Robaina's plantation

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Partagas Factory (Havana)

               Let me start by saying that the picture of the front of the Partagas factory below is not where the factory is located today. Due to structural deterioration they had to move daily operations to a different location for the safety of the workers. However, the pictures of the inside of the factory were taken at it's current location at Calle San Carlos #812 e/ Peñalver y Sitio in Centro Habana over the last year. The Partagas Cigar Shop is still located on the ground floor of the original factory and is still giving it's customers excellent service and providing not just the Partagas cigar brand but most other brands as well depending on availability at the time. We all know Partagas as a premium brand that's liked by most aficionados and loved by many but there is a lot more to it than a name on band they put on a good tasting cigar and a on a sign of a famous cigar shop....there actually was someone named Partagas. The short synopsis I have written below is about the history of the original factory.
                 The Catalan Jaime Partagás, born 40 km from Barcelona, arrived in Havana in the 1930's having set sail from Spain at the age of 14 and began working in the tobacco industry for Juan Conill y Pi (another Catalan) in the late 30's. He learned the industry while working for Conill in various capacities and by the late 1830's began producing cigars in a small store. In 1845 he opened his first factory with the help of his wife on Calle Industria where it still stands today. He worked hard and became successful buying plots of land in Pinar del Rio, slaves and employing many people. Jaime Partagas was shot while riding back to one of his farms in Pinar del Rio on June 18, 1868 and died on July 17, a month later. From 1845 until the time of his death, Jaime Partagas Raball had created 67 different cigar sizes by experimenting with different leaf blends. He also changed the curing process and lessened the fermentation & maturation times. Jaime's son Jose who ran the day to day operations of the company after his death basically ran it into the ground and eventually sold all interests in the company, including the factory, the brand and properties in Pinar del Rio, to Juan Antonio Bances Gonzalez sometime in the 1880's.
                   Juan Bances was born in Austrias, Spain into a banking family and sailed for Havana at an early age. He was into many things and the Tobacco industry was just one of them, even though he was not a tobacco man by trade. He opened his first bank on Obispo street in 1853 and was also involved in the Sugar industry. His first foray into the cigar industry was in 1850 when, with a partner, he established the Henry Clay cigar factory. although the tobacco industry suffered in Cuba due to the war of Independence (1895-98), Juan came out of it alright due to his ample resources. He retired in 1900 by selling his interests in the factory but remained director (an honorary title)….the company flourished during this time.
                  The Cifuentes family had purchased the Partagas holdings when Bances retired. Ramon Cifuentes Llamo had arrived in Cuba in 1872 from Austurias, Spain…he was 18 at the time. Through purchases and expansion the Cifuentes family holdings increased tremendously. There were some setbacks at times, especially during the depression of the late 1920's to mid 30's but  by 1928, through the various factories that they owned, 125,000 cigars were produced daily under several high profile brands.….and then the global economic crisis hit and production declined. Ramon died in 1938 leaving his nephew Leandre in charge of the firm and by 1939 production returned to the previous decade highs. In 1941 the firm 'Cifuentes & Cia' is founded and Ramon & Rafael Cifuentes become the managers and owners along with their brothers Manuel & Leandro as well as their mother Rosario Torriello Milera. Expansion due to high demand from the United States by the 1940's increased their holdings and production elevating it to 18,255,000 units in 1953. They became the second largest producers of cigars in Cuba. The Revolutionary Government came to power in 1959 and so by 1961 everything that was owned by the Cifuente family was expropriated, everything was taken away from them. The Torriello Cifuentes family left for Spain and the United States and eventually continued doing what they do best, make cigars. They established their tobacco business in the Dominican Republic and Central America.
                   Jaime Partagas may have died that day in 1868, his factory and holdings sold a few times and even taken over by a Revolutionary Government but the brand he created has lived on for 170 years.

All information was taken from the 'Partagas' The Book, written by my friend Amir Saarony and friends. Thank You Amir.

'Partagas' The Book, by Amir Saarony and friends

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