National Geographic : 1977 Jan
INRA. Where special expertise is historical, as with coffee and tobacco, small farmers make significant contributions. Interestingly, 60 percent of our tobacco is privately grown." Cuban tobacco, which enjoyed such great popularity in the United States before the revolution, is still a thriving business. In Pinar del Rio Province, where the best tobacco is grown, Orlando Gutierrez, the local INRA chief, took me by jeep through columns of wide, ripening leaves. They would soon be picked, dried, and hand-wrapped around cigars costing more than a dollar each. Turning onto a dirt road, Gutierrez stopped at one of the dozens of large, windowless cur- ing barns. Inside the The phenomenal involvement with schooling was my prevailing impression of Cuba. "About a third of the people are enrolled in an educational program. ... We have reduced illiteracy from 25 percent to less than 3 percent." - - CUBAN EDUCATOR The remainder are , dark, aromatic building, rich green leaves thick ly packed on ceiling poles obscured the thatched roof. Gutier rez said: "It is the com bination of soil and climate in Pinar del Rio that gives Cuban tobacco its superior flavor, plus the skilled handling by the work ers. This area produces more than 70 percent of the 3,500-ton crop of top-quality leaves that go into the cigars. shredded for cigarettes." Back in Havana, still operating from the same old factory near the Capitolio, H. Up mann-a name sure to pique the taste buds of any American cigar smoker-produces an expensive and prestigious line, mainly for export. Production manager Andres Gavilla showed me around the large, open workroom. "We make about 100,000 cigars a day, double the 1959 figure, most by hand. In a deliberate attempt to offer women jobs and to free men for heavier work," he said, "we now have 216 women hand-making cigars. Before, we had only one doing that work." In the front of the workroom, Ruben Mo rales sat before a microphone. Gavilla ex plained: "Before the revolution, the workers would hire a 'reader' for entertainment. Now the readers get a government salary and read them the Communist Party newspaper Gran ma and various ideological books" (page 52).