The Tribune's Oscar Avila writes about a female sommelier defying the male world of Cuban cigars by lighting up
HAVANA - On an island where folks normally don't buck the system, Zudlay Napoles is breaking an unwritten rule: She is a woman who smokes cigars.
Napoles doesn't just love to light up her favorite Romeo Y Julieta No. 4. The diminutive 31-year-old has become the face of Cuba's cigar industry for countless international visitors.
In that way, Napoles has confidently charged into this man's world, pursuing a passion that requires her to endure the stares when she smokes.
She is a sommelier at La Floridita, a restaurant that supposedly served Ernest Hemingway's favorite daiquiri and is now a tourist spot. In this capacity, Napoles helps customers match each cigar with the perfect after-dinner drink.
And last weekend, Napoles took first place in a worldwide competition at Cuba's 10th annual Habano Festival. The only woman and only Cuban in the contest, she proved her prowess in matching cigars, or habanos, with alcoholic drinks.
Though women are part of every step of the cigarmaking process, the final taboo has long been smoking them, Napoles said.
Thursday, March 06, 2008