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Cigar Culture

Cigar Family Profile: The Fuente Family

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

We thought you’d be interested in getting to know some of the families that make the great cigars you enjoy smoking. No surprise. With the Fuentes, it’s all in the family.

ARTURO FUENTE

Arturo Fuente is the founder of the A. Fuente & Co. cigar brand. Arturo left Cuba as a 24-year old, just after the Spanish-American War, and relocated in Tampa in 1902. Ten years later, Arturo built a cigar factory, employing more than 500 people. For 12 years, Arturo made cigars using tobacco imported from Cuba, but in 1924 the factory burned to the ground. Arturo waited 22 years to start again, this time on the back porch of the family’s home. Upon retiring from the business, Arturo handed over the reins to his youngest son, Carlos, in 1958. Arturo passed away in 1973.

CARLOS FUENTE SR.

Everyone called him “Senior.” He paid his brother, Arturo Jr., the grand sum of $1.00 for his share of the family business. At the time, the company didn’t make a huge number of cigars, but Senior had ambitions. He made a brilliant calculation when the US embargo of Cuba began. No more Cuban cigars for smokers in the US and no more Cuban tobacco for manufacturers.

“I feel the embargo put everybody level. People had to shop around to find a different taste that they liked,” Senior estimated.

Senior found different sources of tobacco and moved operations to Nicaragua in the 1970s only to see fire, once again, take the factory down during the Sandinista Revolution. He moved the company to the Dominican Republic where it remains based today.

“I have always been the type of person who told my sons and my daughters that in life, to be successful, you have to be able to do something that you really like—you have to try.”

That, as much as the cigars, is Senior’s legacy. He passed away in 2016.

CARLITO P. FUENTE, JR.

Carlito is the president of A. Fuente & Co. and lives mostly in Santiago, Dominican Republic. He took his father’s advice and turned his perseverance into what became the iconic Fuente Fuente Opus X in 1995, the first Dominican Puro. Now, Carlito is spearheading the company’s efforts in reestablishing a presence in Nicaragua. Carlito has turned doing well in the cigar business into doing good. In 2001, Carlito co-founded the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, an effort that turned into the creation of a community that assists 5,000 local families around the Chateau de la Fuente farm with education, health care and other necessities. The United Nations has recognized the effort as a model of social responsibility. He can get downright romantic about cigars.

“I light a cigar very slowly,” he says. “I don’t like the flame to actually touch the wrapper. I think it’s the foreplay. The slower you go, the more the excitement.”

CYNTHIA FUENTE-SUAREZ

Cynthia is the daughter of Carlos Senior and Carlito’s sister. She lives in Tampa and serves as vice president of The Fuente Companies. Cynthia is nicknamed ‘The First Lady of Cigars.’ Cynthia is heavily involved with the company’s charities. “It’s important to give back,” she says.

She studied business and psychology at Tampa’s University of South Florida and explored other careers before deciding to move into the family business. There’s nowhere she’d rather be, pursuing her love of cigars.

“Our family has always taken great pride in the quest for true originality in everything we do. That’s why no one can ever honestly imitate our passion for perfection.”

LIANA FUENTE

Liana is Carlito’s daughter and currently serves as vice president of brand development for the company. She lives in Tampa with her husband and dogs, and manages all of the company’s marketing efforts. Liana attended the University of South Florida and received a degree in business from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Liana travels all around the world representing the family business. Liana says she learned to love the cigar business from her grandfather.

“If you do not see the smoke from my cigar and you do not smell my after-shave,” Liana remembers Senior telling her, “you’re too far. I want you right next to me learning everything I know.”

Her goal is to keep the family business going strong.

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