icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.


A political button I’ve used before and wish that someone would reissue: “Support mental health or I’ll kill you.”

Our territory of Puerto Rico is begging Washington for a $300 million loan to restore electricity, while we spend hundreds of billions for endless destruction in other parts of the world. It’s a loan -- and to our own citizens. How about making this part of America great again?

Given the irrefutable evidence coming out about Russian interference in the 2016 election, does anyone think that Hillary was on to something when she warned of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” many years ago?

Historian Victor Davis Hanson, writing for the conservative National Review, definitely was on to something when he suggested “moving the United Nations to Haiti, Libya, or Uganda.” His (excellent) reasoning is that diplomats should be exposed to the world’s real problems instead of New York City’s high life. Beyond that, though, it might be good to create more separation between the US and the UN in the world’s mindset. Too many people think they are the same, and that isn’t helpful.

We’ve heard “Marjory Stoneman Douglas” a lot lately, so I want to remind you that she not only was the savior of the Everglades and an environmentalist icon, she also was a feminist. She lived from 1890 to 1998, and I was privileged to meet her when she still was making speeches at close to age 100. She was just nineteen when she joined older women who traveled from Miami to Tallahassee to lobby for the vote – unsuccessfully.

Melania or Michelle? The better role model for kids?

Briefly, On the Lighter Side

Back in the 1970s, when feminism was new and postal mail was the chief form of communication, I and other women observed that almost all of what was in the mailbox was addressed to our husbands. Men were assumed to be the household income earners, and they definitely were the ones with a credit history. On a recent day, we had six pieces of junk mail, all addressed to me. That’s progress of a sort.

Also on the lighter side: Does anyone understand the definition of “organic” anymore? The manager of a new grocery store proclaimed last week that 90% of its produce was “fresh or organic.” I guess that means 10% is rotten or rocks. Even if he didn’t study science, somewhere during his education, he should have at least seen course listings for organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry. It’s basic knowledge.


Mike Pence’s bad manners aside, the Winter Olympics was a huge step forward for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Back in 2000, Hubby and I spent a month at a university north of Seoul and near the DMZ. We went to that zone, in a carefully guarded group of six scholars, and were astonished at how simplistic the allegedly fearsome “Third Tunnel” was. Made much of in the American press, its technology was not much more than the snow tunnels my brother and I created as Minnesota kids.

We also saw elderly South Koreans pounding the wall that separated them from their families just a few hundred yards away. They cried, knowing that because of politics, they never would see their loved ones again. Yet there was hope in 2000, at the end of the Clinton administration, and signs all over Seoul supported reunification.

But then a couple of months later, Dubya was elected – or more truthfully, Dubya took office. His “Uncle Dick,” who named himself vice president, began running the Pentagon again, and just like Pence today, Cheney’s greatest concern was to give billions to military contractors. I was reminded of a slogan popular back in Hubby’s day at the Pentagon: “What will we do if peace breaks out?”

I think it may. I think that ordinary people, led by an apparently sensible president of South Korea, may at last work out a reunification deal. The first step for them is to learn to scorn America’s military money, and they may do that because they are making plenty of money selling us non-destructive things. I also think that their young people, like young people everywhere, are getting tired of being drafted for pointless armies. It’s entirely possible that Kim Jong-un is no more crazy than Donald Trump, and his sister, Kim Yo-jong, likely is smarter. I have hope.

Milestones for Tampa History, Part 1

Our town’s oldest house soon will have a new home. Except for a handful of people who care about history, no one who drove by its Ybor City location – just a little northwest of LaGaceta – knew that this dilapidated structure was a historic treasure. Now it will be restored in northern Hyde Park at 1118 S. Westland Avenue, near Cleveland and Howard Avenues. It will be used as a private office, not as a public museum, but the house finally is being treated with the respect that is due to the past, and I congratulate the owners.

Built in 1842 near the end of the Second Seminole War, it was originally in what is now downtown. It was at the corner of Florida and Jackson Streets, relatively near Fort Brooke, which, of course, was on the waterfront. A family named Stringer constructed the house, using wood from cypress trees that resists rot. With six rooms and an attic, it measured a generous 2,800 feet and doubtless was the talk of the town – or actually, the village. Tampa was tiny, as the 1840 census showed just 432 people in all of Hillsborough County – a huge area then, running from Dade City to Charlotte Harbor and fairly far inland.

In 1914 – coincidentally the first year of World War I – the Stalnaker family bought the house and moved it to the eastern part of Ybor City. Downtown was becoming more commercial and less residential, and they probably made money by making the move to what was then an area with small farms. Over the years, though, the house suffered from neglect and indifference -- but those attitudes have begun to change. More and more Tampans understand that newer is not necessarily better, and history is an economic engine.

Milestones for Tampa History, Part 2

If you want to meet some of the people who work for the restoration of our past, you could go tomorrow – Saturday, March 24 – to the unveiling of a new historic marker in the 800 block of Florida Avenue. A ceremony at 10:00 AM will commemorate the 1960 sit-in by young African Americans at the old Woolworth store. That was the era’s equivalent of Wal-Mart, except that Woolworths’ had long counters where people ate and drank – but not people whose skin was too dark. They could shop there and at other stores (as long as they minded their manners and let white people go first in lines), but they could not eat there.

Some 35 Tampa youngsters emulated national protests against segregation and sat down at Woolworth’s lunch counter. It went better here than elsewhere, as NAACP icon Bob Saunders said in his 2000 memoir, Bridging the Gap: “I am very pleased to say that all of those who courageously demanded their rights received better treatment in Tampa than in some other places. At Jacksonville, for instance, the Ku Klux Klan, armed with baseball bats, met youth protestors. At Tampa, though, Mayor Julian Lane instructed the local police to protect demonstrators and to arrest anyone who threatened them. Indeed, the law enforcement officers arrested several White men, some of whom were carrying baseball bats.”

Final thought

These bullies had baseball bats, not automated weapons that spew out many deadly missiles per second. Before modern state laws to control guns and certainly before the NRA bought the federal government, responsible gun sellers took responsibility. It was hard to buy weapons and ammunition back then, and even though it was much harder for black people to buy than it was for whites, this had a kind of equalizing effect. Sellers knew their customers and didn’t sell to bad guys. Certainly there were no sales over the internet or at gun shows. Rifles were for hunting, often because the hunter needed the food; pistols were almost exclusively in the hands of law enforcement; and only the military had access to military weapons. That should be the case again.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
Make a comment to the author