On the corner of 11th Avenue and 8th Street, or Calle Ocho as it’s commonly called, the central artery of Miami’s Little Havana, is El Credito Cigar Factory, and a series of storefronts with authentic Cuban culture inside. Little Havana is filled with bits of Cuban culture as it was in Havana. The coffee is made in the typical cafesito style, a strong sugary espresso. The signs are in Spanish, the native tongue, the people are mostly Cuban and without a doubt, a source of pride for the Cuban people is the famous Cuban cigar.
Inside El Credito, typical of a Cuban cigar factory or fabrica, skilled Cubans roll cigars by hand, many of them multi-generational rollers who have inherited the family trade. If you speak Spanish you’ll pick up on the gossip of the Cuban exile scene, the regular banter about politics back home and the latest stats from the Miami Marlins. There’s also a cigar lounge where cigar aficionados enjoy El Credito’s much acclaimed La Gloria, a cigar known as much for it’s bold flavor as authentic touch. You’ll also find other popular brands under the El Credito roof like Romeo y Julieta.
Owner Ernesto Carillo has fond and vivid memories of the tobacco fields in Cuba and strives to make his cigars as authentic as possible. Like most of the Cuban community in Miami, the Carillos fled Cuba once the Castro regime took over and had to start their lives all over again in a new country with a different language. But they held onto their traditions and culture and started the new, very well respected El Credito as an homage to their country. About one million cigars are rolled by hand out of this boutique cigar factory’s Miami location and the rest are made at their other factory in the Dominican Republic. Expect quality control of the highest degree from this cigar factory and shop where every cigar is rolled by hand in the classic style, by one roller from start to finish.
Cigars at El Credito start at just a few dollars.
About Cuban Cigars
Much effort is put forth into keeping Cuban cigars that are rolled in Miami, as close to the real thing as possible. However, the American embargo on Cuba since 1960 prevents goods from leaving the country, so Cubans in the States have had to make do with tobacco grown in different countries that are similar in taste to the Cuban kind. Real Cuban cigars, grown and rolled in Cuba, are illegal in the United States unless they were brought in pre-embargo. Most of the tobacco in Cuban-style cigars today comes from Nicaragua, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Cuban cigars are probably the most widely revered cigars, and the closest you can come to getting it legally is at a place like El Credito.
Cigar culture dictates that you take it easy, unwind a bit and use the time for good conversation. So schedule some time when you stop into El Credito. Sip on a cafesito from a neighboring café, ask the shopkeepers for recommendations based on your experience and don’t be afraid to go in a novice – you’ll leave feeling like an expert.
The Carillos have a story that speaks to the Cuban community as a whole. They’re unhappy with the way things are in Cuba, proud of their American culture, but are always looking for a brighter day in Cuba when they can return to their true home – only 90 miles south of Key West.
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