TAMPA — For six decades, it was a Mother’s Day tradition in Tampa to place flowers at the base of a 6-foot sculpture depicting a mother holding a baby while her two small children reach up to hand her flowers.
“It was sweet,” said Robin Nigh, manager of arts and cultural affairs for the city of Tampa.
The tradition followed the sculpture, titled Honor to Mothers of the World, through three locations: the University of Tampa, Ybor City’s Seventh Avenue and finally the city-owned German Club building.
But it has been on hold since 2019, when the city sold the German Club — now home to Metro Inclusive Health — and moved the sculpture to a warehouse.
Nigh hopes this Mother’s Day is the last the statue spends alone, held in a protective brace made of steel and plywood.
“She is so beautiful,” Nigh said of the mother in the sculpture. “We want to find her a new home.”
The city would like to rededicate it on Mother’s Day 2022, Nigh said, and is open to ideas for a new location, but shies away from private property.
Preferably, it will be on city-owned space accessible to the public, she said.
“It has significant cultural value,” Nigh said.
News archives report that the limestone statue — painted white and with a marble base — was gifted to the city by Orden Caballero De La Luz, described as “a fraternal and benevolent order” with lodges in Cuba and Tampa, which then served as headquarters to the “Grand Lodge of Florida.” The organization still exists, with a grand lodge in Miami but no Tampa chapter.
The sculptor, Teodoro Ramos Blanco, was considered “one of Cuba’s most important artists,” according to a history of the statue provided by the city. His artwork received a gold medal at the World’s Fair in Seville, Spain, in 1929 and can still be found in Baltimore’s Museum of Modern Art.
At its dedication on Mother’s Day 1948 in the University of Tampa’s Plant Park, members of the lodge started the tradition of placing flowers at the statue’s base, according to news archives.
The statue moved to Seventh Avenue outside the old Centro Español clubhouse building in the late 1960s or early 1970s due to the widening of Kennedy Boulevard near University of Tampa.
An undated Ybor travel brochure featured the statue in an effort to promote the Latin District as family friendly, smiling parents with a child strolling past it as Flamenco dancers posed with the sculpture.
To make way for the Centro Ybor development that includes the Centro Español building, the sculpture was moved to the German Club in 1998. That year, the city had the statue appraised at $65,000, but Nigh estimates it is worth around $90,000 today.
The German Club was a good home, Nigh said, but its location at 2105 N Nebraska Ave. did not receive the type of foot traffic she believes the statue deserves.
“She should be somewhere where people can see her,” Nigh said. “She deserves a place where people can bring her flowers.”