The History Behind a the Tampa Bay Gasparilla Festival

Every January the beautiful city of Tampa Bay celebrates its history of the US Navy taking down the pirate ships run by Gasper or “Gasparilla” and putting an end to years of torment by Gasper and his buccaneers. For centuries ships fell prey while pirates ravaged the seas of Tampa Bay. These days Gasparilla is known as an event not to be missed. The waters are filled with a ;parade of boats, streets crowded with celebration, and everyone dressed up as pirates!

The name and foundation of Tampa's traditional Gasparilla Carnival come from legendary pirate Jose Gaspar, "last of the Buccaneers," who terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida during the late 18th and early 19th century. Gaspar, given to calling himself "Gasparilla," served as a lieutenant in the Royal Spanish Navy for five years until 1783 when, upon seizing command of a Spanish sloop-of-war, he with his fellow mutineers set sail for the Florida straits. And so the young Spanish aristocrat-turned-pirate began an adventurous life as an outlaw of the sea. On one of Gasper’s and his men’s last thrills they would end their careers in grand style – Gaspar and company could not resist setting out to pillage the seemingly unassuming merchantman. Closing in on their prey, the pirates realized, to their chagrin, they had chosen a United States Navy warship in disguise for their final folly, and final it was. That put an end to the pirate invasions of Tampa Bay.


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