Are Cuban brand names being stolen? After My Father Cigars released their version of the My Father Fonseca, some comments were made on the Ministry of Cigar Social media. Comments that My Father was stealing the Fonseca brand just like others stole the Cuban brand names. And honestly, for most brands that could not be further from the truth.
The truth is actually that the Cuban brands are the ones stolen. After the revolution in 1959, the new socialist government under the leadership of Fidel Castro and his clan started to nationalize businesses. Hardworking entrepreneurs saw their livelihoods taken away from them. Businesses and brands they spent years building up, sometimes even dating back to a century ago. In the free world people complain that taxation is theft, but what about having your businesses nationalized, your land taken from you, and even your home is suddenly not your property but the governments? That is theft.
Many of the tobacco growers and cigar manufacturers fled Cuba. For example, the Menendez family from Partagas and Montecristo left. First to the Canary Islands and later to Central America. Together with the Amerino family, they launched the Alonso Menendez brand. But they also kept using the names Partagas and Montecristo. Eventually, these names were sold to General Cigars, but at least they were bought from the original founders of the brands. Not stolen in a way the Cuban government did.
The Menendez story is one of many. Most of the New World counterparts of Cuban brands are the result of the original owners fleeing Cuba after the revolution. And restarting their business, with their rightfully owned names in other countries. It must be said that none of the original families have the brands, they are all bought over by larger companies. Most of the rights are now with the two giants, General Cigars and Altadis USA.
As said, this goes for most of the Cuban marcas. There are a few post-revolution brands that have New World counterparts. And if you want to say that those brand names are stolen, go ahead. Brands such as Guantanamera, Cohiba, and Trinidad. These cigars hailing from Nicaragua, Honduras, or the Dominican Republic aren’t continuations of the rightful owners as these are post-revolution brands.
Those aren’t the only post-revolution brands. We can name five more brands. But those five don’t seem to have a New World counterpart. We might be wrong, but we never ran into a Cubana, Diplomaticos, Quai d’Orsay, Vegueros, or Vegas Robaina from a country other than Cuba. One that comes close, also in design, is the HR cigar from Hirochi Robaina but that is family.
The odd one out here is San Cristobal (de la Habana). That is an old brand that disappeared before the revolution. But Habanos brought the brand back, as well as Ashton did. As a matter of fact, Ashton owns the right to the San Cristobal name in several countries in the world. Not just the USA. But Robert Levin of Ashton made the decision not to fight Habanos for those markets. Instead, he allows Habanos to market San Cristobal de La Habana in these countries. The Ashton version of San Cristobal is sold internationally as Paradiso, but with the same artwork and blend as the San Cristobal lines in the United States
Before you say that My Father Cigars, General Cigars, Altadis, and Padron (yes, Padron owns the rights to the Jose L. Piedra name) ‘stole’ Cuban marcas, think twice. You’re only right when it comes to Guantanamera, Cohiba, and Trinidad. But one thing is true, all those brands are stolen. Stolen by the revolutionaries who turned Cuba into a socialist state.
There is another way of looking at it though. Since all those brands started in Cuba, it is perfectly fine to say that the Cuban versions are the real versions. They are the real brands, but that doesn’t make the New World versions ‘stolen’ as they descended from the original and rightful owners to the names and artwork.
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