The Myth of the Cigar Roller and the Seducer
SENSUALITY, SPELL, UNSHACKLED TEMPTATION AND COQUETTISH DESIRES HAVE BEEN ELEMENTS ASSOCIATED TO THE DIVERSE AND VARIED EROTIC REPRESENTATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN WOVEN AROUND TOBACCO. HABANO, LIKE A SMOKING EROS, IS SAID TO BE ENTHRALLING
Cigarettes for the ladies; cigars chewed by men's teeth. Stereotypes that over time have elbowed their way into the imaginary of Western culture. The girl who wanders through the tables of a cabaret, generally a blonde, with pulpy lips and languid look in her eyes, among gangsters and poker players, who desperately smoke in her gold-digging hunt or waiting for a deadly shot. The old gallant who holds
a thick cigar in his fingers to underscore his masculinity or the mob chief who offers a Petit Edmundo to his foes before making them surrender to a blackmail. Hollywood stuff. Things of art and real life.
I am definitely inclined towards Carmen, the novel authored by Prosper Merimée and the opera by George Bizet. How much passion José Lizarrabengoa, Elizondo's former soldier, ex-military, oozes in the narrative when he tells the story of his love for Carmen, the sensual gypsy who crossed his path, removed him from the army and dragged him to the underworld; he, head over heels in love with her, bonded to the one-eyed man he'd stabbed in a fight, to finally see her with a bullfighter named Escamillo and, feeling spurned, eventually kill her and turn himself in to justice. This gift of Joseph describes her beloved as it reads: "Her skin, of impeccable smoothness, had a coppery tone. Her eyes were somewhat slanted, but admirable; her fleshy, beautifully lined lips showed teeth as white as peeled almonds. Her hair was black... long and shiny. She was a rare and wild beauty, her face... was simply unforgettable".
Carmen, the cigar hand-roller at the tobacco factory in Seville. In dramaticsoprano opera, was sung by great voices of our time, like María Callas and Victoria de los Ángeles, Jessye Norman and Teresa Berganza. Carmen, wrapped in the smell of bales of ready-to-process tobacco leaves, sings one of the most beautiful melodies ever heard, and they live out in the history of musical theater: L' amour est un oiseau rebelle (Love is a Rebellious Bird).
Nine years ago, in an act of poetic justice, Carmen returned to her starting point in Seville. The Producciones Imperdibles Theater Company staged a dramatic version of Merimée's novel to represent it in the venue where the cigar factory once held its shingle back in the 19th century, the same factory where she had worked, and which is no less than the building of the Rector's Office of the University of Seville.
My colleague Javier Rubio commented then: "Imperdibles presents a more authentic Carmen, more real, totally unbiased, stripped of prejudices and putting more emphasis on her facet of cigar roller, that is, a woman who made a living with a daily wage in the middle of the 19th century; shameless, insinuating and in control of her fate. Perhaps this recreation stands for just another ideal woman, like the one painted by Gonzalo Bilbao and which is splayed on the poster announcing the show".
I believe more in the sturdy picture of the cigar hand-roller than in the sting imprisoned in a strip of paper, in the billows of smoke that rise steadily off the burning leaf than in the dense and random misty fog of those who burn the bundles in a hurry.
That's why I believe more in Orson Welles than in Humphrey Bogart as far as tobacco and smoking are concerned, because Boogie will remain Casablanca's irreplaceable icon. Orson's love for tobacco is legendary and gave rise to a story of romantic mid tones, with a very fine dose of eroticism, worth telling from the most delirious fiction, as did screenwriter David Camus and cartoonist Nick Abadzis in the graphic novel The Cigar that Fell Love with a Pipe, published in the United States in 2014.
It is said that in real life, when Rita Hayworth broke up with from Welles in 1948, she declared, "I can't stand his genius any more." Camus and Abadzis broke themselves away from the water-cooler talks around Hollywood and imagined that Rita used to bother Orson by smoking the most prized tobacco in the collection of the famous producer of Citizen Kane, a Habano rolled by Conchita Marquez, the most famous cigar hand-roller on the Island. "After this, you can understand," said Camus. "There was no way forward. Whether these stars loved each other or not, divorce was the only outcome possible."
Puffing on a Habano takes time and comfort. I was therefore drawn by an exhibition of armchairs designed for cigar tasters, held in Spain. The winner of the competition was Ximo Roca, with a piece of varnished and upholstered oak furniture. "My design is inspired by that classic armchair on which people used to sit, savoring their cigars", he said when he knew he was the winner. Would he be thinking about what the smoker would have in mind? Would he be recreating in his mind the image of a girl who in turn aspired
to the essence of a Habano?
I BELIEVE IN THE ROBUST PRINT OF THE HAND-ROLLED HABANO, IN THE BILLOW OF SMOKE THAT RISES CONSISTENTLY FROM THE BURNING LEAF