Tabanero Cigars is dedicated to honoring the past as we usher in the future. In today’s blog, we are going to discuss an interesting position from the early culture in Ybor: the lector.
Ybor City: The Story
Please imagine with me. It is 1901 and we are in a cigar factory. We are looking at a small wooden table covered with tobacco leaves. Above the table on a shelf is a stack of handmade cigars. Behind the table, sitting on a wooden chair is a man who came to Tampa from his native Cuba. His white shirt, though neatly pressed, is tainted by the sultry summer air and clings to his wiry frame. As we pan out and see his wider environment, we notice that there are dozens of similar workstations occupied by both men and women.
In the center of the room is a man under a crisp white fedora. He is sitting on a chair perched on an elevated platform. In his hand, he holds a newspaper. At his feet are several books. The room is a deluge of noise: the neighing of horses who are pulling carts full of cigars, the clacking of the chaveta of the worker chopping leaves, and the general bustle of an active factory. Above this din, the clear voice of the lector is heard.
This was a common scene in the early days of the cigar industry. At first, the lector was one of the workers who took thirty minutes or so to read material requested by following workers. The workers pooled the funds to compensate the lector for the time taken away from making cigars. The factory owners took notice that worker productivity increased during the times when the lector was reading. Soon the lector became a hired position. Quickly lectors became respected and assumed a special role in the community of the cigar artisan.
Unfortunately, the position of lector dissipated due to the worker revolt of 1931 which was partially blamed on the political material chosen by various lectors.
The lector will forever be a part of the cigar culture. We at Tabanero Cigars are cultivating the spirit of the lector through various artist events which we host at our artisan’s boutique.