Anyone who has ever visited Cuba knows that each trip begins the minute the plane touches ground. Clapping and cheers are heard throughout the plane. Passengers anxiously awaiting to reunite with family members and travelers excited to experience Cuba firsthand.
My twin sister and I own a cigar brand based in Miami, Fl.—Tres Lindas Cubanas Cigars. Accompanied by a group of cigar enthusiasts, we planned a trip to Cuba for the annual Habano Cigar Festival.
Our itinerary included a day tour to Pinar del Rio, to visit the Robaina tobacco farm, a personal favorite. We shared the road with plenty of horses and ox-drawn carriages, passing mogotes, colorful houses and endless tobacco farms along the way.
We shared a couple of our personal cigars with the local vegueros in hopes of some positive feedback on our cigar blends. We kept asking after they took long puffs, “Do you like it?” The usual response was, “Yes, but it’s not Cuban.” You have to love the Cuban attitude. Although our personal brand is made in Nicaragua, we hope to one day collaborate with them. The miles of red soil is spectacular.
Here in the States, my sister and I attend many cigar events throughout the country. But nothing compares to the Habano Festival. Just walking into the conference center and seeing huge display cases of Cohiba, Trinidad, Partagas is worth the trip. Cuban cigars are like a forbidden fruit. This is something that every American cigar enthusiast dreams of. Mingling with cigar vendors, sampling new cigars; it was a dream come true.
We spent five long days eating extravagant lunches at Dona Eutimia and Atelier Restaurant enjoying picadillo and camarones al ajillo. Conversations paired with Cuban fusion, Italian, Spanish, and fresh seafood, never forgetting the cigars and coffee after each meal.
We spent four even longer nights feasting on lobster and sipping on aged rum at San Cristobal Paladar. Drinking endless cups of cafe con leche and puffing away on cigars at the Hotel Nacional. I wish my grandmother could have been with us. She would have enjoyed our tour of the Museum of the Orishas. I was informed that I am Chango’s daughter and my twin sister is the daughter of Yemaya. We’ve been told this many times here in the States, but when a Cuban santera tells you something, you know it’s the truth.
We have been in search of the perfect Cuban cigar. But with so many choices, the decision is hard to make. It is too difficult to choose just one. So we prefer to leave the decision up to you Cigar enthusiasts, to those that dream of visiting the island just like we have. We invite you to join us on our adventures. For those that have never visited the island, the rumors are true. Cuba is the gem of the Caribbean.
We may stand out in Miami, with our big afros, big smiles and loud conversation. But in my parents’ homeland, we fit right in. Those who traveled with us, all English-speaking Americans, also began to infuse their mannerisms and dialect with Cuban slang and over the top hand gestures just like the many friends we met along our travels.
This trip was definitely soul-fulfilling. Walking the streets of Havana, listening to the drums on any sidewalk corner, mixed with rum and the aromatic scent of cigars brought the memory of my grandmother back to life. She was also an avid cigar smoker and inspiration for our brand. Her presence was felt.
The Cuban people feel like family. The soul of the country can be felt along the Malecón and the many streets we weaved in and out of throughout our trip. The city of Havana can be described as an outdoor art gallery.
I blame our sleepless nights on the strong Cuban coffee and the view of the Malecon from our top floor penthouse apartment in El Vedado. How can you blame us? The view was spectacular and well worth the lack of sleep. People watching, listening to music, sipping on Guayabita del Pinar rum which pairs surprisingly great with a Cuban Habano. I would do it again and again in a heartbeat.