Filipe Sosa has this to say about that — “that” being the over taxation and smoking restrictions on cigars in the United States.
To paraphrase his words plainly and succinctly: Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects. And just because 50 million people say a foolish thing, that doesn’t mean it still isn’t a foolish thing!
In other words, not only are we are making a bad situation worse. The consequences of this can’t be good. Including more illegal aliens, with their simple hopes and job opportunities trampled by foreign politics, storming across the ramparts of our southern borders.
Filipe knows a thing or two about consequences. Especially when it comes to cigars. And prospects bleeding away.
He’s from Cuba. Or was. But then after spending one night too many staring at his withered options over 17-years-ago he stowed his wife and year-old son on a 20-foot fishing boat. And with 16 others attempted to putt-putt across the great 95-mile divide to Miami.
Of course, 35 miles off the Florida coast the boat was seized, aerated and sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard’s 50mm guns. There went his life savings, including the $3,000 the authorities took out of his shirt pocket. Then they were all hauled back to where they had begun, Cuba – or at least the American side, Guantanamo – where they were guests with “really bad people” for the next few months.
The point is, after risking death to find a new life, Felipe is now a master cigar roller — just like his grandfather and father before him. He is a pleasant middle-aged man with a tolerant disposition tucked beneath his signature straw-colored Panama hat. If his soft dark eyes ever conveyed any anger from his days under Castro and American authorities it seems that life took a personal interest to burn it out, cremating the past like cigar ash.
“I do not fight with God,” offered Filipe with his enduring smile. “I was given a chance to take a chance. And here I am. Life gives. Life takes. Life is life.”
Ahhh…. What a perfect exhale to the Torano cigars we were smoking the other night at one of my two favorite cigar shops – Twin Smoke Shoppe in South Philadelphia. (The other is Holts in Philadelphia’s center city.)
Filipe is employed by Torano Cigar Company, one of the 50 or so brands with factories and tobacco growing facilities in Central America.
Now listen to this and hear how many working people are behind the cigar smoke.
Filipe said that most of the various cigar factories average between 500 and 1,200 rollers. This doesn’t include all the support personnel and growers. But the rollers usually work in pairs to roll a cigar. He said each ‘pair’ produces between 250 to 300 hand rolled cigars in eight – to 10 hour daily shifts for every five and six day work week.
If you do the math, that amounts to at least one cigar being hand-rolled every two minutes – or less. He said the workers are extremely industrious. They are artisans. He referenced them to the likes of the grape growers and wine producers in California’s Napa Valley. Or even the craftsmen that recover the green felt blackjack tables in casinos. Or, even the pastry chefs in bakeries.
Meanwhile, these tobacco growers and factories collectively employ thousands upon thousands of workers – at least a couple hundred thousand — throughout Central American countries like Nicaragua, Honduras and Dominican Republic where there is little other opportunity for them.
Cigar super magnate Rocky Patel, a relative newcomer to the industry normally built by family generations, once told me that his factories, alone, employ over 3,000 workers. But knowing how distracted the on-the-go Rocky can be, the number is probably much more.
The point to all this being: we all are ignorant about something. And we don’t understand the consequences.
If we continue to skyrocket the taxes on cigars – in some places almost doubling the price of the cigar – then cigar aficionados will no longer be able to afford them. And that will mean less orders. Less demand. And that results in job losses where there are no other jobs in Central America.
And of course, that will exacerbate an even greater stampede of unemployed workers dashing thru the portals in our borders, causing more distress and friction with our already nearly 20 percent unemployment rate. For, many of those newly arrived workers may be more industrious and assiduous to their employment tasks than many in unionized America.
What Felipe sees as a solution to this potentially explosive immigration dilemma is really something quite simple.
Oh-boy. Where did I leave my bourbon.
If people had jobs, he said, with a decent future for their children, they wouldn’t need to flood the shores of America, as he did.
Hmmm….. Make that a double.
Knock! Knock! Hello!
But we have no jobs, I told him.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, “because America offers the hope of more freedom than the native country they are fleeing. Everything is about hope. What they’ll find when they get here, my friend, is what they find.”
Whatever he may have rolled in those Toranos we were smoking wasn’t quite making me see what he was seeing. But I’m still smoking.
It has been joked, and perhaps ingeniously, that most our so-called immigration problems we face in the USA today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the early American Indian.
Yeah, they should have issued a code orange smoke signal when too many of us white folks came stomping in to lie, cheat and steal their land, their oil, their gold and their women.
Now it would seem we have the opportunity to stave the immigration woes by helping people enjoy a quality of life by staying where they are.
But what have we done ignoramusly instead? We have banned cigar smoking in just about all of New York City and other venues. We have shackled the industry with taxes that don’t represent reality and consequences.
This is not only insane, it is barbaric. It is uncivilized. The food Nazis, the health dominatrices are cannibalizing our lives. Next they will be outlawing sugar – and not just from fat people. And salt – not just from us with high blood pressure.
And where does it all stop?
At our borders?
Inside or outside?
I smoke cigars because they keep me sane. So, you want a couple of million ‘insane’ men like moi knocking down your doors after midnight? Please there will be no need to invite me in, or the hundreds of thousands of aliens crashing over your picket fences.
Voices like mine and Filipe and the millions of cigar and pipe smokers in America have a right to be heard. And that should automatically include the right to be taken seriously. For consequences have no boundaries…or borders.
Just one last question:
G-d made tobacco. Man makes soda. So tell me: who do you trust?
The thought brought a smile to Filipe’s gentle face.
I’ll puff to that.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony.