What Cigar Making Has Brought to Nicaragua
As we recently told you in our last blog, our story started in 1968 when two Cuban visionaries ignited the Nicaraguan cigar industry and transformed our country.
During our turbulent and yet rewarding journey, we have shed light on the collective evolution of our people. Through the lens of one singular product, we have transformed the lives of thousands of Nicaraguans, especially those closest to us in the beautiful city of Estelí.
Cigar making in Estelí
Estelí has the highest employment rate of any city in Nicaragua outside of the capital, Managua. Around 150 companies of varying sizes undertake work related to the cigar-making industry in the city. Most of them are relatively small businesses with less than 50 employees. Only four have more than 700, and the rest are medium-sized operations. These form the bedrock of the industry.
“Tobacco and cigars are the number one economic activity for Estelí,” says Juan Martínez. “The city has basically grown up around cigars production.”
The heart of our company lies behind the doors of our Estelí factory, you would say our main interest is cigar making, but what really matters to us is outside the factory walls. Our factory is the only 100% Nicaraguan, from our product to our owners, therefore looking after our people is crucial to our business. But we feel our responsibility runs to more than that.
Looking out for our people
Since 2014 we provide Primary School Scholarships to around 90 Estelí youngsters through Fe y Alegría charity. This Christian organization – which translates as Faith and Happiness – runs an Estelí school for some of the area’ s poorest families. Sadly, most families can’t afford to send all their kids to school, so it’s truly an honor for us to be able to participate in this program and provide young people with the tools they need to continue with their education.
Youngsters like José Hernández, whose father is a cattle rancher. Each day, Jose gets up and works in the fields with his father until around noon when he walks the mile or so to school, where he’ll study until 5.30 pm. His family can’t afford to pay someone to work on the farm and they need Jose’s help. In days gone by, he would have given up school to concentrate on providing for his family. But now, he is able to do both. It means his future holds a promise of a life beyond a hand to mouth existence.
“Education is the first pillar to achieve a fairer society, working to better the life of a human being. We have to manage and create alliances to solve our expenses. In this alliance with Joya de Nicaragua, the company collaborates directly to provide an education for boys and girls – for them not to give up on education and prepare them for a better future.” – Sor Purificacíon Gutiérrez, headmaster of Belén School, a beneficiary of Fé y Alegría
Giving back to the community
As well as a close collaboration with Fé y Alegría, we support other local causes; financial aid for children with special needs; funding towards emergency housing for the poorest in the community and a variety of benefits for our workers. These range from ‘new mom’ packages for female workers having children, to potential university scholarships for their offspring or grandchildren. There is subsidized eye care, savings, and loans co-operative, lifelong training and a scheme for eligible retirees which supplies a monthly essential grocery parcel for life.
Helping our community is not only our duty, but it’s also our honor. It’s something that as Nicaraguans, we take very seriously. As a nation, we know what it is like to suffer, to be deprived, to learn to count from books picturing hand grenades and Kalashnikovs instead of apples and oranges. It is our responsibility to get this right for future generations. Because simply put, our children deserve better.