The newest traveling exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center, located at 801 Water St. in downtown Tampa, is titled ‘Cuban Pathways.’ The exhibit chronicles over 500 years of history from three paths: African, Chinese and Spanish. It is truly an amazing exhibit.
The oldest artifact is a Peter Martyr map from 1511 which identifies the island of Cuba. The exhibit also contains a chug boat, which is a little, handmade open vessel powered by a small diesel engine. The boat in the exhibit was used in 2021 by 12 Cubans to cross the Florida Straits.
This is the first traveling exhibit produced exclusively by the Tampa Bay History Center.
Dr. Brad Massey, Saunders Foundation Curator of Public History for the Tampa Bay History Center, said, “This is a very ambitious exhibit as it tells 500 years of history in 2,000 square feet. It chronicles diverse groups of people who came to Cuba.” Massey added, “Cuba was the Caribbean hub of the modern Atlantic World and home to a diverse population.”
In the exhibit, you will see a receipt for an enslaved person and transfer papers for Matilda, a Creole being transferred as property. Another interesting item is a painting. The subject is not what is of interest; rather, it is the painter, Vincente Escobar, a free black painter that makes the painting interesting. According to Massey, 20 percent of the population was free black people.
There are artifacts related to the long ties Tampa has had with the island of Cuba, there are military artifacts and there is even a giant View-Master that shows Cuba when it was the number one foreign destination for 50 years until Fidel Castro took over in 1959.
You will see an interesting group of items telling the story of China’s connection to Cuba.
The collection occupies more than 2,000 square feet of gallery space and will be available for viewing through February 2023. Cuban Pathways will then travel the Southeastern United States.
For more information on this exhibit and all of the other exhibits at the Tampa Bay History Center, please visit www.tampabayhistorycenter.org or call 813-228-0097.