Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tobacco Factory of Pinar Del Rio

Definitely worth a visit. The tour cost about 5 CUCs and unfortunately no cameras are allowed. My camera isn't also particularly small to smuggle it in secretly :) The tour was in English, but it seemed that the lady giving it had an English vocabulary just enough to cover the tour. If i asked her more specific questions, she had quite a blank face. I wouldn't even call it a tour, it was more like a speedy walk-through. I did the whole thing through with her and then went once more alone. She did watch me a bit funny, but didn't say anything.

The tour takes you through many different parts of the factory. First stop is the rolling room where lovely dark ladies roll the cigars. After initial rolling cigars are placed into a mould and under a press for 20 minutes. Then they are finished off by rolling a finer quality tobacco leaf around them for an outer layer and sealing/cutting off the endings.

In selection room you can see how tobacco leaves are selected and categorized by color and texture.

Packing area is where cigars are labelled with different stickers and packed into various boxes and packages (which are all made on the place).

I wonder if those factory workers feel like trained monkeys who are being observed day and night? They don't seem to be bothered much by the constant audience, though one lady did start getting a bit itchy after i had been standing next to her station for about 15 minutes and watching her work. Understandable, hehe. The speed and precision of her work was just very captivating, specially considering that she was using some seriously sharp knives and other cutting instruments. Every rolling worker has to fill the quota of 80 cigars per 8 hour work-day, though usually they make about 100-120 per day. Those cigars that do not pass the quality control are distributed to the workers for free. I wonder if making cigars is like working in McDonalds - after work the last thing they want to see or smoke is a cigar :).

My father is always the one who suffers when it comes to bringing souvenirs from my trips. I can never think of anything useful to bring him and i always feel bad. So this time i wanted to buy him authentic Cuban cigars. Considering my budget and form of luggage i chose a pack of cigarillos, mostly because they were the only ones which were packed in a metal box. Important point when shoving fragile cigars into your already about to burst backpack. Hours later when i was counting my remaining cash, i realized that the shop-boy had made an error and given me back more money than i had given him to begin with. For once my "blond hair & blue eyes" worked in my advantage rather than contributed to my financial ruin. And if to consider that tourists in Cuba are greatly over-charged with every service or product they pay for, i didn't also feel particularly guilty for the mistake. So basically i got a free entrance to the factory and a complimentary package of cigarillos to boot.

Prices are in CUCs, they also use the dollar sign.

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