More than a walking tour, a learning experience....


V.M. Ybor

Vicente Martinez Ybor - (cigar industry entrepreneur)
Birthplace:Valencia, Spain

Ybor grew up in Spain and at age 14 immigrated to Cuba,which was then a Spanish colony. There he worked in Cuba's most famous industry, the making of cigars. In 1868, the Cuban revolution for independence from Spain broke out. To avoid war, Ybor moved to Key West, Florida. He opened a cigar making business there, but after a number of labor disputes, moved to Tampa. In 1885, he bought large tracts of land at the outskirts of Tampa and built a factory. He later bought even more land and called the area Ybor City. Within a few years, the city grew to 3,000 residents, and the area became a famous center for making fine cigars. It also became a center for Cuban culture in Florida, since so many of the cigar workers were from Cuba or of Cuban descent. Jewish, German, and Italian immigrants also flocked to Ybor City. By 1900, the city was known as “the cigar capital of the world.” The industry began to decline, however, and in the 1920s and 1930s many of Ybor City's employees lost their jobs in the cigar factories. Today, parts of Ybor City have been restored as a Historic National Landmark District.


Eduardo Manrara


Eduardo Manrara - (cigar industry entrepreneur)
Birthplace: Puerto Principe, Cuba

Eduardo Manrara after studying in local schools he became a clerk in a banking house. This experience would in later years hold him in good stead. Vicente Martinez Ybor, the tobacco tycoon of the time, became acquainted with the much younger Manrara in Havana, and immediately recognized his exceptional talents in finance, and commerce, as well as his rapport with people. The acquaintance led to a life-time partnership in business between the two men. Ybor was so pleased with the thirty years old Manrara, that in 1872, he took him in as a member of the firm. At the same time he took his son, Edward R.M.Ybor, as an associate. Ybor and Manrara were the perfect business combination. Their most famous brand was, “El Principe de Gales”, which had world-wide fame, and other superfine labels were, “Flor de Madrid, La Perla, and El Triunfo”. Since the move to Key West , Ybor was followed by other cigar manufacturers.

Manrara lived during “the time of the titans”. This was the period at the close of the century when business buccaneering spawned by the post Civil War years was being placed by the ascendance of responsible business leaders who believed that business and industry had larger purposes than accumulating wealth.

Then at 8 o'clock in the morning on May 2, 1912 a spring day in Gotham, New York, Eduardo Manrara, surrounded by his wife, daughter and four sons, met his final hour. The end had come to the business, and "the financial titan of Tampa", in his 70th year. Manrara had been the real “mover and shaker” in converting from a village into a modern city, and Tampa today is better because of him. No matter that still – “The man forgotten by history”…


Jose Julian Marti Perez


Jose Marti - (poet, enssayist, journalist, revolutionary philosopher)

Born: January 28, 1853

Birth Place: Havana, Cuba

Jose Marti was born in Havana in 1853. At seventeen he was exiled to Spain for his opposition to colonial rule. There he published a pamphlet exposing the horrors of political imprisonment in Cuba, which he himself had experienced. Upon graduating from the University of Saragossa, he established himself in Mexico City, where he began his literary career. His objection to a regime installed by a military coup led him to depart for Guatemala, but government abuses forced him to abandon that country as well. In 1878 he returned to Cuba under a general amnesty, but he conspired against the Spanish authorities and again was banished. He fled exile in Spain and came to the United States. After a year in New York he left for Venezuela, where he hoped to settle, but yet another dictatorship forced him to depart. Marti went back to New York where he lived from 1881 to 1895. He visit Tampa by fist time in 1891, and 20 more times after that.

In that year, he left to join the war for Cuban independence which he had so painstakingly organized. There he died in one of its first skirmishes at the Battle of Dos Rios, May 19, 1895, at the age of 42.

It was only in the 1920's and 1930's that Martí was embraced by a new generation of nationalist Cubans as "el apóstol," and cherished by many other Latin Americans as well. As the great Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío noted, Martí belonged to "an entire race, an entire continent."

Click here to see video - Jose Marti Park




Serafin Sanchez



Serafin Sanchez - (cigar industry entrepreneur)

Born: May 20, 1839

Birth Place: Villavisiosa, Asturias, Spain

Not much is known about his parents and childhood, or if he has siblings, otherwise he was a very intelligent child. He also happened to be very good in math and business. He was 21 years of age when he arrived to New York in1860. And on August 7, 1866, that he first made the acquaintance of Mr. Ignacio Haya, in a reception at the Spanish Club in New York. The friendship grew and on November 9, 1867, the co-partnership between them was formed. Originally there were six members in the firm, Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Haya, his two brothers and two others.

On Tuesday April 13, 1886, Sanchez & Haya Cigar, Co. produced its first cigar. Is then when received the title of "Factory No. 1". The secret to be the first was the used of tobacco which had already been stripped of its stems and the advantage of a present strike at the Ybor factory. In the Spring 1906 a new brick (located at 2311 North 18th Street ) building was inaugurated as the new company facilities.

Mr. Sanchez died of pneumonia at his home located at, No. 380 Macon Street, Brooklyn,at 11.30 in the evening on April 20, 1894. He had been ill but one week. On the Friday before his death he had taken a slight cold, which later develop into a fatal illness. He was 55 years old. His widow and four children survive him” –“The funeral of the deceased gentleman took place on Tuesday afternoon last. He wasburied with Masonic honors in Greenwood cemetery. His funeral cortege was one of the largest which ever enter the gates of the famous cemetery”.“Every Spanish American Society in the city and in Brooklyn was presented, and in his honor every Clear Habana cigar factory in this day closed its door on the day of the funeral”. – The Tobacco Leaf – April 25, 1894.



Ignacio Haya


Ignacio Haya - (cigar industry entrepreneur)

Born: December 8, 1842

Birth Place: Escalante, Santander, Spain

Ignacio Haya was the son of landed aristocracy, who rented vast amounts of their estancia to tenant farmers. Ignacio was educated in Spain, and at the age of 18, he and his brother, Ramon, left their home land to begin a new life in the United States. They arrived in New York where a few months later Ignacio established a cigar factory with another Spanish immigrant, Serafin Sanchez. While Ramon moved between Cuba and Spain, Ignacio remained in the United States, forming the Sanchez and Haya Cigar factory in 1867. Ramon later returned to Spain to oversee the family estate. 

Haya and his partner Sanchez, not only made a fortune from the production of cigars, but they also developed a real estates business; which also induced other manufacturers to move to Ybor City. Haya along with Ybor, went on to play a large role in the development of Ybor City. The Sanchez & Haya Real Estate Co. remained a major source of revenue and owned most of the east Broadway (Seventh Avenue) buildings, the heart of the commercial and residential area of Ybor City.

He was one of two Spanish cigar makers who decided to bring the industry to Tampa. His name isn't recognized as well as Martinez Ybor, nor is the town that sprang up around his factory named for him. Today only a little-known street well outside of Ybor City, in south Seminole Heights bear his last name, a neighborhood that didn't exist until some years after his death. This is one of the names that history is almost forgotten and not well recognized by the city, this days...




Official Ybor City Seal

The seal is a symbol of Ybor City's origins. At the top is The Hutchinson,  a side-wheel  steamer which arrived at Port Tampa in 1886, with Ybor City's first cigar makers. On the periphery of the seal are the flags of four countries considered crucial to Ybor City's founding.  The U.S. flag, on the upper left, represents the new land where three immigrant groups would play separate roles in building the community.  One group was the Cubans, whose native flag is to the right of the U.S. flag, and who made the cigars in Ybor City's cigar factories. Below it is the flag of Spain, the homeland of the cigar factory owners.  And to the left is the flag of Italy, from where many came to open grocery stores, bakeries, and to work in construction. At the base of the seal are tobacco leaves, which again stress the preeminence of the cigar industry, and a twig from the guava tree, another plant that figures into Ybor City's history. A Spanish émigré (Gavino Gutierrez) working for his New York canning company was searching for guava when he stumbled upon the Tampa Bay area. While he found no guava trees, he realized what a prime location the area would be for industrial development, especially with its port, and the cigar makers followed. The lit cigar at the center of the seal also memorializes the industry, but it also alludes to a famous cigar containing important documents that was smuggled into Cuba from Florida in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Spanish colonial rule in the 1890s.  The four colors surrounding the cigar are those of the Ybor City flag. The display before you is an artistic rendering of the seal constructed by Tony Pizzo, a local historian, in the late twentieth century. Pizzo’s work is based on a written description of the seal, as an original copy is nowhere to be found.        


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