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Battle over spelling revived on Ybor's Seventh Avenue

The Tampa City Council approved these signs in 1998. Early residents of Ybor referred to Seventh Avenue as La Setima, and the spelling honors the language used then, some officials say.

GEN YAMAGUCHI | Times

The Tampa City Council approved these signs in 1998. Early residents of Ybor referred to Seventh Avenue as La Setima, and the spelling honors the language used then, some officials say.

TAMPA — Is it inappropriate slang or a nod to Ybor City's first residents?

That's the question at the center of a flap over street signs on Seventh Avenue in Tampa's historic Latin district.

The honorary signs read "La Setima."

Fran Costantino, a longtime Ybor City activist and member of the Ybor City Development Corp. board, wants them changed to "La Septima," the proper Spanish spelling of the word "seventh."

"It's misspelled," she said. "It just makes us look stupid."

Historian Frank Lastra suggested using "La Setima" in 1996.

In his book, Ybor City: The Making of a Landmark Town, Lastra said the cigar workers and early residents of Ybor referred to Seventh Avenue as La Setima and the spelling "honors and affirms the ordinary language used for so many years in the daily oral life of the community."

The Tampa City Council approved the signs in 1998.

But Costantino said using the colloquialism was a bad idea from the beginning.

"You don't put slang on street signs," she said.

It would cost about $42,000 to replace the 24 street signs and would require approval of the City Council.

Vince Pardo, director of the city's Ybor City Development Corp., said there was extensive discussion about what spelling to use before the signs went up.

Whether or not to change them should once again be a community decision, Pardo said.

Last week, the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce voted to leave the signs as they are. The Ybor City Development Corp., a city agency that promotes economic development, is scheduled to discuss the matter today.

Pardo acknowledges the signs are confusing.

"Over the years, visitors have questioned why the signs read as they do, most thinking that we don't know how to spell Seventh," he said. Seventh Avenue has been in the spotlight recently after being named one of America's greatest streets by the American Planning Association.

Pardo has suggested putting markers on Seventh Avenue explaining the historical significance of La Setima.

But Costantino dismissed that idea.

"That's illogical," she said. "Next thing you know they're going to put up markers to explain the markers."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Battle over spelling revived on Ybor's Seventh Avenue 10/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 3, 2008 6:51pm]
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