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Return to the Birth of a Habano

Once again the tobacco plantations of Vuelta Abajo, in Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Rio, welcomed attendees to the Habano Festival who learned and witnessed the process endured by tobacco from the planting and the harvesting all the way to the rolling of cigars. 

We arrived in the plantations of Vuelta Abajo Wednesday morning and talked with men and women who day in and day out wake up at daybreak and work hard in one of Cuba’s most traditional trades. 

During the grand tour, participants enjoyed the unique natural scenery of a green-carpeted place full of contrasts and unearthed part of the secrets related to the harvesting and wick removal of tobacco leaves. 

They learned that the growth of tobacco boasts a longstanding tradition that is thoroughly passed on from one generation to the next as part of the country’s culture. And it’s all about a job –tobacco planter- that takes plenty of passion and expertise. 

Long hours of hard work under extreme conditions, especially during the winter’s chilly temperatures and high humidity levels, and under the summer’s sweltering sun, are required. 

According to what the tobacco planters said during the tour, the growth of tobacco kicks off in the months of July and August, when the seedlings are prepared and the lands are chosen.

Following the long planting process and the transplantation of buds, the leaves are collected and whisked off to the curing barns for a natural wind-driven drying process.  

While visiting one of the centers where the leaf wicks (main nerves) are removed, we learned about the rolling of a Habano. The leaves endure a humidifying process that paves the way for ripping their lower parts off the tobacco filler.

In this job, leaves are also pigeonholed according to their size and later on flattened on wooden planks.

Thus, after long days of hard work, men and women from Vuelta Abajo take the magic of the plantations in their hands to roll them into one of the most emblematic symbols of Cuba’s culture and tradition: the Habano. 

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