Touring a Cuban cigar factory is a journey back in time.
The clamor of workers going about their business reaches your ears and grows in volume with every step: A shout in rapid-fire Cuban Spanish, a call to an amigo, a friendly laugh, the hearty baritone of a golden-throated lector reading the daily news.
Then it hits you—the smell of unlit cigar tobacco, earthy and pungent and remarkably intoxicating. It pulls you closer to the factory’s heart, a siren song that can’t be ignored, and you walk into the massive galera, the main rolling room of the fabrica. There before you are scores of workers, each making cigars entirely by hand. It’s an unrushed, antique and artisinal process, one that has not changed in any major way for hundreds of years.
Production here is unlike almost every place else. Cuban cigarmakers, unlike their counterparts in most of the non-Cuban cigar world, make the entire cigar themselves. Most cigar factories in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua split the process between roller and buncher. (And many have males doing the bunching and females rolling.)