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How a new generation of Hispanic Americans is honoring the past through hand-rolled cigars

Hispanic Heritage and hand-rolled cigars
A hand-rolled cigar at Long Ash Cigars in Ybor City.
Posted at 8:39 AM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 18:21:58-04

TAMPA, Fla. — The only job Michael Cincunegui, the owner of Long Ash Cigars in Ybor City, hasn't done is hand-rolling the cigars he sells. Instead, he leaves that to the professionals.

In 2012, Cincunegui opened the business. A fourth-generation Floridian and livelong Ybor City resident, he said it just made sense. His father is from Spain, and his mom's side is a mix of Cuban and Spanish heritage.

"I mean, it's a huge sense of pride, no doubt for sure. And I think everybody should be proud of their heritage, no matter what that is, you know, it's, it's who you are," Cincunegui said. "It's where you come from, where your family comes from."

When you walk into Long Ash Cigars on 7th Avenue, there is a connection with the past. Not only through the smell of cigar smoke drifting through the air, but with the cigar rollers at the front of the store working to make the best product possible. A 100-year-old cigar press that Cincunegui salvaged is used to make each one.

"I remember people, my family, usually uncles and aunts or grandfathers and older people that used to smoke cigars, and I would smell it, and it reminds you of that generation to me at least," Cincunegui said. "And, most people I speak to in here have that same feeling even if they don't smoke themselves. They remember somebody in the family that was smoking to bring them back and bring those memories back to back to life for them."

In the 1920s, Ybor City cranked out a million cigars per day. Cincunegui says each of his rollers turns out about a hundred during an eight-hour shift. For him, it's not about speed but making sure the quality of each hand-rolled cigar is perfect.

"There are different sizes, shapes, and sizes," Cincunegui said. "Anything more intricate it's harder to do; it takes someone that's probably been doing a little bit longer. And you know, in Cuba, they always — my rollers speak to me about different levels of not like a certification but different skill set levels. And anything more intricate takes more time, takes more skill. It's usually someone that's been doing a little bit longer."

Long Ash Cigars also offers a full bar with a wide variety of rums and authentic Cuban coffee. The perfect pairings for any cigar aficionado.

"The fact that I'm doing cigars and it's close to that kind of Cuban side of my family is a stroke of luck in a way because it wasn't like planned or anything," Cincunegui said. "But, I feel like it's it was supposed to happen. This is where I'm supposed to end up."