Ha­ba­nos Bles­sed by the Land

Bles­sed by the Land

Habanos - - Summary - BY / MA­RIA­NE­LA MAR­TÍN GONZÁLEZ PHO­TOS / ABEL RO­JAS

When you open a Ha­ba­nos box the first thing your eyes ga­ze at is the suit of Ha­ba­nos. If the­re is glos­si­ness, good aro­ma, and even co­lor, it is hard not to fall for its charm. Then, the way is pa­ved for de­lu­xe wisps that every de­man­ding smo­ker tas­tes, sniffs, and cer­tainly shows off.

The mag­ni­fi­cen­ce of the­se Ha­ba­nos that tra­vel the world, proud of being Cu­ban — the world's most fa­mous land on to­bac­co pro­duc­tion — is due to a lar­ge ex­tent to the “Lá­za­ro Pe­na” To­bac­co Co­llec­tion and Be­ne­fits Com­pany. Near the Ari­gua­na­bo wa­ters­hed, whe­re very fer­ti­le lands add a spe­cial touch to the aro­ma­tic tas­te of the to­bac­co leaf, you can find this to­bac­co po­wer­hou­se, who­se so­cial task is to pro­du­ce mo­re than 60% of the ex­port wrap­pers used in the pro­duc­tion of Ha­ba­nos in Cu­ba.

Its areas are Pro­tec­ted De­sig­na­tion of Ori­gin, a sort of spe­cial geo­grap­hi­cal in­di­ca­tion that ge­ne­rally con­sists of a tra­di­tio­nal na­me or de­sig­na­tion used for pro­ducts with spe­ci­fic qua­li­ties and fea­tu­res at­tri­bu­ted mainly to the na­tu­ral en­vi­ron­ment whe­re they are har­ves­ted.

This qua­lity is en­dor­sed by the Re­gu­la­tory Coun­cil for the Pro­tec­ted De­sig­na­tion of Ori­gin for Ha­ba­nos, which at­tests a se­ries of gua­ran­tees re­qui­red in­ter­na­tio­nally to mar­ket and main­tain the ex­ce­llen­ce of Ha­ba­nos in the Grea­test of An­ti­lles, who­se seal of qua­lity ex­cels com­mon stan­dards for highly ap­pre­cia­ted reasons; for ins­tan­ce, all the pro­duc­tion pro­ces­ses are ac­tually na­tu­ral.

Alt­hough the goal of the afo­re­men­tio­ned com­pany im­plies ti­re­less ef­fort, the or­ga­ni­za­tio­nal cul­tu­re gai­ned for mo­re than 40 years has ma­de it the lea­der of ex­port wrap­pers in Cu­ba. Of its 2,000-plus hec­ta­res of ara­ble lands, nearly 700 are de­vo­ted to ex­port wrap­pers an­nually.

"Chan­ne­ling all re­ser­ves, both ob­jec­ti­ve and sub­jec­ti­ve, has been pi­vo­tal to grow every year and do so with op­ti­mal qua­lity stan­dards", says Inés Ma­ría Hernández, an en­gi­neer in far­ming me­cha­ni­za­tion, who's at the helm of the up­gra­ding and mar­ke­ting di­vi­sion at the La­za­ro Pe­ña en­ter­pri­se. Her 26 years of ex­pe­rien­ce in the com­pany, em­bra­cing res­pon­si­bi­li­ties such as pre­si­ding over a Ba­sic Unit of Coo­pe­ra­ti­ve Pro­duc­tion (UBPC) and ha­ving led dif­fe­rent pro­ces­ses, among them the cu­ring of to­bac­co, crop agro-tech­ni­que, and the im­pro­ve­ment ac­ti­vity, em­po­wer her to know whe­re the en­tity po­ten­tial and cha­llen­ges are.

“We lead the staff to­wards what we want cor­po­ra­tely. You ha­ve to treat to­bac­co with lo­ve. Ot­her­wi­se we can for­get about the pos­si­bi­lity of har­ves­ting with the desired qua­lity.”

She al­so ex­plains that qua­lity is gua­ran­teed if the­re is no vio­la­tion of any pro­ce­du­re in the dif­fe­rent cul­tu­ral ac­ti­vi­ties the crop re­qui­res, along with ot­her pro­ces­ses such as im­pro­ve­ment and fer­men­ta­tion. The lat­ter, when ca­rried out in a con­tro­lled way, helps to ho­mo­ge­ni­ze the mat or leaf, and thus allows to ob­tain mo­re than twel­ve ty­pes of ex­ports, which are dif­fe­ren­tia­ted by the mat cha­rac­te­ris­tics and the lea­ves si­ze.

“This year, and for so­me ti­me now, we ha­ve been lea­ding the pro­duc­tion of dark wrap­per. We ha­ve got­ten al­most 30 tons

of that va­riety to da­te. With this wrap­per, dif­fe­rent high-de­man­ding mar­kets ope­ned for us and we can ma­ke now new vi­to­las mar­ked by ri­pe wrap­pers and li­mi­ted edi­tions that are very well pri­ced.”

TENDERNESS MA­KES THE LEAF LOOK BEAUTIFUL

An al­most mys­ti­cal touch is gi­ven to Ha­ba­nos thanks to the ef­fort of nearly 850 wo­men wor­king on the ex­port wrap­per im­pro­ve­ment in this com­pany. Fran­cis­co Lam González, a man who has de­di­ca­ted his life to to­bac­co sin­ce he gra­dua­ted as agro­no­mist, ra­ti­fies it. He strongly be­lie­ves that the ex­per­ti­se on this crop is gi­ven by the prac­ti­ce on the field.

This thin and easy­going man of Chi­ne­se des­cent, was born mo­re than 60 years ago in Pi­nar del Río — the land with the lar­gest to­bac­co cul­tu­re in the country. He ta­kes the agri­cul­tu­ral res­pon­si­bi­lity at the “Lá­za­ro Pe­na” To­bac­co Co­llec­tion and Be­ne­fits Com­pany.

We tal­ked with him about pests and di­sea­ses and how to pre­vent them, about the ef­fort it ta­kes to put so many hec­ta­res of to­bac­co un­der cloth and how deep it is ne­ces­sary to dig to put up the po­les in the ground, the trees that must be sown to ha­ve tho­se po­les and the ne­ces­sary cu­jes (rods) for the dif­fe­rent pro­ces­ses the crop de­mands.

"The spe­cia­li­za­tion of mo­re than 1,000 to­bac­co gro­wers; ha­ving all the pro­duc­ti­ve ma­na­ge­ment mo­dels — Cre­dit and Ser­vi­ce Coo­pe­ra­ti­ves (CCS), Agri­cul­tu­ral Pro­duc­tion Coo­pe­ra­ti­ves (CPA), and UBPC — are strengths in our daily work. We ha­ve al­so crea­ted a com­mu­nion of in­ter­ests. We need to be part­ners tar­ge­ting a com­mon goal. We need to ha­ve a sen­se of be­lon­ging that en­cou­ra­ges us, and we ba­si­cally need to ta­ke on res­pon­si­bi­lity. In this re­gard, we al­so need to bring ad­ded va­lue of infinite eco­no­mic and spi­ri­tual sco­pe for all tho­se wor­king on an ac­ti­vity as cha­llen­ging as to­bac­co pro­duc­tion.

“In ad­di­tion to this, we ta­ke ab­so­lu­tely ca­re of soil ma­na­ge­ment. Soils are rich in or­ga­nic mat­ter, but every two years we do agro­che­mi­cal analy­sis at the To­bac­co Re­search Ins­ti­tu­te (IIT) and ac­cor­ding to the diag­no­sis, we pro­vi­de the ap­pro­pria­te nu­tri­tio­nal treat­ment.

"We are ex­tre­mely ca­re­ful with crop ro­ta­tion pro­grams for soil im­pro­ve­ment. We sow green ma­nu­res. We achie­ve op­ti­mal soil rip­ping. We co­rrect the PH every ti­me it is re­qui­red. If the land is ta­ken ca­re of, it is kind to the to­bac­co gro­wers.”

Tric­kle irri­ga­tion is used in all “Lá­za­ro Pe­ña” to­bac­co plan­ta­tions. With this wa­ter-sa­ving sys­tem — the most ef­fi­cient for irri­ga­ting

— the leaf is fer­ti­li­zed and pro­tec­ted by not being di­rectly sho­we­red by wa­ter. He­re, the very ef­fi­cient root ball tech­ni­que — in ad­di­tion to achie­ving uni­for­mity, when it co­mes to trans­plan­ta­tion the root re­mains in­tact and the seed­ling is not stres­sed — helps us ob­tain the to­tal of sprouts.

Ac­cor­ding to Lam, the com­pany is lea­der in in­no­va­tion. Ha­ving IIT just fi­ve mi­les away is ac­tually fun­da­men­tal, es­pe­cially when sy­ner­gies of work are ex­ce­llent.

SCIEN­CE WHE­RE IT MATTERS THE MOST

The IIT is one of tho­se fa­ci­li­ties that you feel be­fo­rehand that or­der and good ener­gies reign the­re. Its su­rroun­ding fields, clean­li­ness, and aest­he­tics support that view. But when you talk to re­sear­chers and wor­kers of any sta­tus, your ideas co­me true.

It was foun­ded on De­cem­ber 23rd, 1985. Its re­sear­ches are ca­rried out ac­cor­ding to the in­ter­ests of to­bac­co gro­wers, main­tai­ning the qua­lity that ma­kes the best to­bac­co in the world dif­fe­rent.

The fa­ci­lity is lo­ca­ted in Ar­te­mi­sa and has ex­pe­ri­men­tal sta­tions in the cen­tral and wes­tern re­gions of Cu­ba. Its task, con­sis­ting of carrying out scien­ti­fic re­sear­ches, de­ploy technologi­es, pro­duc­tions, and spe­cia­li­zed ser­vi­ces th­roug­hout the to­bac­co pro­duc­tion chain in Cu­ba, has been ef­fi­ciently un­der­ta­ken.

As­sis­tant re­sear­cher Ya­te­lier Hernández San­ta­na, di­rec­tor of the Re­search Ba­se Bu­si­ness Unit, whi­le re­fe­rring to the IIT achie­ve­ments, prai­sed the co­lla­bo­ra­tion with ot­her re­search ins­ti­tu­tions in the country such as the Cen­ter for Ge­ne­tic En­gi­nee­ring and Bio­tech­no­logy, the Plant Health Re­search Ins­ti­tu­te, the Soil Ins­ti­tu­te, and the Irri­ga­tion Ins­ti­tu­te, among ot­hers.

She re­calls that the re­sear­ches ca­rried out in the cen­ter are mainly re­la­ted to the ge­ne­tic im­pro­ve­ment of th­ree ty­pes of to­bac­co grown in the country (Ne­gro, Vir­gi­nia, and Bur­ley), as well as as­pects re­la­ted to crop agro-tech­ni­que. The ins­ti­tu­te main­tains its mem­bers­hip with CORESTA run­ning, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that gat­hers the main to­bac­co pro­du­cing coun­tries and com­pa­nies around the world.

HA­BA­NOS AWARD: EX­CEP­TIO­NAL PER­SO­NA­LI­TIES

No los con­si­de­ro fue­ra de se­rie por­que sean ca­ta­lo­ga­dos Hom­bres Ha­ba­nos, creo que son fue­ra de se­rie por­que, tan­to Armando Tru­ji­llo González co­mo Je­sús Aurelio Re­yes San­ties­te­ban, vi­ven pa­ra el tra­ba­jo con una de­vo­ción sin­gu­lar. No por gus­to son Hé­roes del Tra­ba­jo de la Re­pú­bli­ca de Cu­ba. No en vano son tan res­pe­ta­dos en sus res­pec­ti­vas coope­ra­ti­vas y don­de­quie­ra que sus nom­bren se al­cen.

I do not be­lie­ve they are ex­cep­tio­nal be­cau­se they we­re bes­to­wed the Ha­ba­nos Men award. I think they are ex­cep­tio­nal be­cau­se, both Armando Tru­ji­llo González and Je­sús Aurelio Re­yes San­ties­te­ban, li­ve to work with a sin­gu­lar de­vo­tion. That is why both are Work He­roes of the Re­pu­blic of Cu­ba. In fact, they are well res­pec­ted in their res­pec­ti­ve coo­pe­ra­ti­ves and whe­re­ver their na­mes co­me up.

Armando Tru­ji­llo heads the UBPC “Fe­li­pe He­rre­ra,” in Al­quí­zar mu­ni­ci­pa­lity, Ar­te­mi­sa. He is al­so de­puty to the Na­tio­nal As­sembly of the Peo­ple's Po­wer whe­re he is mem­ber of the Agri­food Com­mis­sion.

Armando lo­ves dis­ci­pli­ne and de­mands it. He ma­kes the most of his day so that his coo­pe­ra­ti­ve con­ti­nues to show the good re­sults it has been achie­ving for years. You do not ha­ve to ask about his part­ners' ear­nings: their smi­les, hands, and the to­bac­co plan­ta­tions whe­re they work boast pro­fits, per­for­man­ce, and qua­lity, with no fi­gu­res pop­ping up.

You can cer­tainly learn a lot about to­bac­co with him. We as­ked him to put on a hat for the pho­to and he said: "You will see why I am wit­hout it." Then, wit­hin the beautiful plan­ta­tion, with 60-plus days af­ter plan­ting, he poin­ted out that if I we­re ta­ller and fat­ter, he would not allow me to en­te­ri­ng the plan­ta­tion as he nee­ded to avoid everyt­hing that may ruin the lea­ves for the ex­port wrap­per.

When he was a kid, so that his fat­her let him dri­ve the pic­co­lino (gar­den trac­tor) he wor­ked with, he ac­com­pa­nied him to vi­sit the straw­berry fields his old man wor­ked on wee­kends. And so he em­bra­ced the land and ma­na­ged to study agri­cul­tu­ral en­gi­nee­ring.

“No tech­no­logy works wit­hout a well­trai­ned and dis­ci­pli­ned man. Ha­ving good

re­sults is not mat­ter of one day. What mat­ter the most is the re­sis­tan­ce. He­re in to­bac­co, a bad de­ci­sion may th­row away all the sa­cri­fi­ce of a cam­paign. We are tal­king about 539 steps or cul­tu­ral at­ten­tion that a crop li­ke this de­mands. To­bac­co is a de­li­cacy sin­ce you en­vi­sa­ge its so­wing un­til af­ter you smo­ke it,” warns this man who leads 340 coo­pe­ra­ti­ve mem­bers and ma­na­ges, li­ke jack of all tra­des, 95 hec­ta­res.

Armando only mis­ses work when he gets sick and he ne­ver gets sick — he claims. Being a Ha­bano Man is a com­mit­ment to lea­ders­hip. It is li­ving to work and "ne­ver of fa­me and glory as both are va­ni­ties that va­nish, whi­le work is al­ways the­re wai­ting for you."

The se­cond of the­se va­lua­ble men is a whirl­wind of good ideas alt­hough he see­med phy­si­cally ex­haus­ted. Not­hing es­ca­pes from his me­mory. We tal­ked about the mo­dern world and his ans­wers we­re so clear and strong that it see­med in­cre­di­ble that Je­sus Aurelio was nearly 80 years old.

Af­ter tra­ve­ling for nearly 7 mi­les from ho­me to work, he arri­ves in the UBPC “Ba­ta­lla de las Guá­si­mas” at 06:15 am, whe­re he has been ac­ting as pre­si­dent for de­ca­des. This en­tity is the lar­gest pro­du­cer of ex­port sheets in the country: it sows 101 hec­ta­res and pro­du­ces al­most 200 tons of to­bac­co, 50 of them co­rres­pond to the afo­re­men­tio­ned wrap­per ap­plied to the Ha­ba­nos you en­joy world­wi­de.

“This year will be very pro­duc­ti­ve for the UBPC in all li­nes: to­bac­co, va­rious crops, meat, and milk. We must ma­ke ad­di­tio­nal ef­forts as weat­her is get­ting mo­re and mo­re ad­ver­se. You ha­ve to be very proac­ti­ve and be ready to fa­ce any cha­llen­ge ahead. We must be cle­ver so that this coo­pe­ra­ti­ve may main­tain its steady po­si­ti­ve re­sults.”

Je­sús Aurelio at­tri­bu­tes his coo­pe­ra­ti­ve achie­ve­ments to the dis­ci­pli­ne with which his 350 wor­kers em­bra­ce pro­ces­ses. “They are not wa­ge-wor­kers. They ha­ve a sen­se of be­lon­ging. They are spe­cia­li­zed in tasks that go from th­ro­wing a seed in the root ball to wor­king in the Es­co­gi­da (sor­ting) pro­cess.

We ha­ve the Es­co­gi­da pro­cess that allows us to ha­ve a ba­lan­ced work­for­ce, which has an ave­ra­ge of 15-20 years wor­king in the coo­pe­ra­ti­ve. We en­joy the pri­vi­le­ge of clo­sing the en­ti­re pro­duc­ti­ve cy­cle,” says this man who was bes­to­wed as Ha­bano Man in 2002, but he could be no­mi­na­ted as dis­tin­guis­hed man on many fronts.

Je­sús Aurelio has wor­ked in to­bac­co sin­ce he was 7. His fat­her, a to­bac­co gro­wer na­ti­ve from Pi­nar del Río, taught him the se­crets of the aro­ma­tic leaf and abo­ve all, he taught him the­re is not­hing mo­re im­por­tant than dis­ci­pli­ne and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

To the most ve­te­ran of Ha­ba­nos Men, Armando is li­ke a son. When they ha­ve had the op­por­tu­nity to re­pre­sent Cu­ba in an in­ter­na­tio­nal event, the youn­gest is res­pon­si­ble for the tech­no­logy so it might not re­pre­sent a han­di­cap for the man he re­gards as Mas­ter and friend he would ne­ver com­pe­te against. Ins­tead, he lear­ned from him the ar­duous and com­plex world of to­bac­co: a uni­ver­se full of ma­gi­cal things that only hard work is ca­pa­ble of hol­ding up, even when cli­ma­te chan­ge is real as well as all cri­sis con­ver­ging in this mo­dern world, whe­re ex­ce­llent ideas may co­me up to meet any cha­llen­ge whi­le smo­king a Ha­bano.

THE­RE IS NO MA­GIC IN WOR­KING WITH TO­BAC­CO OT­HER THAN CONSISTENC­Y AND DIS­CI­PLI­NE

Je­sús Aurelio has been wor­king in the to­bac­co in­dustry sin­ce he was se­ven years old.

For Armando Tru­ji­llo, being a Ha­bano man is a com­mit­ment to lea­ders­hip.

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