From Tampa Bay Online:
From a hallway on the second floor of Centro Asturiano de Tampa, a visitor is greeted with rising voices, laughter and the clatter of domino tiles.
It’s the Centro’s Cantina, where regulars gather Monday through Saturday to play intense games of dominoes and rummy while they chatter about life and politics, share a drink, sip Cuban coffee, smoke a cigar and reconnect to a social scene no longer commonplace in Tampa.
“Keeping the tie to the past is extremely important to us because it shows where we came from, how we got here,” said Rick Duran, the Centro Asturiano’s executive director.
“It’s a little example of how the immigrants who came here to work at the cigar factories back at the turn of the 20th century lived their lives,” Duran said. “Everything centered around the social club they belonged to, the mutual benefit society they belonged to.”
After retiring as a butcher, Pedro Aribu has been a regular at the Cantina for 16 years. He enjoys the opportunity to play dominoes because it connects him to Cuba, his native country where the game is a national tradition.
At age 81, playing dominoes also serves as a good diversion. He is grateful the Cantina allows him to keep up his skills. Aribu hangs out at the private club from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. six days a week. Manuel Blanco is another regular. He has been involved with the Cantina for 40 years. Blanco plays both dominoes and rummy. He said the domino matches with partners can get heated, so he prefers playing rummy.
Cantina regulars are trying to attract more members and are hosting their fourth annual domino tournament March 28 to tout the history of the Centro and increase membership.
Read more about the Cantina and the men who gather to play dominoes every day.