May 30, 2023

Ybor Metropolis is a historic neighborhood in northeast Tampa, Florida, as soon as often known as the “The Cigar Capital of the World.” The way it earned that distinction is an fascinating story you’ll be able to study on a Ybor Metropolis strolling tour.

As part of my latest collaboration with Visit Tampa Bay, I took a historic strolling tour of Ybor Metropolis with Max Herman, proprietor of Tampa Bay Tours.

From the second we met after I received off the free TECO Line Streetcar from downtown Tampa, I might inform I used to be in for an informative and entertaining expertise.

Meet Vincente Martinez-Ybor

Statue of Vicente Martinez-Ybor
Statue of Vicente Martinez-Ybor

Max started our strolling tour on the statue of Vincente Martinez-Ybor, a profitable Spanish entrepreneur and cigar producer.

Vincente established his first cigar manufacturing facility in Cuba in 1852 and, by all accounts, was doing nicely there.

Nevertheless, his help of Cuban independence from Spain led to tensions and his final departure in 1869.

He did not go far, although. He arrange a brand new cigar manufacturing operation in Key West, Florida, about 106 miles north of Cuba.

The climate was related; the humidity and year-round heat are good for cigarmaking.

It wasn’t lengthy earlier than Vincente had outgrown Key West. He scoured the U.S. for one more place to develop his empire, finally shopping for 40 acres of swampland northeast of downtown Tampa in 1885.

The building that housed Vicente Martinez-Ybor's American Cigar Factory is now owned by the Church of Scientology
Vicente Martinez-Ybor’s American Cigar Manufacturing facility

Ybor Metropolis is Born

By 1886, Vincente Martinez-Ybor had constructed Ybor Metropolis’s first cigar manufacturing facility, a wonderful red-brick constructing that also stands tall at the moment. [Note: In 2010, it was bought and restored by the Church of Scientology.]

One of many world’s largest cigar factories is ineffective with out staff, so Vincente did all the pieces he might to draw individuals to work in his manufacturing facility.

This included constructing homes for the primarily immigrant populations that started flocking to Ybor Metropolis from Cuba, Spain, and Italy looking for new alternatives towards the top of the nineteenth century.

Historic Ybor City houses
Historic homes

Because the immigrants arrived within the U.S. with few sources, Vincente allowed them to remain within the homes in change for withholding a small portion of their pay. It was a win-win situation.

Solely three of those picket shotgun-style houses nonetheless exist.

Quickly, different cigar makers have been constructing factories in Ybor Metropolis, attracting much more immigrants.

Ybor Metropolis in the end attracted tens of 1000’s of immigrants to the Tampa space over 40 years, impacting the native tradition in an enduring means.

Associated: Out of doors Actions in Tampa Bay

Immigrant Statue in Ybor City
Immigrant Statue at Centennial Park

Cuban sandwiches, for instance, are the results of Columbia Restaurant (the oldest restaurant in Florida) catering to the tastes of manufacturing facility staff searching for a fast chew.

And Casa Santa Stefano is a contemporary Italian restaurant celebrating Sicilians’ contributions to the town.

Social Golf equipment

The manufacturing facility staff have been well-paid and joined social golf equipment, comparable to The Italian Club of Tampa (est. 1918) and The Cuba Club (est. 1917). These golf equipment functioned as mutual aid societies.

Two of those key landmarks in Ybor Metropolis’s wealthy historical past are nonetheless standing, and a tour information like Max is your means inside.

Italian Club of Tampa as seen on a historic walking tour of Ybor City
Italian Membership of Tampa

There was an occasion of some form taking place on the Italian Membership on the morning of my tour, so I did not have the possibility to go inside that one. Nevertheless, Max had the keys to The Cuban Membership (under).

Exterior of The Cuban Club, one of the oldest buildings in Ybor City
The Cuban Membership
Bar and theater in The Cuban Club, which is rumored to be haunted.
Bar and theater in The Cuban Membership

The four-story constructing includes a bar, theater, and area for conferences, neighborhood occasions, and weddings.

It is also rumored to be haunted. You’ll be able to find out about these tales on certainly one of Max’s Ybor City ghost tours.

Jose Marti park in Ybor City
Jose Marti park

Jose Marti

My strolling tour of Ybor Metropolis concluded at Parque Jose Marti, a 0.14-acre inexperienced area and statue devoted to the Cuban poet, thinker, and revolutionary.

Jose Marti was a number one voice in Cuba’s combat for independence from Spain within the late nineteenth century. He usually traveled round Florida, the USA, and Latin America to drum up help and donations.

His visibility introduced its risks, together with an tried homicide by Spanish brokers utilizing poison throughout a go to to Tampa on December 16, 1892.

Statue of Jose Marti
Statue of Jose Marti

Cubans acknowledge him as a nationwide hero for his efforts and life, which he gave on the battlefield in opposition to Spanish troops on Might 19, 1895.

Three years later, in 1898, Spain was defeated. The U.S. formally acknowledged the Republic of Cuba on Might 19, 1902.

The small park in Ybor Metropolis was donated to the Republic of Cuba in 1956 and was the one Cuban-owned land within the U.S. till the Cuban Embassy opened in Washington, DC, in 2015.

The park options soil from every of Cuba’s provinces, so that you’re genuinely on Cuban floor when standing there. And no passport is required!

Max, owner of Tampa Bay Tours, and my guide in Ybor City
Max, proprietor of Tampa Bay Excursions

I realized lots from my strolling tour of Ybor Metropolis with Max. When you’re a historical past buff, cigar aficionado, or into Latin tradition, I extremely advocate taking one to understand this Nationwide Historic Landmark District, certainly one of solely three in Florida.

Tampa Bay Tours
Reservations and extra information: Name (813) 406-2180, or ship an e mail to [email protected]


I obtained a complimentary tour as a part of my press journey with Visit Tampa Bay.

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