Entertainment

24 Cigars That Prove The Best Come From Latin America

Cigars, scotch, and fine wine share one thing in common: it’s all subjective! In the case of cigars, some connoisseurs say that nothing out of Cuba could be good, although there is a good number of challengers from all across the Americas. And here is a list of some cigars worth trying right now whether or not they’re allowed to be here.

1. Opus X

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A powerful and bold statement from the Fuente family, who started cigar making in the early 20th century. It was said that Dominican tobacco was good enough for filler and binder, but never for the delicate wrapper which is the only part the smoker tastes directly. The myth was dispelled with the Opus X line more than 20 years ago, with it still being one of the most sought-after smokes in the world.

2. Padron

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Nicaragua has come into its own as a major player in the premium cigar market, and there’s no better representative than Padron. Commanding prices well in excess of $25, they had become the benchmark for anything Central American especially with their Anniversary line, the one preferred by smokers celebrating something special or simply kicking back and chilling.

3. Cohiba

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Considered the personal blend for the deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the cigars really took off in the 90s when they began being mass produced for the international market. Of course, they were banned in the U.S. because of the embargo of the early 1960s. A very well-made blend, with delicate floral nuances, it is one of the most counterfeited cigars in the world.

4. Montecristo

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For many years it has been the standard by which all Cuban cigars are measured. A powerful, well-balanced, torpedo, it has been enjoyed since the early part of the 20th century by smokers who favor its medium body and fuller flavor. By the way, torpedoes are cigars with a tapered tip.

5. Davidoff

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This line was originally produced in Cuba until the early 90s when it shipped production over to the Dominican Republic. Some of the original Cuban Davidoffs are sold for a hefty premium at auction houses in Great Britain. The newer Dominican lines are extremely well made, mild in their body, and represent some of the best things in life.

6. Don Pepin

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A Cuban émigré, Don Pepin fled the island for Spain then came to the US in the 90s where his blends became an instant hit. Cigars often reflect the personality of their Creator, and the blends made by Jose “Pepin” Garcia have become legends in a very short span of time. Worthy of trying are his Cuban Classic and My Father lines, made in Nicaragua.

7. La Flor Dominicana

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Created by Litto Gomez Diez, an affable Uruguayan with a huge smile, he rocked the cigar world when he created the Ligero blends. The blend is made from the strongest leaves in the tobacco plant while still maintaining a delicate balance in the overall product. His LFD blends often times have been awarded with cigar of the year honors.

8. Macanudo

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Seasoned cigar smokers snub at the mention of this venerable brand, but the truth is more than 90% of cigar smokers in the US started off with a Mac, as they’re called. It has always been one of the strongest sellers in the country with popular line extensions such as Maduro – darker wrapper leaf. This brand is known for its tasty smoothness, typical of the Dominican Republic.

9. Liga Privada

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Jonathan Drew is known for creating wacky cigars with wacky, infused, flavors. But just when you thought it was all gimmicks, he creates Liga Privada No. 9, an intense powerhouse of a smoke. Using the most powerful leaves in the tobacco plant, with just the right fermentation, Jonathan surprised the cigar world with his Nicaraguan creation.

10. H. Upmann

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This Cuban classic dates back to the 19th century and has been present in discerning aficionados’ humidors since way back then. One of its most popular lines is Magnum 46, a Corona Gorda size that offers a good 60 minutes of enjoyment, preferably alongside a strong drink, or maybe just even iced tea. It’s that good!

11. Oliva Serie V

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A Nicaraguan work of art in the blending, the Serie V has several times been named cigar of the year by the most popular magazine in the industry. Bold, tasty and just plain wonderful, it has endured the test of time although being released only within the past 20 years. One can spend hours just gazing into the thick plumes of smoke out of this beauty.

12. Tatuaje

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The brainchild of Pete Johnson, a true lover of the leaf, who had a dream about creating his very own personal cigar. Almost by chance he met Don Pepin Garcia, it was a match made in heaven. Garcia blended a cigar to Johnson’s exacting standard and thus Tatuaje was born. Although it has many line extensions, each of them features the trademark power and balance.

13. Rocky Patel

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Either you love them or hate them, but Rocky’s cigars are all over the place. He’s perhaps the most hard-working man in the cigar world, traveling almost nonstop throughout the country and his cigar factories in Central America to make sure you’re getting a top-notch product spanning the entire price range. Worthy of mention are his Decade lines.

14. Ashton

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Blended in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, the cigars are owned by the Levin family in the United States. Their blends used tobaccos from many different countries and are also made in different factories. One of the distinctive features of their line is the initial spice that segs into a balanced and very satisfying finish.

15. Partagas

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Stemming from the mid part of the XIX century, in Cuba, this has been one of the most revered brands of all times. Like all of the major players in the Cuban cigar world, it was also seized by the revolutionary government of Castro in the late 50s toppling its original owners. Today, it remains one of the best-selling brands in the Cuban cigar portfolio, with the Partagas Serie D#4, or PSD4 being king.

16. Alec Bradley

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A true cigar lover from the U.S., Alan Rubin set out to leave his mark in the industry with his Alec Bradley product, named after his two sons. One of his blends was awarded cigar of the year honors a few years ago. He isn’t shy to declare his one and only goal as a cigar maker: to give the cigar smoker an unforgettable experience. To think, he didn’t know anything about cigars before 1996.

17. Romeo Y Julieta

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Also, one of the oldest brands in the original Cuban portfolio, dating back to the mid-19th century. It is preferred all around the world and releases special editions every now and then dedicated to a specific region of the world such as Asia-Pacific, Spain and even Mexico. They’re offering spans many different sizes and levels of strength, all of them perfectly balanced.

18. Punch

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Another Cuban gem created over 150 years ago, it has gained considerable traction in Europe, most notably in Great Britain and Germany. As is the case in many of the Cuban cigarss, they have a wide variety of sizes and taste profiles fit for almost any cigar smoker, from the typical noob that doesn’t know where to cut and light it, all the way to the most discerning aficionado.

19. Bolivar

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Although it’s not one of the most commercialized products in the Cuban portfolio, well-educated smokers flock to the few remaining offerings in the Bolivar portfolio. It is considered one of the strongest exemplars of Cuban cigars, made mostly with different primings of tobacco leaves from the traditional Vuelta Abajo region in Cuba.

20. Gurkha

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Despite being one of the most sold cigars in the U.S., people just can’t seem to get to grips with this brand; either it’s love or loathe, nothing in between. One of Gurkha’s most famous cigars – a cognac infused rarity – is sold for well over $1000, although most of its lines sell for around $5 to $10 a piece. No matter what, they’re worth giving a try.

21. Acid

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Created by Jonathan Drew, mentioned previously, these cigars orbit around the biker crowd, so prominently featured in their packaging and advertising. Cigar purists would rather scoff these blends, with their aromatic botanical infusions, but they become a hit with the younger generations, always willing to try something new, something different.

22. Room 101

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Innovation and pure marketing have become strongholds in the newer version of cigar brands, and none more brilliant than Room 101. Whether the name refers to the infamous L.A. road where owner Matt Booth makes his home, or the tortuous punish room in Orwell’s book, expect a good smoke, chock full of flavor and power. It has many line extensions, all good!

23. Hoyo De Monterrey

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One of the oldest and most legendary brands in the Cuban portfolio, Hoyo was considered for years a milder blend, until half a century ago when the blenders began experimenting with different leaf combinations to create a bolder taste profile. One of its best sellers is the “Epicure” line extension, also featured in some special releases worldwide.

24. Behike

Save the best for last! One of the newer extensions of the Cohiba line, Behike was created to cater to the most discerning aficionados in 2010. It has definitely left a mark in the industry. Behike is the top of the line product of Cuban cigarmaking, with only the best rollers, or torcedores, entrusted with their production. And speaking of price, each cigar can easily be sold for 60 bucks and more, and that, if you can get your hands on one!

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America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

Entertainment

America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

It has been 20 years since America Ferrera’s dream of becoming an actor back true. She took to Instagram to reflect on the moment that her dream started to come true and it is a sweet reminder that anyone can chase their dreams.

America Ferrera shared a sweet post reflecting on the 20th anniversary of working on “Gotta Kick It Up!”

“Gotta Kick It Up!” was one of the earliest examples of Latino representation so many of us remember. The movie follows a school dance team trying to be the very best they could possibly be. The team was down on their luck but a new teacher introduces them to a different kind of music to get them going again.

After being introduced to Latin beats, the dance team is renewed. It taps into a cultural moment for the Latinas on the team and the authenticity of the music makes their performances some of the best.

While the movie meant so much to Latino children seeing their culture represented for the first time, the work was a major moment for Ferrera. In the Instagram post, she gushes over the celebrities she saw on the lot she was working on. Of course, anyone would be excited to see Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt hanging out. Yet, what stands out the most is Ferrera’s own excitement to realize that she can make money doing what she loves most.

“I wish I could go back and tell this little baby America that the next 20 years of her life will be filled with unbelievable opportunity to express her talent and plenty of challenges that will allow her to grow into a person, actress, producer, director, activist that she is very proud and grateful to be. We did it baby girl. I’m proud of us,” Ferrera reflects.

Watch the trailer for “Gotta Kick It Up!” here.

READ: America Ferrera’s “Superstore” Is Going To Get A Spanish-Language Adaptation In A Win For Inclusion

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

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