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poll
Where are you going next?

 Africa86 votes
76.11%
 South America3 votes
2.65%
 Europe3 votes
2.65%
 Eastern Asia5 votes
4.42%
 Carribean9 votes
7.96%
 Safeway5 votes
4.42%
 Australia2 votes
1.77%
total votes: 113
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WheresCherie.COM Quote
"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page." -- St. Augustine

120--The Caribbean: The Perfect Cigar
@ CherieSpotting     Feb 27 2003 - 19:34 PST
cherie writes: The Perfect Cigar

If the people only knew. If the workers who make cigars only knew how much their cigars sold for in other countries. They’d be shocked. They simply wouldn’t believe it. Not when the locals can buy what we would call a “premium cigar” for a few pennies.

We smelled the cigar factory before we saw it. The musty, humid scent of fresh tobacco invaded our nostrils and pulled us like a leash inside. The tobacco factory was warm, dank and full of curious smiles. The workers cautiously examined and we cautiously examined them. Why would we care how cigars are made? Americans are so funny. They decided we were harmless and went back to rolling their fatties. I was happy to see that the laborers weren’t lifeless cogs in some machine--they were proud and more like craftspeople than workers.

I was expecting to see a poorly lit sweat shop filled with old women hunched over their desks. But there was a huge variety of people working in the factory (old, young, men, and women) making what many describe as the finest and most sophisticated vice—cigars.

There were no machines in the factory. Everything was done by hand. The old way. Labor is cheaper than machines anyway. Why mess up a simple thing with complicated automation?

There’s no trick to making a cigar--it is quite simple. You simply put one kind of tobacco leaves inside another kind of tobacco leaves and roll it up and chop off one end. What happens to the other end is a little gross so I’ve tried to forget that I saw it. The factory we toured spits out over 10,000 cigars a day. Every single one of them has one thing in common.

How to Make a Cigar

Here is a list of the main ingredients you need:
Employees (preferably ones who haven’t bathed in the last week)
Tobacco
Boxes
Spit

Did you know the workers spit on each and every cigar? You read it right. Spit is the super secret sealant that holds the world famous Caribbean cigar together. Old fashioned saliva; nothing works better. If you’ve ever smoked a cigar, don’t kid yourself into thinking you might have smoked one that slipped by the “spitting process.” Sure, some of the staff lick the cigars closed, but after a lotta lickin’ most just plain spit. It’s faster.

Before we were permitted to walk though the factory, the manager “announced us” as visitors over the loud speaker and the employees began banging on their desks. Spitting on cigars and pounding on desks; it seemed none of the hired hands graduated from Miss Manner’s class.

What a loud and boisterous welcome! The workers were all smiles and couldn’t wait to show us how they crafted their cigars. As I squished between the desks it seemed like every member of the staff was tugging on me. Surprisingly they weren’t trying to take something out of my pocket; they were trying to put something in--cigars. Fresh cigars for free!

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Is it possible to have not enough of a bad thing? I tried to give one of the cigars back and the generous lady said: “No, it’s a present for Clinton.” Now I have another cigar for Clinton that was moistened in the most intimate way.

After the tour, we found a seat in a shady spot and Greg and I prepared to smoke our cigars. As I drew the smoke into my mouth, I realized that Clinton and I had something else in common. That cigar was the most delicious puff of smoke I’ve ever not inhaled.

Certainly tobacco is bad for your health, but after you’ve been given a gift (one of the most sought after cigars in the world) you really have to smoke the thing (even if you saw the face that spit on it!) I drew the sweet smoke into my mouth and savored it like a pat of chocolate melting on my tongue. Then I exhaled like a pro. The smoke curled around an invisible axis and made surprising decorations in the air. (I was shocked at my natural ability since I’ve never smoked a cigarette before. I thought I would choke and hack smoke out in spasmodic bursts. But instead of a fool, I looked rather cool.)

Greg tried the cigar, but Mike and Tom wouldn’t touch the deadly vice. Smokers and non-smokers, we spent the afternoon laughing over beers and free cigars. Greg and I had to smoke the whole cigar since we learned that the true flavor of a cigar isn’t revealed until it is half way finished. As in life, you should complete the experience before you give your opinion. If the occasion to smoke one ever arises again, I’ll be the first one to try a puff.

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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Now that's what I call a "fattie!"

Now that's what I call a "fattie!"

He says it's smoking cigars that has kept him looking so young.

He says it's smoking cigars that has kept him looking so young.

He's been making cigars his whole life and even after all these years it still brings a smile to his face.

He's been making cigars his whole life and even after all these years it still brings a smile to his face.

Her job is to make the deadly sticks of tobacco look pretty.

Her job is to make the deadly sticks of tobacco look pretty.

Bundles of joy or bundles of death?

Bundles of joy or bundles of death?

The table of tobacco.
*Photo by Tom.

The table of tobacco. *Photo by Tom.

I love the smell of fresh coffee and fresh tobacco.
*Photo by Tom.

I love the smell of fresh coffee and fresh tobacco. *Photo by Tom.

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?
*Photo by Tom.

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? *Photo by Tom.

Even after the tobacco leaves are dried, they still retain their smooth texture. 
*Photo by Tom.

Even after the tobacco leaves are dried, they still retain their smooth texture. *Photo by Tom.

Still making cigars the old fashioned way.

Still making cigars the old fashioned way.

This lady transforms tobacco leaves into fine cigars.

This lady transforms tobacco leaves into fine cigars.

She offered me a cigar and then told me to give it to Clinton.

She offered me a cigar and then told me to give it to Clinton.

Roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em.

Roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em.

Cigars are handmade by men and women of all shapes and sizes.

Cigars are handmade by men and women of all shapes and sizes.

All those delicious cigars and this worker is puffing away on a cigarette!

All those delicious cigars and this worker is puffing away on a cigarette!

They would be shocked if they knew how much their cigars sold for around the world.

They would be shocked if they knew how much their cigars sold for around the world.

Instead of extra pens in his pocket, he keeps extra cigars there.

Instead of extra pens in his pocket, he keeps extra cigars there.

Mike looking pensive.
*Photo by Tom.

Mike looking pensive. *Photo by Tom.

Cherie and Greg.
*Photo by Tom.

Cherie and Greg. *Photo by Tom.

The chef lights my fire.
*Photo by Tom.

The chef lights my fire. *Photo by Tom.

Greg puffing away.
*Photo by Tom.

Greg puffing away. *Photo by Tom.

Warning: Inhaling may be dangerous to a future political career.

Warning: Inhaling may be dangerous to a future political career.

A cigar brings out the "Italian" in Mike.

A cigar brings out the "Italian" in Mike.

She says smoking cigars doesn't cause wrinkles--old age does!

She says smoking cigars doesn't cause wrinkles--old age does!

Cigars seem to bring out the testosterone in men.

Cigars seem to bring out the testosterone in men.

Cherie and Tom.

Cherie and Tom.