Ever heard of Grisel Valdez? She is known as one of the 300 “cigar factory readers” in Cuba. Cigar factory readers go around to the cigar factories in Cuba and entertain cigar rollers throughout the day.
Started 150 years ago, cigar readers have become a big tradition in Cuba, and all the factory workers appreciate it. Instead of using radios and TVs as entertainment, Grisel stands in front of the workers and reads poems, novels, and newspaper articles out loud. She takes great pride in what she does and enjoys chatting and interacting with the workers throughout their work day.
Most of the workers spend 10 hours a day monotonously rolling cigars so it feels good to put a smile on their face. They are constantly updated on current events in Cuba and learn things they never imagined learning.
“A lot of us did not get past ninth grade (early secondary school) so this helps us to improve ourselves and stay up on the news, because we are here for 10 hours without knowing what is happening in the outside world,” explained a worker, Irse Martinez, at the H. Upmann building in Centro Habana, where the Montecristo brand is made.
This tradition dates back to 1865 when the workers used to pool their money together to pay the readers to keep them entertained for the day. Now the companies are paying these readers, but not much…Grisel makes about $14 a month, but doing what she loves.