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A Conversation with José Blanco

The gregarious sales director for La Aurora speaks about the cigar industry.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Vegas, Mar/Apr 2006

José Blanco, the gregarious sales director for La Aurora, has been with the parent company, Empresa León Jimenes CxA, for decades, but it was only six years ago that he was allowed to follow his love to join its cigar business. The company veteran had spent the bulk of his career in the core beer and cigarette businesses, and as a lifelong smoker was overjoyed to join the oldest cigar company in the Dominican Republic. Senior editor David Savona sat down with the outspoken Blanco in a restaurant in the Dominican Republic for a conversation about Aurora cigars and the state of the U.S. cigar market.

David Savona: Let's talk about your history with the company. How long have you been with Empresa León Jimenes?

José Blanco: Twenty-four years.

Q: But cigars are somewhat of a recent thing for you, right?

A: Six years. But smoking for 40.

Q: Now, who taught you to smoke cigars?

A: My father. My father grew tobacco, and Jochi, my cousin, his father has an old factory, so in the summers we would go out there and learn how to sort [tobacco]. I had my first cigar at 15, but really I started to smoke at 16. And rarely did I ever smoke cigarettes, as it was always cigars.

Q: Were you born here in the Dominican Republic?

A: My father was a political exile for 29 years, out of the 31 that [Rafael] Trujillo was in power. When Trujillo was killed in 1961, my father was able to come back in 1962 after the dictator was dead.

Q: And you came back here from….

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