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Out of the Humidor

CA Readers
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95

(continued from page 1)

My favorite story is about my great grandfather's brother, who was Cuba's secretary of agriculture prior to Castro. Family lore has it that he smoked a box of cigars daily. When I hear the stories I begin to yearn for the past I never knew. I wonder what living in Cuba was like. Often I feel angry and upset that the only tie I have to my past is my family and the smell of a non-Cuban cigar.

Christmas Eve was a particularly special event this year, primarily because my entire family was present, but also because my uncle who lives in Spain was able to smuggle some Cuban cigars through U.S. Customs. After our dinner on "Noche Buena," I experienced my first Cuban smoke. This was the first time in my life that I had felt any substantial connection to Cuba. It was saddening to me that this experience came through the illegal actions of a relative. This cigar, so small in comparison with the problems its country faces, brought me to the realization that the United States needs to reevaluate its policy regarding its relationship with Cuba.

Opening the doors of communication with Cuba is important--not for the sake of cigar smokers in the United States, but for the sake of Cubans on both the island and those in the United States. Lifting the embargo will open up trade, stimulate the flow of ideas and art between both countries, and lead to the eventual healing of a 35-year-old wound.

If the United States, the Cuban Government and Cuban Americans in exile would begin to communicate their concerns and ideas, I feel a resolution could be found. I live in Miami and understand that lifting the embargo is not a popular idea, but the time has come for both Cubans and Cuban Americans to realize that the embargo is an outdated policy. It serves no useful purpose. The cold war is over. Cuba poses no military threat and is beginning to show signs of an eventual transition from a command to a market economy. If the embargo is not lifted, first- and second-generation Cuban Americans like myself will never be able to experience their homeland, except through a smuggled cigar from a foreign country. How American is that?

Albert F. Muzaurieta
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Editor's Note: Amen. Writing this letter for publication shows a courage and maturity far beyond your years.

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I had my first cigar in 1950. The time was late November; the place--Kuni-ri, North Korea. A light dusting of snow covered the frozen ridges only a few miles south of the Manchurian border. My rifle company had reached its high-water mark trying to take a hill we dubbed "Chinaman's hat." We'd taken heavy casualties and had to pull back to a low ridge. We dug in quickly and didn't have to wait long for the Chinese counterattack. Bugles blowing, massed Chinese infantry assaulted our position. We called for assistance--mortars, artillery, a tank, anything. A Sherman tank, answering our call, ground it's way up to our line.

Since I was close to the tank, I ran behind it for cover and to talk to the tank commander via the telephone on the back fender. After helping to direct their fire where it was most needed, the tanker asked me if I smoked cigars. I was 19 at the time and had never smoked, not even cigarettes. I knew some of the men in the company might enjoy a cigar, so I lied and said I did. He told me to crawl under the tank to the escape hatch and he'd pass me some cigars. The hatch opened a few inches and a box of cigars dropped to the ground. It was a box of 50 El Roi Tans.

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