By Carlos Fuente, Jr. | A. Fuente Cigar Co.
When you slow down to wonder what makes a great cigar, the immediate answers start to flow on quality of the soil, proper growth of the tobacco, the processing, curing and blending of the leaves, seeking perfection and quality.
For a moment, though, I want you to consider how that cigar came to be, at all. Cigar making is based upon generations of skill, where the nose and hands combine with instinct, and the history that passed building up to that moment of lighting the cigar. To this day, every time I strike a match to those golden leaves, I immediately, even for a second, think back to the trials and tribulations of my grandfather, the vision of my father, and what I hope to be a lasting tradition for my children, and theirs. I worry about the future – a lot.
You see, at any given point, many obstacles clearly could have stopped the growth and the very existence of the A. Fuente Cigar Company. When my grandfather Arturo Fuente was born in 1887, political strife and armed conflict was already rampant in Cuba. At only the age of seven, he was riding horses into harms way to deliver water to those fighting in the Second Civil War with Spain. Obviously the worst could have happened, but grace protected him, and allowed him to seek a new vision for the future, in Key West, and then on to Ybor City, Florida.
It was through trial and error, learning from others, always remembering that the family is the centerpiece to all that is good, that my grandfather was able to build the foundations that made the Fuentes’ of today, even possible. He managed to look adversity in the eye, in the face of a factory fire, an embargo on tobacco, the Great Depression. It gave so much truth to the words, ‘that which does not kill us, only makes us stronger.’ Today, as I begin to discuss the issues confronting each of us that share the passion for a great cigar, we must draw from that strength.
My father can remember the days of having cigar rollers come to their home, and producing some of the finest cigars of their day, from a back porch in Ybor City. Through vision and risk, factories were built, and around the clock hours were kept to build a company in the era of national economic Depression. The company effort with Nicaragua in 1978 nearly cost my father his life, as political instability ran rampant, which coincided with the era of national recession in the United States. Yet, the vision persevered.
It is not easy to recap three generations of history into one story, a story that leads to our issues and demands of the 21st century, but now we travel from civil strife in Cuba with my grandfather, with the vision of tapping into those traditions with cigar production, to Key West and onto Tampa, then the years of searching for new means to meet the vision of my father, with travels and work in Honduras and Nicaragua, then to find ourselves in the Dominican Republic.
With fire, embargos, political instability, economic depression and recession, and then hurricanes, one wonders how it all survived. That’s when the institution of family becomes centerpiece to our existence. We draw from that strength. With every breath, we know that family is the reason to protect all that we have. Protecting all that is precious to us, is the issue of the day, because I fear that there is an obstacle before us stronger than fire and hurricanes. It is the power of government.
The cigar industry is confronting its most formidable moment. We have now learned how the U.S. Food & Drug Administration wishes to regulate our industry, in a manner that could bring ruin to generations of knowledge, tradition, history, and skill. Their attempts to regulate premium/traditional cigars could impact everything from how cigars are produced, purchased, marketed and enjoyed.
I see many of you at Casa Fuente during the course of the Las Vegas Big Smoke, or in local cigar shops across America. We walk into the humidor together. Our great staff asks about your preferences, your tastes, and selections are made.
What if that ‘right’ were taken away by some federal regulation? What if new blends sat in Washington, D.C. before you were allowed to taste them for yourself? What if the very notion of a complimentary cigar were outlawed by federal dictate? These are the questions we are asking ourselves. Sounds like not much difference from the political oppression many in the cigar business have fled, in times past. We need to take a stand. Now.
America is the greatest nation on earth. It has been the land of opportunity not only for my ancestors, but for millions in a truly short snapshot in time. The Founding Fathers had the vision to develop a Constitution meant to survive the ages, and sometimes I feel as if the respect for liberty, property, and self-determination has been discarded because of the clamoring of vocal minorities in society.
Well, it’s our turn. It’s time to remember that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were proud tobacco farmers. It’s time to remember that the economic foundation of this great nation was built with tobacco. It’s time to remember our heritage – a heritage that spans from the tobacco fields of Latin America, to the very roots of that golden leaf for this country at Jamestown. Embrace it. Don’t run from it.
I am proud to support Cigar Rights of America, and our mission is to protect not only the tradition and culture of this business and the legacy built by many before us, but to protect your ability to enjoy that cigar, among friends and family, or alone in a moment of reflection. The federal government should not intervene in such a simple pleasure.
Call and write your member of Congress. Sign the CRA petition. Let your voice be heard.