Hi there It’s a little later in March than I intended to update you, but here I am! It’s just past the halfway point, and I’ve been in Cuba for almost 2 months now! I’ve done a lot since my last update, and I’ve made plans to do a lot more! So far I have toured the tobacco museum/factory outside of Old Havana, gone to the beach, visited the National Aquarium, seen Ernest Hemingway’s house, eaten delicious pizza, and celebrated international women’s day in Cuba!
We went on a tour of a tobacco factory recently and learned about how the cigars are made, the history of tobacco in Cuba, and many other things. While we were in the factory we learned about the lives of cigar rollers and other people in the factory. For many of the rollers, they can only work in that part of the factory for a maximum of 10 to 15 years because after that the tendonitis makes the job impossible. For many of the workers this means that they would be out of the job; however, in the factory they are moved to a different department or a different part of the cigar making process.
In the process of making cigars there are those that cut the leaves and tend to the tobacco plants, then take the stems out and separate the leaves by color. There are three colors in a tobacco plant’s leaves, the ones at the top, the ones in the middle, and the ones at the bottom. Each level of leaves has a different purpose in the cigar, ranging from how smoky, flammable or tasteful a combination the consumer is looking for in their cigar. After the stem has been removed and the leaves are organized, the rollers create the cigars. Cigars are rolled tightly so that the air is forced to push through the filter of leaves. Once they are rolled, then they are pressed for various amounts of time depending on the combination of leaves and the roller. Once all the cigars are rolled and pressed they are cut into shape and sent to get stickers. Stickers are all put on by hand and placed in boxes. The cigar boxes are made of balsa wood and are handmade in other rooms during the cigar making process. We all got a chance to walk around and look at the different types of cigars but no one bought cigars that day.
The weekend after the tobacco factory tour, we all went to the beach. We usually go to Santa Maria because it is close to Vedado. We rode in a jeep taxi on the way to Santa Maria instead of a maquina or the guagua. The water was completely clear and there were a lot of sand banks that we could swim to and hang out.
This past Wednesday, we visited the National Cuban Aquarium in Havana. I liked the dolphin show the best out of everything, but the sea that touches the aquarium is truly gorgeous! Is was my first time seeing a dolphin show and it was a little strange, we sang to a few of the kids who were there for their birthdays. Since we went in the middle of the week it was mostly little children and their parents. I was chosen as a volunteer to touch the dolphins and have them do a flip towards me. It was crazy!
That following weekend we went to Ernest Hemmingway’s house. No one but the staff is allowed to enter the house in order to better preserve the house as it originally sat; however, all of the windows and doors were open so you can walk along his porch and see all of the rooms. We could also visit his pool (where he apparently swam everyday), his old tennis court that now holds his boat, and the tower that overlooks his garden and central Havana.
At the beginning of March we had International Women’s Day and in Cuba it’s a huge deal! On the 7th of March there was a huge festival on the park in the middle of Avenida de Los Presidentes. There was sweets, ice cream, book sellers, games, and music!
Catch me posting here before the end of March for another update about my trip to Trinidad! Besos!