Cigar Factory Visit

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Honduras  ,
Monday, January 22, 2007

Not our usual start to the morning, we are staying in a really cheap hotel (shared, cold showers) and probably the only non-locals there. As a result, we are reminded of the Central American attitude towards noise - they often have no concept of being quiet or in fact considering other people. We are woken at 5am by other guests who must have an early bus to catch, they turn on a radio loudly in their room and shout conversations down the corridor to each other for the next hour until they leave!

Santa Rosa is nice-enough, a quiet colonial town set in pretty countryside, a neccessary transit point for us to get to El Salvador but while we´re here we make the most of things and squish in a visit to the local cigar (puro) factory.

We have to fill in time before the tour starts, so we go to a nearby cafe on the main road - a sort of truck-stop/roadhouse type place. They seem a bit surprised to see 2 tourists, but are pretty friendly. A guy there is dinking alcohol at 10.00 in the morning, but each to their own... We´re particularly amused by the prominent sign in the cafe warning that carrying guns and drinking is not a clever mix!

Our guide to the cigar factory is a grumpy guy who only speaks Spanish and won´t let us take photos inside. However, he proves to be an infomative tour guide who clearly prefers to speak directly to Anna rather than Ed or the odd young German guy with us.

The drying room for the tobacco leaves is a killer - a few minutes in there with the humidity and our throats are aching like we just smoked a cigar or two. We already feel really sorry for the local workers, most of whom don´t wear masks.

Next, we see the predominantly female workers sitting at rows and rows of old-fashioned wooden desks, hand-rolling cigars. It is work of incredible skill and precision and we are shown the ´old hands´ and the learners to emphasise this point. Every cigar is tested with a machine which puffs pressurised air into the cigar to ensure it can actually be smoked.

Following on, the packing room - this seems to us a nicer job, cleaner and less tobacco fumes (which probably means these workers earn less). There seems to be good camaraderie in this room which makes for a nice atmosphere.

Just when we thought our $2 tour had finished, Mr not-so-grumpy-guide showed us to the area where all the cedar wood cigar boxes are made. Again, amazingly precise work where skilled carpenters and painters work together. The range of packaging and the high standard of work show us why cigars are still a desirable luxury item today.

For the record, we´re both anti-smoking but we´re itching to buy some cigars with their pretty packaging after the tour!
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