Tampa and Cuba - A 500 Year Connection
Portia de Ficarrota (sic) was the first Cuban documented as visiting Florida in the early part of the 16th century. He was part of a Spanish expedition according to E. J. Salcines - Chief Judge of the Florida Second District Court of Appeal and amateur historian.
SALCINES: We in Florida, specifically St. Augustine, Florida, were already in urban renewal when our pilgrim forefathers arrived in Massachusetts. So Cuba and the U.S. geographically are just separated by some 90 miles and people have observed the contact was back and forth, back and forth.
The Spanish harvested lumber from the banks of the Hillsborough River. Cuban fishermen set up fishing ranchos up and down the west coast.
SALCINES: We had explorers that organized their expeditions in Cuba came up the west coast of Florida and came in this great Tampa Bay which they called the Bay of the Holy Spirit because only the Holy Spirit could have created such an immensity of the bay.
The link between Tampa and Cuba is more than 500 years old. One of the more active eras came after the first Cuban Revolutionary war against the Spanish ended.
LETO: You've got Cuban immigrants here in Ybor City as early as 1886.
That's Manny Leto - assistant director of the Ybor City Museum.
LETO: You've got Jose Marti - the unequivocal leader, icon of Cuban history visiting Tampa and Ybor City over 20 different times. The Cuban Revolutionary Party was founded here. You've got your Cuban social clubs. And the connections go on and on.
Connections like cigar rolling. Cubans followed the industry to Tampa.
SOUND CIGAR ROLLING
TRANSLATION OF TRONSCORSO: A lot of work, a lot of work. You always hear the cigar workers say, a lot of work and little pay.
Dagoberto Tronscorso (sic) demonstrates the art of rolling cigars three days a week at the Ybor City Museum. He's a Cuban immigrant who followed his children to Tampa in 1990.
But Assistant Director Leto wants people to understand that more than cigars link Tampa and Havana. There are connections everywhere like architecture.
LETO: Havana is known as the city of columns and that's why we see especially in West Tampa and Ybor City all of these little tiny bungalows and even in Seminole heights these tiny bungalows with grand columns. That comes directly from Cuba. Street names in South Tampa mirror the street names in Cuba: Tacoma Street, El Prado, you've got San Miguel. All these streets these are Cuban street names.
Leto's exhibition Tampa y Cuba: The 500 Year Connection - opened Saturday and includes a panel discussion.
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