The following post does not advocate the use of tobacco products. I don’t smoke, but I also don’t think you are the devil incarnate if you do. So, if you know that anything tobacco related will irritate or cause you to pontificate, might I suggest you not read the following post.
Seriously. Off the beaten freaking path. The Joyas de Panama (outside link: review and description of the cigars) cigar factory is open sided and sits along the side of a beat-down, semi-paved road in a town called La Pintada. An easy 20 minutes or so away from the larger town of Penonome in the province of Cocle.
I don’t know why, but luckily I knew the word for smoke (fumar) which got me a lot farther than asking ‘donde la factoria joyas de Panama’ . Hmmm. I think I made up the word for factory, because that’s another word I shouldn’t know. I make up a lot of words here. My dad does too. But, he just adds an ‘o’ to the end of English words. We both probably sound like idiots. I digress.
Once we arrived at the factory, there were three people working. This young woman was out back taking the tobacco leaves,
flattening it out by hand and then pressing them under these large boards. She told us she also lives on the property.
Inside, just one man was rolling cigars, despite the dozen of tables / desk set up. I asked him if he was the only one working and he said yes. But, there would be more tomorrow (Tuesday).
According to a post I read online, they churn out 22,000 cigars a month — mostly for export to the US, France and England. Mom and I decided that it’s too expensive to smoke in Panama. A pack of Malboros are $1.50. If you are a domestic and make $10 a day, there is no way you can really afford to smoke.
I took a million photos, but I think it’s really neat to watch him handroll the cigar. So a quick little video from my camera:
The tobacco is grown in Chiriqi, about six hours away. It’s dried and brought to La Pintatda for the actual cigar making.
After rolling the cigars, they put them in these molds for a couple of hours. Once out of the mold, they do a final rolling / finish of the cigar” .
The cigars come in a number of sizes. The ones below are ‘Churchill’ sized. According to the article I linked to above, these haven’t been available in the US for the past two years. But, they have a new distributor and will be this fall. Also, the company owner is a woman!
I emailed this photo back home. Get it? ‘Be back soon’
I was asked to bring back a box, because someone told all his friends that he was getting ‘handrolled Panamanian cigars grown from Cuban tobacco seeds with wrappers from Nicarauga’.
I also got a pack of five for my boss. Because, well, I’m on a two-week vacation and I’d like to keep getting those leave slips signed. The box of 22 was $40. I saw them online at 25 for $73. ]
Next post on the artists’ market in Penonome where they have the original Panama hat and some other cool stuff to see.
Questions: *sorry if I miss one*
Dana asked if Panama was a recent thing. My parents aren’t from Panama originally. But, they decided to retire here last year after hearing all the great things about Panama. Stable economy, good health care, low cost of living, low labor costs, four hour flight from Floriday, no hurricanes, and they use the US dollar as thier currency. It’s had it’s good and bad, but I’m choosing to enjoy the good!
Padme asked what options are here for vegatarians. Vegetarians will do quite well here. If, you can stomach that the broth in your soups are probably made with chicken stock. In Panama City there are a several vegetarian restaurants. Lots of fresh food markets, well stocked grocery stores too. To me Panamanian food consists mainly of root veggies and a small side of meat. So, leave off the meat and you’ll be fine. Also, there are A LOT of Chinese restaurants — better and cheaper than I’ve had at home. Today on our drive, we saw a Lebanese place and there are three Hindu temples in Panama. So, there are vegetarians around.
Wildlife. There are a lot of different birds here. I, really, cannot stand birds. They have freaked me out ever since one was caught in our chimney and flew around the house until my dad caught it. That was 20 years ago and I still shudder. There are also lizards and plenty of things that make odd noises in the night. There are also snakes, which I haven’t seen, but I hear tale of them.
Barbara asked if I take anything to eat food when I travel. No, I don’t. And I lived to regret it in Ghana last summer.
Nancy K. asked for a definition of ‘fug’. I’m just as embarassed to tell her. But, let’s say ‘freaking ugly’.