Tobacco factory 'readers' keep up long tradition in Cuba

For nearly half a century, Fidel Castro delighted in the aroma of pure Cuban cigars rolled by expert cigar rollers at the cadence of a profession that dates to the 19th century, that of tobacco readers.

Well-known Cuban cigar brands like Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, Partagas and Montecristo are sent around the world after being rolled one leaf at a time on factory floors in Cuba as readers read the news of the day, classic novels, famous quotes or fun reads.

Cigar rollers told Reuters the readers keep them up to date on the happenings of the world and entertain them as they plug along with their day-to-day.

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Tobacco factory 'readers' keep up tradition in Cuba
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Tobacco factory 'readers' keep up tradition in Cuba
An employee rolls tobacco as she listens to "fabric reader" Francisco Gonzalez (not pictured) at a tobacco factory in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tobacco "fabric reader" Francisco Gonzalez works at his office at a tobacco factory in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A cyclist passes as tobacco "fabric reader" Francisco Gonzalez makes his way to a tobacco factory in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Francisco Gonzalez rolls with his wheelchair between employees at a tobacco factory in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Francisco Gonzalez reads a novel at a tobacco factory in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Enelida Hernandez reads a novel at a tobacco factory in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Francisco Gonzalez poses for a photo at his home in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Francisco Gonzalez reads a novel at a tobacco factory in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Odalis de la Caridad, reads a novel to employees of the Corona tobacco factory in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2018. Picture taken on September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Francisco Gonzalez reads a novel at a tobacco factory in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
An image of late revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara is seen at a tobacco factory in Quivican, Cuba, September 21, 2018. Picture taken on September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Odalis de la Caridad, reads a novel to employees of the Corona tobacco factory in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2018. Picture taken on September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Yordanka Herrera, 35, rolls tobacco as she listens to "fabric reader" Odalis de la Caridad (not pictured) at the Corona tobacco factory in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2018. Picture taken on September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Ines Drake has pictures of her displayed at her working station as she rolls tobacco listening to "fabric reader" Odalis de la Caridad (not pictured) at the Corona tobacco factory in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2018. Picture taken on September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Grisel Valdez talks to employees at the H. Upmann tobacco factory in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2018. Picture taken on September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Grisel Valdez sits at her home in Havana, Cuba, September 25, 2018. Picture taken on September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Grisel Valdez reads a newspaper at the H. Upmann tobacco factory in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2018. Picture taken on September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Mercedes Lores, 53, rolls tobacco as she listens to "fabric reader" Odalis de la Caridad (not pictured) at the Corona tobacco factory in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2018. Picture taken on September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Grisel Valdez reads a newspaper at the H. Upmann tobacco factory in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2018. Picture taken on September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tobacco "fabric reader" Grisel Valdez smokes a cigar during a break at the H. Upmann tobacco factory in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2018. Picture taken on September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
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Tobacco reading traces its roots back to 1865 when it was first used to instruct tobacco workers on the job. Still today, tobacco readers step up to the mic three times a day to read the news or a book to workers busy working on the floor.

In 2012, the practice was recognized as a cultural heritage and many here said they hope the practice continues well into the future.

Cuban cigars, seen as a symbol of opulent capitalism, are among the main exports of Cuba's fragile economy. However, Cuba is barred from exporting to the largest cigar market in the world, the United States, due to a decades-old embargo.

However, a growing market in China, as well as European strongholds like Spain and France are pushing sales to records which neared $500 million dollars in 2017.

For many rollers, the readers have become an indispensable part of their work. For some, they are a watch that sets the pace for their work. For others, they are like ministers that provide information and advice for their daily lives.

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