The Enduring Effect of Castro's Nationalisation of Cuban Cigars
Cohiba Behike Collection
CONTROVERSIAL LEGACY. LOSS OF CIGAR BARONS. GOVERNMENT CONTROL
On the 25th of November 2016, Fidel Castro passed away. Nine days of national mourning was declared in Cuba, with scenes from Miami to Havana displaying crowds of grief. At 90 years old and with years of failing health, Castro’s death announcement was anticipated. Mournful and sad, yet celebratory and joyful – equal amounts of supporters and enemies. More so with the giants of the Cuban Cigars industry.
THE DISLOYAL RISE – Born on the 13th August 1926, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz gained a law degree in Havana, and initially began his career as a lawyer. Having smoked cigars as a young teenager, Castro initially made friends with many of Cuba’s cigar barons. People envisioned him as a hero – a democratic hero who showed no signs of communism. That was until, New Year’s day in 1960.
Top Left and Right: Fidel Castro
"cigar barons had no choice but to flee"
FACTORY TAKEOVER – The story of how Castro and his troops took over the country’s cigar industry is heavily depicted on Cigar Aficionado. Armed soldiers threatened factory bosses to leave, claiming the farms and land no longer belonged to them. The magazine reports “16 cigar factories, 14 cigarette plants and 20 tobacco giants” were seized. The creators of many of the great brands, from Alonso Menendez and Pepe Garcia who owned Montecristo Cigars and H. Upmann, to Ramon Cifuentes who was at the forefront of Partagas Cigars, were left broke and penniless.
FLEEING CUBA – With armed men having robbed their assets – no law or police protection, many Cuban cigar barons had no choice but to flee. The country which had fulfilled their dreams and ambitions, had cruelly snatched away their life’s work. Our Behind the Brand editorial series, shares how many factory owners came from humble beginnings. Partagas Cigars: Dramatic History Behind the Brand, tells how Jaime Partagas hopped on a boat to Cuba at 14 and spent years learning the craft before beginning his own factory.
CIGAR NATIONALISATION – The concept of equality may have appeared wonderful on the surface, but wealthy cigar-making factories who believed in Castro and helped initially with his finances, were left without nothing. To this day, the government controls the Cuban Cigar industry. This ensures quality and preservation, but left pioneers with the ability to take their cigar knowledge elsewhere.
Top Left: Cohiba Siglo II Cigar, Top Right: John F. Kennedy, Bottom Left: Fidel Castro, Bottom Right: Cohiba box
"surge of cigar pioneers working elsewhere"
NEW WORLD CIGARS – Most Cuban cigar barons fled to the Dominican Republic where they were able to use their brand names freely, though their tobacco was no longer Cuban. The surge of cigar pioneers working elsewhere, created competition and stopped Cuba from controlling the entire cigar monopoly. Cigar producers had to adapt and learn to blend foreign tobacco. Overtime their effort proved effective; New World Cigars in places such as the Dominican and Nicaragua, are continually advancing in flavour and quality. Be that as it may, nothing can compare to a true Cuban Cigar – plantations, weather and torecedores are simply unmatched.
RECREATION OF HISTORY – One can buy a Romeo y Julieta Cedros de Luxe No. 2 Cigar originating from the Dominican Republic, and yet it will be different to the Cuban version. We at EGM Cigars only use the unbeatable Cuban. Castro – perhaps naively, assumed some of Cuba’s cigar makers would stay. He requested Cifuentes to run the new nationalised industry, to which he replied no. Castro recreated history with his dictatorship, and cut losses once more in 1962, with the ending of America, one of their most loyal, Cuban cigar importers.
Top Left: Cohiba Behike collection, Top Right: Cohiba Siglo II Cigar
"the finest tobacco plantations"
J.F.K EMBARGO – The Cigar Husbands of Jackie Kennedy, is a blog editorial which details the night before John F. Kennedy’s embargo signing. Having requested a collection of Cuban cigars – ideally his favourite H. Upmann, Kennedy stopped Cuban cigars from being brought to the US. Vastly this affected sales and further increased the production of other country tobacco.
FIDEL’S COHIBA – Although he was responsible for Cuba losing many of their great cigar pioneers, and played a hand in America stopping their imports, Castro does have one charm – brand, which has secured a loving memory – Cohiba Cigars. The first national company which has the finest tobacco plantations in Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo region. Typically, 100% hand-rolled and with extra fermentation process, Cohiba is Cuba’s biggest cigar brand. On our Cohiba Cigars for Beginners post, we advise on some of the best for new smokers to try, such as a Cohiba Siglo II Cigar and a Cohiba Panetelas Cigar.
Controversial, heavily criticised and praised, and yet a permeant symbol of Cuban cigars and cigars for sale online. To this day, his leadership has directly edited and re-designed cigars not just for Cuba, but for many populations worldwide. Head to our post on 6 Fun Facts About Fidel Castro to learn more interesting insight about him.