As anyone with more than a passing interest in cigars knows, the pendulum has been swinging back and forth for U.S.-Cuban relations in recent years. The diplomatic relations restored with much fanfare in 2014 were “canceled” earlier this year by President Donald J. Trump, who dubbed the previous administration’s policy a “completely one-sided deal with Cuba” that had to go. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean the door has shut for Americans looking to experience the country best known for its cigar-making tradition—or that it ever really will.
Steeped in Cigar History
If you’ve yearned to experience the island’s legendary cigar-making culture up close and personal, now is the time to make your travel plans, say veteran visitors. “I’ve gone every year for four years now,” says David Garofalo, founder and owner of Two Guys Cigars, who says tourism is making an impact on both Havana and cigar-making in Cuba. “It’s changed dramatically during that time; every year you see more and more of an American influence. If you really want to experience Cuban cigar-making history and culture, the sooner you can go, the better.”
Monthly salaries average around $30 so Cubans are accustomed to looking for ways to supplement their incomes—and for anyone working in cigar-making, selling cigars on the side is the natural path. “A guy working in a factory takes a little home every day and spends a month making a box of cigars that he’ll sell for a few months’ pay,” explains Garofalo, who says that buying on the street might not get you the best cigars, but it will warm your heart. “My friends ribbed me about paying $100 for a box of cigars I probably could have gotten for $80, but these people really need the money. Another time, I told someone who couldn’t change a $20 to keep the change, and he gave me a smile like it was Christmas.”