How would you like a group of visitors stood behind your tight working space for twenty minutes several time per day as one of your colleagues commentated on your working day. Oh, and your “office” is a humid hub of activity bereft of much breeze and certainly no air-conditioning. Welcome to the Corona Cigar factory of Havana, Cuba.
Each day around about 650 members of the Corona “family” turn out thousands of Cuba’s most famous export and you are able to watch them do this, and indeed may even be given the opportunity to roll one yourself Generation Game style, and the only reminder of Bruce Forsyth is that one of the beautiful young rollers may have a passing resemblance to his former Miss World Latin wife!
Our guide is a well educated former cigar roller who moves around the factory greeting his fellow workers with hugs and kisses, and not in the affected false way we see celebrities in the UK greeting each other and kissing the air. At the Corona Cigar Factory, this is their family and our guide describes the operation of the factory as being run in the same way as a domestic household. This is why there are so many women working in cigar factories!
I even saw one worker passing a cheap pair of children’s pink plastic shoes around her colleagues as they rolled their latest batch of cigars, perhaps destined for a wealthy European or North American millionaire. The contrasts in Havana are fascinating and the sale of second-hand goods to fellow workers seems to be the Cuban equivalent of e-bay.
It’s a visibly happy place to work and the atmosphere is inspiring, there can’t be many places which have such tough conditions (there is no air-conditioning as cigars need a humid atmosphere to prevent drying out) where the employees appear to have pride and job satisfaction. Perhaps it’s the 5 free cigars each staff member receives daily? Perhaps, but there seems so much more to it than free cigars!