Cigar on Wheels?
THE FIRST MOTORIZED VAN IN HAVANA WAS USED TO CARRY AND DISTRIBUTE CIGARS. OPERATED BY H. DE CABAÑAS Y CARVAJAL FACTORY, MAKER OF CIGARS AND CIGARETTES, IT REPRESENTED THE PARISIENNE BRAND AND IT WAS THE FIRST AUTOMOBILE SOLD IN HAVANA
The first Cuban railroad was meant to carry sugar and the first merchandise automobile in Havana distributed cigars and cigarettes. This part of history began in the late 19th century with the arrival of the first automobile in Havana.
After the last Hispanic-cuban War (1895-1898), Jose Muñoz, who had lived in Paris, returned to Cuba and brought the latest French trendsetter at that moment: the automobile. In December 1898, Havana's streets welcomed this automobile, which looked like a horseless buggy.
Singled out by its noisy engine, Muñoz's automobile was the show of that time. Muñoz was a businessman and he not only brought the automobile to Havana in order to go out for a ride, but also to sell it as he was the local representative of the French brand in Cuba.
Parisienne was a French maker of bicycles, velocipedes and tricycles, which unsuccessfully launched its first automobile prototype in 1894. It began to market its motorized vehicles in 1896. Muñoz sold his first Parisienne in 1899 to Guardia y Compañía, a company which used it to distribute cigars and cigarettes.
H. Cabañas y Carvajal cigar factory was founded back in 1797 by Havana-born Francisco Alvarez Cabañas, at Jesus Maria Street. His daughter married to Manuel Gonzalez Carvajal in 1825 and in 1848, with the expansion of the factory at Lamparilla Street, it was called Hija de Cabañas y Carvajal. That's the reason why H. de Cabañas y Carvajal was labeled on the van.
The Parisienne van, stronger and mightier than Muñoz's automobile, could carry up to half a ton (1,000 pounds) and, although we know the price tag of Muñoz's car (some 6,000 francs, nearly a thousand pesos at the time), we know nothing about the cost of the van. It featured a 2.9 L engine and 4.5 HP.
We do know that H. de Cabañas y Carvajal's little truck was the third motorized vehicle in Havana. The second one was also made in France (by Rochet & Schneider brand in Lyon), and it was driven by pharmacist Ernesto Sarra, but that's another story to be told while puffing on a good Habano.