Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2020/Summer II/Section 09/Enrique Pendas

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Enrique Pendas
Born1865
Spain
Died1935
ResidenceTampa, Florida
OccupationCigar Manufacturer

Overview[edit | edit source]

Enrique Pendas was a Spanish American cigar manufacturer in Tampa, Florida. He made significant contributions towards the state of Florida and the cigar industry. He was interviewed by F. Valdes in 1935 as part of the Federal Writers Project.[1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Enrique Pendas was born in 1865 in Asturias, Spain.[2] He moved to Cuba at the age of 16 where he stayed for two years, training at the Romeo & Julieta factory in Havana. There he became enthralled with the beauty of the land and people.[3]

Pendas left for New York 1886 and hired a private teacher to learn English. He became fluent within two years, which greatly aided his future career. He worked with his brother Ysidro Pendas at Lozano, Pendas Cigar Company.[4]

When Pendas was 22 years old, the company sent him to establish a factory in Tampa, Florida. He did so on May 15th, 1887, and gave employment to nearly all the workers of Sanchez & Haya, a former cigar company, later helping organize healthcare.[5] He also founded the Centro Espanol de Tampa (Spanish Club), though later left it.[6]

In 1902 his brother Ysidro died, leaving Enrique Pendas and his cousin Jaime to take control of the firm.[7] In 1914 it was reorganized into Pendas & Alvarez Cigar Company with Enrique Pendas remaining as manager. In 1916 Pendas would also become manager of the American Cigar Company in Tampa.[8] Additionally, not much is known of Pendas’s family life at that time other than that he married Rosalia Torrens and had two sons.[9]

Pendas established a West Tampa factory in Albany Street in 1909. By that time his company had become one of the largest Havana Cigar Companies in the world, having two operations in Tampa and one each in Cuba and New York. The general strike of 1910 caused the factory to close for seven months and reopen the next year. In 1918, it closed for good, and the building was sold to E. Regensburg and Sons on May 20,1920.[10] Pendas noted how increasing competition with cigarette companies and cigar making machines had reduced his production.

Pendas died at the age of 70 on December 31, 1935 in Tampa, Florida.[11] In his interview, he had stated “I do not intend to leave, however, for I have lived here practically all my life and I intend to die with the cigar industry in Tampa.”[12] At the morning of his funeral, all cigar factories in West Tampa and Ybor closed in his honor.[13]


Social Issues[edit | edit source]

Workers' Health and Rights[edit | edit source]

Pendas’s cigar industry helped build Tampa and the state of Florida from what he referred to as “a stinking hole with nothing but swamps and pestilence everywhere” to an industrial area.[14] His cigar factory gave employment to local workers, and the rising cigar industry helped bring in immigrants from across the border (especially Cuba) and Europe.

In order to aid cigar workers, Pendas led the founding of El Porvenir, a healthcare organization that allowed members to pay $1.25 per month in return for medicine, hospitalization, and full medical services. This was beneficial especially for immigrants, as the alternative would have been American physicians who couldn’t speak Spanish nor understand tropical ailments.[15]

After helping create El Centro Espanol and later leaving it, Pendas also contributed to the creation of Centro Asturiano Hospital. The hospital demonstrated the commitment of Latinos in Ybor City (a neighborhood in Tampa) to the collective welfare of thousands of families, with cigar makers' families at that time able to expect the best healthcare in Tampa.[16] Collective medicine also contributed to an ongoing social conflict as it was seen as socialist and “un-American,” although it persisted.[17]

In 1910, Pendas’s Albany Street factory closed due to a strike. At the time, most strikes were originated by the “International.” With corporate culture bringing a drive for greater efficiency, workers were given more rules, production quotas, and restrictive conditions. As a result, many joined the radical labor movement across the United States.[18] Pendas headed the cigar manufacturers in the strike of 1910 which lasted seven months, and later suggested the removal of tribunes (in which cigar makers often listened to El Lector read radical newspapers while they worked) to reduce further strikes. In 1920 another strike broke out, with the “International” demanding recognition by the Union, the chief labor organization in Tampa. It failed,[19] with Pendas recounting, “This strike lasted for ten months, and I completely destroyed the ‘international’ for all time.”[20]

Cigar Factories and the Great Depression[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression of 1929 hit the cigar industry particularly hard. Unemployment soared and residents left, while many traded their cigars for pipes and cheaper machine-made cigarettes. Many companies ended the hand-rolled tradition and instead turned to machines to produce cigars, with the remaining having to drastically cut payrolls and lay people off. The cigar industry gradually declined, and years later continued to be edged out in popularity by cigarettes.[21]

Although his factory closed in 1918, Pendas also noted similar problems, stating, “The cigar making machines are ruining, not only the cigar-makers, but the manufacturers as well. The factories must compete with other factories in the country. This competition is ruinous.” He also spoke of how more people were already leaving Tampa.[22]

At the time of the Great Depression, many cigar manufacturers worked against strikes. In Tampa, and especially in Ybor city, most cigar makers were immigrants from Cuba, Puerto Rico, or Europe. Many were faced with discrimination from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, and went on radical strikes spurred on by tribunes (which were eventually removed). By 1931 there was a Communist Party in Ybor City. According to a resident, “Leaflets would be distributed by people whom you knew.”[23] However, the party’s meetings were broken up by the police and the KKK, many members arrested after failed strikes.

In the years following the initial onset of the Great Depression, many workers from Tampa moved elsewhere such as New York to look for jobs. People from Ybor City could be found as busboys or dishwashers in New York cafeterias. As jobs eventually reopened in Tampa, some moved back.[24]


Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Interview, Valdes, F. on Enrique Pendas, 1935, Folder 138, Federal Writing Project Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Portraits of Tampa Cigar Manufacturers.” Cigar Factories. Accessed July 13, 2020. http://www.cigarsoftampa.com/portraits.html.
  4. Interview, Valdes, F. on Enrique Pendas, 1935, Folder 138, Federal Writing Project Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.
  5. "The Pendàs Alvarez Company." Enrique Pendas. Accessed July 11, 2020. http://www.cigarsoftampa.com/enrique_pendas.html.
  6. Interview, Valdes, F. on Enrique Pendas, 1935, Folder 138, Federal Writing Project Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.
  7. “Portraits of Tampa Cigar Manufacturers.” Cigar Factories. Accessed July 13, 2020. http://www.cigarsoftampa.com/portraits.html.
  8. "The Pendàs Alvarez Company." Enrique Pendas. Accessed July 11, 2020. http://www.cigarsoftampa.com/enrique_pendas.html.
  9. Decatur Moore, Daniel . Men of the South, A Work for the Newspaper Reference Library. Southern Biographical Association, 1922.p. 204
  10. "The Pendàs Alvarez Company." Enrique Pendas. Accessed July 11, 2020. http://www.cigarsoftampa.com/enrique_pendas.html.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Interview, Valdes, F. on Enrique Pendas, 1935, Folder 138, Federal Writing Project Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.
  13. "The Pendàs Alvarez Company." Enrique Pendas. Accessed July 11, 2020. http://www.cigarsoftampa.com/enrique_pendas.html.
  14. Interview, Valdes, F. on Enrique Pendas, 1935, Folder 138, Federal Writing Project Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.
  15. Pozetta, George. Immigrant Institutions: The Organization of Immigrant Life. Garland Publishing, 1991.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. "Florida Cigars: Artistry, Labor, and Politics in Florida's Oldest Industry". Florida Memory. Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services. Accessed July 13, 2020. https://www.floridamemory.com/learn/exhibits/photo_exhibits/cigar/cigar3.php
  19. Ibid
  20. Interview, Valdes, F. on Enrique Pendas, 1935, Folder 138, Federal Writing Project Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.
  21. Bhattarai, Abha. “Is This the Final Burn for Florida's 'Cigar City'?,” December 2, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/is-this-the-final-burn-for-floridas-cigar-city/2016/12/02/c7e63ba6-b671-11e6-b8df-600bd9d38a02_story.html.
  22. Interview, Valdes, F. on Enrique Pendas, 1935, Folder 138, Federal Writing Project Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.
  23. “Jose Yglesias Remembers the Solidarity of the Cigar Makers and Their Lectors - Studs Terkel.” libcom.org, November 22, 2008. https://libcom.org/history/jose-yglesias-remembers-solidarity-cigar-makers-their-lectors-studs-terkel.
  24. Ibid.

References[edit | edit source]