Cigar Aficionado

Havana Corner: Thoughts About Cuba and Castro

The news that Fidel Castro successfully made it through his surgery must be a relief to some in Cuba and aggravation to others, particularly in Florida. But it must have been a hell of a shock to people in Cuba when they heard that their leader had taken ill and temporarily passed his power to his brother, Raúl.

I have received a number of e-mails from friends on the island, but one in particular illustrated the tension and confusion there when Fidel relinquished power a few days ago. This was written in the afternoon of August 1.:


"Regarding the situation, here's an update. Well it was really shocking to hear the news yesterday night while watching the Volleyball match transmitted live in Channel 10. They interrupted the sport event and switch over to a partially began news about Cuban health services abroad and then the report that led us to have the mouth opened: Fidel handed power to Raul…etc and the communication was broadcasted live through the 5 channels.

"Phone connections between Havana and Miami were collapsed late at night. I was calling up my friends here and it was impossible to reach any for half an hour. I could hardly talk with my parents using my cell phone, the line was busy though. Thought they were trying to reach me anyway. After all, things were quiet and still they are but there's a feeling of uncertainty going on and the people don't stop talking about the event. The front page of Granma reproduces today the so called Proclama with those statements. Recovery seems to be hard and long so people are waiting for more news. But as of 3.oo p.m. nothing new has gone out.

"Today, people are at work, living their normal life and there are no threatening rumours. Hope we can keep it that way."


All this about Castro reminded me of an interview that Cigar Aficionado editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken did with the Cuban leader on February 4, 1994. I was also there, spoke to Castro and took photographs for the story. I even smoked a cigar (Castro didn't smoke) and drank two Martinis with the man.

Even if you don't like his politics, you have to appreciate Castro's love of cigars and tobacco. He spoke for hours during the interview about tobacco cultivation and the joys of smoking a cigar. Stayed tuned for a reprint of the interview in an upcoming issue of Cigar Aficionado.

Here's what Castro said when Shanken asked him if he ever dreamt of smoking cigars, since he hadn't puffed on one in more than a decade before the interview:

"Well, I have dreams about cigars. Sometimes I used to dream that I was smoking a cigar. The funny thing is that it doesn't happen to me anymore. I think it happened to me in the first five years [after quitting]. Even in my dreams I used to think that I was doing something wrong. I was conscious that I had not permitted myself to smoke anymore, but I was still enjoying it in my sleep."

Click here to read the 1994 interview with Fidel Castro.

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