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UT Awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Grant to Study the Role Played By the Immigrant Communities of Tampa in Cuban Independence

Published: August 10, 2018
The summer institute has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

The University of Tampa has been awarded a $190,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to offer a summer institute in 2019 focusing on the rise of the U.S. as a global power in the early 20th century as a consequence of its intervention in Cuba’s War of Independence.

The four-week institute, “José Martí and the Immigrant Communities of Florida in Cuban Independence and the Dawn of the American Century,” will take place on the UT campus from June 17 to July 13, 2019. Up to 25 university and college professors from throughout the U.S. will be selected to participate.

The grant was prepared by James López, UT professor of Spanish, and Denis Rey, associate professor of political science and international studies, who together coordinate the Center for Martí Studies affiliate at UT. The institute will closely examine an often overlooked aspect of Cuba’s War of Independence, namely, the role played by the Cuban immigrant communities in the U.S., particularly in the unique and vibrant cigar towns of Florida, especially Ybor City.

“The lessons of this history continue to be resonant today,” López said. “The institute seeks to heighten awareness of how American immigrant communities have helped usher in political transformations both at home and abroad, and to accentuate the rich and complex cultural world established by the Cuban, Sicilian and Spanish immigrants around the cigar industry in turn-of-the-century Florida.”

The institute will also study the work of José Martí, the man whose oratory, poetry, journalism and essays would transform the movement for political independence into a formulation of Cuban patriotic identity that would outlast the U.S. military intervention, and establish Martí, known simply as the “Apostle” in Cuban society, as the most important symbol and source of national identity on and off the island. The immigrant cigar workers of Tampa played an important role in Martí’s biography and intellectual evolution, both of which will be closely examined during the institute.

“The study of this seminal period from the perspective of the working class immigrants who organized, financed and, in many cases, fought and died for a patriotic ideal that they helped inspire by their example, will enrich any cross-cultural approach to the teaching of U.S. history, race and ethnicity, Latin American studies, Caribbean/Cuban studies, international relations, cultural studies, and Hispanic language and culture,” López said.

The institute will include expert lectures, guided readings, archival materials and visits to significant historical sites. All of these are directed toward the development of innovative course modules and teaching plans to enrich the college curriculum and disseminate this history. The institute is one of 218 humanities projects across the country funded by NEH, which total $43.1 million in awards.

For more information, contact López at, or Rey at



Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.