CUBANS IN YBOR CITY:
A PHOTOGRAPHIC LOOK
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Cubans came to Tampa
before any other group besides the Indians. Fishing ranchos, used only for a few
months, dotted the West Coast of Florida in the late 1700's and Spanishtown (at Hyde Park) had Cubans at the time of Fort Brooke.
Yet it was the development of the cigar industry that made Cubans part of the
history of Tampa.
Cubans dominated all the lesser jobs in the cigar factories, although there
were skilled Cuban cigarmakers. The Spanish owned
most of the early factories, and even those who favored Cuban independence,
were often bias in hiring Cubans in management roles. The struggle for Cuban independence
took much of the energy and extra money of Cubans in Ybor City
and West Tampa.
Cuban independence did not mean the wholesale departure to Havana of the Cuban population. Because many
of the Cubans were single males, however, many left Tampa
if economic opportunities were better in Havana,
and returned if the economy was vice-versa. This created more instability in
the Cuban population than the family-dominated Spanish and Italian communities.
1899, after Cuban independence was forming, the El Club Nacional
Cubano was set up as the first Cuban society. In
1902, EL CIRCULO CUBANO was
organized, and in 1907, the first clubhouse was built at 14th Avenue and 10th Street. A fire in 1916 destroyed the
edifice and the present structure opposite HCC was constructed in 1918. Its 106
foot by 70 foot dance floor on the top floor was its pride. The club reached 5,000 members in 1930, but
the rise and fall of the cigar industry drastically altered club membership.
With so many singles, the society was important in social activities, sports,
and education. A school for Cubans was established across the street and El Circulo Cubano offered medical
and legal assistance