Robaina's plantation

Friday 27 March 2020

Calle Linea (Havana) March 2020

             Linea is considered by many to be the most important street in Vedado and one of the most important in the city. It was the first street to be laid out in this part of Havana. In the 1930's it was called by it's number, 9th street, but by the 1950's it would be referred to as Linea. It was called Linea because of the streetcars that ran along this street. The streetcar tracks that used to be here on this road are called 'linea(s)' in Spanish, hence the new name that has stuck throughout the subsequent decades. It had been renamed a couple (In 1918 he was named President Wilson Avenue) of times but people kept calling it Linea and so it became official. Linea is and has always been a predominantly residential street with large homes and buildings that used to be more or less somewhat luxurious but was also dotted with it's fair share of restaurants and entertainment venues as it is today. Even though presently it's a little rundown and in some cases is in need of repair, it's evident that the buildings along this avenue were once a site to behold. If you look beyond the crumbling structures and try to envision what it must have been like a half century ago you can imagine that it was once quite beautiful. Today many of these buildings, at least the lower floors, have been converted into some kind of business or service but back in the day they were homes to many of the rich and/or famous of the city, some of which were allowed to continue to live there after the revolution.

           Linea runs from the Malecon across to the steel bridge (next to the tunnel) that takes you over (or under) the Almendares River to Miramar where it turns into 31st Ave. It pretty much runs parallel to the Malecon for most of it's length.

Calle Linea (Vedado) Havana

Iglesia del Carmelo

Francisco de Frías y Jacott , IV Count of Pozos Dulces (1809, Havana -1877, Paris ) was an agrarian reformer, journalist and important Cuban scientist.

Camilo Cienfuegos

Teatro Mella is a now a performing arts theater, including ballet, theater, dance and music concerts. It was once the Rodi Movie Theater.

El Raquel is a theater space where different companies and musical groups perform.

Rafael Montoro (1852–1933) was a Spanish politician, lawyer, historian, writer and literary critic.

Bertolt Brecht Cultural Center isn't exactly on Linea, it's located on Calle 13, 50 meters and visible from Lenea. Opened in 1968, this restored cultural center features live bands playing contemporary Cuban fusion.

Saturday 21 March 2020

Conde de Villanueva LCDH (Reinaldo Gonzalez) Havana March 2020

                    I was introduced to this place and Reinaldo in 2005 (he has been here since 1999) and have been friends with him since that time. The shop is a one of a kind and anyone who's been here agrees, it's a great spot to have a smoke and chill. Even though Reinaldo's English is poor (lucky for me I speak Spanish), he is courteous and always willing to help anyone who is interested in consuming or purchasing any of his cigars....I have witnessed the interactions on many occasions. I try to make it out to see him at least once on any trip I make to Cuba but mostly I manage to see him a couple of times as I have on this trip. He's always ready with an espresso and my favourite of his vitolas, the robusto. I formally interviewed him back in 2012 and thought I would reprint it below with a few adjustments for time past. I have always enjoyed the company of Reinaldo and feel honoured to be able to call him my friend.
                       Reynaldo started his carrier in the tobacco industry 33 years ago when he was 23 years old. He began his career at the "Jose Luis Piedra" factory in the Municipio of Marianao, Havana. Around the year 1990 he moved on to the Partagas factory where he remained for about 9 years. Since then he's been here at the "Conde de Villanueva" La Casa De Habanos (LCDH) shop. Many members of his family have been in the industry such as his mother, who is no longer with us, having been a roller at the same factory where Reinaldo started his career. Reinaldo claims to have been influenced by all of them. When asked if there's anything else he wishes he could have done....he hesitates before answering. He wants to say no but answers, "Medicine, to be a doctor." Then he says, "Funny....that's a little contradictory since I'm now selling or promoting things that are hazardous for your health." We both laugh at the notion as we puff away on our cigars.
                        He was married for 26 years until 2011 when his wife passed away. He has a daughter who is 29 and a son that's 33. Reynaldo lives in the Municipality of La Lisa located in the outer rim of the city of Havana about a 25-30 minute drive to his shop in Old Havana.
                        His favourite vitola to roll and smoke is the Cañonazo that I love so much. He also has an affinity for the Salomone vitola. But times have changed and he's been rolling some monsters over the last few years and since this interview took place. His best memory of all his years in the industry was when he did his tour of promotion in Asia. Although he couldn't speak the language he was able to communicate through his cigars. He realized that while rolling his cigars they had no language barrier. Many famous people have come to visit his shop through the years with the most notable being Michael Douglas when he visited the island a few years ago. Others include the presidents of Spain and Chile and the Prince of Arabia to name a few. I asked him how Michael Douglas found his place and he answered through "Cigar Aficionado" magazine. This is not the easiest place to find if you don't know where to look. "Cigar Aficionado" has been plugging this place for years. Most of the business here is word of mouth. Reinaldo is one of those elite rollers that is known throughout the world by Aficionados everywhere. He says he doesn't enter any competitions anymore and that they should be left to the factory workers. His competition he says is within himself to produce the best possible product for his customers. He has been to Spain and Germany many times to promote Cuban cigars and many of his customers come from there as well as Italy, France and Canada.
                      Not much has changed since this interview except maybe the places he's visited and the types of Vitolas he rolls as tastes have changed. If you're connected to him on Facebook, you'll notice that he travels often. There was a rumour going around that Reinaldo had moved to Mexico....not true, he just happens to travel there more often. He's doing just fine in Havana and if you happen to not see him in the shop, it may just be that he's on vacation.

Conde de Villanueva
Calle Mercaderes 202 esq. Lamparilla
Habana Vieja, La Habana