League City, Texas – A group of Hispanics in southeastern Texas is selling handmade Cuban-style cigars that have been increasing in popularity thanks to a old manufacturing process that is being maintained in the United States.
Manny Lopez, originally from Havana, more than six years ago started the small El Cubano Cigars factory in League City, south of Houston, where he makes and sells cigars made with different types of imported tobacco leaves coming from various parts of Latin America.
"Although tobacco can't be imported from Cuba because it's prohibited by the U.S. embargo on the island, the seed being planted in Central and South America is clearly Cuban," Lopez told Efe.
"The manufacturing process for the cigars is also performed by specialized personnel born in Cuba and with many years of experience, between 40 and 50 years for each one 'binding' the tobacco leaves," Lopez said.
The businessman produces in his factory more than 200,000 Cuban-style cigars annually and is one of just two providers in the state of Texas who, besides selling his product all over the United States, also hires "twisters" or cigar makers with special experience and skill in preparing the smokes.
The cigars made by El Cubano Cigars are prepared using the same methods that were used in earlier times in Cuba and not the way they are made nowadays, which has put much emphasis on increased production, but of lesser quality, Lopez said.
"We have 18 different leaves - but in reality there are five classes of tobacco that are used - in each one of the cigars," Lopez said.
Lopez purchases the leaves in several Latin American countries, including Colombia, Peru and Honduras, but the best ones currently - and for a number of years now - come from the valleys of Ecuador where Cuban seeds are used.