"Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla
" began as a celebration of the legend of the pirate Jose Gasparilla
. The parades
include a coronation
of a "Gasparilla King and Queen" each year. They hold "court", everyone dresses up and has a good time.
goes a little something like this. Jose Gaspar was a young officer in the Spanish Royal Navy
. When it was defeated in 1783
, Gaspar didn't like the prospects available to a low ranking officer on the losing side. He supposedly took over the Florida Banca
by inciting mutiny
among the sailors
and headed to the west coast of Florida
Thinking that "Gasparilla
" sounded more exciting that "Gaspar
", he changed his name and his new ship's name to "Gasparilla". In the legend, he settled near Charlotte Harbor
and is credited with naming a few choice islands, like Sanibel
(both incredibly beautiful resort islands
on the Gulf Coast
). Sanibel was named after his second-in-command's girlfriend, Captiva was dubbed its name because that's where he kept his prisoners, his 'captives'. Of course, he named an island after himself, too, Gasparilla.
Or so the legend goes.
Gasparilla kept himself busy plunder
ing ships of their booty and keeping any pretty ladies aboard as mistresses for his crewe or himself. Its rumored he captured a Spanish princess in 1801, but ended up beheading her because she spurned his affections (duh!).
He kept on pirating until December 21, 1821, when he was fooled into a fight with the USS Enterprise
- who tricked him into thinking it was a merchant ship - and he was defeated, and took his own life. His crewe of 11 were tried and executed, except for one cabin boy who served a jail sentence and was released.
Or so the legend goes.
Much later, research was done by several people to validify the story of Jose Gaspar. The conclusive evidence suggests that the 'cabin boy', Juan Gomez
, perpetuated the stories, ofen inserting himself into different roles, and embellish
ed a few things.
Further research drudged up a diary of Gasparilla's, which had been taken by his second-in-command and left with the girlfriend, Sanibel. Inquiries into maps of the islands supposedly named by Gasparilla were dated before he got to the area, suggesting he did not name them.
Jose Gaspar may have never been at all, but his legend is a great story and has been instrumental in developing a multi-generational festival and a social group in Tampa.
In order to be an acting part of Ye Mystic Krew of Gasparilla
, you have to be invited and accepted into the organization and be willing to party down in pirate gear every spring. It's not just a small group of people who participate though, the whole city comes out for parades and other festivities. The 'pirates' 'invade' Tampa Bay
and come ashore throwing gold Gasparilla coins (not real) and bead necklaces at the parade goers. There is much music, dancing and beer drinking to be had by all (beer drinking by those over 21 only, thank you).
History of Gasparilla resource: "Gasparilla 1904 -1979
" written by Nancy Turner
, limited printings by the Cider Press, Inc