You can’t help but like her: whether she’s warmly greeting visitors to the Melia’ Cohiba Hotel or rolling one of her excellent cigars, she has a disarming smile for everyone. Meet Juanita Ramos Guerra, known to everyone simply as Juanita.
Juanita is already famous on the German, Swiss and English cigar scene. She has travelled to those countries multiple times on cigar roller tours, capturing the hearts of locals passionate with her expert opinion on cigars and her open nature.
Juanita is a longtime employee of the Melia’ Cohiba Hotel. One of Havana’s best known hotels, the Melia is a large, not particularly attractive high rise tower, but its location right on the Malecon affords splendid ocean views.
Juanita is a level nine torcedora, the highest level that a roller can achieve. Only these rollers may travel to foreign countries and work.
Before Juanita worked at Melia Hotel, she learned her trade at the Cohiba factory, El languido.
She was there when the factory was built and experienced first hand how it became what it is today. Born in 1956, Juanita turns 60 next year, but seems several years younger. She has two grown sons, Alexander and Jorgito.
I liked working in the factory. You really learn how to roll cigars there, because of the guidance you get and because you roll a lot of cigars, reminisces Juanita. I wouldn’t trade anything for the time I spent in the factory.
It takes many years to learn to roll a cigar so that the process looks like child’s play, which of course it’s not – except for our torcedora. When you have been rolling cigars for as long as I have, you have a feeling for the different consistencies of the tobacco leaves and for the amounts that you must use.
Everything has become so familiar that producing a cigar comes naturally from muscle memory. Juanita gestures with her hands: an elegant swing, followed by an easy rolling motion. Each day, visitors stand attentively around Juanita’s table to watch her work.
Indeed , it is a pleasure to see. Working as a torcedora is wonderful. Not only can I show people how a cigar is made, but often visitors arrive whom I already know or get to know. I enjoy interacting with people every single day.
Juanita is a part roller, part actress, because she practically works onstage. That doesn’t bother her; quite the opposite: My friends from around the whole world – especially from Germany and England – know where they can find me, and come and visit every time they are in Havana. That makes me happy.
Juanita’s specialities are larger format cigars that she creates on demand. She especially enjoys rolling the Behike 56 format, a cigar with a 56 ring gauge and a length of 166mm. When asked which she prefers, working in the factory or at Hotel, she smiles and says: “It’s best here, where every day I can meet and get to know so many people!”