SAN LUÍS. Iglesia San Joaquin.

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TOBACCOLAND


Harvest season life in Pinar del Rio - Cuba's Westernmost province.

The work link between human hands and soil has been around since the beginning. In mechanized automation, this world dynamic is increasingly rare. In Tobaccoland, where fine leaves are guided into slow curls of smoke, we witness this old romance.


In Cigar Journal, a respected tobacco publication, it's said a cigar touches two hundred hands before it is lit. The arc is long, through early Spring during the planting of seeds, through the cultivation until late Winter, when the leaves are handpicked, brought into the drying houses, hand threaded together to a long wooden beam, then hung up in the rafters to dry for three months. The tobacco is then packed and readied for the government, who dictates all the transaction numbers, as it's normal for them to take 90% of the entire crop. The remaining 10% can used however the farmers like, primarily being sold to tourists. After leaving the farm, many other steps take place before the tobacco is for sale in shops worldwide.


Focus often falls on the cigars, though the real heart is the farming community itself. These moments celebrate that lifestyle.

VIÑALES. Ronissel Sánchez applies his first layer of face paint behind a bar near the popular tourist stop at Hotel Los Jazmines. The whole preparation process takes two hours and three of his brothers also busk at the same place, rotating days

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AUTOPISTA NACIONAL (A4). Westward from Havana to Pinar del Rio

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VIÑALES. Outdoor public fitness playground remnants.

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VIÑALES. Locals outside a sweets shop on a sidestreet heading away from town.

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VIÑALES. Bolo prepares his daily espresso at 5am before the sun rises in his kitchen. Though retired and running daily activities in the two room Airbnb in his house, he fondly remembers his caffeine routine as baker for 40 years.

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VIÑALES. Three farmers, Richer, Osmani and Alberto, break in the drying house following a day's work at the Casa del Veguero.

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SAN LUÍS. Late afternoon sun near downtown.

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VIÑALES. Jose Luis or Pepé, as locally known, sits on his front porch before dinner. Pepé runs a two room Airbnb on his working farm, which produces tobacco, sugarcane, pork, eggs and assorted fruits

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VIÑALES. A young girl talks with a worker on a side street on the outskirts of town.

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VIÑALES. Pepé, a lifelong farmer, rips a piece of skin off a fire roasted pig while his neighbors look on. The young pig was killed earlier in that morning and lays atop a cross pattern of rebar.

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SAN LUÍS. Marielena waits for customers in a cafe along the main street in downtown during the Winter harvest season for tobacco.

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SAN LUÍS. Husband and wife, Rolando (Roly) and Dianorys, in the kitchen preparing lunch. They run a two room AirBnb called "Villa Paraiso" (House of Paradise). Roly is also a third generation tobacco farmer, with his fifteen year old son Daniel, bringing it to the 4th generation.

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PINAR DEL RIO (Highway 22). Driving South from Viñales towards San Luïs and San Juan y Martinez.

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VIÑALES. 28 year old Oslaiyiac views his painting progress on a broken mirror in the storage closet behind a bar near a popular tourist stop. The whole preparation process takes two hours. Oslaiyiac's character is of a historic tobacco factory leaf roller.

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VIÑALES. Richer and Osmani, two young farmers, fix a broken gasoline powered water pumping motor on the farm adjoining the Casa del Veguero.

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VIÑALES. Curtains biilow from a fan in a humid room for rent outside the center of town. Typically these rooms net from $12-25 per night. Average annual income is $25 per month for Cuban citizens. A doctor, who makes near the highest end of the spectrum can bring in about $67 per month.

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SAN LUÍS. Tourists listen to a guide while a seasoned tobacco roller awaits another meandering group on the famous Robaina Family Farm.

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VIÑALES. A large block of ice one hour after it was put out on street near downtown.

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SAN LUÍS. Private haircutting business on the outskirts of town.

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VIÑALES. A street scene on a hot and humid afternoon near downtown.

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SAN LUÍS. Fifteen year old Daniel rests near his uncle Roilan after a hot day on their family farm. Roilan, in his forties, has been farming here since he was 18, and will be the successor after his father retires. Roilan's grandfather started the farm, and Daniel carries the tradition into the fourth generation.

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SAN LUÍS. A band of workers on a family tobacco farm, climb and hoist leaves on wooden beams, up near the roof, in order to make room for more plants below during the three month drying process.

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VIÑALES. Two teenage farmers fix a sticky set of pliers on the Casa del Veguero farm. The beams in the foreground are for future sewn tobacco leaves to dry on in the secadero.

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VIÑALES. Ronissel Sánchez applies his first layer of face paint behind a bar near the popular tourist stop at Hotel Los Jazmines. The whole preparation process takes two hours and three of his brothers also busk at the same place, rotating days.

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VIÑALES. A dog protecting a hen house at the Casa del Veguero property on the outskirts of town.

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VIÑALES. The pavilion overlooking the UNESCO recognized Valle de Viñales.

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SAN LUÍS. Freshly milled rice pours into a metal can on a family farm that has been operating for four generations. The engine providing the power is from Detroit, made in the 1950's.

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VIÑALES. As the sun rises, so does the Cuban flag in front of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in the center of town.

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VIÑALES. Richer, a young tobacco farmer, works the field with two oxen on the property of Casa del Veguero on the outskirts of town.

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VIÑALES. Locals outside a br on a sidestreet heading away from town.

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VIÑALES. Casa del Veguero's tobacco drying house for curing. The oft colored doors, are closed in times of outer moisture, from dusk until dawn.

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SAN LUÍS. 15 year old Daniel, representing the 4th generation of his family farm, gets a ride on the tobacco leaf cart by his grandfather during the harvest season in mid February.

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SAN LUÍS. A neighboring farmer with two young children picks up supplies for his tractor.

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SAN LUÍS. Layout of a hand built tobacco leaf drying house on the outskirts of town that has been in use for four generations.

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VIÑALES. The family dog naps on the hot pavement between bus loads of tourists on the Casa del Veguero farm.

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SAN LUÍS. Farmers pull the top flowers off of tobacco plants, to make sure they receive full sun. There are just over 180 steps in making cigars. This farm has been in the family for four generations, with 73 year old Rolando (middle) working here since he was 13.

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SAN LUÍS. 15 year old Daniel, representing the 4th generation of his family farm, pulls a cart for tobacco leaves out of the drying house and into the field during the harvest season in mid February.

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SAN LUÍS. Zenaida sews the lines of freshly picked tobacco leaves together on a beam, which will then be set aside to dry before other workers heft it up towards the roof to make room for others below.

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SAN LUÍS. Roniel, a tobacco farmer since he was 18, shows the worm that many in the industry despise, as it lives on the underside of tobacco leaves and eats the plant, making it unfit for cigar making. Once the farmers find them, they stomp them into the ground.

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SAN LUÍS. Yunarys sews freshly picked tobacco leaves together by hand onto wooden beams for later hanging. Women are tasked with this role, as Cubans view their movements to be smaller and more intricate, lessoning a chance to harm the leaves.

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SAN LUÍS. Yunarys sews freshly picked tobacco leaves together by hand onto wooden beams for later hanging. Women are tasked with this role, as Cubans view their movements to be smaller and more intricate, lessoning a chance to harm the leaves.

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SAN LUÍS. An oxen tilling a tobacco and rice field is dressed with fabric over it's mouth to discourage foraging upon it's lane turns.

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SAN LUÍS. Cenobio, a seasoned life long farmer surveys his drying tobacco crop during harvest season.

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SAN LUÍS. Late afternoon soccer and social time, on a concrete field of an elementary school.

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