The Legacy of Cuban Cigar Factory Storytellers
EDUCATIONAL. INFLUENTIAL. CUBA'S CLASSIC TRADITION
Cigar smokers who buy Cuban cigars, understand the backbreaking work involved to produce their hand-crafted pieces. Tobacco farmers, torecedors; the level of care undertaken to correctly age cigars in a humidor. Nevertheless, there’s another type of worker – crucial to the process, who rarely receives much mention. Storytellers – lectors, have helped shape the industry since 1845.
STORYTELLER SIGNIFICANCE - In an article from the BBC, correspondent Michael Voss went to the H. Upmann (Jose Marti Cigar) Factory in Havana and reported on the significance of cigar factory readers. Cuba remains the only country to withhold the tradition; “an estimated 250 “lectores” or cigar readers” are employed throughout the island. The BBC piece explains how a storyteller will sit on a raised platform with a microphone and read the state-run newspaper Granma in the morning, but by the afternoon, cigar workers can choose reading material. This includes everything from magazines and horoscopes, to modern and classic novels, and occasional self-help books.
Right: Torcedor crafting a habano in Cuba, Bottom: Legendary Torcedor Juanita Ramos Guerra
"gave workers an education"
HOW TRADITION BEGAN – The first storyteller was a cigar roller who was assigned the task of reading a book to fellow employees. Not only did this make the excruciating concentration and stamina required as a cigar roller, more seamless and enjoyable, it gave workers an education. Most were illiterate and came from a poor, uneducated background. Overtime, readers became so popular, factory employers began hiring specific lectors. An article from Pop Inquirer published in April this year, states that Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Storyteller Pena is quoted in the article on the benefits of his role and says “I think I serve a very important goal… I help deal with problems of everyday life.”
READING INFLUENCING BRAND NAMES - Besides maintaining the energy and dedication of those creating habanos in the factories, lectors have helped influence the names of the biggest cigar brands. On our blog post: Romeo Y Julieta Cigars: Captivating History Behind the Brand, we revealed the story of how creators Inocencio Alverez and Manin Garcia, came up with their company name. Their inspiration was sourced from factory workers requesting readers to read aloud the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet. In 1875, Romeo Y Julieta Cigars were established, and success since then has been continuous. The Romeo Y Julieta Wide Churchills Cigar is frequently mentioned as a favourite for cigar aficionados, while the Romeo Y Julieta Mille Fleurs Cigar is considered one of the best Petit Coronas.
Top Left: Romeo Y Julieta Wide Churchills Cigar, Top Right: Romeo Y Julieta Mille Fleurs Cigar, Bottom: Montecristo Linea 1935 Dumas Cigar
"depended on lectors for entertainment and education"
FAVOURITE FOR LECTORS TO READ - Another brand to have its name taken from a book read by lectors is Montecristo. The literature The Count of Monte Cristo, was incredibly well-liked by torcedors. At the Festival del Habanos in 2017, Montecristo Linea 1935 Cigars were presented. These Montecristo Cigars are the first full-strength flavour in the brand’s portfolio and contain a luxurious Carmelite wrapper. From The Count of Monte Cristo, the character Alexandre Dumas inspired the Montecristo Linea 1935 Dumas Cigar, and the Montecristo Linea 1935 Maltes Cigar, takes its name from the nickname of the book’s main character.
The tradition of storytellers is as fundamental as the other processes of cigar production. For more than 150 years, torcedors have depended on lectors for entertainment and education. Generations acknowledge their significance, which is why Cuba has not removed the role from factories. All our Cuban Cigars online, have been made by master cigar rollers, who have depended on readers to keep their dedication thriving. To learn about other Cuban cigar traditions, read Cuban Cigar Traditions Still Used Today.