Q&A: The Silent Legend
An Interview with Alfons Mayer, the globe-travelling tobacco buyer for General Cigar Co.
From the Print Edition:
Morgan Freeman, Mar/Apr 2005
(continued from page 2)
Q: So you started working with your father in the tobacco business?
A: Immediately. I didn't know a word of Spanish. He said, "Here's the paper, tell them who you are, and go to every cigar store you can." I was selling cigars, pipe tobacco, you name it. If it belonged to tobacco, he had it.
Q: When did you visit your first tobacco field?
A: In Cuba. 1952. I went to General Cigar Co. of Cuba.
Q: What was that first trip like?
A: Work until the cows come home! [Laughs.] Work, don't open up your mouth, and work.
Q: Were you with your father?
A: No. I left my father in 1952. I said, "What you know about tobacco I will never learn, because you are interested in selling your products. I want to learn tobacco." So when I got to Havana, I had to get a license to stay and work in Havana. And we kept on moving bales, all the time. My hands were open, bloody. And then one guy comes up to me and says, 'You can get rid of that in two days. Piss on your hands.' It worked—they became leather. They are still leather. I spent six months moving bales. They were aging the leaf for almost two years in yagua, palm bark.
Q: What was your title when you started with General?
A: Learning tobacco in Cuba.
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