YBOR CITY, Fla. — Cuba may be 90 miles from the Florida Keys, but residents of the Bay area don't have to travel that far to set foot on Cuban soil.

They just have to head to Ybor City.


José Martí Park in Ybor is actually Cuban property, gifted to the country in 1956 by a local family just three years before the Communist revolution.

A statue of the park's namesake, the man known as the "Cuban liberator," is the centerpiece of the small park, which is surrounded by a wrought iron fence.

“For us, this is the real Cuba,” says veteran Orlando Rodriguez. “José Martí represents freedom, human rights and democracy.”

Rodriguez is the founder of the Cuban Historical and Cultural Center, the organization named guardian of the park by the city of Tampa in 1991. 

While the city does much of the park's maintenance, they rely on volunteers like Orlando for upkeep.

It's a duty Rodriguez takes very seriously.

“The park become a symbol of freedom," Rodriguez explained. "It’s the only place that Cuba is free in the world,” Rodriguez said.

The park is located on East 8th Avenue in Ybor and is open to the public during the week from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. To learn more about José Martí Park and its caretakers, watch the video above.