Cuban cigars are world-renowned, but why is there a limited quantity of them in the United States? Here’s a quick history lesson on United States-Cuban relations and its impact on Cuban cigars:
As you are traversing through the cigar culture, you will often find yourself encounter the country of Cuba. This is especially the case when it comes to cigars or any tobacco products from that specific country. Why Cuba? Cuban cigars are known to be the best and most well-made cigars out there. It is the top dog in its competition.
What makes the product so illustrious? What sets Cuban cigars apart from its competitors is its quality. Tobacco can be viewed as a way of life in Cuba. Cubans have been cultivating tobacco for smoking for a great number of centuries. Cigars have become a staple in Cuban culture. Cubans have developed and perfected the procedures for creating quality cigars. People from all over the world know the quality that is packed behind Cuba’s luxurious cigars. The main feature of a Cuban cigar is that it is made purely out of cigar tobacco. Cuba’s climate and environment was made to produce only high quality cigar tobacco. That is what makes Cuban cigars so unique. The taste of the cigar is strong and refined, which is why so many cigar enthusiasts seek it out.
America is a capitalistic society that stresses quality for its people, despite this it has been difficult for Americans to come across Cuban cigars until very recently. Cuban-made cigars still cannot be sold in the United States, but they can be brought in from other countries who provide them. The next best thing was made possible as Barack Obama, the 44 th President of the United States, lifted some of the embargo restrictions that were placed on Cuba back in the Cold War era. The embargo only allowed Americans to bring in Cuban cigars from outside of the country and into the United States, the cigars cannot be purchased from Cuba. With the Obama administration, that has changed.
The embargo still stands between the United States and Cuba. It has been this way since President Eisenhower’s time. The embargo on Cuba was first placed by Dwight D. Eisenhower when Fidel Castro assumed power in the country. It was an odd turn of events as during the Cuban Revolution, Eisenhower supported Castro’s motives to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, the president of Cuba in the 1950s. Eisenhower did all that he could to aid Castro against Batista, the main form of support was United States’ weapons ban against Batista’s regime—weapons were not allowed to be traded between the two countries. This embargo was crucial to the fall of Batista’s regime, allowing the infamous Fidel Castro to take the helm of Cuba’s government. Before leaving his status as president, Eisenhower cut the country’s affiliation with Cuba.
Moving onto President John F. Kennedy’s time in office, things change drastically. Relations between the United States and Cuba turn sour. During Eisenhower’s office, President Kennedy, who was a senator at the time, criticized the President for supporting Batista for he has murdered many of his own people and have silenced any forms of free speech amongst many other forms of misconduct. Cuba’s government was heavily corrupt. When power transferred from Batista to Castro, things did not look any better for the two countries’ relationship.
President Kennedy took office as the Cold War hostilities increased in momentum and Fidel Castro was now in power. President Kennedy was very vocal about his opposition towards Communist states, which lead to the increase in the rift between the United States and Cuba. When Castro obtained power over Cuba, he did as much as he could to reduce the amount of American influence that was the product of many years of relations between the United States and Cuba. He forcefully took private land owned by American companies and even raised the tax on American imported goods. Castro’s actions showed that he was heavily against American ideals and values that were imposed onto Cuba. Batista did not have this issue, for he was extremely pro-American, but was corrupted to the core.
Castro’s anti-American sentiment put Kennedy and the rest of the United States in an uneasy and worried state. The United States feared what was to come with Castro’s hate towards the economic and political superpower. Participants of the Cold War were divided into two factions:the Eastern and Western Bloc. The United States were part of the Western Bloc, whereas Cuba
resided within the other. The United States’ biggest threat was Cuba’s ally, the Soviet Union.
Kennedy attempted to fight his fear by attempting to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. The pursuit failed miserably, and with that Castro publicly solidified his allegiance with the Soviet Union. That did not stop Kennedy from pursuing his goal. The Cuban Missile Crisis was Kennedy’s next try at ousting Castro. The Soviet Union played a large role in this event. The Russians uncovered information of the United States’ planned assassination of Fidel Castro. The Soviet Union took steps to ensure the safety of their new ally. News spread to the United States about the Soviet Union attempting to arm Cuba with their nuclear missiles. There is a lot of back and forth going on between the two sides. Finally, Kennedy, in retaliation to the Soviet Union’s statement of providing Cuba with nuclear weapons, placed a naval blockade on Cuba on February 7, 1962. This is the embargo that placed heavy restrictions that involved any form of American contact with Cuba. Eisenhower’s embargo during Fulgencio Batista’s reign allowed American food and medicinal exports to Cuba. Kennedy took the embargo up a notch by banning many of Cuba’s imports to America and making it near impossible for Americans to travel to Cuba for any form of reason. Americans who did not abide by the law would have been fined for thousands of dollars. The embargo itself did not affect the United States too much, the impact was very minimal. Cuba, on the other hand, heavily depended on its economic relations with the United States. There was a great stagnation in Cuba’s society. Cubans were having a difficult time getting through their everyday lives, there was little money and food to go around. Technological developments were unable to make their way to Cuba, but if they did it was slow. Cuba took a large hit to its progress as a country.
Interestingly enough, President John F. Kennedy recognized the quality and luxury that came with Cuban cigars. Before he signed the embargo into action, President Kennedy ordered and shipped in—from Cuba—1,200 Cuban cigars. Kennedy was able to snag his own stash of extravagant Cuban cigars right before he signed the embargo. It is just to show that Cuban cigars are a great asset.
Since then, the status and restrictions of the embargo has not changed much for Cuba’s cigar business. It was troublesome to pick-up a Cuban for yourself and bring it back to the States, it was near impossible. Only a handful of people were given permission to travel to Cuba for business purposes, journalists were one of those people. They are only allowed to report on news. Journalists who had the opportunity to head to Cuba took the advantage of purchasing and smoking the acclaimed Cuban-made cigars. They were the lucky few. The rest of the Americans, especially the cigar aficionados were left in the gutter.
When Obama assumed office as the 44 th President of the United States he wanted to patch up the United States and Cuban relations. President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother, negotiated terms and conditions for the process. One of which involved lifting the complete restriction on the purchases of Cuban rum and tobacco products and limiting it to a mere $100 in purchases. It is not every day where someone will come across a Cuban cigar, so people will often head straight towards the higher end ones. These cigars are produced in the most intricate of ways with the best grown and treated tobacco. The cigars also often go for at least $30 apiece. Quite a hefty price. With the $100 limit, one will not get enough of the Cuban cigars, it will be three at most for the cheapest of the higher ends. A tragic story for the average American cigar lover.
Things have changed for the better in recent years though. As Obama’s presidency was nearing its end he was able to better improve United States-Cuban relations. Obama made it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba for reasons other than work. He also increased the limit on Cuban rum and tobacco purchases an American can make from $100 to $400. It is a phenomenal upgrade. With these two add-ons, American travels to Cuba increased. What also increased was the number of Cuban cigars, straight out of Cuba, that came into the States. People jumped at the chance of being able to smoke the famous Cuban cigars. Aficionados cannot pass up the opportunity to get their hands on one.