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An Interview With Manuel Quesada

The head of Manufactura de Tabacos S.A. (Matasa), makers of Fonseca, Cubita and other cigars.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Alec Baldwin, May/June 2004

(continued from page 10)

sure that the blends were being properly done. So Julio had been bringing up a lady called Lourdes Veloz de Rodriguez, and my daughter Raquel, who had come back from Boston, had finished her schooling and working for David [Kitchens] at Gloucester [Street Cigars] and she had been already in the factory for about a year. So both of them were being brought up by Julio and myself into running the factory.

So, when the accident happened, we just left Lourdes and Raquel where they were, now under my supervision instead of Julio's, now [that] Julio was no longer available. And thanks to that, I was able to maintain some sort of structure in the factory and some sort of sharing of the load as far as running the factory was concerned.

Q: That must have been crippling.

A: [Sighs] It still is. It still is. Because you can't walk into the factory and not see where these people used to roam and walk and talk and do. But I told the family, "You know, the world does not stop and, unfortunately, we have to deal with this as best we can individually, but we have to move forward, because there are other responsibilities. You, as children, you're working in the company, so you're young. There has to be a future. So we have to work towards that and make do as best we can."

And thank God, we have been able to maintain ourselves in the level of quality, in the level of commitment that we had previously. And we haven't put a lot of emphasis on real growth, because we don't have the capability of duplicating, for example, our efforts. But we have been able to grow ever so slightly and maintain our position within the industry.

Losing one is a tragedy. Losing two is a huge tragedy. Losing all three is just insurmountable. It's just mind-boggling.

Q: Last week, when I was in the Dominican Republic, someone brought up how Julio had helped him in his factory.

A: Oh, Julio was a darling. Sometimes I had to tell him, you know, "Remember, they're competitors." [Laughs]. He would say, "Ah, don't worry, chief, I know what I'm doing."

Q: He called you chief.

A: Yeah, he used to call me chief. Yeah, Julio was a hell of a good man. And my brother…aw, it happens.

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