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An Interview with Carlos Fuente Sr.

A discussion with the head of Arturo Fuente Inc., one of the world's largest producers of premium hand-rolled cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95

(continued from page 4)

Fuente: Yes. He lost everything. That was the end of the factory there. He went back to working as a foreman in other cigar factories. When he had the factory in 1912, he had partners. When it burned down, he said that although he wanted to go back into the business, he would not do it unless he did it as a family business; he would do it strictly for himself.

In the 1940s, he was able to start up a factory again, and he started it in the back of the house with my mother and him and my grandmother. We are such a close family that every night my sister and my uncles--the whole family--used to come over after they got off work and make cigars. My father was only interested to sell enough cigars to make a living. He was never interested in any big factory.

But naturally I was born into that family, in the same house, so I was always in the factory. I remember that the first chore when my brother and I came home from school was to roll 50 cigars before we could go out and play. As the years went by, I was always in the factory. I guess I had the feel for tobacco also, and that was my love. In my first trade, I was a baker. But even when I used to work in the bakery, I would still come home and work in the cigar factory.

C.A.: What caused your father to leave Cuba and come to America?

Fuente: I guess everybody was trying to better themselves after the war, and they all started leaving Cuba. My father's brothers and sisters came to the States, and I guess they brought him because they were having a hard time in Cuba. So he came to Tampa. And he always said that it was his home after a few years.

C.A.: Where were you born?

Fuente: I was born in Tampa.

C.A.: Did you ever live in Cuba?

Fuente: I used to spend a lot of time in Cuba. I have always wanted to go back to Cuba and open a factory. We were all of Spanish descent. We all lived in Cuba, and our home was Cuba, even though I was born here. I didn't learn English until I started school. There was nothing but Spanish spoken in my house when I was young.

C.A.: Despite all your success in the Dominican Republic, do you foresee expanding into Cuba if the embargo is lifted?

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