Sometimes an old man waits on customers behind the counter at Hermanos Petrides, a cigar store on Calle Uruguay between the Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas and Calle Bolívar. He has a weathered countenance and an extremely patient manner toward the uninformed customer. He is almost old enough to remember the era when Thomas Riley Marshall, vice president to Woodrow Wilson, summed up the U.S.'s woes and said, "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar."
The old man's sons most frequently take care of the customers these days, with equal grace. I don't smoke, but this is where I steer people from the U.S. who want to buy legitimate Cuban cigars. I also suggest -- as the old man suggested to me, when I was buying Cubans for friends in New York -- that they try Mexican cigars from San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz. They only cost a dollar or two, and my cigar-smoking friends tell me they are as good as stogies that generally cost five or ten times as much.