The Quesada family has survived flight from communist Cuba to the Dominican Republic, where they continued their family business of cigar manufacturing. They now celebrate 35 years with the first cigar to actually bear their family’s name.
Manuel Quesada remembers the day the Cuban government confiscated his family’s tobacco business—then one of the two largest exporters of Cuban leaf—which was founded in the late 19th century after a debtor paid his great-grandfather in tobacco instead of money. “It was on a Saturday morning, shortly after the revolution,” he recalls. “A jeep showed up with four armed soldiers. They walked into the office, put a seal over our family’s safe, where we kept our valuables, and said, ‘Everybody leave. Come back Monday, and we will tell you what to do.’ After that, we found ourselves working for the government, on fixed wages. Then one day, the government told us, ‘When you leave today, don’t come back.’ But instead of going home, we went to the airport with only the clothes we were wearing. We left Cuba, and luckily so, because three weeks later, the Bay of Pigs [invasion] took place. After that, no one could leave. If we hadn’t gotten out when we did, we would probably still be in Cuba.” The family relocated to the Dominican Republic. Although the island nation was at the time highly regarded for its cultivation of filler and binder tobaccos, it exported few finished cigars. When the zona franca—a tax-free industrial zone for export-only products—opened in Santiago de los Caballeros in 1974, the Quesada family recognized the potential for a new company, which they called Matasa. – From Robb Report