Fidel Castro’s cigar roller

Just read that Fidel Castro has passed away at 90. That’s a long life for a revolutionary and a respectable age for what some arguably consider him to be – a visionary. Though I never had an opportunity to see the man live, a few years ago, I was officially invited to Havana, Cuba by the government as part of a large press troop from all over the world. I’ve actually been there twice, but it was during my very first visit that I was introduced to the woman above, whom according my official guide, was solely responsible for rolling Fidel Castro’s favorite cigar brand, the Cohiba Esplendido.

It was in one of the large factories in the midst of Havana where they produce the Cohiba Esplendido, that I met the woman whom gladly had her picture taken with me. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish, but I do remember her telling me, through my interperter/guide, that Fidel Castro no longer smoked cigars, but still enjoyed holding and smelling one of her hand-rolled Cohibas.

Interestingly, a few months ago, when I was shooting in Budapest, the taxi driver that drove me back to the airport turned out to be married to a Cuban woman. After telling him my story about meeting Fidel’s cigar roller in Havana, he produced a small plastic bag from his glove compartment and from it handed me a Cohiba Esplendido. His wife had brought him a box of the famous cigars from a recent visit to Cuba and now he was sharing one of them with me. It’s tucked safely away in my fridge and maybe later tonight I’ll pour myself a stiff glass of rum and light that sucker up. As a sort of tribute to Castro’s longevity and persistence. Certainly not his politics.