The love-hate relationship between the United States and the tiny island nation of Cuba—a mere 90 miles SSW from Key West—is heating up for all the good reasons you can think of
Some say it happened this way and some say it is only a legend, but let’s imagine for a moment that the day President John F. Kennedy signed the Cuban embargo in 1962, his press secretary had reportedly gathered a stash of over 1,200 Cuban-made Petit Upmanns—at his own personal request—after the Bay of Pigs incident. For a man whose love for cigars was such that he was often photographed with one in his lips or hand (just like Fidel Castro), it must have been the hardest decision of JFK’s presidency. Not for nothing, I would have invaded and taken over the country so I’d have all the Cuban cigars I could smoke—but that’s just me.
Fast forward six decades after Fidel Castro took control of Cuba—alongside fellow cigar smoker and revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara—and we find ourselves on the verge of the collapse of the last vestige of the Cold War. As the U.S. Government continues to dabble into what it takes to become friends all over again with their sworn enemy, the opportunity it creates for both sides is immense. And so, we find ourselves asking the question for which no one seems to have an answer… yet.
Currently, any person authorized to travel to Cuba with a valid permit from the U.S. can bring a limited amount of cigars (and liquor) as long as they are boxed, with labels and shrink-wrapped. However, the number of people with such a privilege is still limited, but is bound to increase by leaps and bounds as soon as the details of the “new relationship” between both nations are finally resolved. Cuban cigars are illegal still in the U.S. according to some and fair game to others. By the way, getting a permit to travel to Cuba is still not something that is given away freely and we have yet to see the borders open up with regular daily flights to Havana.
Now, if you are expecting to walk up to your local cigar shop and buy some crisp Cubans—don’t hold your breath. No one knows for sure when tobacco commerce will resume with Cuban manufacturers and suppliers. That said, the time has finally come to tone down our rhetoric, suck up our pride and finally deal with the deep emotion of strained U.S.–Cuba relations from the past. As the powers that be gather up facts, sort out details and mend the road to mutual trust, we Cigar Smokers will be waiting to see how we can finally enjoy the delight of a Cuban Cohiba, Montecristo or Romeo y Julieta—without the having to fear retribution for it.
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