Whence comes the legend that Cuban torcedors roll cigars on their thighs? What does it have to do with Cohiba and prostitutes?
There is a fascinating legend about cigars which roams about. It’s about premium Cuban cigars are rolled by women on their thighs. It seems that everyone heard it.
Is it true? Well, Legends shouldn’t be checked out. That’s why they are ‘Legends’ and not ‘facts’. Sometimes there is no benefit in the truth, particularly if it’s not the “naked truth”. Many fantasize, with each cigar they enjoy, about chocolaty mulatto women, in the cigar factories. They sit in the steamy Caribbean heat, skin glistening with slight perspiration, low cleavages reveal heavy breasts, light colorful dress leaving but little to the imagination, round thighs spread at a comfortable angle. Slowly rolling cigars on smooth thighs to adorn them with the final touch. So do aficionados imagine, or is it my imagination?
I can offer four hypotheses as to the origin of this legend, one of which may be true. Each issue will present one. Here’s the first one.
It has to do with Cohiba cigars, perhaps the world’s most known name in cigars. It seems as if the Cohibas were always here. Fact is that no one heard of it till the sixties of the previous century. This trade mark just did not exist until then.
It was the young Fidel Castro who gave life to this outstanding cigar. Story goes that “El Presidente” walked one day, in 1967, in the hallway, when a wonderful scent came to his nostrils, of a cigar he encountered never before. His seasoned sense of smell immediately noticed the qualities inherited in a cigar that fills the place with such fragrances and aromas. He followed the scent to its source. The cigar was being smoked by one of his bodyguards, Bienvenido Perez Salazar.
Castro – a cigar connoisseur throughout the bourgeois part of his life – asked to try the cigar himself and fell in love. The cigar was of a rare lancero vitola – long and slim 7 1\2 X 38. Castro so enjoyed the cigar, that he inquired as to its origin. The bodyguard told him that a friend, a young torcedor, makes them of his own original blend, for himself and some friends.
The torcedor, Eduardo Rivera Irizarri was just twenty years old, yet already an artist at cigar making, after seven long years at the cigar rolling galers. He was invited to meet with Castro, and was asked to make these great cigars solely for him. In the first year Rivera made 30,000 cigars. He then was moved to a luxurious beautiful house, the ‘El Laguito’ (small lake). This was once home of the Prince of Pinar del Rio. There, under a veil of secrecy, so as not to reveal the secrets of the precious blend, Eduardo Rivera begun to teach two hundred women, the art of premium cigar rolling.
From those he chose the twenty best rollers to make the “Fidel’s” cigars. In the first few years, they produced about 650,000 cigars annually. Part of the output was exclusively for Castro and close friends. The rest were given – a most desirable gift then – to important guests, diplomats, and leaders Castro favored.
U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro
In the 1970’s, when former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was having secret dialogue with Fidel Castro, the two leaders used a go-between who’s name we prefer not to reveal
This fellow was a friend of the late Oscar Boruchin, previous owner of Mike’s Cigars. One day, after returning from another trip to Havana, he came to the Mike’s Cigars store in Miami Beach and presented Oscar with one of the first cigars made with the Cohiba name on its band. A quick research revealed that Cuba did not register the brand and it was made exclusively for the Cuban dictator who kept the cigars for himself, his friends and important state visitors.
General Cigar Corp. quickly registered the Cohiba brand in the U.S. and the rest is history. When the story became public knowledge, Mike’s Cigars got recognized and we’re proud to be the first U.S. merchant to offer the Cohiba Red Dot cigars.
So what does this have to do with the myth of thighs?
Who were the two hundred women brought to El Laguito to learn the art of cigar rolling? They were prostitutes. They have lost their Source of income, due to the new regime. Fidel ordered them to be taught by maestro Rivera to roll cigars, as a part of “re-education”, a typical communist act. Rolling cigars was a male-dominated profession, because strong wrists and fingers are required to bunch the leaves tightly, before binding them with the Binder leaf. Preaching equality, Castro wanted to prove that women are capable of doing any “men’s work”. And so he had two birds with one stone.
OK, what does all this have to do with cigars on thighs? Well, the distance between the thought of prostitutes rolling cigars, and their partly naked thighs, is short. This thought is a natural one to any he-man. No wonder then that Cohiba is such a SOB of a cigar.
Professionals will say it is impossible to roll cigars on thighs. Cigars, they’ll say, are rolled on a flat solid surface, whereas women’s thighs are round and soft. Yes, there’s nothing to spoil a good fairy tale as facts, so we’ll ignore it. I have to admit though; I’ve visited most Cuban cigar factories and have not seen women rolling cigars on their thighs, with my eyes open that is.
Meet you at Mike’s Cigars.
By Jacob Almond