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
“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