Tobacco Asia

Volume 19, Number 4

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28 tobaccoasia / Issue 4, 2015 (September/October) Credit photo Norio Hattori Credit photo Norio Hattori The year 2015 is the year of Montecristo, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the brand and 2016 will be Cohiba year, with its 50th anniversary celebra- tions kicking off during the next Habanos Festival in March. These events coupled with the new era in US- Cuba relationships should focus the cigar world on the Cuban myth and the future supply of the legendary island's cigars. Though we do not know when tobacco was first grown or smoked, Christopher Columbus' sailors reported that the Cuban Indians smoked a primitive form of cigar with dried tobacco leaves. The word cigar takes its origins from sikar, the Ma- yan-Indian word for smoking, which later became cigarro in Spanish. Cigars, resembling the ones we know today, were first made in Spain in the early 18th century, using Cuban tobacco. Cigar production started in Cuba in the mid-18th century when it was dis- covered that cigars traveled better than tobacco, leading to Cuban cigars superseding the Spanish production. In 18th and 19th century Cuba, farmers origi- nally from the Canary Islands (called Isleños) were the driving force in the cigar industry. Many of the big cigar factories in Cuba were owned by Isleños, who were also the first professional Torcedores, or cigar rollers, instrumental in the training of other cigar rollers. Cigar production in Cuba has had its ups and downs but the way Cuba grows tobacco and pro- duces cigars hasn't changed much compared to when before Fidel Castro came to power, except for the government controlling tobacco growing and cigar production. Before and after the revolution, Cuba has always been a mythic island and who hasn't dreamed about it? Mention Cuba and what comes to mind? Cas- tro, Hemingway, vintage cars, salsa, music, rum, dilapidated palaces – not necessarily in this order - and of course, puros. One of the island's most famous residents, Ernest Hemingway, spent around 20 years in Cuba until 1960 and became a fixture of Havana. Hemingway's two favorite watering holes in Ha- vana, La Floridita, and La Bodeguita del Medio, still stand today. On a small plaque in La Floridita hangs Hemingway's signed quote: "My mojito in the Bo- deguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita." During the prosperous years of Batista's sec- ond presidency from 1952 to 1958, Cuba was one of the five most developed countries in the region. Havana was a hedonistic playground for the world's elite, a place of parties, luxury, drugs, gambling… as well as corruption and mafia. Batista's downfall on January 1, 1959 and Fi- del Castro's revolution became an other legendary milestone in the history of Cuba. Cuba: Myth and Mirage? By Eric Piras Stripping the leaves Lots of Punch!

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