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Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
July 8, 2003
The museum charts the rise and fall of Ybor through the 19th and early 20th century with interesting descriptions of the founding father -- Mr. Vicente Ybor himself -- and the town's principle reason for existing -- the cigar industry. It is interesting to note that Ybor only came about because of the union unrest that was causing problems for the industry in Key West -- the industry just got moved to a swamp outside Tampa!!
There is something romantic about the cigar industry. It is concerned with generating pleasure -- albeit an unpopular one these days -- and its appeal is mixed up with the rhythm of the Spanish and Cubans, the Seville of Carmen. The exhibits here, though simple, do an excellent job of recreating a time when hand-rolling cigars was a skilled trade.
The most telling image for me was that of the reader -- the person who sat high above the factory workers reading aloud. An elegant precursor to the radio, he would deliver the news in the morning and work through episodes of plays and novels in the afternoons.
The only disappointment was, that for staffing reasons, we couldn't tour the casita -- a recreated cigar maker's home.
The museum does its job of putting a historical perspective on the district -- give it a few minutes of your time.
From journal Ybor City - by day
December 4, 2001
Originally populated by Cuban and Italian immigrants who worked in the famous cigar factories and the infamous rum running trade (including alleged secret passages beneath the district for alcohol and underground railroad slave movement) Ybor is rich in history. The past has passed through many stewardships. Falling into disrepair after the colorful hay days it has struggled from its cigar rich ashes to a fringe art district to a steamy Bourbon Street celebration district. Now with the creation of Centro Ybor and all the revitalization projects Ybor is drawing back residents who call it home as well as a place to party. The secret of Ybor is that the past is incorporated.
In the midst of Urban Outfitters, Starbucks and Spielberg's Gameworks, you will still find the most wonderful Sangria and chicken and yellow rice at the historic Gozmart family's Columbia Restaurant that has delighted diners since 1905 and be able to watch artisans of cigar rolling ply their craft at El Sol. La France has somehow managed to survive the many lives of Ybor and is a wonderful step back into vintage dress and retro memories.
Today Ybor sports a Hilton and if you can afford it the incredible Don Vincente de Ybor Historic Inn. Ask about its history.
If you know New Orleans French Quarter you know that you need to be careful where you venture off the beaten path. Ybor is the same. But stay within its boundaries and you will have a wonderful time.
Next summer the trolley cars will run along 8th Avenue.
Do you want to see a flamenco dancer? Centro Asturiano. Do you want to dine in elegant beauty - Try Ovo's. Do you want to have a stuffed potato and rub elbows with those who make the city work behind the scenes? No where else but La Tropicana.
And never miss Guavaween or the Gasparilla Night Parade.
From journal Florida Jaunts and Haunts