Patrick Carr on Tampa
In Sunshine States: Wild Times and Extraordinary Lives in the Land of Gators, Guns, and Grapefruit, first published in 1990: The Tampa area has never been an insignificant location in Florida’s history. Its kindly topography and massive bay sheltered thriving native communities long before the first white conqueror, Hernando de Soto, chose it as his first landfall, and they have supported generations of Floridians since. Until relatively recently, though, the area’s population did not expand with today’s relentless rapidity. Tampa, which has no real beaches closer than twenty miles from downtown, was never really a participant in the Florida growth dynamic of retirement and tourism, sun and fun. It was, rather, a real town, a small port city with an industrial base centered on shipbuilding, cigar making, and phosphate mining. It grew, but it grew relatively slowly. What was true of its social, economic, and political climate was more likely than not to be true five or ten years later; the town retained its basic balance of self-made aristocracy and everybody else, of deep-rooted Florida crackers and just-as-well-established Hispanics, of poor blacks and migrants moving in and out of its port, its agricultural hinterland, and its military establishments. As late as the mid-1960s or even the early 1970s, then, it was still possible for a substantial citizen of Tampa to know everybody else in town who really mattered.