The cigar industry has traditionally been dominated by men, specifically White men. The sector has seen little participation of women. However, two Cuban sisters are changing the narrative on the participation of women in the sector.
The twin Cuban sisters, Yvonne and Yvette Rodriguez, founded their cigar line called Tres Lindas Cubanas Cigars in 2014, making them owners of Miami’s first Afro-Cuban, woman-owned cigar company in the United States. They have straddled between African-American and Cuban culture since their childhood.
Born to a Cuban mother and Black Cuban father, the twin sisters grew up around their cigar-smoking grandmother, according to Miami New Times. Their signature Cigar includes “La Clarita” — which means fair-skinned — and is light-medium bodied; “La Mulata,” which means mixed black/white as is medium-full; and “La Negrita”, which means black, their strongest, full-bodied cigar.
Making cigars was not the first career path of the two sisters. After obtaining their degrees in journalism from the University of Florida, they parted ways in Miami. While Yvette took a job reporting for Channel 7, Yvonne began producing and editing programming for Telemundo. Yvette would later leave Channel 7 to create a PR firm while her boisterous twin sister continued her work with Telemundo.
The idea to go into cigar making occurred to Yvonne in a daydream. She then pitched the idea with Yvette, who found the idea intriguing. On a vacation in Costa Rica, Yvette met a Miami Cuban who owned a tobacco farm in Nicaragua.
By 2014, Yvonne and Yvette started creating their own cigar brand. “As women in a male-driven industry, it was more of a shock to the men when we would walk into a cigar shop,” Yvette told the Miami New Times. “I embrace the shock.”
Their business has since grown steadily. Their cigar brands, which have become quite popular among the Black community in Atlanta, are now sold in major shops in cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, among others.
Their journey in the cigar industry has not been smooth sailing. To date, some shop owners and colleagues try to discourage them. Their male counterparts even go to the extent of asking them whether they know what’s in their own cigars.
“Even to this day, they don’t think we smoke cigars, so imagine I’m trying to sell it,” Yvonne said. “We were starting not even at level zero; we were starting at level negative-five.”