TABLE OF CONTENTS FEATURES Fuente Fuente Opus X 100 Years of Fuente Trafficante in Miami
| 26 | 28 | 36
EXTRAS This Month in History
Lost Landmarks Pour Discissions The Libation Lounge Cigar City Playground Mama Knows
| | | | |
18 22 24 40 42
COVER Fuente Fuente Opus X cigar Lable
STAFF LISA M. FIGUEREDO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER
SUSAN CUESTA ASSISTANT EDITOR
PAUL GUZZO SENIOR WRITER
SCOTT DEITCHE WRITER
MARK DENOTE WRITER
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY CONTRIBUTORS TAMPA BAY TIMES, USF DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
Check out our upcoming events at www.cigarcitymagazine.com/events
©2012, BossaNova Agency. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use without written permission from the BossaNova Agency, of editorial, pictorial, or design content, in any manner is prohibited. The opinions of writers commissioned for articles are not necessarily those of the agency. All advertising is subject to approval before acceptance. BossaNova Agency reserves the right to refuse any advertisement for any reason whatsoever. The BossaNova Agency assumes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers. All letters, emails and their contents sent to the BossaNova Agency become the sole property of the agency and may be used and published in any manner whatsoever without limit and without obligation or liability to the author there of. Cigar City™ is a trademarked name and logo, any reproduction or use without written permission will fall under the trademark infringement laws and will be executed under the fullest extent of the law. BossaNova Agency only holds the rights to use the name and trademark under the rules and regulations of the owner of the Cigar City™
The sunny upper side of Tampa belies a sometimes-seedy history that has often gone unreported, with trickles and traces emanating from the shadows. The stories of gangsters and murderers, drug dealers, and intelligence operatives have been batted around here and there over the years, but until now many of these stories had only received superficial coverage at best. The Dark Side of Sunshine is the first book from Cigar City Magazine writer and local filmmaker Paul guzzo. The book is a compendium of stories that Paul has written over the years for both this magazine and La Gactea covering everything from the gruesome legacy of Victor Licata to the early years of Tampa’s strip clubs. The stories dig deep into Tampa’s sordid history The book is set up chronologically, starting with the early history of Tampa and into one of the nations’ first serial killers, who operated right here in Tampa. guzzo goes into the infamous Victor Licata and his 1933 crimes that shocked the City, and the Dean of the Underworld, Charlie Wall. Paul guzzo is the authority on Charlie Wall. along with his brother, he wrote and produced the award-winning Charlie Wall: The Documentary. Coupled with the story here, “The Devil Looks after His Own”, guzzo has fleshed out the most complete picture of the first gangland boss of Florida. My personal favorite story is “Tampa’s Man in Black” an in-depth interview with the late Bobby rodriguez, proprietor of the Tanga Lounge, the unseen architect (along with Joe redner) of Tampa’s strip club industry and one-time employee of infamous mob loan shark Jimmy Donofrio. guzzo gets rodriguez to open up and dispel some of the myths surrounding the adult entertainment business and his relationship with Donofrio. not all of guzzo’s stories are about gangsters. He writes about the flamboyant and larger-than-life gene Holloway; White Chocolate, the self-described pimp that set off a showdown with local officials over public access television; and the controversial al Fox, whose position on opening doors to Cuba has earned him the scorn of many in Tampa. guzzo has a clear voice that you can pick up throughout these stories. There’s a depth beyond the dates and details that give a fully-rounded picture and feeling for the stories. This is not a simple recitation of history but a strong narrative that propels the stories off the page. Complete with a foreword by Tampa’s favorite son, Ferdie Pacheco, The Dark Side of Sunshine is a must-have for every Tampa native who wants to learn more about the past heard only in whispers and for very transplant and newcomers who doesn’t know about the rich and complex history that shaped their adopted home.
IN THE MONTHâ€™S OF OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER October 1, 1971 Walt Disney Productions opened its Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. October 19, 1739 England declared war on Spain over borderlines in Florida. The War is known as the War of Jenkinsâ€™ Ear because the Spanish coast guards cut off the ear of British seaman Robert Jenkins. October 29, 1999 Some 3,000 people attended a memorial service in Orlando, Florida, for golfer Payne Stewart, who was killed along with 5 other people in the crash of their Learjet. November 7, 1814 Andrew Jackson attacked and captured Pensacola, Florida, defeating the Spanish and driving out a British force. November 16, 1965 Walt Disney launched Epcot Center: Prototype Community of Tomorrow in Florida. Epcot opened in 1982. November 27, 2009 Tiger Woods ran his SUV into a fire hydrant and a tree outside his Florida home. This took place just days after the National Enquirer claimed he had an affair with Rachel Uchitel, the 33-year-old golf champ. A report soon followed in Us Weekly magazine of a cocktail waitress claiming to have had a 31-month affair with Woods
Congratulations Tony Mitchelle of Lutz, Florida who guessed last issue's Lost Landmark! The Lost Landmark in the August/September 2012 issue was The Tampa City Hall, located at 315 East Kennedy Boulevard.
Email your answer and your name to: firstname.lastname@example.org by November 1, 2012.
Tampa Bay’s Newest Craft Breweries right now is the best time in history to enjoy good beer in the Tampa Bay area. Tampa continues to grow the number of craft breweries that it can support. Before the turn of the twenty-first century, the most craft breweries that Tampa could boast were three at the same time in 1934-35, just after Prohibition was eased. Tampa’s record of three craft breweries, Tampa Florida Brewing Company in Ybor City, Southern Brewing Company on zack Street, and DeSoto Brewing Company near Hyde Park, would only stand for a year as DeSoto Brewing closed as quickly as it opened. Toppling this record, five craft breweries have opened up in the Bay area in 2012 alone. While this unprecedented growth continues (there are a few more breweries rumored to break ground in coming months), it is worth the time to sit and enjoy a pint from the young, passionate brewers and welcome them to Tampa’s brewing scene. Seventh Sun Brewery (7venth Sun): While Seventh Sun technically opened their doors in December 2011; they are worth counting in the new breweries list, as they began pouring their own beers in January 2012. Seventh Sun is an expanding brewery and bar on Broadway in Dunedin run by brewer Justin Stange and his partner and girlfriend, Devon Kreps. Beers include F’Ya, a hoppy pale ale, Overhead iPa, an uberhoppy india Pale ale, and Midnight Moonlight, a tart wheat beer called a Berliner Weiss. Other beers rotate through the lineup. Stange says he tries to keep several hoppy ales and several Belgian ales on at all times. Stange has recently began an expansion that will quadruple the brewing space and add new equipment, including 24 wine barrels for 7venth Sun’s Belgian-style sour program. Big Storm Brewing Company: Big Storm began as a project of two friends and USF alums, Clay Yarn and Mike Bishop. The two friends would work by day and brew by night. Once they merged their day and night jobs, the pair began brewing full time and opened Pasco County’s first craft brewery. Big Storm, located in an industrial area of Odessa, began brewing in June 2012, and they have been gaining in intensity ever since. in august, Big Storm opened a tasting room so patrons could come sample their mainstay, Wave Maker amber ale and more recently their arcus iPa. 22
Barley Mow Brewing Company: The first brewery to open in the Largo area of Pinellas County, Barley Mow Brewing began as a beer bar and then expanded to brewing house beers beginning in June 2012. Owners Jay Dingman and Colleen Huffman have been pouring Barley Mow beers at festivals around Tampa Bay to introduce Tampa to the place. The brewery and bar, located on West Bay Drive in Largo, pours Barley Mow and a host of other craft beers in their cozy craft beer haven. Their staple beer is a black iPa dubbed “The Unkindness.” Three Palms Brewing Company: Three Palms is a small brewery in an industrial complex on Hobbs Street in Tampa. While the brewery is young, owner and brewer randy reaver is working on a small brewing system to turn out quality beers for the Tampa area. The first beer from Three Palms, “Queen of Wheat” Hefeweizen was first poured at Largo’s Willard’s Tap House on august 3rd and the brewery has been getting stronger ever since. reaver’s next beer, a hoppy red ale dubbed “ruby Pogo”, will be available in September 2012. Rapp Brewing Company: Tampa’s latest commercial brewery is the second in the Seminole area of Pinellas County. Begun by award-winning homebrewer greg rapp, rapp Brewing has also been pouring their beer at festivals during summer months to generate interest and share ideas for the brewery. rapp Brewing Company officially opened the doors at in September 2012 and began rapp beers soon after. greg has dabbled in many recipes as a homebrewer and plans to continue brewing virtually every style of beer. One of rapp’s future beers will be a beer dubbed “O.M.g.” for its alcohol content: the beer contains about 16% alcohol by volume. Combine the new breweries with Tampa’s stalwart and established craft breweries, and it is a recipe for a beer menu full of fresh, locally crafted beers. it’s a great time to drink local in Tampa Bay!
Kicking it Old School The Old-Fashioned is a cocktail that really is old. it was believed to have first appeared in the late 1800s, at the Pendennis Club in Louisville Kentucky. The club is, according to their website, “a gathering of friends, where decency, decorum, civility, good manners and the social graces are still very much in style.” in other words, it’s the exact type of place where a traditional and stoic drink like the Old Fashioned would be conceived. That, and the fact that Kentucky is world-renowned for bourbon. There have been some changes and additions to the drink over the years, most notable adding a splash of club soda on top of the cocktail, but the base recipe remains essentially the same. it’s a simple mixture of sweet, bitter, liquor, and water.
Old Fashioned 2 oz bourbon (or any other whiskey) 1 sugar cube 2 dashes bitters 1 splash water Slice lemon peel Slice orange Cherry (optional) Muddle the sugar cube, bitters, and water in an old-fashioned glass. add the bourbon. Stir. add ice, twist the lemon peel over the glass and add. Drop in orange and cherry if desired. That’s it. it’s simple and delicious. Of course, there are plenty of ways to change the recipe up, using the basics as a building block: adding different bitters or liquors (in, brandy), or changing the ratios to modify the sweetness. With it being a simple drink, it is essential to not cheap out on the main ingredient. There are many good single barrel bourbons 24
and whiskeys around, including some local Florida whiskeys like Bear Creek and Palm ridge. For bourbons i like Bulleit, eagle rare, and Jefferson’s reserve. Buffalo Trace is another good choice. Bulleit also makes a nice rye, along with Hudson’s Manhattan rye. Speaking of that new York City borough, The Manhattan is another old-school drink whose true origins have become as murky as the drink itself. Most stories have the drink originating in the mid-1800s at the Manhattan Hotel, though by the late 1800s the basic recipe had made its way into hotels across new York City. Like the old-fashioned, a Manhattan at heart is a simple cocktail. Manhattan 2 oz whiskey 1 oz sweet vermouth 2 dashes bitters Combine over ice in a cocktail shaker. Stir for 30 seconds, strain over chilled cocktail glass. Unlike the old-fashioned a Manhattan is served straight up. There are dozens of variations on the Manhattan from those using rum to ones that turn the concept upside down completely. a recent trend has emerged to barrel age pre-made cocktails before serving hem. i recently tried a barrel-aged Manhattan at the Mandarin Hide in St. Petersburg. it was excellent. The aging had imparted a richer, more complex flavor to the drink. any way you choose to make them, the OldFashioned and the Manhattan are two old-school drinks that are as popular now as ever before, and essential drinks for any cocktail party.
by Paul Guzzo
The Fuente Fuente Opus X cigar is filled with much more than tobacco. every Opus X has a piece of Carlito Fuente’s soul inside of it. it is more than a cigar–it is Carlito Fuente’s legacy. it is an extension of who he is. Carlito was never happy simply continuing the heritage of the Fuente family. He wanted to cement his own legacy as a cigar maker. He wanted to be remembered just as his father and grandfather will forever be known—for revolutionizing the cigar industry. To cement his legacy, he decided to create a new cigar. And, ironically, in order to create a new cigar he looked to the cigars of the past that had been long forgotten. He wanted to reintroduce the full-flavored cigars of classic Cuban tradition, those with a bold flavor for cigar aficionados who truly appreciate the taste of tobacco. According to the book The Fuente Story: The Passion Behind the Tradition & Legacy written by Glenn Westfall, “Carlito’s love for strong flavorful cigars came about in his late teens. In those years, fulfilling his father’s idea that he would learn all aspects of the business, he spent months in the Dominican Republic, working for Jose Mendez & Company, a family-run business with Cuban heritage. Carlito shocked his co-workers by reaching for the thickest, most powerful leaves, coronas and medio tiempos. The cigars he made for his own smoking pleasure reminded him of the ones his grandfather made in the old days.” So when Carlito decided to recreate the taste of the old days, he was confident due to his childhood experiences that the tobacco grown on his family’s farm in the Dominican Republic could match the boldness of the Cuban tobacco the world was once allowed to enjoy. 26
Most cigar aficionados, however, thought Carlito was crazy for pursuing such an endeavor. They did not think the world wanted cigars to be as bold as they once were. “As people in the cigar industry learned about this project, many were convinced it was bound to fail,” wrote Westfall. “Carlos [Fuente] recalls being told, ‘Your son is taking a big risk. You have no need for this.’ Both statements held truth. It was an enormous risk of time and capital, a multi-million dollar project, and a risk of the family’s reputation as well. The marketplace was already eagerly buying every cigar the Fuentes could make. Why take such a risk?” “I wanted to prove that I deserve to exist in the Fuente family,” said Carlito in the documentary Fuente Fuente Opus X: The Making of a Legend. “I wanted to produce something I remembered. I wanted to go back to my childhood. I wanted to go back to the happiest moments of my life. I wanted my grandfather to be proud of me. I wanted my father to be proud of me and my children to someday be proud of me. It was something I had to do.” The project was nicknamed “Planet X from Planet 9” because it was a mystery how it would turn out and after the cult classic movies, It Came from Planet 9 and It Came from Planet X. Carlito oversaw every step in the process of creating the Opus X, starting with the planting of the tobacco seeds. “I raised these herbs and spices,” he said in the documentary. “I raised this tobacco. From the moment it was planted, to
to cured, to fermented…. I went to blend the cigar, it did not comes from the cigar’s original title “Project X.” take any adjustment. A real Cuban knows when you feel Finally, it needed a grand design worthy of such a groundtobacco, walk by the side of tobacco, what you want in your breaking cigar. Carlito again looked to the past for inspiration. heart, you know how to bring it together.” “During the golden era of advertising art, in the early 19th Like a great chef, he searched for the perfect blend of century, skilled lithographic artists blended as many as 12 flavors. After three or four years of experimenting, he found colors with 12 lithographic stones,” wrote Westfall. “They it–five different distinct tobaccos rolled into one cigar. He created artistic masterpieces in printing, complete with then created the wrapper–a Dominican-grown wrapper leaf embossing and additional gold leaf detail. This long-lost that possesses rich red-brown color, remarkable elasticity and traditional printing technique was the Fuente standard for an oily texture. perfection.” But who would roll this new cigar? Carlito did not believe “You always want to put your girl in beautiful clothing,” he could put the new blend in the hands of those who did joked Carlito in the documentary. not understand what it meant to him or believed that a bold The design on the band is truly a work of art and, like the cigar would be unsucname, is symbolic. cessful. Nor did he want Carlito said he chose veteran rollers who red because it is a color would not roll them just that stands for fire and as he wanted, believing love–it took a fire in his they knew more than belly and a love for the “novice” cigar roller cigars to take on such a Carlito. So he recruited massive undertaking. beginners, men and It was all worthwhile. women between the ages When it was released in of 18 and 21. He spent 1995, perhaps no single months teaching them cigar has ever been as how he wanted the universally hailed as the cigars rolled, as well as Fuente Fuente Opus X. tutoring them on every Cigar Aficionado aspect of the Cuban culmagazine nicknamed it ture. If these Dominican “Seeds of Hope” and men and women were to gave the cigar the highroll cigars like the est rating any new cigar Cuban cigars Carlito fell had ever received–92 in love with as a child, out of 100. they had to understand Tobacco International the Cuban culture. He magazine named Carlos provided the rollers a and Carlito the “Tobacco history lesson on Cuba, People of the Year.” played them Cuban The greatest praise Carlito Fuente music, read them Cuban the Fuente Fuente Opus literature, and so on. X received, however, The average cigar roller can make up to 200 cigars a day. was when their competitors began producing cigars with the Those rolling Carlito’s new cigar could only roll 50–75 a day bold flavoring of years past as well. because of the intricate manner in takes to roll five tobaccos Carlito revolutionized the cigar industry, just as he set out into two binders. Despite rolling less, the 18–20 those who to do. today roll the Opus X earn more money than the others. Carlito knew that such a distinct cigar needed a distinct For more information about the Fuente family and their name–Fuente Fuente Opus X. cigars, vist www.ArturoFuente.com The Fuente Fuente stands for the father and son team of Carlos and Carlito. Opus is the Latin translation of the Spanish word obra, which means work of art. And the X OCTOBer/nOVeMBer
100 YearS OF
by Paul Guzzo
The Fuente cigar story is a classic example of the question, “is the glass half empty or half full?” The pessimist could easily make a case that the Fuente family is jinxed. Throughout their century in the cigar industry, they have been dealt crippling blows to their empire by three revolutions and eight fires, each pushing them to the brink of bankruptcy and threatening to chase them from the cigar industry forever. The optimist, however, would point out that the Fuente family has outstanding luck and should count their blessings. after all, following each heartbreak, another opportunity presented itself to the family, allowing them to continue to pursue their dream of becoming THe family name in the cigar industry. The answer to the question of whether they are cursed or lucky is not an easy one to answer. not only is there ample evidence to back both sides of the argument, but it is an argument that can be traced back to the day that the patriarch of the cigar family was born. arturo Fuente was born in 1887 on land that was thought to be magical. His native town was guines, a small municipality located 30 miles southeast of Havana that Spanish colonists claimed had “blessed soil” due to its propensity for raising richly-flavored tobacco. However, while it would be easy to tout that the namesake for one of the world’s largest cigar companies was lucky to be born in a region created by god seemingly for the purpose of creating fine cigars, the pessimist could just as easily point to arturo Fuente’s upbringing in order to prove that he was indeed unlucky to be born in that area–at the age of 7, a time when most boys are learning to read and how to throw a baseball, he played an active role in a bitter revolutionary war. it was 1895, and the Cubans who had long been economic slaves to Spain while under the guise of a “colony” decided to once again try to claim their independence. They failed in 1879 when their uprising was quickly squashed. However, inspired by the powerful words of Cuba’s poetic revolutionary leader José Martí and backed by money raised by soliciting Cubans living in the United States–including those in Ybor City–the island nation again sought to oust their slave masters from their soil. “Young arturo would frequently risk his own life, riding an unsaddled horse to the front lines, bringing food and water to relatives who fought the Spanish soldiers,” wrote Loy glenn
Westfall in his book, The Fuente Story: Passion Behind The Tradition. Cuba defeated the Spaniards and freed the nation of their oppressors, but arturo Fuente was robbed of his childhood innocence. at some point in the early 1900s, he made his way to the United States where his older brothers and sisters had already taken up residence as cigar makers in Key West. During his second year in the U.S., the family relocated to gatoville, a long gone neighborhood on the atlantic side of Key West that was built for those who rolled cigars in the factory owned by edward H. gato. it was while living there that, in 1910, arturo Fuente married a young Key West girl by the name of Doña Tila, with whom he then moved to Tampa, a community that was on the verge of becoming the cigar capital of the world. at that time, West Tampa and Key West had an estimated 12,000 cigar rollers working in close to 200 factories. arturo found work at one of the factories, saved his money and in 1912 opened his own cigar business, housing it at 813 Francis Street in West Tampa and naming it a. Fuente & Company. and like that, the legendary Fuente brand was born. The factory enjoyed immediate success and became known for rolling some of the best cigars in the city. By the 1920s, arturo Fuente was on his way to the top of the industry. His factory employed over 500 rollers and seemed ready to position itself as one of the largest factories in the city. as has been the story of the Fuente family since arturo’s birth, however, his good luck soon met equally bad fortune. First, he and his wife divorced. Then, in 1924, while on a trip to Cuba to purchase tobacco, his factory burned to the ground. He was left with nothing–no money, no factory, no tobacco and no wife. Perhaps looking for work or perhaps looking to leave behind a place with so many bad memories, arturo moved to Chicago shortly after the fire. However, his heart never left the cigar industry; he was a cigar manufacturer through and through. For arturo, it was more than a career, it was his passion and it was an art form. He was obsessed with creating picture perfect cigars whose flavor matched their looks. and the only place in the world a cigar roller with such high standards could find other like-minded people with the skills to help him achieve that dream was in Tampa, which had recently secured its spot as cigar capital of the world for its quantity–700 million cigars a year–and quality.
Arturo Fuente OCTOBer/nOVeMBer
1. Arturo Fuente and his wife, Christina, worked side by side rolling many of their cigars them selves.
2. Cigar rollers that worked rolling cigars on the back porch of the Fuente home.
3. The first Arturo Cigar Factory at the Fuente home.
4. A. Fuente & Company located at 1310 N. 22nd Street in Ybor City, Florida.
arturo returned to Tampa in 1926, this time settling in Ybor City, finding work at arango y arango Cigar Factory. He also found a new love, Christina Trujillo, who he married in 1930 and who also worked at arango y arango. They moved into a home on the corner of 14th Street and 20th avenue, a few blocks from the factory, and they spent the next 16 years living the life of simple cigar workers. They were happy, but arturo wanted more. He wanted to run his own factory again. in 1946, at the age of 58, 22 years after his factory burned, he once again ventured out on his own. Without the necessary funds to secure a building, he turned his 10x15 back porch into a makeshift factory and named his new brand arturo Fuente Cigar Company. Friends and relatives made up the bulk of the employees and they would stop by after their regular jobs and roll until midnight. Fulltime employees began work at 6 a.m. and would often stay until midnight out of sheer dedication to arturo’s vision of hand rolling the best cigars in the city. However, arturo seemed to have little desire to become the face of the cigar industry. The cigars were only sold in Tampa, out of his house and on a cash-only basis. it wasn’t about fame and fortune for him; it was about perfection. His quest to roll perfect cigars had to take a backseat, however, when bad fortune struck once again–this time it revolved around his son’s health. His son, Carlos, began showing symptoms of polio shortly before his 12th birthday. This would be the greatest fight in the history of the Fuente family. Losing tobacco and a factory could never compare to the thought of your child losing the ability to walk or, worse yet, losing his life. arturo, always the fighter, did all he could to pass that fighting spirit on to his son. He spent every free moment with Carlos, always chirping in his ear, “You are going to walk again! Don’t give up! Have faith in me and you will walk again!” True to his word, three years after his diagnosis, Carlos did walk again. and that never-give-up attitude that arturo instilled in him became the defining factor behind the success of the Fuente family. Carlos seemed born for the cigar industry. every day after school, before they could play or do homework, he and his older brother arturo Jr. had to roll 50 cigars apiece. While arturo Jr. would sometimes complain about having to work immediately after school, Carlos loved it. There was nowhere he would rather have been than on that back porch staining his hands with tobacco. When Carlos turned 18 he married anna and they started a family of their own. His love for the cigar industry could not trump his love of his new family. arturo could not pay him enough to support a family, so Carlos left the back porch as a fulltime employee and took a job as a baker. However, whenever he had a free night or weekend day, he would sit in his spot on that back porch and roll for hours on end. it was customary in the Cuban culture for the oldest son to take over the reins of the family business. However, the Fuentes all knew that custom would take a back seat to logic. Carlos wanted the company and arturo Jr. did not. So when arturo Sr. was ready to step down as head of arturo Fuente Cigar Company, Carlos stepped right in. it was
a tough decision for Carlos, however, as returning to the business fulltime meant he had to take a 50 percent salary cut; he earned $40 a week as a baker and would make just $20 with the business. But his wife knew how much it meant to him, so to make up for his lost income she took a job as a cigar roller at the Cuesta rey Cigar Factory. in 1956, the greatest business deal in the history of the cigar industry was made. Carlos purchased the company for $1. That dollar would one day turn into millions. Carlos immediately set out to expand his father’s small company. He believed in the product and knew if he allowed cigar aficionados from around the world to sample his family’s cigars, they would love them. He was absolutely correct. He started in Miami, taking regular road trips to the southern Florida city to pitch the cigars to vendors. a new York vendor purchased a Fuente while in Miami and decided he too wanted to sell them. Just like that, arturo Fuente Cigar Company went from a local cigar to a national one. Orders exceeded the space on the back porch, so Carlos extended it another 35 feet and took over his father’s home’s interior as well. When the number of cigar rollers hit 50, Carlos decided it was time to leave the porch for a real factory. He purchased a two-story building on the corner of 18th Street and 17th avenue. While the locale of the company changed, one thing did not–Carlos’ parents moved into an apartment located inside the factory. The factory remained their home. a threat was on the horizon, though–the Cuban revolution. Tampa cigars had always relied on Cuban tobacco, but as it became more evident that Fidel Castro would embrace Communism, Carlos feared that the U.S. would forbid trade with the island nation. How would he continue to create fine cigars with lesser tobacco? Carlos, however, was able to turn the pending negative into a defining moment for the Fuente brand. Figuring an embargo was coming, he travelled to Cuba and purchased as much tobacco as he could afford. it was the first time the family had ever bought their own tobacco. arturo was worried–if the cigars did not sell, the family would be in debt. Carlos knew what he was doing, though. When the Cuban embargo was enacted, Fuente was one of the few cigar companies in the world that could continue to use Cuban tobacco. The supply lasted three years, during which time Fuente sales climbed to make it one of the top cigar companies in the world. Further expansion was necessary. Carlos purchased the Charles the great Factory, located at 1310 n. 22nd Street. When the supply of Cuban tobacco ran out, Carlos commissioned a delicious blend of Brazilian, Mexican and Colombian tobacco all wrapped in a Colombian wrapper. This “Flor de Orlando” blend enabled the Fuente family to never miss a beat. it was as popular as their Cuban tobacco. Unfortunately, arturo was never able to see his last name become THe name in the cigar industry. On February 11, 1973, he passed away at the age of 85. as the old saying goes, “The show must go on.” arturo would not have wanted the family business to take a back seat to a prolonged OCTOBer/nOVeMBer
period of mourning, so Carlos continued to work to expand the family business. They had outgrown the Ybor City factory and began looking to open factories in other parts of the world. He opened one in Puerto rico and then Mexico, but was unhappy with both and they closed soon after. He then tried the Dominican republic but that too did not work out. Finally, Carlos thought he found the perfect spot–nicaragua. His friend and fellow Tampa tobacco industrialist angel Oliva, Jr. told him of a factory in nicaragua that was rolling 7,000 cigars a day but was struggling because the owner did not have the connections or skills to properly market the products. Carlos purchased the factory, kept the former owner on as manager, and by the late 1970s it was producing 18,000 cigars a day. and then, tragedy once again struck just as it seemed like the Fuente family was ready to emerge as a cigar giant. Political instability in nicaragua chased the Fuentes from the country. Soon after they left, revolutionaries burned the factory to the ground. Back in Tampa, the factory had only 10 rollers left, as the vaunted hand rolled cigar industry had long left the city, taking all the skilled workers with it. arturo Fuente Cigar Company was on the brink of extinction. Carlos, however, would not give up. He was a fighter. He would rebuild. He looked to Honduras but within a year of opening a new factory, it accidentally burned to the ground. no one would have thought less of Carlos if he had given up…no one but Carlos that is. He fought on. He began planning yet another factory, this one in the Dominican republic. Unfortunately, the years of bad luck may not have destroyed his heart, but it had damaged his bank account. in order to rebuild in the Dominican republic, he had to cash in his retirement plan and remortgage his Tampa home. Carlos and his wife arrived in the Dominican republic in January 1980. They had next to nothing. in Tampa, as part of a growing cigar enterprise, they were accustomed to every possible convenience. Their new home in the Dominican republic was a room in a boarding house. They did not have a phone and their television received just one station. Laundry had to be done by hand. The factory opened in September 1980. The staff was just seven people, including office workers. nonetheless, they pressed on and worked day and night to roll as many cigars as they could, producing their traditional arturo Fuente blend, as well as their new Montesino blend. Their arturo Fuente Flor Fina 8-5-8 was their next creation and emerged as one of the premiere cigars in the world, enabling Carlos to expand and construct three more buildings–one for boxes and the other two for manufacturing and warehouse space. Then, in 1983, Carlos looked to the past in order to secure his company’s future. arturo Fuente Cigar Company launched the Hemingway Signature, a six-inch cigar made in the traditional Cuban shape known as the perfecto. This was the shape they once rolled on arturo’s back porch, but it had long ago disappeared from the market place because it was so difficult to roll. The following year it 32
was named the world’s best cigar by Connoisseur Magazine and it launched the perfecto shape back into the mainstream. The year 1984 wasn’t easy, however. The Fuente empire was again threatened by revolt. Scared about the future of the nation’s economy, citizens in Santiago grew violent. The city became a warzone. Carlos’ car was pummeled with bullets and one bullet even made it into the factory’s backroom. Luckily, none of the Fuente employees were injured and the factory was spared. The company continued to grow. in 1986, the Fuentes opened a third factory in the Dominican republic and pulled all cigar production from its Tampa factory, using it solely for administrative purposes. and in 1994, the Fuentes purchased 200 acres of land adjacent to its factories for the purpose of growing their own tobacco for the first time in the family’s history. That year, arturo Fuente Cigar Company produced 26 million cigars. Then, once again, tragedy struck. in 1995, a fire destroyed 18,000 bales of aged tobacco. Luckily, learning from past mistakes, Carlos placed dozens of warehouses around the island so that one fire could not once again leave the company in ruins. in fact, the company grew that year, producing 30 million cigars. Much of that success was due to the popularity of the Fuente Fuente Opus X, a cigar named as one of the top cigars in the world by Cigar Aficionado Magazine. as though angered that the Fuentes cheated fate, bad luck sought them out. On September 23, 1998, Hurricane georges rumbled through the Dominican republic. The category 3 hurricane boasted 130 mph winds that pulverized everything in its path, including 17 of the Fuentes’ 19 barns. every leaf of tobacco was flattened in the process. it appeared they were again ruined. Carlos looked to his son, Carlito and said, “This might be the end.” Carlito replied that the hurricane was a test of god and that they needed to keep everyone together and rebuild. rebuild they did. Today, as the family celebrates their company’s 100 year anniversary, arturo Fuente Cigar Company is stronger than ever, a household name in the cigar industry. Will more bad luck come their way? are they cursed? are they lucky to have been given so many opportunities? no. While bad luck can be blamed for their heartache, good luck cannot be given the credit for their success. arturo Fuente Cigar Company is one of the, if not THe, premiere cigar company in the world because the Fuente family is made up of fighters. They succeed because they persevere and because they truly love the cigar industry. Only a powerful love could keep them going through all the tough years. While what type of luck awaits the family is uncertain, the one thing that is certain is that nOTHing will stop the Fuente family from continuing their family tradition for another century and beyond.
1. Arturo Fuente 2. Carlos Fuente 3. The first Tabacalera A. Fuente & Co. starting out in the Dominican. 4. Cynthia Fuente inspecting cigars in the Dominican. 5. Carlito Fuente and worker lifting bales of tobacco in the Dominican. OCTOBer/nOVeMBer
Following his expulsion from Cuban prison in 1959, Santo Trafficante Jr. returned to Tampa under the microscope of increasing law enforcement attention. recognizing that his days in the shadows were a thing of the past, he made the decision to relocate to Miami. There was also a pragmatic reason for Trafficante to move to South Florida. Miami was flourishing in the 1960s and gangland figures from across the country and Canada were buying up properties, opening up restaurants and expanding their gambling and loansharking operations across the Miami metro region. When he relocated to Miami, Santo quickly surrounded himself with key underworld figures as well as Tampa guys like Jimmy Longo, who would come down to Miami to relay information and messages across the Tamiami Trail. He also reconnected with Tampa bolita man ralph reina, who operated the el rancho restaurant in Miami Beach. among the other Miami-based mobsters that formed the core of his Miami crew were: the amatos (agostino and Vincent), a father and son mobsters who were made members of the gambino family; Stefano randazzo and John Tronolone, two Clevelandborn mobsters (Tronolone would later become the boss of the Cleveland Mafia); Thomas altamura, who was gunned down in a Miami Beach restaurant in October of 1967; Charlie The Blade Tourine; and Chicago-born jewel thief William Dentamaro. Trafficante also had a crew of Cubans, known to the Miami-Dade PD as the Cuban Mafia. They were an amalgamation of Bay of Pigs veterans, anti-Castro operatives, and Cuban gangsters that were expelled when Castro took over. Trafficante was integral to the group, as he set them up in bolita operations and legitimate business ventures. The son of a prominent Cuban mobster told the greater Miami Crime Commission, “My father saw Trafficante and Trafficante introduced my father to (redacted) and that's how my father started operating out here. We knew Trafficante from Cuba, and there we did favors." as much as their illegal rackets were important to the Miami underworld, so were the restaurants and nightlife. Mobsters would shuttle along Collins avenue between the Fontainebleau and the eden roc, two popular hotels for tourists, entertainers, politicians, and gangsters. important underworld meetings were held at these hotels and gangland luminaries like Meyer Lansky would hold court. When the Cia wanted to hire Trafficante and other Mafia figures to assassinate Fidel Castro, they met at the Fontainebleau. There were other popular gangster hangouts in Miami. There was Capra’s restaurant at 8900 Biscayne Blvd, owned by Vincent Bruno, a close friend of Trafficante. Frank ragano recalled “anybody who was anybody went to Capra’s from the mayor to movie stars. When Santo walked in, everyone came up to him.”
Top: The Eden Roc in 1956. Left: Fontainebleau hotel, circa 1960.
There was Ciro’s restaurant at 15090 north Biscayne, owned by James Palmisano and Frank Pelliccio. it was a popular hangout for visiting new York mobsters and a favorite meeting place for Trafficante and Stefano randazzo. The Cuban mob hung out at the 21 executive Club, owned by raul Jerez, a Cuban Mafia member and close associate of Trafficante. Tony’ Fish Market, gallagher’s Steak House, Sonny’s, and goldberg’s were other popular mobster hangouts. But the real core area of the mob influence was centered in north Bay Village, a small community between Miami Beach and the mainland. in a May 1968 grand jury report on the bar district in north Bay Village, the report described how “known hoodlums, jewel thieves, and unsavory characters of all types have been allowed to frequent these bars and restaurants with little or no interference or discouragement from the north Bay Village Police Department, or the managers and owners of these establishment.” Over a hundred mobsters lived in and around the Village and made the rounds of the late night lounges and nightclubs. in the early 60’s, FBi reports have Trafficante’s residence listed at 521 n.e. 71st St in Miami, only three miles from north Bay Village. around 1967, Trafficante bought a house at 704 northeast 155th St in north Miami. Local police and the FBi set up OCTOBer/nOVeMBer
surveillance operations nearby, but were quickly found out by Santo. But for all the agents’ efforts, the prize was elusive: “They’d pick him up on surveillance but he was coy. He had an understanding of his presence. He knew who was around him at all times. He also knew that talking on electronic devices or surrounding himself with too many strangers was a sure way to get into trouble, and he did little of either.” Santo kept a close eye on the FBi agents tailing him in Miami. One night in December of 1968, after a meeting with Stefano randazzo and Vincent amato in north Miami Beach, Trafficante drove back to his house, followed by the FBi. He got out of his car, walked over to the agents and “exchanged pleasantries, was cordial and uncharacteristically friendly.” a former FBi agent who tailed Trafficante often in Miami said that “he used to drive 45 mph down the interstate which made it tough to stay behind him without being noticed. He also made unexpected U-turns over the median.” The increased FBi surveillance is echoed in intelligence reports. in the early 1960s, reports came in sporadically, but by 1967 Trafficante was being followed everywhere. agents detailed meetings between Santo and Chicago mobsters like Jackie Cerone and angelo Bruno, the boss of the Philadelphia mob. The increased law enforcement attention on Trafficante culminated on august 30, 1967 when Santo, along with Peanuts Tronolone, was summoned in front of a Dade grand jury investigating organized crime activity in Miami. Santo appeared for less than five minutes, refusing to answer any questions, before leaving the courthouse. Santos’ hold on Miami was starting to slip. in the late Seventies, Trafficante told a Congressional committee that he still lived on 155th St in north Miami, but he was spending more and more time back in Tampa. His influence in Miami was transferring over to some of the remaining Miami crew members like Vincent amato, but even then there were new groups on the block. The old Trafficante Cuban mob was gone and the newer groups were heavily into drug trafficking and violence. The rise of the cocaine cowboys in the late 70s and early 80s brought a different kind of organized crime element to Miami. and the Mafia started moving north into Broward and Palm Beach counties. The early 80s were not kind to Trafficante’s old Miami crew. Charlie the Blade and agostino amato died in 1980, Stefano 38
randazzo died the following year. Trafficante himself was battling both ill health and federal indictments stemming from the Donnie Brasco case, as well as a Laborer's insurance scam. Leadership of the aging Miami crew fell to a Sicilian-born mobster, Steven Bruno raffa. By 1991, the FDLe reported that raffa had reenergized the Miami crew and was making new members into the crime family. raffa was also very close to Sicilian Mafia members like John galatolo, a convicted drug trafficker. But he still had some of the old timers to help him, like Bennie Hussick (Vincent amato died in 1991). in October of 2000, federal authorities arrested raffa and members of both the Trafficante Miami crew and associates of the gambino family for a huge multi-million dollar money laundering operation that washed proceeds from gambling and loansharking through a series of check cashing businesses throughout Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. Less than three weeks later, raffa committed suicide in his Pembroke Pines home. Police have stated that there was no indication of homicide and that raffa's state of mind in the weeks before his death foreshadowed his suicide. He reportedly was depressed about the thought of spending the rest of his life in jail and was in a fairly fragile emotional state, though other reports said he recently learned he Steve Raffa had cancer. after raffa’s death, law enforcement did not name a successor. Most of the remaining defendants in the 2000 case have long been out of prison, and though law enforcement success has taken its toll on the Mafia in South Florida, it’s still one of the areas where the FBi consider the Mafia as having a strong presence. While Trafficante and his Miami crew from the 60s are long gone, their shadow still remains.
For more photos on this event and other events, visit CigarCityMagazine.com and look for our Facebook page! 40
MAMA KNOWS GOT A QUESTION FOR MAMA? EMAIL HER AT: INFO@CIGARCITYMAGAZINE.COM
Dear Mama, Where do you live? I heard you lived in Cuba and if so, do you have any intentions of moving to the United States? -Curious Dear Curious, I live in a communist country and most likely I would not be able to move out of here. Do you not keep up with current events? Plus, I’m like 95! Are you not thinking right? Don’t worry no one will ever know that you've had a lobotomy, if you wear a wig to hide the scars and learn to control the slobbering. -Mama Dear Mama, I think I’m going to contact Cigar City Magazine and see if I can take over your column, I think I could do better job! -Try Me Out Dear Try Me Out, At least you are not obnoxious like so many other people–you are obnoxious in a different and worse way! Only in your dreams could you even think you could be better than me, so vete para el carajo!
Dear Mama, I think we should have given those poor stand-in refs for the first few of games of the NFL, a break. I think they did the best they could given the circumstances. What do you think? -Sticking Up For The Stand-Ins Dear Sticking Up For The Stand-Ins, Believe it or not I like watching your football. But you have lost your mind with this question. Don't you realize that there are enough people to hate in the world already without your working so hard to give us another? -Mama Dear Mama, Do you all get a lot of hurricanes over there in Cuba? -Wondering About The Weather Dear Wondering About The Weather, If I ever need a brain transplant, I'd choose yours because I'd want a brain that had never been used. Estúpido! -Mama
Tampa Bay's Only History Magazine