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Cuban Territory in Tampa? The Intriguing Case of the José Martí Park

Tuesday, July 9, 2024 by Henry Cruz

Nestled in the heart of Ybor City, Tampa, lies the José Martí Park, a small yet significant space dedicated to Cuba's National Hero. This park not only honors the memory of the Apostle but also presents a legal and territorial enigma, as it is believed that the land might be owned by the island's government, effectively making it a piece of Cuban territory on U.S. soil.

The park is frequently visited by both Cubans and Americans. Social media videos, like those of user Enrique Sánchez Tápanes and Melissa Hallock, showcase the park's interior and its excellent state of preservation and ambiance. The intriguing history of the park was recently investigated by students from the International Studies Program at the University of South Florida, as reported by Univision.

After exhaustive visits to the Hillsborough County Courthouse Library of Records, the young researchers uncovered a deed dated 1956 that transferred the land's ownership to the Government of Cuba. The park's land is legally described as lot five of block 29 in Ybor City and has a rich history of owners, ranging from Ruperto and Paulina Pedroso, friends of José Martí, to Manuel Quevedo Jaureguizar and his wife Mercedes Carillo la Guardia, Cuban citizens who acquired the lot in 1951 with the intention of donating it to Cuba.

A Gift of Love and Affection

Finally, in September 1956, the couple transferred the property to the Cuban State "for love and affection for their native country." The donation deed, written in Spanish and translated into English in Havana, highlights the intention to preserve the place as an eternal tribute to José Martí. This transaction was certified by the U.S. Consul in Havana and recorded in Hillsborough County, solidifying the act's legality in terms of the U.S. Government.

Despite the documentary evidence and the property's tax-exempt status under the name of the "Cuban State," some employees of the Hillsborough County Tax Assessor have expressed doubts about Cuban ownership, suggesting that the city of Tampa might claim the land. However, there are no records of legal actions by the city to dispute the ownership.

While the legality of Cuban possession remains uncertain, the José Martí Park continues as a place of homage to a key figure in Cuba's history. Visitors and residents enjoy the park, many of them fascinated by the idea that, by stepping into this small corner of Ybor City, they are treading on Cuban soil. Thus, the park is not only a tribute to José Martí but also a curious testament to the complexity of historical and legal relations between Cuba and the United States.

FAQs About the Legal Status and History of José Martí Park

Below are some frequently asked questions about the legal status and historical significance of José Martí Park in Ybor City, Tampa.

Is José Martí Park really Cuban territory?

While there is a deed from 1956 transferring ownership to the Government of Cuba, the legal status remains uncertain and has been a subject of debate.

Who originally owned the land where José Martí Park is located?

The land has had several owners, including Ruperto and Paulina Pedroso, friends of José Martí, and later Manuel Quevedo Jaureguizar and his wife Mercedes Carillo la Guardia.

Has the city of Tampa tried to claim ownership of the park?

There are no records of legal actions by the city of Tampa to dispute the ownership of José Martí Park.

© CubaHeadlines 2024

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