Cigar Aficionado

Day Three: A Tribute to Cigars

They stood at the back of the makeshift room set up inside the cigar factory with a podium at the front and rows of tables arranged for a cigar seminar conducted by the owner of Matasa, and the creator of the Casa Magna, Fonseca and the new Quesada brands. Dressed in white t-shirts that commemorated today’s launch of the Quesada Tributo cigar, which will hit retail stores by May, the employees of the Matasa factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic, listened attentively to the presentation in English by their employer, their patriarch, Manuel Quesada. Certainly, only a few understood the words. When Manuel’s daughter Raquel introduced them as part of the Matasa family, the “artists who create our ideas,” the entire room of about 50 ProCigar festival attendees stood and applauded them. The workers’ smiles expressed their understanding, and in essence, told the whole story—this day was about more than just a new cigar, or another tobacco blend or some perfunctory promotional event. It was about family, too.

We had all been invited to share in a moment of family history, a sad, but ultimately uplifting moment about friends and family who couldn’t be there today. Patricia Quesada, one of the six family members who make up the 5th generation of Quesadas to work in the tobacco industry, asked for understanding because today was going to be an emotion-filled remembrance for the entire clan.

The reason was immediately clear. The new Quesada Tributo brand is largely the brainchild of the 5th generation, but with Manuel’s blessing. It will come in four sizes, each named for a person in their extended family. The Manolin is named for their grandfather, who inspired both the fourth and fifth generation with his love of cigars, and encouraged them to become cigarmakers. The Alvaro and Alvarito, for Manuel’s brother and Alvaro’s son, who both died in a tragic plane crash in 2002, and the Julio, named for Manuel’s right hand man, Julio Fajardo, who perished in the same accident. Tears flowed freely from everyone on the podium.

Sometimes an event becomes something greater than the sum of its parts. This morning was about more than tobacco, it was about a lot more than just cigars. Everyone present could feel the raw emotion, and love, and recognize that the real message was about things that truly matter in life: family, loyalty and friendship.

You might be able to change the names and the brands, and throughout the cigar business you would come face to face with the same passion, the same dedication and the same care for their product that runs deep through the families who make the cigars you and I smoke. But today, there was no way to walk away from that factory without realizing that you had been allowed inside a family’s private struggle, to share with them in a very public way, their sorrow. After the tears and the emotion, however, you could only leave there knowing that you had seen the way forward from tragedy, a very personal guide on how to put the past behind without ever forgetting it.

Manuel Quesada said that the family had been in the business for more than 100 years and he had told the next generation that they could gather strength from the experience, and use the past as a springboard. Amen.

"Gordon, beautifully written! It's unfortunate that such a tragedy happened to such wonderful people. However in the spirit of "Moving Forward" (as Manolo mentioned), there isn't a more appropriate tribute to these 4 incredible people than the Quesada Tributo. And although most of us never new these four individuals, if you were in that room, or read this blog... suddenly you DO know them. Thanks to the Quesada family for sharing something so personal and for allowing all of us to be a part of your family." —February 23, 2010 10:13 AM