So last night I was smoking out in front of my dorm with some guys who live on my floor and this one girl who I'm pretty sure was visiting one of the guys from out of town. They had just gotten themselves some Padróns. I was smoking what was left of a Fuente Fuente I had started several hours earlier.
I didn't know these guys very well, and so the conversation began with the topic that it always begins with among strangers sharing a good long cigar smoke: Cigars. Our firsts. Our favorites. Our worst. Who we get them from. Who gets them from us.
Then some of these guys made mention of their going back home and it hit me that it would be a very long time before I was back in Miami smoking with the people I'd smoked with like this for so many years. So I mentioned that I missed it: I missed the parties that you went to and saw every man smoking a Cigar.
I don't just miss it for the smoke and the flavor. I miss it because those gatherings were so accurate a metaphor for my Miami experience, that a room full of Miami friends smoking Cigars just about sums it all up.
The leaf came from everywhere. The thick, wispy, leathery, woody scent was the product of burning Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Brazil, and sometimes just a splash of the States in the wrapper. When you're in the middle of that you don't just smell the leaf. You smell homelands. You smell migration. You smell memories made personally, and lives lived somewhat vicariously. You breathe what it means to be from Miami. You exhale the diversity of all this geography.
And as for us Cubans well, you won't find our leaf at these gatherings. It's a deeper metaphor in our case, really. You won't find our leaf because we decided to make it that way. Miami is the city we built. The city we made. The city we contributed and injected so much into that its name is almost synonymous with Cuba's. But we never claim it is our city. It is everyone's, because that's who we made it for. We are here and most of our families stand strong in their belief that they should never taste that home country again until the land is free. Only then will the leaf be free as well.
So where are we represented at these gatherings I'm talking about? Well, look at your cigar's label. Padrón planted that seed in Nicaragua. The Fuentes aged the tobacco in the Dominican Republic. That multicultural leaf is the Toraño family's tribute to a homeland left behind and a hope we never let go of.
I miss being there. I miss breathing in a thousand countrysides. I miss tasting my friends' cultures.
Most of all, though, I cant wait to get back and smell the bodies of all those nation's Cigars. Because deep in the center of every rolled masterpiece is the spirit of an enslaved island I love, have never seen, and somehow still want to go back to.
They don't sell that in Missouri Cigar shops.