I remember getting out of school and getting to my house, and there would be a seal on the door. When Jorge Valdez was eight years old, he and his family left Cuba with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Now all he has left are some old photographs and a lot of memories.
When I was a kid, you know, my grandfather smoked cigars, you know. We used to sit in the front of the house, and he used to sit in a rocking chair and smoke it, and I’d hold it - my father and my uncle while they were playing dominoes, which is another part of being Cuban. It’s …you know, something that we do. We play dominoes, smoke cigars and roast pigs, you know, it’s part of being Cuban. One of my favorites is a Don Carlos.
Today, Valdez owns a successful Miami cigar shop, Sabor Havana, with brands dominated by Cuban families who also fled Cuba and today use other tobacco to make top-brand cigars. Valdez said people have been smuggling Cuban cigars into the United States for years. But now, large distributors are planning for when the Cuban market opens up, and Valdez is expecting a sale to jump.
I think that when trade opens up with Cuba, and we do have Cuban cigars to sell here in the United States, there'll be a surge, of course, because there was, or it has been for 50 years, the forbidden fruit, so everyone wants to, you know, take a bite of the forbidden fruit.
Across town in Miami, the stronghold of Cuban-Americans, Andy Consuegra said lifting the trade embargo with Cuba would instantly boost his wine and spirit sales in the Caribbean. Overnight it’s about 4 or 5 more million tourists right overnight, plus the increase in tourists that would be expected, should things change or when things change, plus the local population.
Consuegra said as of now, large European companies dominate the market as they don’t fall under the U.S. economic embargo. Businessmen like Consuegra and Valdez look forward to the opportunities that open trade would bring. But for Valdez, it is difficult to forget the past.
That’s the bitter part, you know. I wish that, you know, those kinds of things could be erased, but there is so much pain for 50 years that we hold onto that it’s hard, you know, to look at the upside of this exchange without there being some benefit to the people that are there.
Valdez said that even if he could, he does not want to return to the communist nation. He said he is content to spend his time with his friends and clients in his own little bit of Cuba here in Miami. Sharon Behn, VOA News , Miami.