Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr., owner of Arturo Fuente Cigars, made a surprise visit to Estelí, Nicaragua to reveal his plans to build a new cigar factory in Nicaragua. The company is known for its Dominican-made cigars such as Fuente Fuente OpusX and Arturo Fuente Don Carlos.
“I’m back in Nicaragua. Carlito’s back,” Fuente Jr. said at Puro Sabor 2018, a Nicaraguan cigar and tobacco festival.
Arturo Fuente Cigars once owned a successful cigar factory in Nicaragua until the country was torn apart by political upheaval and the factory destroyed in 1978. At the time, the company was run by the late Carlos Fuente Sr., who then moved operations to the Dominican Republic to start anew with his son, Carlos Fuente Jr.
“Being back in Estelí brings back so many memories as a young boy,” Fuente Jr. said to a crowd of cigar smokers nestled inside a tobacco-curing barn at a farm called El Buen Vecino (which translates to “The Good Neighbor”). For the event, the barn had been transformed into a dining hall, with guests eating and puffing on cigars at elegant white tables. Waiters poured Flor de Caña rum, and fresh green tobacco leaves hung overhead.
“I’m here because Nicaragua has a great government who has opened the doors—giving opportunity for people to invest, for people to be able to come in with confidence, to build the economy, to build the future of this great country,” Fuente Jr. said. “I’m very grateful to Nicaragua and the people of Nicaragua.”
The company has been quietly growing tobacco on the farmland for a number of years.
“This farm we’ve had for about four years now, we’ve grown three crops and we’re growing another one. This is just the beginning,” Fuente Jr. said.
Standing before a large display board obscured by black cloth, Fuente Jr. revealed his plans for the new cigar factory. It would be based in Estelí, he said. It would honor the memory of his father. The black cloth fell away.
“[It] will be named Gran Fabrica de Tabacos La Bella y La Bestia. The factory is just a few blocks from the center of the city. It’s a big property that we bought years ago—and we were just quiet about it.”
La Bella y La Bestia translates to “The Beauty and The Beast.” The board revealed the conceptual artwork for the new factory, designed with the help of Manny Iriarte, of Iriarte Photography & Design, with whom Fuente Jr. has collaborated with on a number of projects in the past.
Fuente Jr. then told the audience about his plans to create an extension of the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation and bring the program to Nicaragua (The Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to uplift the lives of impoverished children and families in the Dominican Republic).
“I’ve always said, it’s not about the cigars, it’s about the people,” Fuente said. “And we want to bring an extension of Cigar Family Charitable Foundation—which we have proven to make a better world one child at a time in the Dominican Republic—by [creating] schools, health centers and doing all the things for the wonderful children of Estelí and Nicaragua.”
He then thanked his father and his colleagues for their support over the years, and announced Felix Mesa, owner of El Galan Cigars as head of operations in Nicaragua.
“None of this would have been possible without the support and beliefs of my father and his teachings and example. And Felix Mesa—who is my right hand in Nicaragua, in charge of all operations. He’s a tobacco man. He has tobacco in his blood.”
Fuente Jr. then motioned his arm at the artwork of the factory:
“And this that you see here, this illustration—if it wasn’t for Manny Iriarte, who sat with me and was able to capture the vision that we had: To pay respect to Nicaragua. Like making a colonial [style] building—not a Cuban building, not a Dominican building—something that respected Nicaragua with the Nicaraguan flag that you see, that was the most important element. To make sure that flag is flying high. We’re in Nicaragua. And if you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.”
According to the company, Gran Fabrica de Tabacos La Bella y La Bestia is in the preliminary stages of development. A completion date for the factory has not yet been announced.