Co­llec­tion is Crea­tion

DIEHARD CI­GAR COLLECTOR OR­LAN­DO AR­TEA­GA ABREU TREA­SU­RES A VA­LUA­BLE SWATCH OF CU­BAN RINGS AND BRAN­DINGS, A WORK THAT HAS LED HIM TO BEING CON­SI­DE­RED ONE OF THE MOST OUTS­TAN­DING FI­GU­RES OF CU­BAN VI­TOLP­HI­LIA

Habanos - - Summary - BY / ANA MA­RÍA DO­MÍN­GUEZ CRUZ PHO­TOS / EX­CE­LEN­CIAS ARCHIVE

“The best to­bac­co in the world is har­ves­ted and pro­du­ced in Cu­ba. The­re is no ot­her li­ke ours, that's why when I de­ci­ded to co­llect rings and bran­dings, I pre­fe­rred the Cu­ban stuff. My pas­sion for the world of ci­gars can be ex­plai­ned by that in­com­pa­ra­ble qua­lity.”

A pas­sio­na­te fan sin­ce 1980, Or­lan­do Ar­tea­ga Abreu boasts 4,291 rings that mainly con­tain images of cul­tu­ral and po­li­ti­cal per­so­na­li­ties, alt­hough flags and birds, among ot­her the­mes, can al­so be found in his al­bums. Proud to ha­ve around 400 aut­ho­ri­za­tions, the foun­der of the Cu­ban Vi­tolp­hi­lic As­so­cia­tion (and pre­si­dent of it for a de­ca­de) ad­mits that years ago, when he used to smo­ke, he pre­fe­rred the Lu­si­ta­nias vi­to­la from the Par­ta­gás brand: “Its aro­ma is un­for­get­ta­ble, my pre­fe­ren­ce is un­de­nia­ble.”

Most of the fans arran­ge their co­llec­tions by the­mes. Among the most sought-af­ter are vig­net­tes of por­traits, flags, wild­li­fe, flo­ra, sports, trans­port, he­raldry, buil­dings and tra­de­marks. Fun­da­men­tal in this task of the Vi­tolp­hi­lia is the Bran­dop­hi­lia, which con­sists of co­llec­ting bran­dings, that is, the la­bels used to de­co­ra­te, in­si­de and out­si­de, the ci­gar bo­xes.

But for the win­ner of se­ven trop­hies in vi­tolp­hi­lic con­tests held in Spain, in ad­di­tion to ot­her pri­zes and re­cog­ni­tions gar­ne­red in Cu­ba, the 2010 Vi­tolp­hi­lic Li­fe­ti­me Achie­ve­ment Award is no doubt one of his grea­test pos­ses­sions, one that he ex­hi­bits with deep emo­tion, coupled with the pain­ting that was gi­ven to him de­pic­ting the se­ven rings that sum­ma­ri­ze the evo­lu­tion of the Cohi­ba ci­gar. “I've been of­fe­red a lot of mo­ney for this pain­ting, for the­se rings, but I do not sell it. For me, it has, abo­ve all, a sen­ti­men­tal va­lue and it is a part of my life.”

The his­tory of the rings and the Cu­ban bran­dings is vast and ama­zing, har­ke­ning back to the 16th cen­tury when com­mer­cial to­bac­co har­vest be­gan in Cu­ba. From the­re, a uti­li­ta­rian art lin­ked to the bu­si­ness of the dif­fe­rent forms of the pro­duct aro­se and an in­ter­est in all the ob­jects re­la­ted to the smo­king ha­bit, such as ligh­ters, match­bo­xes, pi­pes, mouth­pie­ces, con­tai­ners, ash­trays, among ot­hers, was whip­ped in­to sha­pe.

With a de­gree in Ju­ri­di­cal Scien­ces at the Uni­ver­sity of Ha­va­na in 1985, Ar­tea­ga Abreu has left his stamp on the de­ve­lop­ment of the Cu­ban vi­tolp­hi­lia.

His pas­sion was born in 1979, when he be­gan wor­king as de­puty di­rec­tor of the agency tas­ked with ad­ver­ti­sing at the Cu­ban To­bac­co Com­pany. Whi­le ser­ving his stint the­re, he was lin­ked to co­llec­tors, many of whom ga­ve him a pie­ce as a gift. Thus, and per­haps be­cau­se of the cir­cums­tan­ces and a lo­ve that con­que­red him irre­trie­vably, he be­gan to amass his little trea­su­re.

He re­cog­ni­zes that co­llec­ting is not li­mi­ted to ac­cu­mu­la­ting pie­ces. “It is ne­ces­sary to study, in­ves­ti­ga­te, or­ga­ni­ze and thus, hand­pick the very best. Ma­king a co­llec­tion ta­kes ef­fort, de­di­ca­tion and gi­ving it the va­lue it deser­vedly re­qui­res. Each pie­ce has a his­tory of its own and ha­ving such a co­llec­tion pa­ves the way for know­led­ge and cul­tu­re to grow with each pas­sing day.”

Or­lan­do is al­so an aut­hor of mas­ter­ful es­says, in­clu­ding “Fac­to­ries, Ma­nu­fac­tu­rers and To­bac­co Brands” (1997), “No­tes for a His­tory of Uni­ver­sal Vi­tolp­hi­lia” (1999) and “Cu­ban To­bac­co Brands from the 19th Cen­tury” (1999). He cu­rrently ser­ves as a mem­ber of the Na­tio­nal Board of Di­rec­tors of the Cu­ban Vi­tolp­hi­lic As­so­cia­tion and che­ris­hes both the ol­dest and the ne­west pie­ces with the sa­me pas­sion. “I would lie if I told you that I pre­fer one to the ot­her. Cohe­ren­ce in the who­le co­llec­tion is the best.”

The 80-plus-year-old con­nois­seur re­grets the fact that no­wa­days the youn­ger ge­ne­ra­tion is not drawn to the lu­ring realm of to­bac­co-re­la­ted co­llec­tions. “It is won­der­ful to brow­se an al­bum, to re­mem­ber mo­ments, to ex­chan­ge with ot­her co­llec­tors, to see your pas­sion grow... Wis­hing is ha­ving and ha­ving is crea­ting,” says this sim­ple man who found in the ma­gic world of ci­gars a way of life as over­flo­wing as it is ex­tra­or­di­nary.

SIN­CE TO­BAC­CO BE­GAN TO BE GROWN IN CU­BA BACK IN THE 16TH CEN­TURY, IN­TER­EST IN ALL ITEMS LIN­KED TO THE HA­BIT OF SMO­KING EMERGED

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