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Gasparilla Explained

Tampa Bay’s defining event Gasparilla returns in January. Its deep impact on our area socially, economically, culturally as well as psychologically is profound and the subject of local author Will Nilly’s latest book.

“The Four Faces of Gasparilla” is a detailed analysis of the history and meaning of Gasparilla filled with insights and little known truth uncovered by Nilly’s years of research.

The cultural face is the analysis of how we have made an event of 400,000 drunks into the defining moment in Tampa Bay’s identity. The fights, public nudity and urination and drunkenness as a defining cultural experience are explored in depth by the author.

The social face is the examination of the sociological irony of Gasparilla being a small group of white good old boys acting out their power by invading and controlling the city. It at heart is an expression of oppressive central control by the few over the many. Conversely the many citizens express themselves by peeing and puking on the front yards of the most exclusive and wealthiest neighborhoods in Tampa.

Economically Gasparilla is a confusing act. The city contributes a great deal of money to support the private event. While it is often touted as good economic development many have questioned if selling booze and seats to a parade is really what economic development is about and question the cost of the cleanup and policing of the event as being an economic loss for the city.

Psychologically Gasparilla shows a lack of faith and depth by all levels of Tampa Bay society. We had to make up a false history to celebrate, ignoring a long and very real history, and then making that celebration a cheap copy of New Orleans. No community with any self worth would begin and continue such a thing.

Ultimately Nilly compares Gasparilla to the Roman Empire’s “bread and circus’’ that were used as a means of social control on the masses giving them small appearances of gains and control while in fact asserting the strength and control of the ruling class.