Did you read over the weekend what the Times' Ben Montgomery had to say about the veracity of the pirate José Gaspar?
José Gaspar is real, and there is proof.
Head up to the University of South Florida, to the library in the middle of campus. Take the elevator to special collections, and ask for the only known copy of History of Gasparilla and Ye Mystic Krewe, circa 1935, in public circulation. It's the size and shape of an old high school yearbook, handsomely bound and dedicated to "those who have perpetuated the celebration inspired by the gay and daring buccaneer." Save a few missed years, that gay buccaneer-inspired party has played out in Tampa since 1904, and, of course, continues today.
Inside — careful with the binding — is a riveting, 35-page account of the exploits of Gaspar, penned by Edwin D. Lambright, editor of the Tampa Morning Tribune. "Yes," he writes in Chapter 1, "there was a Gasparilla. His actual existence, many of his depredations, are authenticated in unquestionable records." His primary record was Gaspar's own diary, loaned to Lambright, the acknowledgement suggests, by "an American, resident in Madrid, who wishes his name withheld." One of those records details a bloody mutiny aboard a Spanish ship-of-war called the Florida Blanca. The strike was led by Gaspar, and "sometime in the latter part of 1783," the outlaws headed for Florida and settled at a hideout forevermore known as Gasparilla Island. There they embarked "on a career of slaughter and pillage — to become greedy, gory outlaws of the sea."
There it is. Black and white.
One minor quibble: José Gaspar is not real, and there is proof.