TAMPA, Fla. — On the cobbled streets of Ybor City, it's hard to find something more familiar than the roosters that have become a huge part of what makes the area iconic and steeped in history.

The residents know the community’s history, especially in the cigar industry, and the importance of keeping it alive. 

What You Need To Know

  • Ybor City is a historic neighborhood in Tampa where the cigar industry thrived

  • At the turn of the 20th century, Ybor City was known as the cigar capital of the world

  • Ybor City Museum State Park and tours of the community help preserve its history

  • More Florida on a Tankful Adventures

Chantal Hevia, whose family has been in the area for decades, is one of those people making sure the history is preserved. 

Her grandparents immigrated from Italy and Spain, worked in Ybor's thriving cigar industry and started their family. Hevia was the first in her family to graduate from college at USF. Now she's president and chief executive officer of the Ybor Museum Society.  

“I love walking around Ybor City to go to lunch or go to meetings, and a lot of the time we all conduct meetings on the street corners because we all know each other!” Hevia said. 

Hevia often can be found inside the Ybor City Museum State Park, giving tours and explaining the area's rich history in the cigar industry.

“Our city really grew tremendously over about a 40-year span back in the day,” Hevia said. “It's what we call the beginning of modern Tampa."

The primary goal of the museum and the tours of the area is to preserve and educate the public on the cultural significance of the city, known at the turn of the 20th century as the cigar capital of the world. About 950 historic buildings were built during the peak industrial years. 

The Ybor City Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays but open the rest of the week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT. For more information on the museum and the tours offered, visit its website.