A little something that I wrote about a new coffee table book on the history of the Cuban Cigar, Havana: Legendary Cigars by Charles Del Todesco and Patrick Jantet, for Issue 75 of A Magazine. Sadly the images are not mine as I couldn’t quite stretch to a flight to Havana but nevertheless take a look.
The revolutionary art of the Cuban Cigar
Asking what links Winston Churchill toFidel Castro shouldn’t be a complex question — while their politics couldn’t have been more different both will be forever linked by the thick cigar permanently wedged between their fingers. From the tobacco stained fingers of communist revolutionaries to the oak paneled smoking rooms of London clubs, the Cuban Havana Cigar is fixed in our collective memories as a 20th century icon of power. The story of this icon and its rise has been documented, in depth, in Havana: Legendary Cigars by Charles Del Todesco and Patrick Jantet.
From its discovery in the mid-15th century it revolutionized European society, from the docks and wharves of the European sailors to the clubs of Paris, London and Madrid. In the smoking rooms of Europe the cigar even changed fashion – inadvertently creating the smoking jacket – and become a lasting symbol of wealth and power. If changing fashion and taste wasn’t enough cigars even started wars. When, in the mid-1800s, public orators were allowed into the Cuban rolling factories the cigar set the stage for a revolution. “It is certainly no accident that the first work presented in this way was entitled Las Luchas del Siglo (The Struggles of the Century)” explains Del Todesco. Radical freethinking literature was being read aloud to the tens of thousands now employed in Cuba’s cigar industry. Then on 24 February 1895 a cigar literally lit the fuse for the island’s war for freedom — “José Martí, hero of Cuba’s fight for independence, received the call for a revolutionary uprising rolled up in a cigar. This cigar set off a war to free the island from Spanish control,” says Del Todesco…[continue reading on A Magazine]