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This Cuban Gives A Lesson On Cigar Smoking

When A-hole Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean, he was greeted with open arms by the Taino Indians that lived on the islands, (mistake). Along with gold (another mistake), beads (ditto), and food (should have been poisoned), they also offered him some dried leaves as a present. Columbus had no idea what it was. The natives showed him, that if you rolled the leaves into big foot long tubes and smoked them from one end, it created a pleasurable pastime. Columbus became a big fan, and took back the first batch of cigars to King Ferdinand on his return voyage. The rest is the stinky history of cigar smoking.

Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico are all big tobacco producers. Not only is it an important agricultural product, it’s also an integral part of our culture. It’s just what you do. Cigar smoke, alcohol, coffee, and food smells permeate our Latin American environment. Cigars are produced by drying the leaves of the tobacco plant and then curing and aging them in specially ventilated rooms. Once they are properly seasoned, they are cut and rolled into their desired shape and held together by a glue made from the tobacco plant. Different types of tobacco are used for the filling and the wrapper, to give it different flavors and so it burns smoother. Much like wine, a cigar takes on the flavors of the stuff in the soil. So, for example, in Honduras where they grow a lot of coffee, the cigars take on a coffee flavor. These differences in soil, water, and light account for the differences in cigars even if they are grown from the same strains of tobacco plant. That’s why a Cuban seed plant in the DR doesn’t taste like a cigar made from the same plant in Cuba.

There are health risks to smoking cigars, though much lower than cigarette smoking. You don’t smoke as much, you don’t inhale, and there are less irritants in cigars. Still, you can get mouth and throat cancer. But, look we are all going to die one day. We don’t like to think about it, but it’s true. Something is going to kill you, be it cancer or a speeding bus. You should try and take care of yourself, of course, and not try and self destruct. A cigar over a game of cards or dominoes with your friends and families is probably not going to do it. It is a personal thing too, I suppose. My family is Cuban, so cigar smoking is second nature. When I was 13, I went fishing with my uncles and cousins and was given my first cigar. They stuck a puro in my mouth and lit it and told me not to inhale the smoke into my lungs. Perhaps a rocking boat wasn’t the best place to have your first smoke, as I proceeded to puke over the side. Still, I learned to love them. The first time I went to Cuba and smoked a cigar overlooking the Malecon, I felt more in touch with my roots at that moment than ever before. In recent years, my father and I have taken to going to a cigar bar together whenever I’m in Miami. We’ve never been able to bond very well when I was growing up, but the convivial, manly, Latino passtime of cigar smoking helps us do this now that I’m an adult. Perhaps, I’m just bias because of my own experiences, but I think it’s worth it.

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