Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What Happened to the Cuban Cigar?

What Happened to the Cuban Cigar? / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on May 19, 2014

The story goes that Cuban natives consumed tobacco long before the
Genovese admiral Christopher Colombus landed on the island.

The studies and evidence show that our natives used it as a medicine,
narcotic, aphrodisiac, and in religious rituals and celebrations. They
smoked it, breathing through the nose and even drank it in concoctions.

Rodriguo de Jerez was one of the sailors who arrived in the Americas
with Colombus and returned to old Europe with the habit of smoking. The
Inquisition, after alleging that only the devil could concede to a man
the power of taking smoking through the mouth, sentenced him to seven
years in prison.

Nevertheless, the vice prevailed; tobacco became an industry, and
although studies make clear that the plant has its origin in the Andean
region between Peru and Ecuador, Cuban tobacco rapidly achieved the
qualifier of "the best in the world." And the term Havana appeared to
conceptualize all the cigars where 100% of the product is cultivated and
manufactured in Cuba after multiple and severe controls both at the
level of agriculture and at the drying and twisting process.

It was 1800 and by then tobacco, like sugar, had fused with the history
of our country; but the characteristics of the market and the pleasure
of the smokers made the Havana, distinguished now by its provenance,
start to be classified by the zone of the crop. So emerged prestigious
brands like Partagas, H Upmann, La Corona, Por Larranaga, El Figaro, and
others until 1966 when Fidel Castro created Cohiba, the leading brand of
Cuba, which carries his name thanks the suggestion of his then chief
bodyguard, Chicho.

Cohiba not only is the name of the tobacco of the highest prestige in
the world, it is also a commercial brand that moves political
influences, traffics in power and manages millions of dollars. It is
sold at astronomical prices and is consumed in every corner of this
planet. The Rolls-Royce of tobaccos is a golden bubble where pleasure
finds a select group of people who only have money and power in common.

Throughout all its history the leaves used to handmake the bast cigar in
the world have been jealously chosen, and marketing specifies that they
come from the five best meadows from the region of Vuelta Abajo, Pinar
del Rio.

Inclement weather, the Special Period, lack of fertilizers, financial
liquidity, the fight against smoking and other series of factors made
Cuban tobacco production decline. As hard as they tried they could not
meet the commitments or the claims of a market that demanded greater
quantity and quality from our leading product. The Commander in Chief
himself, who by then was also a microbiologist, ordered the use of an in
vitro production technique that would guarantee massive quantities of
tobacco plant starts with the same high levels of excellence; but
obviously, the plan did not bear fruit. And so we arrive, as always, at

"The country of tobacco" clandestinely bought selections of leaves in
Nicaragua and small quantities in Ecuador, countries where it is known
that the tobacco plantations pass through a strict quality control with
international standards. The quasi-contraband leaves were used for the
manufacture of tobacco that was sold, and which was given to influential
leaders. A real joke, "the best Havana in the world" without guarantee
of origin.

Just the Cuban part of the joint venture Habanos S.A. can answer if this
government scam persists. One more.

Translated by mlk.

13 May 2014

Source: What Happened to the Cuban Cigar? / Juan Juan Almeida |
Translating Cuba -

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