José Julián Martí Pérez
Here is Cuba’s patriot leader José Julián Martí Pérez (painting by Milton Pintor del Tabaco) his inspiration for this painting is the famous story of the loaded Cigar. If you see Jose Marti is holding a cigar in his left hand and some papers in the right hand- here is the reason why:
The story of the cigar that went to war starts Jan. 29, 1895, at the residence of Gonzalo De Quesada, secretary of the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York City. Jose Marti, the leader of the Cuban crusade for freedom, called a secret meeting of the revolutionary junta at the Quesada home.
Present were General Jose Mayia Rodriguez, representing Generalisimo Maximo Gomez, and General Enrique Collazo, representing the Revolutionary Junta of Havana. Among the Cuban patriots taking part in the historic junta was Emilio Cordero, who in later years would become a prominent leader in the cigar industry of America marketing his popular brand Mi Hogar.
In Tampa, Quesada was met by Fernando Figueredo, the chief of the partido (party) in Ybor City (and first mayor of West Tampa), Theodore Perez, Martin Herrera, the brothers Blas and Estanislaus O’Halloran- the owners of the Cigar factory, and other Cuban patriots.
During this time, Tampa had become a nest of insurgents as well as a cigar production center. The cigar makers were red hot rebels ardently supporting the cause of the Cuban independence. Each week they contributed one day’s pay Dia de La Patria for the purchase of war material. Many guerilla-fighters were outfitted and sneaked into Cuba from here. Sixty revolutionary clubs in Tampa, the largest Cuban political emigrant community in the United States, worked hard for Free Cuba Libre for more than six years. The delicate alliance formed during that period bridged ideologies, ethnicity, race and class – for the revolutionary moment. Fernando Figueredo, general agent of the Cuban Revolutionary Party in Tampa and mayor of West Tampa, estimated that the Cuban cigar workers of Key West and Tampa (including Ybor City and West Tampa) were collecting around $50,000 a month for the revolution.
Quesada conferred with local leaders in West Tampa on a means of smuggling the message into Cuba, and upon a suggestion by Fernando Figueredo, they decided to conceal it in a cigar. Late one night, a few members of the local revolutionary junta met at the O’Halloran Cigar Factory at Howard Ave. and Union St., and Blas O’Halloran rolled five Panetela cigars-all identical. The one concealing the message, the historic "Cigar of Liberty," was distinguishable by two tiny yellow specks on the tobacco wrapper. Days later, Quesada, with the five cigars in his pocket, sailed to Key West. There he was met by Miguel Angel Duque De Estrada, the man chosen to deliver the message to Juan Gualberto Gomez, the insurgent chief of the island of Cuba.
On the moonlit night of Thursday February 21, 1895, Estrada, with the cigars in his pocket, boarded the Mascotte for the seething island of Cuba. Arriving at the port of Havana, the courier calmly proceeded through routine customs inspection and passed out four cigars to the authorities of the port. At all times Estrada was holding the "loaded cigar" in his mouth as a prevention. Then he picked up his luggage and walked away into history. That night, the very valuable cigar was safely delivered to Gomez in Havana. He loses no time in his role in the conspiracy, and called a meeting at the residence of Antonio Lopez Coloma, 74 Trocadero in Havana.
Jose Lopez Coloma, Dr. Pedro Betancourt, Julio Sanguily, and Jose Maria Aguirre,agree on February 24th as the date for the uprising-"el grito de Guerra!" This date fell on a Sunday, and was the beginning of the traditional carnival celebrations. During this time of fiesta, the Spanish authorities would be engaged in high revelry. Gomez sent a wire to Gonzalo de Quesada in New York On the morning of February 24, 1895, the rebel war-cry "Viva la, Independencia!" "Viva Cuba Libre!" electrified the island, and the Cuban people embarked on their final struggle against Spanish domination
This cigar smuggled into Cuba, started a war that would bring independence to this island nation and it was rolled right here in Tampa!
During the time of Spanish occupation, many Cubans fled to Tampa, seeking refuge and a better way of life. They found work in the newly built cigar factories of Ybor City and West Tampa, including the O’Halloran Cigar Co. They may have left Cuba, but Cuba never left them Cubans from both Ybor City and West Tampa were connected through heritage, culture, language, and trade.