HAVNA – The route to tobacco starts in Havana, where cigar aficionados are celebrating the 19th cigar festival through Friday, and ends in Pinar del Rio, where tobacco grows in the western part of the island.
Francisco Lazo Diaz is a tobacco farmer. At age 61, he runs a tobacco cooperative with the help of the Cuban government.
He said he has been working in his plantation for 22 years. He grows a plant known as the wedding dress, because the “tobacco is the layer that goes on the outside of the cigar.
It has to be top notch quality and it has to be grown carefully every step of the way, the farmer said.
They cover them so the plant grows without enduring too much sun or rain. There are some 50,000 plants on the land and it takes some 40 to 85 days to grow.
When the plant is ready, farmers take the leaves from the bottom up. His relatives use a thread to join several leaves that go up to the ceiling to dry.
That process takes about 40 days. They are aiming for what Aliesky Aguila described as the “colorcito, carmelita ese," as he points to a shade of reddish brown, which signals the leaf is ready.
The cooperative gets resources from the Cuban government to tend the land.