Jorge Mas Canosa was born in the city of Santiago de Cuba on September 21 st, 1939. There he attended elementary and high school, moving then to the United States for a short period where he attended the Presbyterian Junior College of North Carolina before returning again to Cuba to pursue a degree in law at the University of Oriente.
Following months of intense struggle as a student leader in Cuba, first, against the Batista dictatorship and then against Castro’s communism, he was arrested and persecuted for his democratic ideals until he was given no other choice but to seek exile. In Miami, he joined the ranks of Brigade 2506 and following the failed invasion, graduated as a Second Army Lieutenant at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In Miami, he married Irma Santos, his high school sweetheart. Their union produced three sons, Jorge, Juan Carlos, and Jose Ramon, who today are successful businessmen and active members of their community. Through much work and sacrifice, Jorge Mas Canosa became a successful businessman. He founded his first company, Church and Tower in Perrine, Florida. That company went on to become MasTec, a multinational corporation, still headquartered in Miami, once named the largest U.S.-Hispanic owned business in the country and the first Hispanic owned corporation to be featured on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The company today employs over 8,000 individuals around the globe.
Among the numerous honors and awards he was bestowed, Jorge Mas Canosa received an honorary Ph.D from Mercy College of New York for “exceptional work on behalf of democracy and human rights.” The U.S. Department of Education granted him the “Lincoln-Marti” award for “excellence in civic contributions to the United States of America.” In 1991, the Puerto Rican Senate, paid homage to him for his “valiant struggle in favor of returning democracy to his homeland of Cuba.” Another great honor was his naming to the Presidential Advisory Board for Broadcasting which was charged with supervising Radio and Television Marti. He served in this capacity until his death in 1997. Mas Canosa was also named as President of the Governmental Commission for a Free Cuba in the state of Florida.
Jorge Mas Canosa not only dedicated himself to the cause of freedom for his native homeland of Cuba, but contributed generously to, and was a very active member of, his community in South Florida. He served on various local Boards including the Miami Chamber of Commerce, YMCA of Dade-County, the “Plus Ten” Club of the Miami-Dade United Way, and the Hispanic Business Owners Association.
In 1981, he established the Cuban American National Foundation, a non-profit organization, that not only worked towards influencing U.S.-Policy towards Cuba and promoting democracy and human rights, but that has made numerous contributions to the local community. In 1992 for example, when Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida, Jorge Mas Canosa and the CANF coordinated an intense relief effort, targeting in particular those communities in the southern part of Miami Dade County. That effort lasted well over six months after the hurricane hit and was responsible for distributing aid to thousands of affected families.
In 1997, Jorge Mas Canosa purchased the Freedom Tower, the historic downtown building that had once served as a processing center for thousands of Cuban refugees. After years of abandonment, the building had become structurally unsound and was rotting away. Realizing the importance the building held for the community, Jorge Mas Canosa not only saved the building by purchasing it, but expended tremendous resources in restoring the tower to its former beauty.
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