Taking a little break from The Last Honest Man in Havana. My mentorship with Stephens is almost over and I’m proud of how far I’ve come with this project. I hope you will all have a chance to read it one day between two covers!
Here we are in the middle of a tobacco field in Pinar del Rio. I really needed to see this because of Rafael’s experience at his escuela del campo in chapter two. Since the 60s, Cuban school children aged thirteen and up have been required to do forty-five days of field work every year. Sometimes they pick tobacco, sometimes they plant sweet potatoes or other vegetables. Think of it as a way to pay for that free education.
By the end of March, the harvest is almost over and the stalks are being picked by this young fellow.
He’s a slightly weather-beaten 22-year old and has been picking tobacco every season since he was five. He was very fast with his little hooked knife. It’s a tough job. The leaves have to be in perfect condition to make those famous habanero cigars.
Inside the barn, the leaves are hung to dry. Later, someone will pick them up. They’ll be packed tightly and fermented for about three more months before they’re rolled into cigars.
Flowers from the tobacco plants.
The lovely family running this farm originated in northern Spain and first settled in the region in the 1700s. They don’t own the land, it was taken away from them by Castro in the early 60s, but they were given more control of it again the 1990s. Now they get some profit for their yield. Only tobacco farmers have this privilege because tobacco is so important to the Cuban economy.