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Expeditions led by Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto landed near Tampa, but neither conquistador stayed long.The native inhabitants repulsed any Spanish attempt to establish a permanent settlement or convert them to Catholicism.A mix of Cuban, Italian, and Spanish immigrants began arriving in the late 1800s to live and work in the new communities of Ybor City and West Tampa.By about 1900, these newcomers came to be known as "tampeños" (or "tampeñas" for females), a term that is still sometimes used to refer to their descendants living in the area.The first iteration of the name "Tampa" first appears in the memoirs of Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda (1575), who had spent 17 years as a Calusa captive and traveled through much of peninsular Florida.He spelled it "Tanpa" and describes it as an important Calusa town on the west coast.After the disappearance of the indigenous populations, there were no permanent settlements in the Tampa Bay area until after the United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1821.In 1824, the United States Army established a frontier outpost called Fort Brooke at the mouth of the Hillsborough River, near the site of today's Tampa Convention Center downtown.
The town grew slowly, and had become a minor shipping port for cattle and citrus by the time of the United States Civil War. Census data showed an average annual growth of 2.47 percent, or a gain of approximately 97,000 residents per year.
Martial law was declared in Tampa in January 1862, and Tampa's city government ceased to operate for the duration of the war.
The Civil War ended in April 1865 with a Confederate defeat.
Today, Tampa is part of the metropolitan area most commonly referred to as the "Tampa Bay Area". This might be a reference to the many lightning strikes that the area receives during the summer months.
Other historians claim the name means "the place to gather sticks".