Cuban American Heritage Festival Plans
Eleventh Great Year
Key West, FL -- In 1999 Fred Salinero and founding board members established the Cuban
American Heritage Festival and the Cuban American Heritage Foundation to preserve
Key West's rich Cuban History, artifacts and memorabilia. They wished to instill pride in
younger generations to their Hispanic roots and explain to the public how Cuban heritage
influenced Key West's culture and economy. This story started with Cuba's war of independence
from Spain in 1868 when thousands of Cuban emigres and skilled cigar makers fled to freedom
90 miles northward, transforming Key West's population from 2,832 in 1860 to over 18,080.
By 1890, over 100 million cigars a year were produced. Key West became the 13th largest port
of the United States and the cigar capital of the world, with the first successful industrial
community in the South.
The economic and cultural impact of Cubans has been profound. Walking the streets today you
can smell aromas of café con leche, Cuban bread, hear Latin music, Spanish spoken and Cuban
roosters crow. Cuban architecture silhouettes the skyline, from the San Carlos and Cuban
Club on Duval Street to cigar workers' shotgun houses and cigar factories scattered
throughout the island, the heritage of our Cuban founding fathers.