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By Melbys Nicola

Passion is the name of the game. Cuba’s Habano Female Friends, that mottled and joyful bunch that stands up for such valuable product as Cuban tobacco with might and main, is a living proof of the perseverance and tenderness that women have left in an industry dominated overall by men.

It’s going to be five years since this cultural project –led by Zoe Nacedo, director of the Tobacco Museum- saw the light of day. Founded on February 22, 2010 in the heat of the 12th Habano Festival, this association gathers femmes from assorted walks of life: historians, sommeliers, bartenders, publishers, cigar factory readers, vendors or journalists, either related to one another by the mere liking for this Cuban icon or just bound by common employments linked to habanos.

In the course of their existence, this association has zeroed in mostly on learning, promoting and puffing on Cuban black cigars, those contained in the Habanos S.A.’s catalog and so feverishly coveted around the world for being premium habanos. Most of the group’s powwows also include pairing cigars with spirits –especially rum- and suggesting new forms of appreciation as far as after-meals are concerned. With that view in mind, some connoisseurs, like professor and bartender Ivonne de la Puente, join hands to unearth together the organoleptic, growing, making and historic characteristics of the vitola they wallow in.

Cultural and media-hyped figures, such as Omara Portuondo, Nisia Agüero, Magda Rezik, Teresita Cegarra and others, are proud members of the Habano Female Friends. In the same breath, experts in the gastronomic field, like Miriam Alonso, a renowned sommelier who’s at the helm of the Women’s Wine Club, also belong.

Either in its initial venue at the Panorama Hotel, or during their grand tours around some of the capital’s tourist-gastronomic hotspots, the name of the game is always the bonds between culture and tasting. At the same time, their visits to a flagship cigar factory like Partagas, the Tobacco Museum or habano outlets like Cuervo & Sobrinos, let them paint a more comprehensive picture of this interesting commodity.


The support and supplies chipped in by various companies have been instrumental in this woman-hallmarked endeavor. Zoe Nacedo herself underscores the fact that thanks to the support provided by Habanos S.A., rum-making companies, wine cellars and spirit importers overall, together with other entities like Habaguanex S.A., their meetings have taken place and evolved into workshops that make enjoyment and knowledge the values to advocate for an all-Cuban product, by far one of the island nation’s most effective ambassadors, a clear-cut footprint of both culture and national identity as genuine and secular as Cuba’s own history.

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