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Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017
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A trail through Tampa-Cuba history

Praise is due all involved in the creation of “The Jose Marti Trail” through Ybor City.

The eloquent Cuban freedom fighter had close ties to Tampa, where he sought financial support in his fight to win independence from Spain.

The trail provides an effective way to learn about Marti and Tampa. As the Tribune’s Paul Guzzo reports, the free phone app with map and audio history is available for download at Google Play or the iPhone store.

Tucker/Hall President Bill Carlson spearheaded the effort, and Tampa’s preeminent historian, Gary Mormino, designed the trail, which now has nine stops. More are likely to be added. Mormino says there could easily be two dozen more.

Residents and tourists should find Marti’s experiences in Tampa intriguing.

Marti’s message for his fellow revolutionaries to begin the battle against Spain was smuggled from Tampa to Cuba in a cigar rolled in a West Tampa factory.

He was nursed back to health in Ybor City after being poisoned by agents for the Spanish government. And Marti gave many rousing speeches in Tampa that caused cigar workers and other workers to vigorously support his cause.

The late Gloria Jahoda’s “River of the Golden Ibis,” a history of the Hillsborough River and surrounding communities, recounts that Marti told a Tampa audience how he had ridden to the city during a storm: “Suddenly the sun broke through a clearing in the woods, and there in the dazzling of the unexpected light I saw above the yellowish grass proudly rising from among the black trunks of the fallen trees the flourishing branches of new pines. That is what we are: new pines!”

Jahoda writes the slogan spread “like wildlife through Ybor City.”

Marti was killed on a Cuban battlefield in 1895.

At the same time the trail is being launched, the University of Tampa is being designated a branch of the Center for Jose Marti Studies, a research institute under the Cuban government’s Ministry of Culture. The center has 37 affiliates, but UT is the first in the United States,

All these developments underscore Tampa’s strong historic ties with Cuba, something we hope is considered when a decision is made about locating a Cuban Consulate in Florida.

Carlson says similar apps could be developed to highlight other local historic events — a smart idea.

It would be gratifying if the Marti trail helps Tampa land the consulate, which could promote the kind of cultural, educational and scientific exchanges that would lead to a more freedom in Cuba. Regardless, the Jose Marti Trail tells an important part of our history, one that deserves greater exposure and esteem.

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