Face-to-face with carlito Fuente What’s the purpose of your visit?
We were going to have a big cigar event in December, and unfortunately, due to situations out of my control, it was postponed, and I promised that I would come back as soon as possible. So we set the date for March, I was very much wanting to come back, on one condition—i wanted to avoid mid-summer! But the relationship is so important to me that I want to make sure I say hello to these people who have become very special and very kind to me. I look at it as more of the evolution of relationships that have developed over the last several years here in Dubai and the Middle East. I’m not a numbers person, but I’ve been very pleasantly overwhelmed with the incredible increases in the internal market. Duty free has grown significantly, but the internal market has been more than I ever anticipated. As life goes on, you look back at what you haven’t done, and cigars are everything to me and to my family. And there’s a lot of development that we have in our factories and our plantations. We are now expanding quite a bit, building museums in our headquarters in Florida, also in the Dominican Republic. And we’re developing Chateau de la Fuente to another level. We always have special, magical things coming out that will be released. There’s a possibility that we may introduce a new brand, but Fuente is in the infancy stage here. It takes many, many years of hard work to prove to the community that this is something truly to be respected. We have many sub-brands within Fuente, and we’ve only introduced a few into Dubai. I was born in a very humble, hardworking family—cigars were our life. I feel very blessed that, through my generation, cigars have become a symbol of luxury and it’s given me an opportunity to meet so many wonderful people with big hearts. And it opened a door to do something that was necessary, the right thing to do—giving back to communities and to others who are not as fortunate. So we developed a non-profit foundation. And it’s recognised by the United Nations as being the model of social responsibility in the Caribbean for giving back. And it’s my life—it’s as important as cigars.