Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban dictator eventually toppled by Fidel Castro’s forces (and the guy who makes the toast in Godfather II, right before Michael Corleone gives Fredo the kiss of death), donated the money to raze the old Pedroso house and establish a park. But when Castro came to power, and Cuba became a communist country, the city of Tampa found itself with a dilemma. City officials maintain the park’s lights and irrigation but have left everything else to the Cuban-American community in Tampa.
And things have been messy ever since. You can read more about it here. On one side of the debate, pro-Castro speech is not permitted in the park and anti-embargo Cubans have been locked out. On the other hand, in the only plot of free Cuban land, free speech is squelched and national hero Jose MartÃ is locked behind bars.
I won’t go into this debate, I’ll leave that to you. I’m just bringing you another little known slice of American history.
The park is fairly small, centered around a statue of Jose MartÃ, with six rocks decorated with the Cuban flag. There are six tree planters in the park, each containing dirt that has been mixed with soil from Cuba’s six provinces. You can visit it during daytime hours but need special permission to have the gates unlocked on weekend.
Click here for a map of the park’s location.
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Mark McGinty is the author of The Cigar Maker, the story of young Cuban rebel and his family who are trying to build a new life in Tampa, ca. 1898, after escaping the hardship of war-torn Cuba.
Re-posted by permission of the author. The original posting can be found here.