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An Interview With Carlos Toraño

President, Central American Tobacco Corp.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Bill Murray, Nov/Dec 2004

Carlos Toraño hails from one of the premier tobacco-growing families of Cuba. When his father and family lost their tobacco farms to nationalization after the Castro revolution, the Toraños spread about the world, sowing tobacco seed in their footsteps. After his father's death in a tobacco field, Toraño entered the family tobacco business, and later began brokering and then making cigars, eventually putting his name on a cigar brand. Today, the Toraños make cigars for a variety of customers and are building their family name into one of the established cigar brands of the modern era. Senior editor David Savona sat down with Toraño in his Miami office to talk about his past, present and future in the cigar business.

David Savona: Let's talk about your history, because a lot of our readers don't know about the rich history of the Toraño family. Would you take us back and tell us how the Toraños got involved in tobacco and cigars?

Carlos Toraño: Of course, everything begins with my grandfather, Santiago Toraño, who came from a very small town from Spain. The company began in 1916, and he probably came [to Cuba] around the end of 1915, beginning of 1916. He came from Spain to Cuba, and like everyone else at that point they were looking for jobs. In 1916, he was a young man of about 18 or 19 years of age, and he began Toraño & Co., buying tobacco leaf and reselling it. And that, little by little, became a bigger business. During the 1920s he brought his three brothers from Spain to join him at the company, and for about 15 years they all worked very closely together in one company, and they all got married. They all had children, and they all decided that every member of the family wanted to have his own company, so the big Toraño company divided into four different companies. I actually always say that every male in the Toraño family was really born into the tobacco business one way or the other. At one point I think there was about 16 of us.

Q: Were they competing with each other?

A: Well, in a certain way, yes. We were in different regions, different farms, and we all were very close to each other and helped each other out. It was a competition of who was the best worker, who was the best dealer, who was the best grower. In the 1930s, we started to buy farms and then we became growers. Santiago had four children: Santiago Jr., who died at the age of 20, my father, Carlos, Jose, and Jaime. And, basically, the growing history is the history of the brothers. Each one had a different region. They were all tenors. So anybody who knew the Toraño family, anytime, any guest, anyplace, nighttime was drinking time and singing time.

In the 1930s we became basically growers of wrapper. And from one farm we ended up with 23 farms and we owned about 400 to 600 acres, between 23 different farms. We owned probably 11 or 12, and we rented the others.

Q: Tell me what it was like in those days. What kind of tobacco were you growing?

A: We specialized in shade wrapper. Every single farm. The Corojo seed and the Connecticut seed.

Q: Connecticut seed. Was that prevalent in Cuba back then?

A: It was very famous at the time.

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