The Chortis, people living in the Copan Valley, are direct descendants of the Indian populations that originally cultivated. It was a Spanish colony from 1523 to 1821, although its lands were only very sporadically used for growing tobacco. However, a long tradition of handmade cigars would eventually develop in the country. A perfect example is a small factory in Santa Rosa de Copán, which is still producing today, since its founding in 1785, a date before the first factories in the United States.
Honduran products, however, would remain confined to the local market for centuries. It was not until the Cuban revolution in 1959 that foreign investors became interested in Honduran tobacco. Honduras also benefited from many Cuban exiles who would increase the cigar trade, growing new varieties of tobacco from Cuban seeds. Among the most famous tobacco barons who would settle in Honduras, we must mention Fernando Palicio, who would re-launch the Belinda production in 1962.
He was associated with two tobacco merchants who had already had commercial contacts with Honduras since 1950, Dan Blumenthal and Frank Llaneza. The latter would eventually acquire Belinda and other Palicio brands, such as Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey. In 1977, Davidoff opened a factory in the Copán Valley to produce his first non-Cuban brand, the Zino. Honduran tobacco, however, would suffer another setback after the declaration of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, a neighboring country.
The problems would continue until 1990, with numerous guerrilla raids that raided and burned tobacco crops and cigar factories. The war in Nicaragua, however, provoked new migratory movements towards Honduras, including numerous tobacco growers, who once again strengthened trade in Honduras. Such is the case of Néstor Plasencia, a Cuban who first fled to Nicaragua in 1965, and then fled again to Honduras in 1979, where he started again from the beginning. After buying several tobacco plantations, he managed to produce his own cigars in 1985.
Its largest customer is the United States, which consumed 60 million units in 1996. The tobacco for the best cigars is grown in the Jalapa Valley, in the southwest of the country, bordering the border with Nicaragua. The plantations are concentrated around the cities of Danlí, Moroceli and Talanga.
Honduras is perfect for growing some magnificent dark wrappers, with seeds from Connecticut. The leaves with which the tripa and the capote are made come, instead, from Cuban seeds. To increase the aroma, the filler (the tripa) is generally mixed with imported tobacco from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. The main manufacturers are installed in Danlí, which is something like Villa Gonzales in the Dominican Republic. The city is home to a dozen factories that produce millions of cigars a year, a figure that reaches half the volume of Honduran exports. The most notable special lists in the country are Raymond F. Guys (Central American Cigars Inc.), Néstor Plasencia (Fábrica de Tabacos Oriente) and Rolando Reyes (Cuba Aliados Cigars).
All images come from creative commons licensing sources and are also free for commercial use.