April 28, 2007
On the first floor, up some rickety well trodden wooden stairs we reached, the sorting bay for the inner leaf - ensuring the different components for taste, length of burning and coolness are achieved, and the highly technical job of measuring the proportions for the day’s work. There was a large training area on this floor where workers were learning the required skills – a serious business as failure to reach the target or creating substandard cigars will result in the trainee returning to a more mundane factory job or worse still being sent home without a job.Upstairs on the top floor we were greeted by a cacophony of excited voices registering approval of the work of today’s narrator there’s a morning read through newspapers and a story in the afternoon. Today they were being read another chapter of the Da Vinci Code and shouts of approval and demands for another chapter rang through the building. They would have to wait, explained the guide until tomorrow, but for now they would just play music and we shouldn’t be surprised if workers got up to dance. You see as long as they achieve their daily target (both in quantity and quality) the bosses aren’t concerned how they complete the job. Indeed they seemed a very contented workforce.Staff are given three cigars every day and are not discouraged from smoking whilst at work indeed the overseer of the quality must smoke regularly through the day ‘that’s no hardship’ explained our guide ‘that’s what they’re paid to do’. Mind you smoking a Cuban cigar before breakfast must be a bit of a chore!We’re mesmerised at the dexterity of the workers and our guide said the popular myth stated that the cigar was rolled on the thigh of a Cuban virgin. ‘This is no longer the case’ she said with a smile ‘as virgin’s are too hard to find’.After the first roll and pressing the leaf is wrapped round the cigar, sealed and placed neatly and universally, even to the colour match, in boxes. All hand done not a single piece of automated machinery was anywhere to be seen.
A superb insight into Cuban working life.
From journal Havana and its museums