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Vicente Martinez Ybor

cigar industry entrepreneur
Born: 1818
Birthplace: Valencia, Spain

Ybor grew up in Spain and at age 14 immigrated to Cuba, which was then a Spanish colony. There he worked in Cuba's most famous industry, the making of cigars. In 1868, the Cuban revolution for independence from Spain broke out. To avoid war, Ybor moved to Key West, Florida. He opened a cigar making business there, but after a number of labor disputes, moved to Tampa. In 1885, he bought large tracts of land at the outskirts of Tampa and built a factory. He later bought even more land and called the area Ybor City. Within a few years, the city grew to 3,000 residents, and the area became a famous center for making fine cigars. It also became a center for Cuban culture in Florida, since so many of the cigar workers were from Cuba or of Cuban descent. Jewish, German, and Italian immigrants also flocked to Ybor City. By 1900, the city was known as “the cigar capital of the world.” The industry began to decline, however, and in the 1920s and 1930s many of Ybor City's employees lost their jobs in the cigar factories. Today, parts of Ybor City have been restored as a historic landmark district.

Died: 1896

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