Located just northeast of downtown Tampa, the historic neighborhood of Ybor City is a celebration of cigars, culture and immigrant communities. Named after cigar maker Vicente Martinez-Ybor, the area was founded in the 1880s and grew rapidly as a center of tobacco production. In the 1920s, Ybor City had more than 200 cigar factories.
The community was largely Hispanic and Italian, but included residents of other backgrounds as well. Many immigrants lived in the neighborhood and worked in the cigar factories. They worked hard and played hard, too. The workers would gather after work to socialize and listen to popular Latin music. Jose Marti even visited Ybor City before the Cuban War of Independence to rally support for his cause.
Today, Ybor City has boutiques and vintage shops on 7th Avenue as well as Cuban and Latin American eateries. There’s also a Centro Ybor mall featuring indie fast food, bars and a cinema. The Ybor City Museum State Park houses an exhibit in the old Ferlita bakery, and there’s a Ybor City Historical Society that provides self-guided tours.
The neighborhood was named after Vicente Martinez Ybor, who was born in Spain but moved to Cuba at age 14. He chose the site of Ybor City based on its proximity to other ports and a sandy scrubland that would be good for growing tobacco. It was a gamble, but it paid off. Ybor City has become one of the most celebrated neighborhoods in Florida.