Jose Yglesias (eeg-LAY-see-uhs) is best known for being a prolific writer whose works are often about individual lives and hardship in Cuba and in Latin American countries affected by revolutions. Of Cuban and Spanish descent, Yglesias was born to Jose and Georgia Milian Yglesias in Tampa, Florida. He worked as a stock clerk and a dishwasher when he moved to New York City at age seventeen. Yglesias then served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1945 during World War II; he received a naval citation of merit. After the war, he attended Black Mountain College in 1946. He married Helen Basine, a novelist, on August 19, 1950. Yglesias held numerous jobs during his lifetime, from assembly line worker to film critic, from assistant to a vice president of a pharmaceutical company to Regents Lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1973.
Yglesias’s birthplace greatly influenced his literary concern and career. He was born in the section of Tampa called Ybor City. Until Ybor City, a cigar-making town, was founded by V. Martinez Ybor in 1885, there were not many Latinos in Tampa. As Ybor City and its economy grew, Cubans and other Latinos arrived and brought their own cultural activities and vibrant traditions. These aspects of life in Ybor City served as inspiration and material for Yglesias’s plays and books. According to him, these events must be documented so that the history and cultural richness of that part of America will not be forgotten.
Descriptions of Ybor City and its history can be found in the pages of Yglesias’s first novel, A Wake in Ybor City. The novel is a colorful and interesting depiction of Cuban immigrants in the Latin section of Tampa on the eve of the Cuban Revolution in 1958. The story deals with family dynamics, class envy, sexual intrigues, and...
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