Smoke and Mirrors: The Revolutionary Cigar

The most famous cigar ever rolled in Tampa has a rich and storied history that is deeply entwined with the struggle for freedom in Cuba. This cigar, which cost thousands of lives, ultimately played a crucial role in sparking the Cuban Revolution of 1895 and winning the independence of Cuba from Spain.

gonzalo de quesada
Jose Marti

The story of this legendary cigar begins on January 29, 1895 at the residence of Gonzalo De Quesada, secretary of the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York City. At this secret meeting, called by Cuban freedom fighter Jose Marti, representatives from the various factions of the Cuban revolutionary movement came together to discuss strategy and plan for the coming war for independence.

Jose Marti with supporters of the Cuban revolution, on the steps of the Ybor-Manrara cigar factory, 1893.
This building is now home to a restaurant, “The Spaghetti Warehouse” and offices for scientology.

Among those present were General Jose Mayia Rodriguez, representing Generalisimo Maximo Gomez, and General Enrique Collazo, representing the Revolutionary Junta of Havana. Also in attendance was Emilio Cordero, who would later become a prominent leader in the American cigar industry and market his own brand, Mi Hogar.

As the meeting drew to a close, Marti pulled out a cigar and passed it around the table, symbolically binding the group together in their common goal of freedom for Cuba. This cigar, which was likely rolled in Tampa, the epicenter of the cigar industry in the United States at the time, became known as the “liberator” and was said to have been smoked by all present at the meeting.

From that point on, the cigar became a powerful symbol of the revolutionary movement and was passed from hand to hand as the war for independence raged on. Despite the heavy toll it took on the lives of those involved, the cigar ultimately served as a beacon of hope and inspiration for the Cuban people as they fought for their freedom.

West Tampa was originally called Pino City which was founded by brothers Manuel and Fernando J. del Pino. They built their first cigar factory here on this site in June of 1892. Because of lack of housing, transportation and convenient access, it closed in 1893. Later that year, the O’Halloran Cigar Company moved into the vacant del Pino brothers building.

The cigar industry in Tampa would be forever associated with the cigar that sparked a revolution and would be considered one of the most important contributions from Tampa to the world. Today it remains as a symbol of freedom and the will to fight for rights and independence.

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