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An Interview with Jose Padrón

Chairman, Piloto Cigars Inc.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Gina Gershon, Sep/Oct 98

(continued from page 9)

Padrón: Yes.

CA: What was happening in the fields at this time? Were you planting and harvesting?

Padrón: No. Before the revolution we were able to plant at traditional times in October and November. After the revolution, the blue mold disease became a serious problem and we had to push the plantings back. But our problems were greater than that. First the contra war started and there was fightingaround the frontier and throughout the tobacco-growing regions. Then, on April 30, 1985, the blockade was ordered by Reagan. I suddenly had another problem. I had tobacco in the warehouses and I was in a situation where I wouldn't be able to bring it or the cigars to the United States. The U.S. government gave us seven days to get out our contracted shipments to the United States. We chartered two planes to bring the tobacco back to Tampa. But we couldn't get it all out, because the planes had to be back in Tampa by May 5, or they would have seized the planes coming in. We did get an exemption from the Treasury Department that gave us until October to get the rest of the tobacco out. In those six months we worked until 9 every night, getting the tobacco out of Nicaragua by rolling it into cigars. We made 6 to 7 million cigars in that time, but when our extension ran out there was still tobacco there. So they kept making cigars, about 600,000 of them, which were left there until the blockade was lifted in 1990.

CA: How many cigars were you producing in Honduras during those five years?

Padrón: It depended. There were days that we were producing 10 to 12 thousand cigars a day. Today, we are producing about 5,000 a day in Honduras and 12,000 in Nicaragua.

CA: After everything, why did you return to Estelí in 1990?

Padrón: I had a factory, a house and six warehouses. In Honduras, I didn't really have anything.

CA: What's happening in Estelí now?

Padrón: At one point, there were about 19 factories and now there may be 10 left. Of those 10, not all of them are working every day.

CA: Do you think that some of those factories have ruined the industry here by producing inferior cigars?

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