Sign semantics solved: Sétima, Séptima both included on Ybor road signs

06/28/12 Janelle Irwin
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Tampa City Council has finally solved the Ybor City Seventh Avenue Sign debate. Some natives want the main street to stay La Sétima, others want what they call a more grammatically accurate La Séptima. So in today’s meeting, the board voted to include both versions of the word on street signs. John Cinchett is a sign painter by trade. He spoke at the meeting to tell council members that was an ugly idea.

“That is going to look completely out of place on Seventh Avenue. Not only that, Seventh Avenue is a historic district and the street signs that are there should look beautiful, not strange.”

The compromise was initiated by council member Yvonne Yolie Capin after emails and public comment flooded in on both sides of the argument. Supporters of La Séptima argue that the tens of thousands of visitors expected for this summer’s Republican National Convention will see the signs and think the natives are a bunch of dumb-dumbs. Those who don’t want to welcome a ‘p’ onto their street signs say the current spelling is accurate. Capin said the signs would look just fine with 7th Avenue and both Spanish translations. She showed pictures taken in Spain to prove her point.

“As you can see, the street signs are multiple. They are in Bavle which is the dialect. They are in Castellano which is the modern Spanish. They are explaining to you the culture and heritage of that region.”

After a back and forth at multiple City Council meetings, there was a general consensus that both spellings were accurate. But to add to the controversy, a new group emerged. Fran Costantino, president of the East Ybor Historic and Civic Association, said the city should nix the Spanish translations and just call the street 7th Avenue because Ybor has been recognized nationally by that name, not the others.

“I think it is sad that our ancestors will be looking down and seeing that we have now been reduced to a cartoon. I don’t usually compromise on much, and usually stick to my grounds like when I extended the historic district to let everyone know something existed past the Columbia restaurant, but I think this is a good compromise for everybody. It was Seventh Avenue, it was Broadway, it reflects on the award that we got.”

The prospect of axing Spanish altogether brought council member Capin to tears.

“Whatever we decide here, the only thing I ask is do not erase the history. I have been called stupid, double laughable, ridiculous in emails. And the stupid and ignorant ones were the ones who brought this forth in the first place. I have nothing else to say.”

No one from the public spoke in favor of changing the signs to La Séptima, unless it was to support Capin’s compromise. But there was an impassioned handful of Sétima supporters – without the ‘p’. Rene Gonzalez, an Ybor City performer, was one of them.

“We’re here to present the case of what was historical and sentimentally called La Sétima. Seventh Avenue? Oh yes, whenever we spoke English, we said Seventh Avenue. If we say Seventh Avenue, that’s fine – in English – but we are not preserving Cape Cod…or Williamsburg. We are talking about Ybor City….”

And Frank Marso Lastra has good reason to be attached to the current spelling – his father, Frank Trabin Lastra was the one who pushed council to put up the La Sétima signs up in 1998.

“He saw La Sétima as honoring the unique way of speaking that the majority of our early ancestors had and also serving as a unique marquee of Ybor City’s main street that would shine forth its energy and excitement. When he wrote the book, a book that many call the bible of Ybor City, he took almost 12 years to write it – not because he was slow, but because he was meticulous in his research and documentation. The name La Sétima is grammatically, historically and culturally accurate.”

Jose Vivero argued that changing signs was a waste of taxpayer money.

“More importantly, from a history, cultural and heritage point of view, the word La Sétima needs to be preserved as the legitimate name that our forefathers and mothers intended it to be.”

Council member Lisa Montelione and council chair Charlie Miranda were the only two who voted against the compromise. Montelione did some homework and found that replacing each sign would cost about $200. She made an unsuccessful motion to keep the signs as they are because if Sétima stays, only signs that are missing an accent mark on the e would have to be replaced.

“I’m just looking to go the lease expensive route possible and to preserve what we have in our history and looking at all three options, I’m thinking that at this point in time we leave the signs the way we are, we replace the signs that are broken because that would be the least expensive route to go.”

The resolution adopted today allows the city to auction off the old street signs. Council members hope the proceeds from that will help offset the $2,000 original estimated cost. That figure could be higher now that the signs will contain extra text.

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The only people who are making themselves look stupid and childish are the ones unwilling to compromise. We all know who those people are.