Jorge Mas Canosa
Jorge Mas Canosa (1939-1997) was a Cuban American business executive and a political activist who promoted democracy and human rights in Cuba.
|Jorge Mas Canosa|
September 21, 1939|
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
|Died||November 23, 1997
Coral Gables, Florida
Juan Carlos Mas
|Parents||Dr. Ramón Mas Cayado
Josefa de Carmen Canosa Aguilera
Jorge Mas Canosa was born into a religious, middle class family in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1939. Since an early age, he was outspoken about his oppositions to dictatorships and was persecuted and imprisoned for his views by both the Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro regimes. After expressing his views about the latter of these, Mas Canosa was forced into exile and arrived in Miami, Florida.
Mas Canosa married Irma Santos, his high school sweetheart from Santiago, in Miami, Florida. Together they had three sons, Jorge Mas, Juan Carlos Mas, and Jose Mas, who each grew to become successful businessmen and active members of their respective communities.
At the age of fifteen, Mas Canosa spoke out against Batista’s dictatorship and was briefly imprisoned. Released into his father’s custody, his family soon sent him to the Presbyterian Junior College in Maxton, North Carolina. There, Mas Canosa learned English and studied the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, which would influence his outlook in the years to come.
Mas Canosa returned to Santiago to study law at the University of Oriente when the Batista regime was overthrown. As soon as it became clear that Castro’s new government was undemocratic in nature, Mas Canosa resumed his political activism in pursuit of democracy and the upholding of human rights. Persecuted by the government, he was forced into exile under threat of arrest and arrived in Miami, where he joined the Brigade 2506 and participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April, 1961. He later graduated as Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, but ultimately left the military life in pursuit of business ventures.
Cuban American National Foundation
In 1981, Mas Canosa established the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), an independent non-profit organization whose purpose was to promote democracy and human rights in Cuba and influence United States policy with the island. As chairman, Mas Canosa directed a number of programs that served to enlighten and clarify public opinion on problems of Cuban concern, fighting bigotry, protecting human rights, and promoting cultural interests and creative achievements. In addition to these, CANF has been instrumental to the passage of various pieces of legislation by the U.S. Congress on behalf of the freedom and democracy for the Cuban people.
CANF was supported by a majority of the transplanted Cuban population, which made vast contributions to its cause. Various projects that were unprecedented in their mission and scope were carried out in the 1980’s and 1990’s under Mas Canosa’s leadership, including a project to reunify Cuban families who were split between the United States and third countries.
Radio / TV Martí
As an exile, Mas Canosa was very active in his new community. As soon as he arrived, he worked wherever he could to make ends meet: as a dockworker on the Miami River, washing dishes in hotels on Miami Beach, and delivering milk around town. With his charismatic energy and dynamism, he was able to establish a rapport with everyone from newly arrived Cubans to world leaders.
Church & Tower
In 1969, Mas Canosa made a deal with the owner of Church & Tower, a floundering and overextended construction firm that constructed and serviced telephone networks. Though he had no experience in the private sector, Mas Canosa agreed to focus all his efforts on saving the company in exchange for half ownership. Managing Miami operations, he used his growing reputation in the exile community to secure lines of credit and was ultimately able to optimize his workers’ construction methods and increase the company’s productivity. Gradually, the company grew from South Miami to Ft. Lauderdale until it was a company with $40 million in annual revenues in 1980.
Following the incorporation of Mas Canosa’s sons into the business became MasTec, Inc. in 1994 when Jorge Mas led a reverse acquisition by its former competitor, Burnup & Sims.
Today, MasTec, Inc. (NYSE:MTZ) has a $3.6 billion revenue traded network infrastructure contractor employing over 13,000 persons in North America. MasTec is a leader in six distinct business lines. Power Generation and Industrial renewable, Natural Gas and Oil Pipeline, Electrical Transmission, Wireless, Wireline Utility Services and DirecTV install to the home. MasTec has consistently been one of the Top five largest Hispanic owned firms in the United States and was the first to reach the $1 billion revenue mark in 1998.
Mas Canosa not only dedicated himself to the cause of freedom for his native homeland of Cuba, but also enriched his adopted community in South Florida by being a generous contributor and active participant in local community matters. He served on various 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.
Hurricane Andrew Relief
In 1992, after Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida, Mas Canosa and CANF coordinated an intense relief effort that targeted communities in Miami-Dade County that were most affected. Mas Canosa’s effort lasted for over six months after the hurricane and reached thousands of affected families, distributing aid and supplies that would have been unavailable to them otherwise.
Mas Canosa purchased the Freedom Tower; a historic building that was a processing center for thousands of Cuban refugees and their point of entry to the United States, after years of abandonment and structural decay and restored is to its original beauty.
Mas Canosa received an honorary Ph.D from Mercy College of New York for his exceptional work on behalf of democracy and human rights. The US Department of Education granted him the Lincoln-Marti Award for excellence in civic contributions to the United States. In 1991, the Puerto Rican Senate paid homage to him for his valiant struggle in favor of returning democracy to his homeland of Cuba.
Mas Canosa’s work lives on through CANF, the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC), and the Jorge Mas Canosa Freedom Foundation (JMCFF). Though he did not live to see it, Mas Canosa wanted nothing more than a Cuba where its citizens have freedom and where civil society is free to function without government interference. His dream for the prosperity of his homeland lives on, and will continue until it becomes a reality.