REMEMBRANCE: CIGARS GODFATHER
Cigars Tycoon Supreme
Cuba's most famous tobacco farmer Alejandro Robaina died of cancer on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at age 91, confirm media reports from Havana.
Robaina was part of a family that has
been growing tobacco for four generations in San
Luis near Pinar del Rio in western Cuba.
The man of cigars was the only Cuban to have a cigar brand named after him, died Saturday from cancer after doctors discovered inoperable tumors on his lungs and kidney, his grandson Hirochi Robaina said. Robaina is widely credited with maintaining the quality standards of Cuba’s legendary cigar tobacco even after the communist revolution 50 years ago. Havana cigars have remained the world’s most highly sought and expensive.
Robaina convinced revolutionary leader - and famous cigar enthusiast - Fidel Castro that tobacco growing should remain in private hands, an exception on the socialist island that has not changed. The tobacco farmers sell their production at pre-set prices to the state, which produces and sells the famous Cuban luxury good worldwide.
The room is lined with photos of the late
Robaina examining dark-green tobacco leaves ready
for harvest, walking his fields, smiling with a
golden-brown cigar between his fingers and, of
course, dragging on a stogie amid a thick, white
smoke, says a DPA report.
Robaina's family began planting tobacco in San Luis in 1845, after immigrating from Spain, and he took up cigars when he began working the family fields at age 10 — eventually smoking for 81 years.
For decades, cigar aficionados have visited San Luis to see Robaina. Even though the dirt road to his farm has no name and there are no street numbers, everyone in town knows the way.
Strutting roosters, stray dogs and goats wander the road and the only indication that you've found the farm's collection of weather-beaten wooden barns is the large, red-and-green lettering attached to one roof reading: "Plantation El Pinar Alejandro Robaina."
Until his last days, Robaina could often be found sitting on his porch, puffing on a cigar. Even though Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution nationalized many large farms, Robaina was allowed to keep his land, but began producing tobacco for the state. In 1997, the Cuban tobacco monopoly Habanos SA unveiled a brand named in his honor, Vegas Robaina.
His grinning, heavily wrinkled face appears on the boxes. Today, a box of 25 of the brand's finest cigars can go for between $300 and nearly $500.
Hirochi Robaina said his grandfather always said the most important element in growing top tobacco is not the seed or the climate, but the soil. He always maintained "The land is everything”.
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