Ybor City

Together WILL be a better world.

So, this past October, I went to my doc for my annual physical, after which I go into the little room to get my blood drawn. The clinician looks at me and says, “are you a musician or an artist?” Both, I said. “What art do you like?” All kinds, really, and I tell him I was just at the Dali in St. Pete. “Oh, yeah, I’m from Tampa. I’m a singer in a heavy metal band and played all over down there.” So, I told him I’d also explored Ybor City for the first time and he said that was the only part of Tampa he liked, he was Cuban. He asked about the chickens. Yes, they are still there. Small world, as they say.

Ybor City and its nexus, is a National Historic District; the community was founded in 1885, when Vicente Martinez-Ybor and other cigar manufacturers came to set up shop, along with thousands of immigrants from Cubs, Spain, and Italy. For the next half century, it was a cigar-making hotspot. Strolling about, the architecture reminded me a bit of New Orleans or Key West; there are lots of cigar shops still (although only one factory) and I ate black bean cakes and plantains at the Columbia, sitting at a bar that dates back to its 1905 opening. Chickens still ramble at will in the streets and though loud motorcycles roar and souvenir shops compete, it felt a bit timeless, still.

Also, on my list was visiting the Tampa Baseball Museum, just opened up in Al Lopez’ old boyhood home. For those who don’t know, Lopez was a catcher and manager, from Ybor City, who trailblazed his way into the Hall of Fame. In the days of less than creative non-PC nicknames, his moniker was “Senor”. Big baseball fans there, starting with semi-pro teams of Cuban immigrants, moving on to Negro Leagues, Women’s League, Minor Leagues (the Tampa Smokers!) and now the Rays. All told, 89 players from Tampa have made the bigs.

Again, best part of traveling around is just seeing where it takes you and then, sharing your discoveries. (Dateline October 22, 2022)

Published by Doug Hoekstra

Father, wordsmith, musician, creative.

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