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An Interview With Jose Orlando Padrón, Chairman, Padrón Cigars Inc.

The patriarch and founder of Padrón Cigars Inc. has been making cigars since 1964.
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005

(continued from page 5)

Q: When you launched the 1964 Anniversary Series, did you ever think it would have the success it now has?
A: We always have success in our minds. We do not think of defeat. I've gone through a lot in my life. I have suffered a great deal. For example, I had to run during the war [in Nicaragua] to Tampa with my tobacco, put it on a plane to San Salvador and from there to Honduras, all the while trying not to lose the raw material. The raw material is worth more than money, because that is the ammunition I will use to shoot. That warehouse you have seen had 700 bales of tobacco in storage during the war. I thought I was going to lose it all but workers took care of it all and managed to save it. Thank God.

Q: When was this?
A: 1978. I was lucky. Our turnover was the highest of all times because I had enough raw material to supply us until 1985. Just think that in 1981, while the war was on, I was still able to make the highest turnover of all times in Miami. We were just slightly under 6 million cigars. All this time I was running from one place to the other. I nearly got kidnapped in Honduras once. Men will invent and find solutions to problems only when needy. Under adverse situations, men will have the balls to keep going, and do what we have to do. I went through hell. These boys were kids back then and my wife was scared from threats we were getting.

Q: Your Miami factory was also bombed several times. What have you learned from all that you went through, all those problems you had?
A: That one needs to have friends, people who will support you. The only thing I did was to bring political prisoners over from Cuba. People knew that I was innocent and was being attacked for no reason. One day a man walked up to me and said: "Do you know why I smoke Padrón cigars? I had never met you before but I thought to myself that this man needs help." Like this man, many others helped me. I managed to make the highest turnover ever under the bombs!

Q: Do you think that, once Cuba changes, you may be able to get your family's plantations back and make cigars there?
A: Anything could happen. The intelligent thing would be for the people living there to be able to keep their houses. But I think that, for the good of Cuba, my family's plantations should be returned so that [the land] could be developed, as it should. But that is something to be decided by them.

Q: But what about your business?
A: I hope we can do something in Cuba. If it cannot be done, then at least bring the tobacco over here and make cigars. Whatever is done will probably be done by my sons. I may be several feet under ground by then.

Q: So then Padrón would have two lines of tobacco?
A: Yes, the Nicaraguan and the Cuban. However, I don't think Cuba will get a tobacco harvest in the first or second year of the change. The soil needs fertilization. It needs to be analyzed. An infrastructure needs to be created from zero. It won't be easy.

Q: It may be easier than you think. You still have the soil and climate. Plus, Cubans are intelligent people.
A: Yes, exactly.

Q: Wouldn't you want to use tobacco from Remedios, not only from Vuelta Abajo?
A: The blend will be from Piloto, San Juan y Martinez, and Puerta de Golpe.

Q: Hmm, vegas from the Vuelta. Then no Remedios.
A: Remedios tobacco was used for blending, not for strength.

Q: Some people say that Cuban cigars will be too strong for American smokers.
A: It all depends who makes the blend. There are stronger and weaker cigars. Whoever tells you that, you tell them that they do not know what they are talking about!

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