Between thin layers and delicious aroma

Her hands move between thin layers that overlap ... and that delicious aroma that penetrates irremediably. They are agile indeed, and their eyes do not rise from the table, unless they are going to change the vitola or need to use the press, a necessary instrument to shape the product.

Of course they are cigar makers, but prefer to be named twisters, worthy heirs of a tradition rooted in San Antonio de los Baños.

Since the time of the Apostle José Marti and San Antonio was well known in the world, not only for the excellent finish of their cigars, but also for their high level of commitment to the homeland.

According to the famous novelist Julio Rosas, José Martí himself considered San Antonio de los Baños a “town of honor”, for the amount of tobacco manufactures that - from the patriotic clubs based in Tampa and Key West - made their financial contributions to the independence struggle .

A 125- worker staff , 41 of them twists, guarantees high productions that Ariguanabo factory shows.

María del Pilar de Armas, head of production, says that they make about 80,000 tobacco per month, and the rejection remains below 4%, lower than national average.

They considerably over-fulfill the plans (over 150%), and force them to think if they have not been conceived below the real potential of the sector.

However, when touring the factory, we realize the productivity of the staff and the adequate use of the workday, currently with a reduction of one hour per day, due to the country´s energetic outlook.

Thus we find Xiomara Mancebo working , with 19 years of experience behind the table, of little talk but very agile hands. She likes working the Fat Crown, with a norm of 105, although she has reached 160: "it depends on how she feels ," she says quietly without looking up from the table.

Maité Sánchez was also focused on the job. She is one of the new comers, trained in José Manuel Seguí factory, in Güira de Melena, and with only two months in Ariguanabo factory.

“Everything here is hand made, and the most important part in the process is the stretching of the cape; if it does not remain as it should be, then tobacco has no quality, ”she says. Meanwhile, Dulce María Alonso, the director, nods.

And it is that Dulce María did not reach the direction of nothingness: she has been twisting for 14 years, plus another prolonged time as head of the raw materials area, and went through the finished department, enough experience to head Unit Base Business (UEB) the way she is doing.

"Occupational health is essential in these types of entities," she emphasizes and says that workers are regularly checked, coordinated with public health. "Fortunately, we have never had to regret the consequences of a professional illness," those associated with respiratory tract conditions.

We talk about quality, and Yulaisis Varona, the technique in charge of these matters, tells fluently the long process since the cigar leaves the galley of the manufactures, the classification by categories and vitolas, and the careful review with appropriate sampling.

"It is necessary to break some tobacco to verify, even, the quality of the gut and the layers stretching."

They also weigh tobacco , they value that each one has the thickness indicated according to the category and, finally, they certify, prior to the product's departure to the showcase (kind of warehouse where the tobacco remains in a cold chamber for seven days, just time to be taken to the finished area).

Joel Batista is responsible for the last link in the factory. The finishing stage could be seen as the area of aesthetics: there the tobacco receives its last revision, the ring is placed, packed and then sent to the Marketing Company, which it assumes is responsible for the sale.

And so, observing the commitment of these men and women, we moved back in time again until 1890, when Martí thanked San Antonio inhabitants so much, emigrated in masses for the workshops stops in San Antonio de los Baños.

These were complex times, but then and today, our tobacco manufactures discover how to support the country.

TRANSLATION BY LMMS

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