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

Habanos - - Summary - BY / PE­DRO DE LA HOZ PHO­TOS / EX­CE­LEN­CIAS ARCHIVE

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

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