HAVANA – Alejandro Robaina, the producer of Cuba’s most famous Havana cigar tobacco, has died in Pinar del Rio province, the area where the Vegas Robaina plantations are located. He was 91.
Robaina died after battling “a difficult disease” in the municipality of San Luis, where he will be buried on Sunday, state television reported, adding that he was “the only Cuban who during his life gave his name to a brand of Havana cigars.”
Robaina, who was devoted to tobacco growing since age 12, learned his trade from his father while he worked on the same land his grandfather had begun to plant in 1845 in Pinar del Rio, in Cuba’s far west.
The cigar maker, who was born on March 20, 1919, in Alquizar, in La Habana province, lived most of his life in San Luis, where he forged his legend thanks to which his name became synonymous with excellent tobacco.
Robaina said in several interviews that he was a “peasant” who was famous all over the world, but he acknowledged that in recent years he had made almost no cigars, except “for my friends.”
His plantations in San Luis have attracted a huge number of visitors who want to have a closer look at the cigar-making tradition there, among them Colombian Nobel Literature Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, English singer Sting and actor Jackie Chan.
Former President Fidel Castro was a longtime smoker of Havana cigars and continued to receive boxes of the smokes even after he gave up that habit.
Robaina confirmed on several occasions that at the age of 10 he began the ritual of smoking four cigars per day, a custom that he continued into old age.
The 10th edition of the Havana Cigar Festival of Cuba in 2008 awarded him the Special Havana Cigar Prize, which recognizes the best cigar makers in the world.
It is estimated that his plantations produce about 8 million cigars per year, the majority of which are exported to Spain and France.