From Field to Fumes: How Cigars are Made

If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning you’re well aware that there is a cigar factory in my community. Factory may be a little overzealous a word though; I’ve only ever seen one person working despite the many workstations. After my many visits, I finally decided to ask Miriam, the owner, a little more about the process of cigar making. It’s a fairly simple process to make the Joya de Panama (jewel of Panama) cigars—and the whole process takes place right here in the country.


Miriam showing off the cigars (photo cred to Mollie)

Step 1: Tobacco is shipped from San Diego, Chiriquí to La Pintada, Coclé

Step 2: The tobacco leaves are dried (this can take up to 2 months!)

Step 3: The tobacco that will be used to fill the cigars is ground down

Step 4: The loose tobacco is hand-rolled in a tobacco leaf and sealed

Step 5: The newly formed cigar is put into a metal frame to cut the ends

Step 6: 10 cigars at a time are placed into molds which are pressed down

Step 7: Cigars are packaged and ready to be sold!

Seeing Julián make cigars was awesome. He works so quickly and so precisely! He told me he can usually make about 300 cigars in a day which absolutely blows my mind since each one is completely hand made. Miriam taught him the process—she’s been in this business her entire life and now just manages everything. From start to finish the process takes about 7 months. Most of that time seems to be transit and waiting for leaves to dry out. Smoking isn’t very popular in Panama—most people are often surprised to learn that there is a cigar factory in my community. For Miriam, it’s a source of pride. She knows that she does it well and that’s what matters to her. For me, it’s an opportunity to learn about something I never would have sought out on my own. While I don’t intend to start smoking any time soon I do appreciate the art that goes into the process. So, if you ever want to light one up and support a sustainable business—come on down to Panama! ¡Nos esperamos!


Photo Friday!

Hey friends!

 Sorry I missed last Friday—hopefully it won’t happen again. Being a blogger is hard work! But I’m not gonna pile the excuses on (lack of internet, lack of planning, life etc.). Instead I’m going to tell you all about Carnaval. If you’ve ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans I imagine Carnaval would be a familiar scene for you. The idea behind it is that you get all the partying you need to out of your system before Lent starts—and there’s a lot of partying to get out. I celebrated close to home which was nice and convenient. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my phone for a lot of it because they have “mojaderas” aka giant tanks of water that people stand on top of and shoot water at the crowd. I didn’t really want to test my life proof case.

One of the mojadera trucks

After the actual Carnaval had passed my community celebrated Carnavalito where I was much less cautious with my phone and took a million pictures. I also got roped into dancing Samba in a parade—I’m sure you can find videos on youtube. It was so much fun! Something about being able to really celebrate in my community made it feel a lot more personal (ad it helped that I could go back to my house and relax). Carnaval is such a large cultural event here and people go all out for it. The floats are massive and the reinas are beautiful. It’s an incredible display of culture and creativity that I’m lucky to have experienced.

The crowning of the new queen

When you’re suddenly in a parade

Aftermath of the floats