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Q&A: The Silent Legend

An Interview with Alfons Mayer, the globe-travelling tobacco buyer for General Cigar Co.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Morgan Freeman, Mar/Apr 2005

(continued from page 3)

Q: So you were an apprentice?

A: Yes. They were so sure I could make it, and not break me, after I pissed enough times on my hands, I could do what I wanted. And then the people, the top management of Cuba, was fantastic. In Cabaiguan, in Santa Clara, in Remedios, in Pinar del Río—all these areas were top-notch people. They had tobacco talking to them. It took me two years before I found out how tobacco talks to me. They were masters. And I had a hard time. I said I'll never get it. I'll never get it. I wrote everything down they told me at night. And I can show you that. I have never thrown anything away.

Q: Have you always been that way?

A: Always. You saw that attic? A minefield. [Laughs.]

Q: And you still have your notes from Cuba?

A: I have every farmer's name.

Q: Really? Was that a habit of your father's?

A: That's a habit of me. I always write everything down.

Q: Take me through your apprenticeship.

A: In the beginning? I had to go step-by-step what every person was doing, and they would not let me out of one step until I make the same amount as the people—everything, everything, everything I had to do, and get approved by the boss of the warehouse. Six weeks. And that's the way you worked it. When I could talk to tobacco, and they taught me that, then I was accepted.

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