”Cuba, an island as hot as a volcano” attracts the tourists for different reasons. Some of them come here for the fantastic climate which people can enjoy all year long. Some are seduced by the magical world of the 1970s and countless armies of the cars from those times. Some come here to have a break from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the omnipresent music and meeting everywhere dancing and smiling people.
Some come here to relish the beauty of local women, rum and cigars. After a visit on this magical island, I still have an impression that there are very few such places in the world and it’s worth visiting them as quickly as it is possible.
An average Cuban earns about 8 dollars a month. It is not much to live on high standard, but enough to live modestly, but with dignity with the help of subsidized products. Just next to the everyday life and poverty of common people, a business is flourishing especially in the tourist resorts and big cities. It is where young people earn hundreds of dollars working as taxi drivers or foreign tour operators. Since the moment the Cuban market was opened, the Cubans earn good money in every place where they have an access to the tourists from other countries.
A popular name for the tourists used there is “an ATM”. Maybe it is not said straight, but the tourists are considered to be potential walking wallets which can be opened to the needs of local people if treated properly and are able to improve the financial situation of the inhabitants of the isle even for a short while. Every single dollar counts, every single euro that a foreigner can give. In return, the tourists receive kindliness, help and all attractions which the local market is able to offer – with real rum and Cuban cigars at the top of it.
When going to Cuba, I knew I must taste the local products which are famous around the world. I could not miss the occasion to try them. There were no bigger problems with rum, reigning supreme everywhere. But with the cigars… Well, the first meeting did not go well. Even before my journey, I read about different ways of tricking the tourists. One of them is a Cigar Festival. It is organized very rarely, even once a year and always when there is a potential buyer on the street. “The festival” is a place in the old part of Havana which we would not find our way on our own to. A native Cuban would take us there and who, while telling the story of the production, would assure us that we shouldn’t miss the occasion, since it is the last day that the most famous manufactures from entire Cuba exhibits there.
Already after few steps, we know that the said Festival is very modest. It usually takes place in a room of a several square meter size and the representative of the manufacture is a beautiful woman who no one is able to refuse. The cigars really cost the half of the shop price and they really come from the real factory – and all these thanks to the enterprising Cubans who take the cigars out of the factory with a silent consent of the supervisors.
This is how the local people earn some extra money to supplement their modest salaries. If we are lucky, we will leave with the cigars which did not undergo the right quality control. If we are less lucky, we will be the owner of a roll with dried grass.
Cuban cigars have been considered to be the best in the world to this day. Some are recommended due to the fact that Fidel Castro (Cohiba) smoked them, some – were the favorite brand of Che Guevary (Montechristo). However, the very process of their production re-quires a great precision and concentration of the worker who has to learn his profession for at least five years in order to get the access to their production in the best factories. Those who are the best are assigned to the cigar production out of the thinnest tobacco leaves. The rest would produce about 100 cigars a day, rolling the leaves in a very characteristic way under the supervision of the masters.
In the middle of every cigar, there is a so called filler which provides with the even smoking of the cigar and is nothing else like a tangle of the longest leaves. When the filler is ready, a manufacturer covers it with another leaves. The quality of the leaves has a direct influence on the taste which would be left in the mouth of the smoker. When the cigar is formed, a wrapper and a cap is put on it. It is again nothing else like another leave which is connected with the body of the cigar and hence, it will not allow to unwrap the cigar before and during the smoking.
I visited one the cigar factories in Trinidad. The city looks as if it was taken live from the mediaeval times. The very factory did not distinguish itself among the other buildings on the street. Certainly, I would pass it having no awareness how the cigars are made. The strangers cannot go inside legally to the factory. Yet the magic power of dollar opens every door. Business and shopping can be made from the very entrance. Everyone is working at the tables full of tobacco and smoking cigarettes which kill the smell of the room for a short while. Children go around the tables, since they do the light works as well. It is not important how many members of the family is working – the important thing is that the daily limit which should be made is made. The workers stiffen to attention before the tourists and not feeling awkward, try to sell the products not even making a break in their work.
Everything is taking place in the presence of the supervisor who seats in a small room located at the back of the 200 square meter hall. I also used the occasion and I got persuaded to purchase a local product.
The aroma, lightness and spicy flavor of the best cigars are the indicators of the work of human hands. You should be careful not to buy any fakes which are offered to us on every Cuban street. It’s worth entering one of the stateowned shops and buy a package of original brand Cuban cigars at least as a gift.