Rekindling the Rich History of an Expatriate City
Nestled in the heart of Tampa, Florida, is the city’s historic touchstone. Called Ybor Square, the 88,000 square-foot building in the heart of the city’s Latino district, Ybor City, has loomed over the Tampa’s skyline since the 1880s, when it was built by Cuban expatriate Vicente Martinez Ybor to become the largest cigar factory in the world.
Prior to his arrival in the U.S., Ybor had owned and operated Cuba’s largest cigar manufacturing plant. But outraged over his country’s continued occupation by Spain, he sponsored a revolution in 1868 that resulted in a price being put on his head and a hasty emigration to Tampa. It took him just one week to decide that Tampa would be the home of his world’s biggest cigar factory.
Putting other Cuban refugees like himself to work in the factory, Ybor created a haven for immigrants and a town grew around his factory—a charming town with brick-lined streets and underground tunnels connecting all of his buildings.
Today, more than a century and a half later, the Ybor City complex is home to the Church of Scientology Tampa. All of its original charm has been refurbished and preserved, following 14 months of work bringing it back from years of vacancy.
In this episode of Destination: Scientology, you will witness the finished magnificence of Ybor Square, and learn how Scientologists have improved not only the structure, but the entire neighborhood and sense of community pride in this historic sector of the city.
Once a center for bars, drugs and crime, Ybor City today is vastly friendlier to residents, families and visitors thanks to the efforts of Scientologists who saw the need to reclaim what has become their neighborhood.
And in 2017 when Hurricane Irma smashed into Tampa, it was the Scientologists once again who pitched in to nourish the locals with food and water that had long before disappeared from the supermarket shelves. Teams of yellow-shirted Scientology Volunteer Ministers worked ceaselessly to clean up the mess—the fallen trees and debris—from the streets of Tampa. These same young people secured their historic Ybor Square, and made sure the historical site was protected from flooding.