Photography by Ernesto Bazan
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Story on Tobacco growing and cigars in Cuba
Story on Tobacco growing and cigars in Cuba

Among the things Cuba is known for tobacco is one that usually comes to mind. You don't have to know cigars to know that the world finest are made there. As long as one can remember the word "Havana" has been synonymous with quality cigars. Who has not smoked or at least smelled a Romeo& Juliet robusto or the world-renown Cohiba.

The story concentrates mostly on a particular family who has been growing the luscious plants for many generations: the Dominguez family. They live in the small hamlet of Bautista about 20 miles from the capital province of Pinar del Rio in the North West region in Cuba.

What Burgundy and Bordeaux are to French wine making, Pinar del Rio is to Cuba and its cigars. Moreover, its tobacco farmers are acknowledged to be the best in the world.

Fidel Dominguez and his son Fidel junior devote quite a bit of care to tobacco. It's a lot of hard work. First they have to till and prepare the land so that the small, delicate plants can be planted. Then they will tend them and care for them for three long months. Weeds will have to be constantly removed to give room for the tobacco to grow strong. Long battle against different insects will have to be waged at all times.

In the final month, a lot of pruning will have to be done so that the upper leaves, used as cigars' coat, will grow big and healthy. Then in the months of February and March the harvest begins. It will take several weeks for Fidel and all his family members to clear the fields surrounding the house. Leaves are plucked away and stack up on a wheelbarrow that will take them to the curing house. Several women living in the nearby houses work relentlessly inserting new leaves inside a string to make a bundle. It's a laborious job that will go on for weeks. The leaves are then hung on long skinny post to cure for three months. After that the tobacco is taken to the factories where it will go through another curing process, which will last for another year or so before being rolled into a splendid "Havana".

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