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TAMPA'S  PIRATES

By Eric Shackle

When heavily-armed Australian troops boarded the Norwegian freighter Tampa in a bid to prevent it from landing a large group of asylum seekers on Christmas Island, the ship's captain said it was an act of piracy.

By a strange coincidence, centuries ago pirates used  the Tampa Bay area in Florida as a stronghold from which to raid commerce. The ships which sailed the warm waters near the west coast of Florida were always in danger from such men as Jose Gaspar, who found the trade routes an ideal setting for gaining wealth and fame.

Recounting this chapter of Florida's history, writer John Everlove says: "Celebrating the career of this colorful and charismatic pirate comes naturally to the people of Tampa and each year the entire city goes all out during the 'Gasparilla Festival.' In February, modern 'buccaneers' invade the City of Tampa. Tall ships, their cannons booming, flags flying and sails to the wind enter Tampa Bay. There to greet the friendly 'raiders' is a fleet of powerboats, sailboats and yachts in addition to the throngs along the shore waiting to party and enjoy.

"Much has happened since the early explorers and Native Americans first met on Tampa's shores nearly 500 years ago. The Seminole Nation has seen and been part of some of the saddest experiences in American history and is now becoming part of a bright future.

"Fort Brooke was established in the l800s as a settlement to keep the Seminole people on their reservation. While the settlement's name of Fort Brooke gave way to the original Indian name, Tampa, the fort remains today, a part of living history. The museum gives a deep insight into the life and times of early settlers to this region and gives all its visitors a realistic perspective into the past."

You can read other details of Florida's colorful history, by writer John Everlove, at http://www.guestlife.com/stpetersburg/features/tampa.html

Copyright 2001.  Eric Shackle   Story first posted October 2001.

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