The name “Yayabos” continues to have special meaning in Kendall. The memory of Dr. Juan Weiss, a Cuban and U.S. tennis legend, became the newest chapter in Yayabos’ history at Blue Lakes Park Tennis Courts in August.
Celebrating the former tennis star were more than 50 members of the Yayabo Softball Club, calling themselves “Yayabos” because so many grew up in the village of Sancti Spiritus in Cuba where the Yayabo River flows. Most are active today in the Association of Espirituanos in Exile, headquartered in Hialeah.
Among them were Arturo Weiss, nephew of Dr. Weiss, and Ms. Esperanza Bravo, the association’s curator of the documents and a bibliographer of Cuban History at the University of Miami.
The sign honors Dr. Weiss as “one of the most popular Cuban players of the late 1940s to early 1950s era, recalled Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto who spearheaded the endeavor preceding an Aug. 4 tennis court dedication program.
Representing his country in many international tournaments in the 1940s, Dr. Weiss was Cuba’s national singles and doubles champion, won a U.S. professional doubles title in 1970. He later trained tennis professionals as a professional himself at Key Largo’s Ocean Reef, Tampa Yacht Club, New Orleans Country Club, and tennis director at Hollybrook Golf and Tennis Club in Pembroke Pines.
Speaking in Spanish, Souto honored both Dr. Weiss and the Yayabo Softball Club who, as members of the association, have assisted fellow Cuban immigrants while preserving the history of their former home.
Blue Lakes Park has become premier meeting place for the Yayabo sports aficionados, noted Jack Kardys, Miami-Dade Parks Department director, adding that since its organization in 1962 as one of the first Cuban groups to help resettle exiles, it continues to play a major role in the park’s expansion.
The Yayabo Softball Club, a non-profit organization, led the development of a park shelter and picnic facilities with Commissioner Souto’s backing by raising $150,000 to contribute to complete the project in 1996.
In November, the Blue Lake Yayabos “will celebrate 50 years of service to our people and the community,” said Amado Garcia, active in the association that numbers more than 600 member families representing over 3,500 individuals who have resettled in Florida and the U.S.
Sancti Spíritus (“Holy Spirit” in English) is the capital city of Sancti Spíritus Province in central Cuba, one of the best preserved cities in the Caribbean since the time of the sugar trade. Known worldwide for its famed Medical University, it is also the home of the Sancti Spíritus Gallos baseball team.
One of Cuba’s older bridges was built with clay bricks over the Yayabo River in 1815 for pedestrians and has “thus far resisted heavier modern traffic,” according to Wikipedia.
Today, the name “Yayabo” in Miami thrives prominently in many Latin neighborhoods from “Yayabos Custom Kitchen Cabinetry” in West Kendall to the “El Yayabos Cafeteria” on E. 25th Street in Hialeah.
An annual fishing tournament called “Copa Yayabo” is hosted at Miami Outboard Club and Selecciones, the association newsletter that later became El Fenix del Yayabo, is said to be Miami’s longest continuously published monthly magazine.
“It just shows how important Yayabos are to our community,” concluded Kardys speaking before a cluster of elderly and lively Yayabo tennis players, softball team and Blue Lakes Park boosters, all who have now come to call Miami their home.