Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2015/Fall/Section 020/M. Santos

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Doctor
M. Santos
Born1888
Sagua la Grande, Cuba
DiedUnknown
ResidenceYbor City, Tampa, Florida
NationalityCuban
EducationTampa Business College, American Optical College of Philadelphia
OccupationCigar-maker, Optometrist
Known forInterviewed for the Federal Writer's Project in 1935
Political partyDemocratic

Overview[edit]

M. Santos immigrated to America from Cuba as an infant and was interviewed for the Federal Writer's Project in 1935. He worked as a cigar-maker for several years before becoming an optometrist. He was a member of the Democratic Party but was against the New Deal.

Biography[edit]

Early Life[edit]

Santos was born in 1888 in Sagua la Grande, Cuba. When he was eight months old, he moved with his parents to Key West, Florida, and then to Tampa, Florida, in 1894. Santos experienced economic stability and wealth throughout his life. His family’s bakery in Tampa was very successful, and his father bought property throughout Florida. During this time, the Santos family was involved in a mutual aid society, El Centro Español de Tampa. Members of this society were Spanish, Cuban, or other Hispanic immigrants. In the midst of the Spanish-American War, Americans were hostile towards immigrants. American citizens of Tampa would invade the mutual aid society’s events and bully and ridicule the members, as well as violate the females present.[1]

Professional Life[edit]

Santos worked for many years as a cigar-maker, moving back and forth between Tampa, New York, and Havana, Cuba. During the Great Depression, Santos became frustrated with the replacement of handmade cigars with cigars made from molds or machines, and watched many of his peers in the industry become unemployed. Following the recommendation of a Cuban family friend, Santos attended the American Optical College of Philadelphia to become an optometrist, as he anticipated continued downfall of the handmade cigar trade. Santos held strong liberal views, and voted for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the hope that his New Deal would lift America out of the Depression. However, he believed the New Deal did not bring about enough change and did not adequately reflect Democratic ideals.[2] His opinions aligned with a group known as anti-New Deal Democrats.[3]

Hispanic Immigrants in 1900s Florida[edit]

American Attitudes Toward Immigrants[edit]

The Spanish-American War emerged as a result of U.S. interference in the Cuban War of Independence, in which Cuba fought for independence from Spain. The end result was the Treaty of Paris, which granted the U.S. control over Cuba. Hispanic immigration to the United States increased greatly during the late 1800s and early 1900s, partly because the cigar industry, a Cuban specialty, was becoming successful in areas such as Florida and New York. Americans did not behave respectfully towards Hispanic immigrants of any background because of generalized prejudice developed during the Spanish-American War.[4] As the minority, Hispanic immigrants in Florida banded together to form their own communities centered around their shared language and status as immigrants. El Centro Español de Tampa was a mutual aid society that the Santos family was a part of. Santos, in an interview with F. Valdes for the Federal Writer’s Project, recalls young American men invading a picnic at El Centro Español, sexually assaulting young female members, and verbally ridiculing male members.[5]

Unemployment During the Great Depression[edit]

In general, unemployment increased during the Great Depression, but immigrants were particularly likely to become unemployed because of their subordinate social status. Vernon J. Williams, Jr., explains how “Most native-born white Americans suffered greatly during the Great Depression, but many of America's most visible racial and ethnic minorities had a particularly hard lot...even the most able-bodied among them were competing for far fewer jobs.”[6] Immigrants competed with white citizens who, as a group, had already established a place in the workforce and thus a stronger claim to the small amount of available jobs.

Modernization of the Cigar-Making Industry[edit]

In cigar factories, it became customary to hire someone to read aloud classics and historical novels to fill the silence of the factory.[7] Journalist Bertram Reinttz explains, “Making cigars by hand is a quiet process…the silence of a large and busy workroom is particularly perturbing and depressing—so much so that it actually impairs efficiency."[8] Beginning in the 20th century, radio became widely available, eliminating the need for the readers. Soon after, a portion of human labor in the factories was replaced by machines, which were becoming increasingly common in industrial settings.[9]

Cuban immigrants who were very skilled at the trade dominated the Florida cigar industry, which flourished under their labor. However, when industrialization began in the 1900s, larger firms bought out small immigrant-operated companies. In 1899, a large New Orleans firm purchased several cigar-making companies in Key West and Tampa, sparking the decrease in employment for Cuban immigrants in those areas.[10]

Anti-New Deal Democrats[edit]

The primary goal of the New Deal was to bring about quick economic recovery following the Great Depression. Low-income voters tended to identify with the Democratic Party because of their support for the New Deal’s welfare programs.[11] Some Democrats, however, had no need for welfare so did not feel personally bound to the New Deal. Several Democrats against the New Deal formed a group of “Anti-New Deal Democrats” who advocated against Roosevelt. These Democrats believed that the New Deal failed to properly distribute wealth. Their views aligned with the goals of Roosevelt and the Democratic Party but unlike most Democrats, they did not believe the New Deal effectively achieved these goals.[12] Political commentator Frank R. Kent explains how "anti-New Deal Democrats have toward Mr. Roosevelt a distinct sense of betrayal. We feel sold out, played false, deceived...From our point of view he is not a Democrat at all."[13]

Notes[edit]

  1. Valdes, F. “Dr. M. Santos.” Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, 1935. In the Federal Writers' Project papers Folder 136, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  2. Valdes, F. “Dr. M. Santos.” Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, 1935. In the Federal Writers' Project papers Folder 136, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  3. Kent, Frank R. 1936. “An Anti-New Deal Democrat Speaks.” Vital Speeches of the Day 2, no. 26: 811. Points of View Reference Center, ERSCOhost.
  4. Williams, Vernon J., Jr. "Race and Ethnic Relations." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Edited by Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 789-792.
  5. Valdes, F. “Dr. M. Santos.” Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, 1935. In the Federal Writers' Project papers Folder 136, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  6. Williams, Vernon J., Jr. "Race and Ethnic Relations." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Edited by Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 789-792.
  7. Reinttz, Bertram. "Gone is the Old Cigar Factory." New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 03, 1929.
  8. Reinttz, Bertram. "Gone is the Old Cigar Factory." New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 03, 1929.
  9. Reinttz, Bertram. "Gone is the Old Cigar Factory." New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 03, 1929.
  10. "Interests of Industrials." Wall Street Journal (1889-1922), Aug 23, 1899. http://search.proquest.com/docview/128673210?accountid=14244
  11. Badger, Tony. "New Deal." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Edited by Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 701-711.
  12. Kent, Frank R. 1936. “An Anti-New Deal Democrat Speaks.” Vital Speeches of the Day 2, no. 26: 811. Points of View Reference Center, ERSCOhost.
  13. Kent, Frank R. 1936. “An Anti-New Deal Democrat Speaks.” Vital Speeches of the Day 2, no. 26: 811. Points of View Reference Center, ERSCOhost.

References[edit]

Valdes, F. “Dr. M. Santos.” Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, 1935. In the Federal Writers' Project papers Folder 136, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Williams, Vernon J., Jr. "Race and Ethnic Relations." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Edited by Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 789-792.

Badger, Tony. "New Deal." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Edited by Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 701-711.

Kent, Frank R. 1936. “An Anti-New Deal Democrat Speaks.” Vital Speeches of the Day 2, no. 26: 811. Points of View Reference Center, ERSCOhost.

"Interests of Industrials." Wall Street Journal (1889-1922), Aug 23, 1899. http://search.proquest.com/docview/128673210?accountid=14244.

Reinttz, Bertram. "Gone is the Old Cigar Factory." New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 03, 1929.