Have you been to Ybor City, Florida, Tampa’s “Latin” neighborhood?

Vicente Martínez Ybor was born in Valencia, Spain in 1818. He emigrated to Cuba in 1832, probably to avoid military service (a common factor for many emigrants). By 1856 he owned his own cigar factory in Havana. Cuba’s smoldering struggle for independence from Spain (which Martínez Ybor supported) was reignited in 1868, and Vicente relocated his business to Key West a year later. Labor unrest and transportation difficulties in Key West led him to move his operations once again; this time –1885– he bought forty acres of scrubland to the northeast of what was then the small town of Tampa, and built a factory and a company town. Ybor City was annexed by Tampa in 1887. Together with other entrepreneurs and thousands of cigarworkers –primarily from Spain, Cuba and Italy– Martínez Ybor helped transform Tampa into the world’s largest producer of cigars and into one of Florida’s most important modern cities.