now than in the days of Ybor's radical leftist origins, dating back to the Spanish Civil War.

  • But Tampa native and historian Sarah McNamara, whose new book "Ybor City: Crucible of the Latina South" comes out next month, says that if Tampeños learn about the roots of their city, they can better discern the issues of today.
  • "Many of the things we speak about and debate now are actually not that new," she tells Axios. "Learning how to understand history in a way that is critical can help us understand the moments we live in."

Driving the news: McNamara and the city of Tampa unveiled a mural and historical marker on the western wall of the Ybor City Development Corporation building Thursday.

  • The artwork, funded in part by the city and Hillsborough County's historical council, commemorates the district's 1937 anti-fascist women's march — history McNamara recounts in her new book on the wave of working-class Latinas in Ybor who organized strikes and criticized U.S. foreign policy.

Flashback: Latinos in Ybor City were incredibly active in politics in the 1930s, with Latinas leading the charge. Lectors like Luisa Capetillo, a Puerto Rican labor organizer, would read newspapers to cigar workers all day in the early 1900s.

  • "Ybor City really became this international nexus of political culture," McNamara said.

Details: The mural, by Tampa artist Michelle Sawyer, features Spanish Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri and Guatemalan labor organizer Luisa Moreno.

  • McNamara's great aunt, Margot Falcón Blanco, who was born in Ybor City, is also featured. Her inclusion, suggested by Sawyer, represents the "everyday people" who shape political movements, McNamara told Creative Loafing.

The big picture: Unaffiliated Latino voters now represent the largest percentage of Latino voters in Florida, as nonpartisan and unaffiliated Latino voters are on the verge of becoming one of the biggest swing voter groups in the U.S.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis has recently made big strides with Latino voters.

What she's saying: "Women were so integral to the political culture of Ybor but so often women are diluted down to being portrayed as housemaids or being sexualized," McNamara said.

  • "These women counter the ideas of what women should be or the stereotypes of women's place in history. They're as much a fabric of Tampa as anything else and we should recognize them to not only inform us on the past but reshape the future."
photo of the historical marker commemorating the 1937 antifacist women's march in ybor
Photo: Courtesy of Sarah McNamara

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