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An Interview With Pedro Martín

Pedro Martín, the founder and owner of Tropical Tobacco.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Orlando Hernandez, Mar/Apr 99

(continued from page 3)

CA: Was your entire family still in Cuba at that point?
Martín: Yes.

CA: Were you married?
Martín: I was married in 1950.

CA: Did you have children by 1961?
Martín: Yes.

CA: Did you all leave together? And when did you leave?
Martín: No. I left on September 15, 1961.

CA: Was it difficult to leave at that time?
Martín: For me it was not difficult because I used to have a U.S. visa that allowed me to enter the United States anytime I wanted to. I could stay here for 30 days in a row, go back to Cuba, and back and forth several times in a year. I had that visa. But my family did not. So I had to come first, and then my family went through Jamaica. They spent about 30 days over there. Finally I got them from Jamaica to here.

CA: And at that point you already knew you were going to go to Detroit, is that right?
Martín: Yes. It was the DWG Corp. I had sold tobacco to them in Cuba for a few years, and then when I came to Detroit they gave me a job. It was Alfred Edelman, who was the DWG tobacco buyer. He's the uncle of Jerry Edelman, who works in the business today. He helped me a lot.

CA: You worked there for four years. Why did you leave?
Martín: I hated the cold weather [laughter]. I used to travel a lot, all over the country, and I remember one time I was in Puerto Rico and I flew back to Detroit right in the middle of the winter. I didn't have any clothes with me. My wife came to the airport to pick me up and she brought me a coat. We started driving and a couple of miles later, my tire blew out. It was snowing, the wind was blowing. I had gloves, but my hands just couldn't [grip the jack to change the tire]. I went to a gas station. While they were fixing the tire, I found out it was 18 degrees below zero. That was it. I had to move.

CA: After DWG you went to work for the Dutch company Koch Scheltema N.V. Where were you stationed?
Martín: I was living in Miami, but I used to work in different places. The first place that they sent me was Colombia. I set up a company in Cartagena called Tabarama de Colombia. I used to buy tobacco for it. From there they sent me to Brazil. From Brazil they sent me to the Dominican Republic and then Central America. They sent me over there to set up all the companies so they could cure, sort and pack tobacco. I was like a consultant. I moved around a lot. I would be in Cartagena for a month at a time, and then I'd come to Miami to see my family. I did the same thing in the Dominican Republic and Brazil. I was very tired of traveling.

CA: You worked for them for six years, and that's when you started Martín Tobacco?
Martín: At Martín Tobacco, we used to buy tobacco mainly from Central America and the Dominican Republic, treat it, cure it and sell it to different manufacturers. A lot of my friends in the cigar industry would say, "I need some tobacco from Nicaragua, from Honduras. Can you get it for me?" And then I went over there, bought the tobacco and prepared it for sale to them.

CA: How big was this tobacco wholesale operation?
Martín: It was a real small company, but later on I joined up with P. M. Gonzalez of Gonzalez & Sons in Tampa, and we created a bigger company.

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