by Raul Menchaca
HAVANA, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Preserved in ideal conditions, a good cigar's longevity can be 15 years or more, according to experts, who assure that just like exceptional wines, cigars get better over time.
Humidors made in Cuba by artisans are key to preserving and promoting the proper storage and aging of cigars.
Viewed in a simple way, humidors are wooden boxes whose interiors are lined with cedar, with a dehumidification system and a hygrometer, to control the degree of humidity and sometimes with a thermometer that measures the temperature.
However, the exquisite work carrying combined wisdom of designers, carpenters and even artists transforms these boxes into unique pieces whose value goes beyond the cigars they store.
The beauty is what Jackmel Yera began to admire as a boy. The 37-year-old architect is now a humidor designer. Two of his projects will be auctioned at the Cuba's 21st Habanos Cigar Festival currently underway in Havana.
"Over 15 years ago, when I was still studying at the university, I started to help my uncle to design the humidors and that's how I went deeper into this demanding world," Yera told Xinhua.
While still working at the Ministry of Construction, Yera joined a group of artisans who work on the conservation of cigars. A year ago, Yera left the group and began a venture with his friend, Alejandro Garcia, an
With a laugh, Garcia, 31, said he found his true vocation in carpentry because "it allows me to take all the ideas I have in my head and make them a reality."
Yera and Garcia joined sculptor and goldsmith Jorge Gil to form the group UNION Humidores, which sells the pieces of art in the artist's studio-gallery, in the colonial quarter of Havana.
The tasks are well defined in the group. Yera makes the designs and works with Garcia in the creation of the pieces, while Gil works with the titanium and is responsible for adding some of the metal parts.
Yera and Garcia work in a humble workshop in the neighborhood of San Agustin in western Havana, about 25 km from the center of the Cuban capital. Here they reuse old furniture made of precious woods bought from owners and antique dealers.
By recycling parts of the mahogany and cedar furniture, together with the plates of occume provided by the Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets, they create true works of art that have attracted the attention of connoisseurs in the tobacco world.
In just one year, two of their proposals have won the annual bidding process by state-owned tobacco company Habanos S.A. to buy the humidors that are auctioned in each edition of the Habanos Cigar Festival, whose proceeds are always destined to the Cuban public health system.
After being accepted in the bidding process, they were busy working on two monumental humidors, one for Montecristo and the other for San Cristobal, two of the most famous Cuban cigar brands.
The first, whose drawers will be loaded with 420 Montecristo cigars, imitates the lines of a ship, with a sail and a keel of titanium. It is considered a vanguard design even for the most luxurious and glamorous event held on the Caribbean island.
The second is dedicated to mark the 500th anniversary of Havana. It is a replica of the ancient wall that surrounded the city in the Spanish era, and holds 500 Habanos San Cristobal in its "bricks."
In both works of art there is a bit of China, because UNION Humidores gets the hinges, handles and other accessories from the Asian country, and Gil buys the necessary titanium for his pieces from a Chinese company.
The beautiful humidors they make, which will surely reach an extraordinary price, open a path to success for this group of Cuban creators committed to offering an art to preserve the best cigars.