By: Liborio País
In spite of anti-smoking campaigns, there is an alternative world of people interested in preserving the pleasure of smoking a good cigar, combining it with a traditional drink and experimenting 500 year old sensations.
Part of this rebellious group will again have the chance of becoming acquainted with the best cigars of the world during the 14th Cigar Festival planned for February 27 through March 2 in Havana.
The organizers of the meeting assert that about a thousand participants from sixty countries will attend this meeting of smokers that has exceeded its original purpose of providing the special privilege of smoking the exclusive also contributing to collect funding for public health.
The Genovese seafarer Christopher Columbus and the other members of his expedition became the first Europeans to appreciate this handcrafted product, perhaps the most authentic, indigenous and ancient of the Great Caribbean Island.
In 1492, Colombus watched the natives of this archipelago as they inhaled and exhaled the smoke of the tobacco plant; he tried it and spread this habit throughout Europe, since it was supposed to be one of the refinements discovered in the New World.
The future rendezvous of smokers to be held in the Cuban capital qualifies among the most relevant inasmuch as it exhibits Premium cigars (handmade), the best in the world. A similar encounter, The Big Smoke, held in Las Vegas, is denied this possibility since the American Government forbids their admission into American territory, on account of the Trade with the Enemy Act.
Prohibitions notwithstanding, Americans take a short trip to Havana to participate in the meeting that exhibits smoking masterpieces, as a result of a successful combination of soil, climate and the experience of producers.
The meeting is a worldly gathering for exchanging experiences, trying samples, the introduction of novelties, auctions and cigar-drink combinations, as well as for guided visits to tobacco plantations and factories; and last but not least, a superb closing ceremony.
The festival program closes with the exhibition and sale of humidors or furniture for the preservation of cigars. The organizers have decided to honor the brands Cohiba and Romeo y Julieta in the oncoming event, even though the most significant theme is the celebration of the first contact with European smokers.
As an original initiative, the Corporación Habanos summoned the Cigar International Contest in Imagenes, which will award a prize to the producers of audiovisual works.
On wellcoming night, dedicated to the Cohiba brand, a concert called Eclectic-Us is scheduled in the Karl Marx Theater, in Havana. The performers will include the Cuban singer Augusto Enríquez and his guests Phil Manzanera and Jack Bruce, the latter ex-member of a mythical rock band; the British trio Cream, with the guitar player Eric Clapton and the drum player Ginger Baker.
The subsequent cocktail party will take place in the Cristino Naranjo Club – adjacent to the Karl Marx Theater- a unique place by the sea that will receive the delegates to the event for the first time.
The date of the 520 anniversary of the discovery of tobacco in Cuba by the Europeans will be celebrated with a dinner in the Fine Arts Museum, alongside which there will be a tasting of a cigar especially created for the occasion together with the best cuisine inspired by the resulting give and take of the mixture of cultures originated on October the 12th, 1492.
The brand Romeo y Julieta will take precedence on the closing ceremony, on Friday, March 2, at a gala dinner including a trip around the history of this cigar brand founded in 1875, which throughout 137 years has adapted itself to the changing taste in order to continue being one of the most treasured.
The Humidor auction, in aid of the Cuban system of Public Health will be the culmination of the cigar assembly.
In the 2011 edition of the auction, the sale collected 787 thousand euros (one million 62 thousand 450 dollars) by means of the bidding of seven luxurious cabinets for the preservation of cigars.
The final concert included the Cuban singer Omara Portuondo, the Buena Vista Social Club diva, and the late Compay Segundo band.
The Prizes Cigar of theYear went to Cuban Armando Trujillo, under the production category; German Maximilian Herzog, under the business category, whereas under communication the award went to the also Cuban Adriano Martínez.