Fabrica de Pura, Estelí, Nicaragua 

The production of cigars is one of the largest industries in Esteli, and I had the wonderful opprotunity to visit a cigar factory with Norma one of my first days in the city.
The moment I entered I was bombard with stimuli. Lines of people filled the room permeated by the smell of smoke. Everywhere I looked there was movement. In one corner a group of women worked seamlessly as they stripped the tobacco leaf of it’s veins. A few feet way, at another fold up table (one that remind me of my school girl days; the wood chipped and colored, the signs of years of abusive apparent) sat two woman wrapping completed cigars in plastic. In the adjoining room we found a very friendly young lady counting and organizing. She took a long skinny one out of its newspaper wrapping and let us hold the cigar made for smaller hands.
Returning to the main room I watched entranced as rows of people quickly assembled the cigars. Each desk had a job. One man held half of an unlit cigar hanging out of his mouth as he quickly rolled layer after layer of tobacco leaf around the core. Another nodded his head to his music while filling an empty leaf with tobacco strips.
Soon after entering the large room the jefe pulled the four of us aside. Did we want to see how the cigars are compacted then tested? First, 10 handmade cigars are placed into a “compacter” (I know, very official term I’ve used there). The “compacter” is basically two wood planks with forms cut out in the shape of the cigars. The cigars are placed between the two boards, and then into a hand press for twenty minutes to condense the cigars. Afterwards they are each placed into a pressurized tester and hand tested for quality.
After the quick tutorial I turned back to the rows of people. The one women right in front of me was particularly intriguing to watch. She moved without hesitation. Beginning with covering a metal sheet with a yellow tinted liquid to help plaster the tobacco leaf flat, she would lay then cut the fresh leaf. From there she would slowly but surely roll the plastered leaf over the compacted cigar.
She noticed my attention and to my surprise asked me if I would be interested in trying it out; of course I enthusiastically replied! It is definitely harder than it looks. While rolling the leaf over the cigar you need to hold it as tight as possible without ripping the leaf. My first try the leaf was too tight. My second, I ripped the leaf. Looks like I won’t be joining the cigar industry.

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