Showing posts with label Tampa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tampa. Show all posts

Sunday, January 28, 2018

January Ancestor of the Month: Mario Valuja Hernandez

Mario Valuja Hernandez: My Dad

Born in La Habana, Cuba,  in La Habana vieja or La Habana, central. The name of the neighborhood is still unclear. Through the years, I’ve been told Bejucal, Vedado, or Marianao, all near Quivican. 

It seems to me, that Havana is a pretty large area, yet it seems no matter where in Havana you’re from it is referred to as La Habana.  I guess, if you’re from there that makes sense, but to me it sounds rather vague. I don’t have his birth certificate to verify the exact location, but I can only hope to find a way to acquire a copy someday.  

A Bit of History...

My grandfather, Juan Valuja, left Cuba around c1908 to go to Tampa, Florida to work as a Cigarmaker.  I believe that is his first trip to Tampa, as per a Passenger List Record I found a few years ago, although, I am still piecing together his story.  
My Grandfather and Grandmother, Juan Valuja Garcia and Maria Hernandez Luis, met and married in Tampa in 1912, and the following year their first child was born. They left the United States to move back to Cuba in the summer of 1915, where their second child was born. 

The Early Years in La Habana.  

In La Habana, Cuba, my grandparents lived on Calle Virtudes, which I believe is where my dad, the youngest of 4 children, was born in 1920. 

The later moved to Calle Maloja in La Habana Central. It is this location, that my family remembers those years with great love and joy as they relay stories about the great house on Calle Maloja, where my grandparents lived. There were many family gatherings, and happy memories about those wonderful days and numerous accounts of how dearly loved my grandparents were by our family and friends

Daddy in his teens. 

Daddy with his 2 sisters, and Uncle Francisco

From a very young age, my dad, always had a great desire and hope to come to America - the land of great opportunity. It seemed his entire family, all had a great love for America and the American Dream, and most of all, New York, the most wonderful and greatest City of the world. Ok, I am biased, as I was born in New York. 

Mario, attained a visa to visit the United States, for the first time in 1946, and absolutely fell in love with New York. He was here for several months and worked in hotel  and restaurants as a waiter. When his Visa expired, he had to return home to Havana, but he knew it would not be long before he would, someday, go back to live permanently. . 

Grandmother, Maria with Daddy and Uncle Jesse, Grand Uncle Francisco

Off to America.

It was 1954, when he was finally, able to immigrate to the United States. Initially, he stayed with his sister, Mercedes, my Aunt Icha, as everyone called her.  She immigrated to the United States, several years earlier, in the late 1940’s. Shortly after she arrived, she landed a job as a seamstress in a Manhattan factory, and was on her way to a new life in a new country with a future of promise.  
At work, she met a woman named Mary, who was also a recent immigrant from Cuba. They had a lot in common, a new country far from their homes and everything familiar, so they became fast friends and shared an apartment..  

                                   Mario Valuja & Maria del Carmen (Matos) Valuja

In early 1955, Mary’s sister, María Del Carmen Matos, came to this country. and stayed with her in their apartment.  She met Mercedes’ brother, Mario, and the rest is history… . they fell in love, married a short time later, and went to live in Brooklyn. I was born in Coney Island, the southern part of Brooklyn, two years later.  

Brooklyn, New York, 1959

Brooklyn and Queens. 

My daddy was a great, loving father. He was a faithful, hard working family man who took good care of his family. We had many friends, and lots of social gatherings. I remember a lot about Brooklyn… Flatbush, Sheepshead Bay, Junior’s famous New York-style Cheesecakes, Coney Island and the famous Coney Island Amusement Park and Boardwalk, and many visits to Brighton Beach. 

By trade, Daddy was proficient in the hotel and restaurant world. He worked for several years as a waiter in upscale hotels, he was well liked and did very well with the public, which he rather enjoyed. He loved to sing and had a great voice.. I think he and his brother, Jesse, must have received the same genes when it came to vocals. They were both great at it, and loved to sing every chance they had. I seem to remember someone had my dad record a demo, many years ago. I remember the Record but, I don't know what happened to it after all these years. 

Eventually, he was given the opportunity to work for The Metropolitan Club on 5th Ave. and 60th St. In Manhattan.  It is next door to the Pierre Club. 
The Metropolitan Club  is a  private social club, in Manhattan, New York City. It was founded in 1891, for men only, by  J. P. Morgan, who served as its first president.  The rules did eventually change and allowed women into membership. Other original members of the club included William Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt and James A. Roosevelt. 

I remember visiting as a little girl from time to time, and how fascinating and beautiful it was. He was a professional bartender in this club and served many famous people and he became friends with a few of them over the years. I remember he would tell me about Richard Nixon, and General MacArthur’s widow, Ed Sullivan, Cecily Tyson, and others that I cannot recall. I remember he was friends with the man that was a friend of Judy Garland and a mentor or coach to Liza Minell, Ms Garlands daughter. My dad did very well there and had great favor as people liked him. He was a people person. He always had a great personality, funny and witty

We eventually moved to Queens Village, New York, where we bought our first home, in the 1960’s. I grew up in this house and remember it very well with many great memories. My sister was born in this home, in the late1960’s. 

Down South to Fort Lauderdale.

In the early 1970’s, we left New York and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 
That was a huge move and change.  Even though, I have been away for a long time now, I am still a New York girl, always and forever, through and through. 
Daddy loved New York, but not the cold so much, and since most of our family was now living in Miami,  we went south to be closer to family. 

1976 - Daddy and Me, as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall, in New York. 

I returned to New York, to work at Radio City Music Hall as a Rockette, then married in the late 1970’s.  We moved to Mobile, Alabama, and a few years down the road, my mom and dad, also relocated there. A big change for them, both. Daddy never really liked Mobile, although they made many friends and he loved being close to us and his five grandchildren. 

I think of those years with such sweet memories of us all together and treasure every moment we had. He was a wonderful, loving father and grandfather. 

Daddy with youngest Granddaughter, Sarah. 

Daddy died in 2001 and I was never the same again. I still miss him so, even after all this time. 
Love you forever, daddy.

The Family Tree
*Mario B Valuja: 
1920—2001, 1920, Bejucal, La Habana, Cuba.  d. 2001, Alabama. 

*Father: Juan Jose Valuja (Baluja) Garcia. 1891—1964, b. 13 Jan 1891  Marianao, La Habana, Cuba. d. 1964  Queens, New York 

*Mother: María Hernandez Luis: 
b. c1879  Bejucal, La Habana, Cuba. d. 1948, Quivican, La Habana, Cuba.  


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

'The Quest for My Grandfather's Footsteps' ~ Part 1- 'Searching Ybor City'

As I embark on my journey of digging into the past,  I will attempt to stay on task at writing about my experiences along the way.  Thus begins a new series that will help me explore each aspect of a specific area in my research to help unearth all possibilities towards reaching a reasonable conclusion in each particular situation.  There are so many fragments of information that I must somehow mold as pieces that hopefully can be assembled into the bigger picture for answers.  
Although, I am not as accomplished as I would like to be, I hope to learn along the way.  So with both feet, I will jump in, nonetheless.  As the saying goes, “We must begin somewhere” “And there is no better time than the present”.  Ready or not.... Here we go...

Part 1 ~  'Searching Ybor City'
Over a period of time, I have been slowly collecting articles with information on the Cuban culture in Ybor City,  c1900-1915. 
Like so many, we tend to focus on areas that we find our ancestors lived or visited.  As you may have already guessed, this location falls into that category.  

Ybor City is of particular interest, as this is where my Grandfather migrated to from Cuba on his quest to America, the great land of opportunity.  
For many, in that time of history, ‘land of opportunity‘ simply meant the opportunity to start anew in life and find the means to make a living.  

Ybor City was founded in 1886, by Vicente Martinez-Ybor and annexed in 1887 by Tampa.
Ybor City, Florida in 1886
Photo: Tampa Historical society
Ybor City was settled originally by Cuban and Spanish immigrants who worked in countless numbers of booming cigar factories that continued to spring up and prosper.  Many Italians and other Europeans  migrated to the area as well and quickly added to the population.
Ybor City increased in size and prospered until the late 1920's at the start of the Depression.

Based on our family history, my Grandfather traveled, initially, as a young man in his teens to Florida to work in the cigar factories.  It was in Ybor City that he would eventually meet his future wife,  get married,  and have his first child.

Havana-American Cigar Factory in Ybor City in 1900's

The 'Olivette' transported passengers between Cuba, Key West and Tampa
My Grandfather left Cuba in the early 1900's and traveled to the United States on the 'Olivette', a ship that sailed via Key West, Florida enroute to Tampa, with his destination in Ybor City.

While searching through the Ship's Passenger Lists, I found his name listed on 3 separate lists.  This helped me to identify the number of times that he traveled back to the United States.  The first listing he is emigrating from Havana, Cuba, the other two instances he is traveling to Havana and returning back to Tampa.
Based on the stories, my Grandfather left home to find work in the Cigar-factories in Tampa.  He either traveled with a friend from Cuba or met him in Florida.  This friend actually, became my Great-uncle, as his sister married my Grandfather. 
 There is so much more to this story that I need to uncover to fill in the blanks. 

The questions that I am trying to answer are;  Did he travel alone?  Was he traveling to Tampa to meet someone already there? Did he have a job waiting?  

O.K.  Logic says that at 18 or 19 years old, you typically do not travel to another country unless at the very least,  know someone that you can stay with.  
Traveling alone for the first time in that point in history was huge, or maybe I am inserting my own thoughts on this through the eyes of a mother.  The thought of one of my children at that age,  leaving to go to another country without speaking the language and knowing someone, is just not realistic in that era.  That was not 2012, it was 1908 and the world was a much bigger place then,  than our world today where you can be across the world within 24 hours.  

The names that I found listed around my grandfather’s name do not appear to be in connection to him.  So it would seem, at this point that he traveled alone.  
I checked the additional pages on the manifest, as I considered the possibility that they could have become separated. However, I did not see his friend’s name listed as a passenger.  

One interesting point. 
The surname I have been searching is ‘Valuja’, however, he is listed as ‘Baluja’ on all the passenger lists.  I had to verify that I had the correct person.  Based on his first trip in 1908, the name of his nearest relative and address he lists is of his father in Cuba, my Great-grandfather.  On his later journeys the name he lists as his nearest relative, is his wife, living in Ybor City,  which is indeed, my Grandmother.
It is necessary to check a variety of spellings for a surname, as it could be missed very easily based on the smallest discrepancy.  In this case, I knew that the miss-spelling was the correct person.  My aunt, who is my Grandfather's daughter, was born in Ybor City, with her surname listed incorrectly.  As a result, from that point on all of her documents went by that spelling her entire life.  Not really sure why, they did not correct it, but it could have to do with the language barrier.  
The spelling error started from the beginning with my Grandfather on his first voyage.

found another interesting tidbit of information, as I discovered a second page continuing the information from the first page, that I had not seen before.  As I checked the sheet for the line number listed on the first page, I found the section that lists the name and address of the relative or friend they are to visit.  
This is where I found his friend.  So, I know that my Grandfather did travel alone and came to meet his friend in Ybor City.  

What I have determined at this point, is that my Grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1908 to Tampa and made his home in Ybor City. He traveled to Cuba and returned to Tampa on 2 separate occasions in 1914, during the month of July and then again in September. 

I have so many additional questions....   Why is my Grandmother not listed on any Passenger List from Cuba to Tampa? When did she emigrate from Cuba?  I know that she met my Grandfather in the U.S.   When, where and how did my Grandfather meet my Grandmother? 

Route from Havana to Tampa
Photo: Geoff Mangum's Putting Zone

Unfortunately, there is no way to investigate his trips to Havana on the Olivette, since he entered another country and those records are held by immigration in Cuba.  Although, there is a possibility that in the early 1900's, records may be found through Spain, that is a good prospect to further research. 

Sadly, at this point there is no access to those records, since the country is under a Communist government and gaining access to information is very difficult.    

Next time, Part 2...  ‘Life in Ybor City from 1908-1915’ 

"May your footprints today, leave a treasured legacy tomorrow"

Copyright © 2012 Marilyn Poole /The Genealogy Gap