Ybor City

Ybor Speaks Offers a Unique Window in Local History

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Explore captivating soundscapes ranging from 1890s to 1980s

Ybor City's Seventh Ave; view west with automobiles, trolleys, and commercial buildings in 1927.

Ybor City's Seventh Ave; view west with automobiles, trolleys, and commercial buildings in 1927.
Photographer: Burgert Brothers, Publisher: Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System

Ybor Speaks, a new public art project commissioned by the City of Tampa Arts & Cultural Affairs Division, is offering a unique window into the immigrant experience in Ybor City, from the boom town of the 1890s through the creative revival of the 1980s. The project is an immersive on-site and online sound experience.  

The Ybor Speaks soundscape provides an in-person aural adventure of trolleys, footsteps, and horses. While passing through Centennial Park, people will hear sounds of many different languages that were spoken decades ago, such as Spanish, Italian, Russian, Romanian, Yiddish, English, and Vietnamese.  

The soundscape plays at the top of each hour from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, every day except Saturday and during special events. Each soundscape lasts approximately 20 minutes and is followed by music. It repeats again at the top of the hour.  

The online component provides a series of YouTube videos that dig deeper into Ybor’s history.

Original scripted stories by Sheila Cowley feature local talent from the Spanish Lyric Theatre, University of South Florida School of Theatre and Dance, and Tampa Bay stage and screen actors.  

Additionally, excerpts and memories from books by notable authors such as Gary Mormino, Ph.D., Ferdie Pacheco, Jack Espinosa, Scott Deitche and Tony Pizzo, and Wallace Reyes, Ph.D., are voiced by local actors. 


WHERE: Centennial Park (1800 E 8th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605)
TIME: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, every day except Saturday & during special events.
LEARN MORE: www.tampa.gov/yborspeaks

About the Artists
Local playwright Sheila Cowley and sound designer & Foley artist Matt Cowley were commissioned to create immersive soundscapes that take the listener back in time, through the decades. Through their storytelling, sounds, and languages represented, the Cowleys evoke the cultural richness, diversity, and struggles of generations that call Ybor City home. 

About Ybor City: 
Ybor City was founded in the 1880s by Vicente Martinez-Ybor and other cigar manufacturers. Thousands of immigrants braved long distances to find a home here, mainly from Cuba, Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe. For the next 50 years, workers in Ybor City's cigar factories rolled hundreds of millions of cigars each year. This thriving community welcomed diversity – in Ybor everybody was from somewhere else, and now American.