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Seeds of Hope

The Fuente Family Bets On High-Quality Cigar Wrapper Grown in The Dominican Republic
Michael Frank
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

(continued from page 5)

Inside the barn, Mendez explains how two carpenters and three helpers built the entire structure, all by hand with saws, hammers, drills and rope. Not one piece of timber came out of a lumber mill. The roof is made of palm fronds, which help to keep the building remarkably cool.

Mendez also points out the chimney, actually a lengthwise opening at the peak of the roof that allows hot air to rise up and out of the barn. Most curing barns have the same features, which are used to regulate temperature so that the curing can be strictly controlled, heating and cooling the leaves over several weeks until the leaves turn a deep rosado color. It is something like changing the color of a New England maple leaf by simulating hot, Indian summer days, then opening the barn doors to dry and cool the leaves, dropping the temperature rapidly the way a crisp autumn night might follow a warm October day. Over the course of several such cycles, the leaves gradually reach their correct color and are ready for the fermentation bulks back in Santiago.

When asked to list other, less scientific motives for growing Cuban seed, Mendez stops short of a perfectly reasonable explanation: "It's like a beautiful woman... she's a good singer, but an incredible dancer. She should be a dancer not a singer. This soil was meant for Cuban seed."

Ask Fuente the same question, and he is less impassioned and more philosophical. "My grandfather came from Cuba, and he worked very hard wherever he went. I believe the Cubans are like missionaries. No matter where we go we have a responsibility when it comes to tobacco. This country has been very good to us. We have to give something back. That's why we're here in El Caribe."

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