Festival brings all things Cuban to Tampa's Ybor City
YBOR CITY -
Antonio Chavez said he was reminded of home the moment he walked through the gates of Cuban Cultural Fest.
“The first thing that got to me is the music,” Chavez, 73, who was born in Cuba, said over the sounds of a mambo beat pumped through loudspeakers. “I remember there was always music.”
Cuban music is just one aspect of the culture that is being celebrated today at the festival in Ybor City. Ballroom dancing, live bands, dance troupes, movies art and food all are featured at the event.
The festival at the Cuban Club, 2010 Avienda Republica De Cuba, runs until midnight today. Gates open at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 10 and younger.
The festival was timed to coincide with the anniversary of Jose Marti's death, said event founder Michael Chapman. Marti was a national symbol for Cuba's independence from Spain. The national hero died in battle May 19, 1895.
Chapman said he is not of Cuban descent, but he became enamored with Cuban culture when he was a professional ballroom dancer.
Organizers hope the inaugural festival, which took five months to plan, becomes an annual tradition.
“We have 75,000 Cuban-Americans living here,” Chapman said. “So let's bring this all back alive. We're hoping for a big turnout all throughout the day, but we have no expectations. We want Cubans and people who appreciate Cuban culture to come out.”
The event kicked off today with Tampa City Councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin welcoming the crowd, followed by introductions of contestants for the Cuban Cultural Fest beauty pageant.
Chavez's son in law said there is one specific thing he is looking forward to: “For me, it's the food,” said Alex Burr, 39, of Clearwater.
Chavez said he, too, is on the lookout for another distinct taste of home.
“I'm desperate to get a Cuban coffee -- espresso,” he said. “I haven't seen it yet.”