Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Plant City church sees rapid change

Father Tom Anastasia looks out from the pulpit at St. Clement Catholic Church and sees a congregation shaped by agriculture.

One way or another, he says, most everyone in this close-knit community of believers knows someone who has worked the fields, picking strawberries, blueberries, melons or tomatoes — jobs held almost entirely by Hispanic migrant workers.

Drive along Alexander, Collins or Reynolds streets, or through the historic downtown, and one of Plant City's biggest stories of the past 10 years comes into view: restaurants, dress shops and bodegas that tell of the city's emergent Hispanic population.

But gauging that population is tricky. Government numbers tell only part of the story.

Officially, Plant City's Hispanic population stands at 9,984.

The number of Hispanics nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, accounting for nearly all of Plant City's population growth after 2000, Census figures show. Today, 28 percent of the city is Hispanic.

Unofficially, Anastasia suspects the numbers are higher.

Those who agreed to be counted probably had documented status, he said. But numerous other Hispanics, including some undocumented workers in the fields, were not counted for fear of being deported.

St. Clement's enrollment numbers hint at a truer picture: From 2000 to 2010, the parish, on Alexander Street near Interstate 4, saw Hispanic membership expand from 250 to 2,500.

Lourdes Villanueva, a volunteer at St. Clement, agrees the official assessment is woefully low. When the Census was taken, Villanueva was asked by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to bolster Hispanic participation. Many undocumented Hispanics refused to fill out the registration forms, she said.

How many? Thousands, she believes, though she isn't certain. Ironically, one reason for the inaccurate count is the government itself, which enacted tougher immigration measures to try to halt border crossings while at the same time pushing for a more thorough counting of Hispanic migrants.

"It used to be you could leave Mexico, go across the border to work as a migrant worker, then go back to your family," Villanueva said. "Now they can't go back. If they do go back, they'll never get back in."

Anastasia got a lesson in just how large the area's Hispanic population had become shortly after arriving at St. Clement in 2007.

Told of the burgeoning crowds at the annual feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Anastasia opted to move the festival — a mix of religion and culture — to Plant City Stadium.

The move had surprising results: The three-day event drew 3,000 people. Last year, it topped 5,000. Planning for it has become a chore unto itself.

"Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Super Bowl of feast days in Plant City," he said.

Times Staff Writer Rich Shopes. Researcher John Martin contributed to this article.

Comments
The Daystarter: Latest on potential tropical system; taking action along dangerous Bayshore Boulevard; Denis Philips talks hurricanes and beer; Memorial Day things to do

The Daystarter: Latest on potential tropical system; taking action along dangerous Bayshore Boulevard; Denis Philips talks hurricanes and beer; Memorial Day things to do

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.ē Todayís forecast calls for warm and humid weather up until lunch time. Then in the late afternoon thereís an up to 80 percent chance of thundershowers and the rain wonít let up until ...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

SAFETY HARBOR ó Denis Phillips cracks a pop-top and pulls a can that looks a lot like him to his lips."Itís got that citrusy feel to it," he says. "Which is a Florida thing. Thatís not bad." Indeed, thereís a grapefruit finish to Rule #7 Hurricane Sa...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
After Danica Patrick, why arenít there more women in auto racing?

After Danica Patrick, why arenít there more women in auto racing?

If you assumed Danica Patrick's success would lead to a tidal wave of female drivers into racing's top series, you're not alone."I kind of thought the Danica thing would bring out a lot of people, honestly," said Tampa's Megan Rae Meyer, a 21-year-ol...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Indianapolis 500: How Danica Patrick changed racing

Indianapolis 500: How Danica Patrick changed racing

Tampa's Carlie Yent was at a racing banquet a few years ago when someone asked her to name the driver who influenced her the most.The answer was easy and obvious: Danica Patrick."She was someone I could look up to," Yent said, "and she was the most i...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Felled by fire, popular tower at Wall Springs Park to reopen soon

Felled by fire, popular tower at Wall Springs Park to reopen soon

PALM HARBOR ó The long, strange saga of the Wall Springs Park observation tower is finally coming to a close as county officials hope the rebuilt structure, along with refurbished decking leading up to it, will be open in time for the Fourth of July....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Carlton: Senseless death on a street like no other

Carlton: Senseless death on a street like no other

On a Wednesday morning, a mother and her little girl, not quite 2, went for a stroll along one of Tampaís prettiest streets.It was nearly lunchtime when they were crossing back over Bayshore Boulevard, headed to the home nearby where they were stayin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Calvary Christianís record win streak ends in state final

Calvary Christianís record win streak ends in state final

FORT MYERS — One of the most impressive streaks in high school baseball came to an end early Friday morning.Calvary Christian lost the Class 4A state championship 5-1 to Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian at Hammond Stadium in a game that ended ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
National NAACP leader to speak at Clearwater banquet

National NAACP leader to speak at Clearwater banquet

CLEARWATER ó The NAACP Clearwater Upper Pinellas branch will have a heavy hitting guest for its 44th annual Freedom Fund Banquet on June 1. National NAACP President Derrick Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the fundraiser, which will be held at ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
At Pinellas Parkís iconic model train store, an ownership change goes off the rails

At Pinellas Parkís iconic model train store, an ownership change goes off the rails

PINELLAS PARK ó The iconic model train store that has sat at U.S. 19 and Haines Road for close to 30 years announced on its website it will be moving to another location."Itís difficult trying to stock a store thatís bigger than the reality is these ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG ó An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Updated: 22 minutes ago