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José Orlando Padrón: A Life Remembered

By: John Moralis

For as long as José Padrón could recall, cigars were a part of his life. Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba—growing up on a tobacco farm—Padrón often remembered the cigars his grandmother would roll for his grandfather (Dámaso), and how he would examine each one before lighting and enjoying it.

With an evident passion, Padrón began creating premiums of his own after moving to the United States in 1964, when he opened a factory with a single roller. Padrón's initial offerings were modest and rustic, all the while offering Cuban expatriates living in Miami a small taste of home.

In the late 60s, everything changed for José and his small operation—when the First Padrón cigars made with Nicaraguan tobacco were sold. The quality and flavor were like nothing seen on the American market, and his sales nearly doubled. With an unequivocal passion and the overwhelmingly positive response to Nicaraguan tobacco, Padrón opened up a cigar factory in Nicaragua. Thus beginning the legacy of legendary premiums noted for being among the best in the world.

But there is more to tell of José Padrón other than his undeniable mastery in the world of premium handmades. For example in the 1970s José traveled to Cuba, meeting Fidel Castro to negotiate the release of political prisoners that were held captive. Although their release was a success, there was much backlash as well as attacks on Padrón's facility back in Miami for the efforts made.

José Padrón had a favorite quote by Cuban poet Jose Marti, which read:

    "Men are divided into two groups: those who love and create and those who hate and destroy."

Throughout the years, that did not stop him. In 2012, José and his wife launched the Padrón Family Foundation. This charitable organization focuses on education and health initiatives for those in need, all the while honoring a legacy of community service.

José Padrón passed away in December of 2017, at 91 years-old. He was surrounded by family and friends, a true sign he was loved by all who knew him. It can be easily said that José Padrón set an example as his life, work, contributions, and altruistic nature continues to leave a lasting impression on a legacy that is felt far beyond the reaches of the cigar industry. 

Becoming what we know as one of the finest cigar makers in the world and a pioneering spirit, Mr. Padrón's legacy will live on forever.