TAMPA — When Gloria first came into sight Monday in Hillsborough Bay, a large crowd rushed to the dock to welcome the three-mast tall ship, eagerly waving Colombian flags and cheering in celebration.
Hundreds gathered at the Tampa Convention Center to catch a glimpse of the nearly 300-foot Colombian ship, commissioned in 1966 and used by the nation's navy to train cadets,
Gloria sailed to Tampa from Veracruz, Mexico, as part of a trip around the Americas, and will be open for free self-guided tours through Thursday.
For locals hailing from Colombia, the event was an appreciation of their rich culture.
Teresa Marono of New Port Richey, who emigrated 42 years ago to attend college in the United States, brought her extended family so they could learn more about their heritage.
"It's beautiful," Marono said. "I don't want to miss it for anything."
Sofia Villanueva, Marono's 11-year-old granddaughter, described the event as "amazing" and said she plans to visit Colombia soon for the first time.
When the ship's bow veered too close to shore, knocking down a palm tree that crashed into the bay, the crowd only cheered louder. Dressed in the country's colors of yellow, red and blue, spectators danced to a live band onshore playing traditional Colombian music and chanted "Colombia!" to the crew.
Gloria has a crew of 165, 76 of whom are men and women training to be cadets, said Capt. Joaquin Amezquin, a representative of the Colombian navy. He added that this was more than an annual training routine.
"We like to show the best of Colombia," Amezquin said, "the real face of optimistic and happy people who want to work to make this a great place to be."
Contact Liz Crampton at [email protected]