Local historians connect the complicated 500-year story of Cuba and its ties to Tampa
(TAMPA, Jan. 27, 2022) – What do you imagine when you think about today’s Cuba? Or the Cuba visited by pastel-wearing tourists in the 1950s? The island nation is the largest in the Caribbean and has a long history of turmoil and opportunity–with deep connections to the Tampa Bay region.
Cuban Pathways is the latest exhibition by the Tampa Bay History Center and tells the 500-year story through the lenses of individuals whose labor, political crusades and search for refuge illustrates Cuba’s complex history.
“Given our region’s deep connections with Cuba, this story is part of the Tampa Bay story,” says C.J. Roberts, President and CEO of the Tampa Bay History Center. “Cuban Pathways is the first traveling exhibition produced exclusively by the History Center. We are proud to share these artifacts from our collection and extensive research with the Tampa Bay community and other museums in the Southeast and beyond.”
This traveling exhibition covers early Spanish settlements and the arrival of the first Africans to the island, and it includes first-hand accounts of émigrés fleeing Revolutionary Cuba. It is a personalized experience as we meet three modern Cubans representing the island’s diversity.
Follow the experiences of Paulina Pedroso, an Afro-Cuban revolutionary born in Pinar del Río, Cuba in 1845 into a free Afro-Cuban family; Rogelio Azorín, who arrived from Spain after the Spanish-Cuban-American War in 1898 and whose family established a manufacturing company; and Francisco Changsut, who emigrated from Canton, China to Cuba around 1900. This extensive look at Cuban history was researched by the History Center’s curatorial team and led by Dr. Brad Massey, Saunders Foundation Curator of Public History, who traveled to South Florida and Key West over the past year to secure artifacts for the exhibition.
“Cuba was the Caribbean hub of the modern Atlantic World and home to a diverse population,” says Massey. “This exhibition is organized by three distinct journeys that brought people to and from the island. It offers a glimpse into Cuban life during each era.”
The collection will occupy more than 2,000 square feet of gallery space at the History Center when it opens Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, for a year-long showing. After the premiere exhibition in Tampa, Cuban Pathways is set to travel the southeastern U.S.