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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 7)

CA: When did you start making Padrón cigars with Nicaraguan tobacco?

Padrón: 1967, in Miami. I was already making 7,000 cigars a day at that time.

CA: How much is that in a year?

Padrón: More or less two to three million. But even that wasn't enough to supply to the Cubans. So, I went to Nicaragua [in 1970] to try it out there with four rollers.

CA: But it hasn't always been easy in Nicaragua. What's happened to you there? Where was your factory?

Padrón: The factory was located at the center of Estelí, about 100 miles north of Managua. In 1978, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the editor of the newspaper La Prensa, was killed. The day was January 10, 1978. At the time, there were about 20 Cuban exiles involved in the tobacco business there.

CA: How many factories existed?

Padrón: At first, just three. The one owned by the president, Anastasio Somoza, Fonticiella and mine. After that, there were some smaller ones, but they didn't have any strength; they were small. I never liked to get involved with the country's politics. You can't really make allies. I had a friendship with Somoza; I helped him and they were grateful for the help I gave regarding tobacco. In truth, all the Cubans in the tobacco business had dealings with Somoza. I told them I would help out but that I wanted to continue being independent. In April 1978 the riots in the streets began. On May 24th the mobs burned more than 20 houses, including my factory, Fonticiella and another small factory that was there.

I was in Costa Rica at the time because I figured it was a good idea to check out the situation there, considering all that was going on in Nicaragua. The mob burned the factory and some small quantities of raw tobacco, but not all of it. The people of Estelí were upset that the factory had been burned, and within a month we were operating at full capacity again. But I still continued looking for a new location, just in case, and that's when I began preparations to open a factory in Honduras.

CA: Was that in the summer of '79?

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