Marco Rubio on the J.C. Newman cigar factory in Tampa's Ybor City
When my grandfather was a young boy growing up in Cuba, he was afflicted by polio that permanently disabled his legs and rendered him incapable of working in the tobacco or sugarcane fields like most boys his age. Instead he was sent to school, where he learned to read and write and developed a lifelong passion for learning.
The opportunity to learn in Cuba opened doors for my grandfather that were closed to most, including one at a local cigar factory. Since he couldn't work in the fields but was able to read, he landed a job keeping the cigar rollers entertained during the workday by reading to them.
For more than 150 years, Tampa has been home to dozens of cigar factories just like the one my grandfather worked at in Cuba. This industry helped turn Ybor City into an enduring symbol of the cultural links between Tampa and Cuba while providing thousands of jobs to people trying to live the American Dream. So synonymous is this area with cigars that one of the rising stars of the city's emerging craft beer industry, Cigar City Brewing Co., pays homage to this identity with its name. Keep reading.