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Written by James Payne

Friday, 13 November 2009

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When I talk to people about cigars – and specifically the people that make them – there seems to be two schools of thought. One is born of myth and legend; the other is born of slick marketing campaigns. In this article we will attempt to look beyond the smoke and mirrors and lift the veil of advertising to sneak a peek at the everyday men and women that live, eat, and breathe cigars. 

Smoke and Mirrors

In some ways I feel like understanding the process behind how cigars are made is similar to understanding the way a good magic trick works. It doesn’t take away from the taste and smells, or even the tactile sensation. But for me, it does take away some of the mystique. I feel the same when I think of the men (and women) that work behind the scenes to make cigars happen. I liken it to stopping by David Copperfields’ house and setting up a hidden camera. Watching him eat Cheese Doodles in his underwear, well, it lessens the magic somewhat.

I have mentioned in a past article that part of my love of cigars came from an uncle that smoked. Alongside the smell, the stories he told of Cuban women with perfumed thighs rolling cigars helped to ensure that I got past the first somewhat harsh experience that was my first smoke. Well, I should clarify my first cigar smoke. My first tobacco smoke was when I was four, and culminated with me eating a pack of cigarettes as punishment.

My first cigar smoke was with a cigar of questionable construction that tasted and smoked like powdered concrete.

Alongside the perfumed ladies, I was charmed by the cigar store Indian, who really didn’t do anything to help the cigars get made (or even have a place at the manufacturer). Perhaps most vivid in my young mind, was the lector, a man who read to the rollers. Having written since the age of six, and being an avid reader for about as long, the lector was always a mystical figure for me, reading books, newspapers, poetry – anything to break up the tedium of cigar rolling without distracting the rollers nimble fingers.

Today, the lector is still in existence in some factories, though sadly not in all of them. With the advent of CD’s, both musical and literature, and the mp3 player, a lot of factories have turned to the age of technological wonder. Still, there are quite a few lectors still around, subtly entertaining the workers and providing some their only means of education.






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