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The Camagüey Tennis Club
Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Souvenir Booklet
—includes the complete history of the Club and photos of its Presidents.
The Camaguey Tennis Club Waltz
—by Alberto Noriega Varona
Founding Members
1953 Bylaws, Rules and Regulations (“Reglamento”, in Spanish only)
Additional photos on this page are below the short overview which follows

In 1917 in Camaguey a group of twenty-something tennis players got the idea of starting a tennis club. This was the first generation to come of age in the peace that followed the long and bloody wars against Spain that freed Cuba from colonial rule. Camaguey was booming. The population of the city would more than triple between 1907 and 1928. Until 1902 Camaguey was an isolated provincial capital 80 kilometers from the sea and more than 500 kilometers and three and a half difficult travel days away from the capital of the country. That year the Cuba Railroad was completed, reducing the trip west to Havana to a comfortable 15 hours. The trip east to Santiago de Cuba and the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo was likewise improved.

Camaguey’s economy grew significantly after the railroad arrived due to industry it enabled and due to the fact that the railroad was headquartered in Camaguey. A large amount of capital flowed through Camaguey, as evidenced by the opening of foreign bank branches lead by the Royal Bank of Canada. With better access to domestic and foreign markets the numerous cattle ranches and sugar plantations in the region expanded significantly. A growing economy attracted professionals, many fresh from university. These young professionals—along with young adults from families of the landed gentry and the growing upper middle class—embraced tennis, the elegant sport that was sweeping the globe at the time.

Pilar Garcés
Photo circa 1944.
from Bodas De Plata booklet
Camagüey Tennis Club

In Camaguey it was mostly young women who took up the sport initially. They would meet at the only public court in the city at the Casino Campestre Park to pair off and play. This was a cement court in poor repair, and there was no hope that better facilities would be forthcoming. “Why don’t we build a tennis club with proper courts and a clubhouse,” suggested Pilar Garces, “owned and operated exclusively by women.”

Approximately forty young ladies—and a few young gentlemen—incorporated The Camaguey Tennis Club early in 1919.

Joaquín Ventura Martínez
Photo circa 1920.
Elia M. López Collection
by kind permission
It was named in English; tennis, after all, was an English sport. Two of these young men, Felipe Pichardo and Ventura Martinez—two lawyers who had just graduated from the University of Havana—were instrumental in assisting the women in setting up the Club. Excellent tennis players both, they drafted the bylaws, drew up leases, obtained permits, navigated the city’s bureaucracy, guaranteed loans—and also cleared brush, hauled bricks, sand, and furniture, mixed cement, and tended to the club’s workhorse.

When the club opened in 1919, 106 ladies joined as founding members. And when the Tennis—the name everyone in Camaguey used for the club—celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary it was already one of the premier institutions in Cuba, receiving distinguished guests from all over the world, hosting championships and fielding players in tournaments throughout the country and abroad. Its women-only membership policy was unique.

Felipe Pichardo
from CubaArqueologia.org
by kind permission
Men held guest-member status and paid no dues. In theory they could be expelled at any time for any reason and without recourse. By 1944, the Tennis had grown into a significant philanthropic and cultural institution for Camaguey and vicinity. Its directors and officers were continually refreshed with up-and-coming young members and the Tennis continued serving its growing list of members and the community at large until the Great Cuban Exodus that began in 1960.

Felipe Pichardo—by then a well-known poet, writer, and orator—gave a speech on the history of The Camaguey Tennis Club Friday evening, January 28, 1944 at the Club. That speech is reprinted here in its original Spanish with a full English translation.

Camagueyanos and descendants of camagueyanos that come across documents of the Tennis or photos of the grounds, courts, clubhouse and its salons; and of its members and players, are encouraged to contact the editor for inclusion in these pages.

—José J. Prats
Springfield, Virginia, USA, August 27, 2005
[email protected]
Entrega de Pergaminos Feb. 1, 1947 — Receipt of Certificates Feb. 1, 1947
Photo taken in one of the Club's salons. Ventura Martinez is the sole male of all the honored recipients.
Mariana M. Prats Collection, by kind permission

Purpose of the Club
The Club has as its primary purpose achieving member rapport through devotion to the highest ideals of nation and society by ensuring that the participation of women in public life will be ever more skilful and effective. Its purpose will also be the betterment of women in all aspects: moral, cultural, social and physical—while encouraging all that bears to the greater culture, progress and lawful pleasures of good society—by facilitating the practice of sport.
—From the Club’s By-Laws

Canchas del Camagüey Tennis Club — Camaguey Tennis Club Courts
Undated postcard.
J. J. Prats Collection

La Piscina del Camagüey Tennis Club — Camaguey Tennis Club Swimming Pool
Mariana M. Prats Collection, by kind permission

Las Tías — The Aunts
The Martínez Seijas sisters: Magdalena, Mariana (1865–1914), Francisca (1875–1964), Natalia (1877–1941) and Maria Antonia. Not shown are the sixth and seventh aunt, Mercedes Martínez Díaz (1865–1965) and Amalia Martínez Seijas(1871-1936).
Mariana M. Prats Collection, by kind permission
They were called las Tías by the early members of the Club and are mentioned in the Club's history. They were Ventura Martinez' aunts and helped at early Club functions, surely providing the delicious dulces they were known for. Magdalena was a founding member of the Club.

Elia Rodríguez Casas
Socia — Member

Joaquín Ventura Martínez y Martínez
Socio Visitador — Guest Member
Photographed and printed by Antonio R. Martínez y Martínez — Elia M. López Collection, by kind permission
Ventura met Elia at the Club. They were married in 1925. The story is recounted in the Club's history.
En la Antigua Entrada del Club — At the Old Entrance to the Club
Circa late 1920s.Top row: unknown, unknown, Salomé Zayas Bazán, unknown child, Felipe Pichardo, Maria Luisa Rodríguez Casas. Second row: Ramón Peralta and Concepción “Conchita” Rodríguez Casas de Peralta, Federico Castellanos and Ángela Rodríguez Casas de Castellanos, Araceli de las Casas and her daughters Margarita Rodríguez Casas and Araceli “Celita” Rodríguez Casas, three Martinez aunts: Natalia Martínez Seijas, Mercedes Martínez Díaz and unknown Martínez Seijas (back to camera) Third row: Joaquín Martínez y Martínez and his wife Elia Rodríguez Casas de Martínez, María Antonia "Mayo" Martínez Seijas, Rafael Rodríguez Casas.
Mariana M. Prats Collection, by kind permission
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