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Askralphie: A Brief History of Tampa and Ybor City

Tampa, Florida, was not always the bustling city it is today. In fact, it began as a small Native American settlement in the 1500s. However, it wasn't until the 1800s that Tampa truly began to grow and prosper.

In 1824, Fort Brooke was established in what is now downtown Tampa. This fort was built to protect the surrounding areas from Native American attacks. As a result, a small town began to grow around the fort, with soldiers and their families settling in the area.

By the late 1800s, Tampa had become a thriving port city, with ships arriving from all over the world. One of the main industries in the area was cigar manufacturing. The cigar industry was started by Cuban immigrants who had come to Tampa seeking work.

One of the most significant figures in Tampa's cigar industry was Don Vicente Martinez-Ybor. Born in Valencia, Spain, in 1818, Ybor had already established himself as a successful cigar manufacturer in Cuba before he arrived in Tampa in 1885. Ybor saw great potential in Tampa's cigar industry and decided to move his operation there.

Ybor quickly set up shop in what is now known as Ybor City, an area just northeast of downtown Tampa. Ybor's factory was one of the largest in the area, and he brought with him a large number of Cuban, Italian, and Spanish workers.


In addition to the cigar factories, Ybor City was home to a unique feature known as the "lector." The lector was a person who would read to the cigar workers as they rolled cigars. The lector would read from newspapers, books, and even poetry, in three different languages: Spanish, Italian, and English. The lector was a vital part of the cigar-making process, as many of the workers were illiterate and relied on the lector for news and information.

Ybor City continued to grow and prosper throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, in the 1920s, the area became a hub for organized crime, particularly the Italian Mafia. Prohibition had made alcohol illegal, and the Mafia took advantage of the situation, smuggling alcohol into the area and setting up illegal speakeasies.

Despite the presence of the Mafia, Ybor City continued to thrive until the 1950s when many of the cigar factories began to close down. By the 1970s, Ybor City had become a run-down area with a reputation for crime and decay.

In the 1980s, however, Ybor City began to experience a revival. The area was designated a National Historic Landmark, and many of the old cigar factories were converted into shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. Today, Ybor City is a vibrant, multicultural neighborhood known for its historic architecture, live music, and thriving nightlife.

Tampa has continued to grow and prosper in recent years. The city is now the third-largest in Florida and is home to a diverse population of over 400,000 people. The economy is driven by industries such as healthcare, finance, and tourism, and the city is home to several universities and colleges.

In conclusion, Tampa's origins as a small Native American settlement have been transformed into a thriving, multicultural city with a rich history and culture. Don Vicente-Ybor's vision for the cigar industry and the lector's role in the cigar-making process have left an indelible mark on Tampa's history, and the city's ongoing growth and development ensure that its future is just as bright.

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