KEY WEST, Florida Keys — A celebration of the culture, entertainment, food and flora of Cuba, which lies just 90 miles from Key West, is scheduled Sunday through Saturday, March 13-26, at Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, 5210 College Road. As well as the historic connection between the two islands, the event commemorates the garden’s 75th anniversary.

The Cuban Cultural Exposition begins with the debut of “Viva Cuba Libre — The Chugs of Cuba” set for 2 p.m. Sunday, March 13. Conceived by Key West resident Benjamin Curry Bruce, the exhibit features Bruce’s compelling photographs of Cuban refugees’ “chugs,” or primitive makeshift vessels, displayed alongside items ranging from life jackets to medicines that they carried on the boats.

The opening also features mojitos and hors d’oeuvres.

Subsequent days’ attractions include a domino tournament, Cuban cooking class, lively dance exhibition and lecture on Cuba’s medicinal herbs and plants. The work of Cuban artist Sandy Rico, whose oils depict his homeland, is to be featured throughout the exposition.

All events take place at Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, an arboretum, garden, wildlife refuge and educational center. Showcasing flora native to South Florida, Cuba and the Caribbean, the garden features tropical fruit trees, fragrant plants and palms, spices and herbs, champion trees, butterflies and birds.

The celebration’s highlight is Hot Havana Nights, a lavish Latin party set for 7 p.m. Saturday, March 26. Attendees can dance to the sounds of Havana Soul while enjoying mojitos, authentic Cuban cuisine, fine cigars and an auction of handmade Cuban crafts and artistry including a piece by Sandy Rico.

Those who purchase VIP tickets also are invited to a 6 p.m. Cuban dinner and Tropicana show prior to Hot Havana Nights.

Reservations are encouraged since the gala typically sells out.

Event information, costs and ticketing: or 305-296-1504

Key West visitor information: or 1-800-LAST-KEY



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