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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bigger than who has the best Cuban sandwich: High stakes for Tampa and Miami in Havana's future

The story of Jose Marti Park is one facet of Tampa's long ties with Cuba, the strange-but-true official owner of the 0.14-acre parcel in Ybor City. The park, dedicated to late 19th century Cuban freedom fighter, poet and orator Jose Marti, has belonged to the Republic of Cuba since 1956.  On that E Eighth Avenue land once stood a wooden boarding house, owned by Afro-Cuban patriot Paulina Pedroso. As Marti traveled to Tampa, mustering efforts to free Cuba from Spanish rule, he often stayed there. It was there where he recovered from an assassination attempt, as Pedroso's cigar roller husband, Ruperto, stood guard. Legend has it, the scratching of Marti's pen could be heard outside in the silence of the night.  Marti died in battle in 1895, but Cuba gained its independence. The Pedrosos moved to Cuba in 1910 and sold the property. It passed through several hands, and was purchased in 1951 by a couple living in Havana who wanted to give the property to the Cuban state as a memorial to Marti.  In 1956, they transferred the ownership to "Estado Cubano," or the Republic of Cuba. Fulgencio Batista's administration officially accepted the property, and the American consul in Havana certified the transaction.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times (2014)

The story of Jose Marti Park is one facet of Tampa's long ties with Cuba, the strange-but-true official owner of the 0.14-acre parcel in Ybor City. The park, dedicated to late 19th century Cuban freedom fighter, poet and orator Jose Marti, has belonged to the Republic of Cuba since 1956. On that E Eighth Avenue land once stood a wooden boarding house, owned by Afro-Cuban patriot Paulina Pedroso. As Marti traveled to Tampa, mustering efforts to free Cuba from Spanish rule, he often stayed there. It was there where he recovered from an assassination attempt, as Pedroso's cigar roller husband, Ruperto, stood guard. Legend has it, the scratching of Marti's pen could be heard outside in the silence of the night. Marti died in battle in 1895, but Cuba gained its independence. The Pedrosos moved to Cuba in 1910 and sold the property. It passed through several hands, and was purchased in 1951 by a couple living in Havana who wanted to give the property to the Cuban state as a memorial to Marti. In 1956, they transferred the ownership to "Estado Cubano," or the Republic of Cuba. Fulgencio Batista's administration officially accepted the property, and the American consul in Havana certified the transaction.

16

February

Check out this deep dive from The Guardian on the Tampa-vs.-Miami jockeying for a consulate, trade and other advantages with Cuba in anticipation of normalized relations between Washington and Havana.

It starts with the cities' friendly rivalry over which has the best Cuban sandwich, but says there's a lot more at stake than bragging rights:

Since Barack Obama made his historic December 2014 announcement of a new era in US-Cuban relations, business leaders in both cities have been working to harness the momentum of change and figure out how best to cash in once the barriers are down.

With the promise of many billions of dollars in new trade revenues at stake, representatives from each city, and the counties of Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, have met counterparts in Cuba to discuss possible partnerships in everything from air and sea transport links, medicine and healthcare, education, construction, telecommunications and tourism.

Miami, with a Cuban-American population of about a million — 10 times that of Tampa — would seem to have the natural advantage, and be the obvious venue for a new Cuban consulate, but many analysts are questioning the city’s commitment to the process.

The vociferous and hardline opposition of Miami’s sizable Cuban exile community to any dealings with their former homeland while President Raúl Castro’s communist regime remains in power is hampering efforts to forge key new relations, they say, and allowing Tampa to steal a march on its intrastate rival.

“The reality is that while Miami argues, the rest of the world moves on,” said Carlos Gutierrez, the Havana-born U.S. secretary of commerce under President George W. Bush. “Tampa is more prepared than Miami."

... Florida, with its unique Cuban-American demographic and proximity to Cuba, will be always be central to the new relationship, according to experts such as Sebastian Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

How big a slice Miami and Tampa cut for themselves, he believes, could depend largely on Cuba’s perception of their respective attitudes.

“Cubans (in Tampa) who have been established for many generations and are essentially Americanised don’t have the recent emotional connections with the island, while the other part of the population is consistent with recent arrivals who feel safer away from Miami because they don’t share the same political opposition to the Cuban regime that the majority of the population there does,” he said.

“It’s been furiously debated. From the perspective of the function of a consulate, Miami would be the ideal place but would cause a constant spend of resources in terms of security. Tampa makes more sense even though it has only about one-10th of the Cuban population Miami has. It’s close by and has a much longer history of connection with Cuba.”


[Last modified: Tuesday, February 16, 2016 8:59am]

    

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