With Arts & Entertainment Editor Kathy L. Collins

If you are looking for something fun to do over the holidays, consider visiting the Tampa Bay History Center in downtown Tampa to see the exhibit featuring rare maps spanning five centuries of interaction between Cuba and Florida. The exhibit is available for viewing through Sunday, January 28, 2018.

Many believe that the connection between Florida and Cuba began with Fidel Castro’s takeover in 1959. For others, especially those living in Tampa, it began 70 years earlier with the arrival of the cigar industry and founding of Ybor City in 1886. Others think it began in the 1850’s when the McKay family started shipping cattle from Tampa’s Ballast Point to Havana.

However, according to Manny Leto the Director of Marketing for the History Center, “In Gateways to the Caribbean: Mapping the Florida-Cuba Connection, you will find an unbroken thread between the Sunshine State and the island nation dating back nearly 500 years.”

Gateways to the Caribbean charts five centuries of connections and interactions between Florida and Cuba through rare and original maps, lithographs and other documents. In total, there are more than 50 maps in the exhibit. They highlight the Spanish and British occupations of Cuba and Florida in the 15th and 18th centuries. They also highlight the development of rail and steam ship lines that fostered trade and travel in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are also tourist maps of Cuba printed in both the 1930’s and as recently as 2016.

There are also beautiful color lithographs which depict the British attack on Havana in 1762. In this attack, the British seized control of the island and wrested Florida away from Spain. There is a print by Cuban artist, Ibrahim Miranda, which was created at the University of South Florida’s Graphics Studio in 2012. The exhibit also includes several tourist and travel maps which are on loan to the History Center from the History Center located in South Florida.

For anyone interested in Florida history, this is an excellent exhibit to view along with the fantastic permanent exhibits which are housed at the History Center.

The Tampa Bay History Center is located at 801 Old Water St. in downtown Tampa. For more information on this exhibit, hours, ticket prices and directions to the History Center, please visit www.tampabayhistorycenter.org.