A few years ago when visiting Cuba I went on a tour of a cigar factory. It was one of the oldest cigar companies in Havana. Those on the tour were shown around the places where they dried big tobacco leaves. Up on the top floor we saw people sitting at desks rolling their cigars. They’d roll them up so skillfully and seal them with the wrapper leaf, binding each cigar in a spiral fashion. The leaf they use is the most expensive. It must be strong, elastic, have a pleasant taste and possess good burning properties.
Finally they bring down the blade and trim the ends like a clean and bloodless circumcision.
Some people were rolling the small cigarrillos with the little leaves. Others were entrusted with the big long cigars. Some rolled up the corona—the straight shaped cigars and still others made the ideales—the ones that look like a torpedo.
In this Pantegas Factory there were about 200 people rolling cigars at their desks. On the front wall there were big posters of leaders like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and up the front was a reader or lector.
While these people rolled cigars this guy would read stories. They’ve been doing it since 1865. The workers love it. He was reading Spanish poems when I visited. The reading turned work from a drudgery into a delight! Over the course of a year they would get through many stories. They voted on which books they would read and each day there would be readings from newspapers, political tracts and novels.
One of the favorite stories in the early days of the factory was The Count of Monte Cristo. They loved it so much they wrote to its author Alexandre Dumas and he gave his permission to lend the name of his hero to one of their cigars. So today one of the best cigars on the market is the Montecristo.
On this visit I witnessed afresh the shared experience of reading together. To the Cubans in the cigar factories it is honey for the heart!
It made me wonder about things I might do in my relationships and work that might be like honey for the heart or reading together over a few cigars.
Image: The Montecristo.