In a speech in Miami on Friday November 8, 2013, President Barack Obama said “We have to be creative and we have to be thoughtful and we have to continue to update our Cuba policies”.

Many have questioned, some were alarmed, while most know very little about the 400 year old history of Afro Cubans with Florida.

Long before the birth of the United States, conquistador Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed in St. Augustine in 1565 with a number of Afro Cubans in his expedition.  Some were left behind to build and man defensive fortresses in St Augustine and Jacksonville and it is said, some made families and became part of the Seminoles tribe.

In the spring of 1886, hundreds of Afro Cuban relocated from Key West to Tampa, where they became 15% of the population and contributed decisively to transform Ybor City into the mecca of the cigar industry in the US.

After an assassination attempt against Jose Marti, whenever the father of the Cuban nation, who was living in New York, visited Tampa, he always stayed at Afro Cuban Ruperto and Paulina Pedroso’s Boarding House, with Ruperto sleeping in the hallway for his protection.

The Marti-Maceo Society was founded in 1900 at the Pedroso’s home and soon became a model for social, education and healthcare services for its 300 members paying $0.60 weekly dues, to counter the rabid segregation in Tampa. Their brick Clubhouse dancehall on 11th St and 6th Ave., hosted concerts with Fats Domino, B. B. King, Cab Calloway and others, until its decline began in the 1940 until today, for lack of young blood.

Booker T. Washington worked hard to enroll Afro Cubans in Tuskegee College in Alabama, especially in architecture. Luis Delfin Valdes a Tuskegee graduate, designed the Club Atenas, a major twentieth-century Afro Cuban cultural Center in Havana.

Dr. Mary McCleod Bethune was acutely aware of the importance of developing relations with Cuba, which lead her to enroll Afro Cubans as early as 1924 in her nascent academy of learning in Daytona Beach, where after graduating, a couple stayed on board and excelled in the academic world.

Aside from the United States, Cuba had the largest number of chapters of the Marcus Garvey Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Langston Hughes described his detailed search for the heartbeat and songbeat of Africa in Cuba.

He developed a close intellectual relation with Nicolas Guillen, Wilfredo Lam and other Afro Cuban intellectuals, which have survived a myriad of adversities to this day thru the Latin America Study Association (LASA) and other organizations promoting scientific and cultural exchange....HAVANA TIMES...CONTINUES...

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