The Immigrant Statue in Centennial Park

Centennial Park, once the site of Ybor City’s original fire station, was established on June 12, 1986 when Tampa City Council‘s Ordinance No. 9297 declared it:

Ybor Centennial Park, By Which Name It Shall Hereafter And Forever Be Known.”
The ordinance was part of the commemoration of Ybor City’s centennial, acknowledging a century of its colorful and vibrant past. The park officially honors Vicente Martinez-Ybor, the developer of Ybor City, for creating the world-famous cigar manufacturing district that gave Tampa its rich and exotic Latin Heritage.

The park is now home to a collection of historical plaques and statues honoring the immigrants and local leaders who shaped Ybor’s history. The surrounding area has become a popular tourist attraction, with trendy restaurants, bars, and retail as the backdrop to the park.

Residents and visitors alike enjoy the park benches – perfect for some morning café con leche with friends or a quick Cuban sandwich for lunch.

Throughout the year, Centennial Park hosts several festivals. The Ybor City Saturday Market features vendors selling fresh produce, handmade gifts, art, and food weekly. Festa Italiana and the Taste of Latino Hispanic Heritage Festival are annual events that celebrate the food and culture of the people who settled and live in the Ybor and Tampa areas.

The park is an attraction worth exploring with its many statues honoring people. The statues depict the history of the city in many beautiful ways.

The Statues in Centennial Park

Centennial Park originally featured 31 statues designed in the European picturesque garden style, most of which have since been lost. The subjects ranged from allegorical and mythological works to international political leaders and authors.

Although most of the original works have been lost due to theft, vandalism, weathering, and accidental damage, a few have survived.

Among them is a recently restored life-size statue of Charles Dickens, author, and advocate for social and economic improvement for the working class. The Dickens statue is one of only three in the world.

A tribute to former Tampa Mayor Nick Nuccio, one of Tampa’s most colorful and respected mayors, is placed at the south side of Centennial Park. 

The beautiful, touching tribute to the immigrants of Ybor City is placed at the north side of Centennial Park, just across the street from the Ybor State Museum.

The Immigrant Statue in Centennial Park

A bronze sculpture that is larger than life depicts an immigrant family arriving in Ybor City in 1905. There are male and female adults, as well as two children, dressed in 1900s-period attire. A tribute to Ybor City’s Immigrants, it is the first statue commissioned by Steve Dickey in 1991 – a figurative bronze sculpture of an immigrant family standing on a polished dark pink marble plinth. It is dedicated to the brave men and women who came to this country in search of personal liberty, economic opportunity, and a bright future for their families.

On May 31, 1992, it was unveiled in Centennial Park in front of the Ybor City State Museum.

The statue’s inscription reads, “Ybor City Round Table is honoring two of the oldest living Immigrants still residing in the Tampa area:

GIOVANNI BONANNO
Arrived in Tampa Dec 24,1906 from Alessandra Delea A Rocca providence Sicily. June 17,1890 – Sept 3,1992

MARIA TOMASINO MILITELLO
Arrived in Tampa May 15,1906 from Alessandra Delea A Rocca providence Sicily. Sept 21,1891 – Dec 28,1996″

The text on the statue reads, “Immigrant Statue / Unveiled on May 31, 1992 /Dedicated to the courageous men and women who came to this country seeking personal liberty,  economic opportunity, and a bright future for their families. / Sponsored by the Ybor City Round Table.”

The Story of Ybor

The Vicente Ybor statue depicts the man dressed in a three-piece suit with an umbrella and hat. The abundance of cigar shops nearby is a testament to Ybor’s vision, with hand-rolled cigars serving as a reminder of the area’s proud heritage.

At the age of 38, Vicente Ybor established a cigar company in Havana, Cuba. His factory produced up to 20,000 cigars per day after his cigars became famous. An advocate for Cuban independence, Ybor began supplying Cuban insurgents with resources, but the Spanish government quickly discovered this. A warrant was issued for his arrest, forcing Ybor and his family to flee to Florida.

Ybor found he could avoid the high tariffs levied on imported Cuban cigars by rolling and producing them in the United States. He eventually built his new factory outside of Tampa – close to ports, allowing his workers to travel easily to and from Cuba. The cigar district became known as Ybor City, eventually annexed by the city of Tampa in 1888 to capitalize on the town’s cigar boom. This helped Tampa become a significant manufacturing and shipping center – all due to the vision and hard work of the area’s early immigrants.  

The Immigrant Story Continues  

Immigrants continue to make major contributions to the Tampa Bay area.  

Car Credit owner, Steve Cuculich, himself from an immigrant family, funded the formation of Nuevo en US to welcome our new neighbors and support area nonprofits that assist immigrant families.

Visit one of Car Credit’s locations the next time you are in the market for a vehicle.

CAR CREDIT EAST TAMPA

3923 E. Hillsborough Ave.

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Monday – Friday: 9:30AM – 7:00PM
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108 N US Hwy 41

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Saturday & Sunday: Closed