One of the biggest attractions of the Habano festivals are the cigar makers who are accustomed to working in view of the public, in such a way that those who wish to can follow the entire process of how a handmade cigar is rolled. For many people, it is the first time, others already know the process but everyone surrounds the expert's worktable and gazes, rapt in thought, watching them open the fragrant leaf, smooth it down and roll it until it takes the form they are after.
Saul Gonzalez glances out of the corner of his eye as they observe him moving the blade over the tobacco leaf. He is a strong young man with 20 years' experience as a cigar maker at La Corona factory, although he has not forgotten his teacher Orlando Perez, who taught him the mysteries of the art of rolling.
He has attended a number of festivals and what most visitors ask him for is a "Cohiba Siglo 6 Slb" and a "Robusto" caliber 50 - an art which he dominates today - but he enjoys it when a connoisseur asks him for a panatela or "una joyita" for a woman, a slim cigar that feminine fingers can handle with dexterity.
A colleague who was standing nearby then added: When you attend a festival of this kind for the first time, you can't help but be surprised every time a beautiful woman passes you by smoking a Robusto or a Magnum 50 cigar.
Sunday, February 24, 2008