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ElTOQUE is an independent multimedia platform focused on the storytelling of Cuba
Photo of a woman smoking a cigar.
food / travel
Mariana Iglesias

Meet Blanca Alsogaray, The First Woman To Win Cuba's "Oscar Of Cigars"

For the first time, Cuba's prestigious annual cigar festival recognized a woman, Alsogaray, owner of an iconic cigar shop in Buenos Aires, as the top representative of this celebrated lifeline of the Cuban economy.

BUENOS AIRES — Cigars are traditionally reserved for a man's world. But this year, for the first time, a Latin American woman has won one of three awards given at the 23rd Habano Festival in Cuba.

Every year since 2000, the Festival has gathered the top players in the world of Cuban cigars including sellers, distributors, specialists and aficionados. A prize is given to an outstanding personality in one of three areas: production, communication and sales. The latter went to Blanca Alsogaray, owner of the Buenos Aires shop La Casa del Habano. She says these prizes are not unlike the "Oscars of cigars."

"It's a sexist world for sure, but I won," she said of a prize which was called "Habano Man" (Hombre habano) until this year, when the word was changed for her.

"It recognizes a lifetime's work, which I consider so important as Argentina isn't an easy place for business, and less so being a woman." She was competing with two men. "In truth," she added. "I really do deserve it."

Alsogaray opened her shop in 1993. At the time there were only two sellers anywhere of Cuba's premium, hand-rolled cigars, the other one being in Mexico. Now habanos are sold in 150 outlets worldwide. "I want to celebrate these 30 years, and the prize. We're going to have a big party," she said. The firm celebrated its 30th anniversary on May 16.

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This Happened - April 22: ​A Child Held At Gunpoint
This Happened

This Happened - April 22: ​A Child Held At Gunpoint

Elian Gonzalez is a Cuban national who became the subject of an international custody battle. He was five years old at the time. On this day in 2000, federal agents raided the Miami home where Elian was staying with his relatives and forcibly removed him, holding him and his relatives at gunpoint.

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This Happened - April 17: Bay Of Pigs Invasion Begins
This Happened

This Happened - April 17: Bay Of Pigs Invasion Begins

The Bay of Pigs invasion began on this day in 1961, when a force of around 1,400 Cuban exiles, backed by the United States government, landed at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba.

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What was the goal of the Bay of Pigs invasion?

The goal of the Bay of Pigs invasion was to overthrow Fidel Castro's government and establish a pro-American government in Cuba. The operation which was planned and executed by the United States, with the support of Cuban exiles and anti-Castro forces, was a total failure — and as such a major victory for Castro and his forces.

Why did the Bay of Pigs invasion fail?

The Bay of Pigs invasion was poorly planned and executed, and the United States underestimated the strength and support of the Cuban military and people. When the invasion was met with strong resistance from the Cuban military and citizens, the United States was unable to provide sufficient air support for the invading forces.

What were the consequences of the Bay of Pigs invasion?

The Bay of Pigs failure was a key moment in the Cold War. The failure of the invasion damaged the credibility of the United States and its foreign policy, and it strengthened Fidel Castro's hold on power in Cuba. The invasion also led to increased tensions between the United States and Cuba, and it contributed to the escalation of the conflict with the Soviet Union.

This Happened- March 5: The Iconic Photograph Of Che Guevara

This Happened- March 5: The Iconic Photograph Of Che Guevara

This iconic photograph of Che Guevara was taken on this day in 1960 by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda.

What was the occasion for the photograph of Che Guevara?

The photograph of Che Guevara was taken during a mass funeral for the victims of the La Coubre explosion in Havana, Cuba. The photograph is commonly known as "Guerrillero Heroico" (Heroic Guerrilla Fighter) or simply "Che Guevara".

What is the significance of the photograph of Che Guevara?

The photograph of Che Guevara has become an iconic image of revolution and rebellion, and has been widely reproduced on T-shirts, posters, and other forms of popular culture. It has come to symbolize leftist movements and anti-establishment sentiment around the world.

Photo of Lula holding a religious icon
Cefas Carvalho

On Lula's "Gay Kits," Marxist Plots And The Entire Brazilian Fake News Machine

Before Lula's re-election in Brazil, fake news spread widely online about "gay kits" in schools and Marxism in schools. Here's how Brazilians can use the moment to convince moderate voters of the dangers of disinformation.


NATAL, Brazil — It’s been two months since the leftist Luiz Lula da Silva returned as president of Brazil. Despite what fake news and reports online said: No Christian church was closed. No religious leader was arrested or suffered. No public school received “gay kits” and no nursery received bottles with dick-shaped spouts.

In these first weeks , the Lula government also has not instituted any Communist dictatorship in the country and no one was forced to read books by Marx and Lenin.

No one was forced to marry a person of the same sex, and no “gay dictatorship” was installed. Likewise, no woman was forced to have an abortion.

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This Happened—January 1: The Cuban Revolution Ends
This Happened

This Happened—January 1: The Cuban Revolution Ends

On January 1, 1959, Cuba’s military dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the country and the rebels, led by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, celebrated in Havana, ending the Cuban Revolution.

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Why did the Cuban Revolution take place?

The U.S. had been a major force in Cuba since the early 1900s. Much of the country’s business was owned by the U.S., including its main export, sugar. The Batista regime was unpopular with the Cuban people. However, he supported U.S. interests, so Washington in turn supported him.

Castro wanted to remove the chokehold the U.S. had over the Cuban economy and launch a Communist Revolution in the process.

How did the Cuban Revolution happen?

In November 1956, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara gathered 80 guerrilla fighters and sailed from Mexico on a small yacht. Batista learned of the attack and ambushed the group, but 20 men escaped, including Fidel and Raul Castro and Guevara. The group found refuge in the mountains, attracted new members, and started guerrilla warfare against Batista’s better-armed regime.

For the next two years, Cuba experienced civil war. In December 1958, Guevara’s forces defeated a larger army in the Battle of Santa Clara, where they captured a train full of arms and ammunition. By January 1, 1959, the rebels had reached the capital, Havana, and Batista fled.

What was the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution?

Batista lived in exile in Portugal until his death in 1973. Fidel Castro reached Havana on January 9 to take charge. Many Batista supporters were tried and executed. Although Castro had promised elections, he postponed them once he came to power.

The U.S. initially recognized the Castro government, but relations quickly broke down when Castro implemented a Communist regime. The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Havana in 1961. Tensions further increased in the following years, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Fidel Castro remained in power until 2008, when he chose his brother Raul as successor.

How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil
Santiago Villa

How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

American and Southwest Airlines have been refusing to allow Cubans on board flights if they've been blacklisted by the government in Havana.

On Sunday, American Airlines refused to let Cuban writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez board a Miami flight bound for Havana. It was at least the third time this year that a U.S. airline refused to let Cubans on board to return to their homeland after Havana circulated a government "blacklist" of critics of the regime. Clearly undemocratic and possibly illegal under U.S. law, the airlines want to make sure to cash in on a lucrative travel route, writes Colombian journalist Santiago Villa:


Imagine for a moment that you left your home country years ago because you couldn't properly pursue your chosen career there. It wasn't easy, of course: Your profession is not just singularly demanding, but even at the top of the game you might not be assured a stable or sufficient income, and you've had to take on second jobs, working in bars and restaurants.

This chosen vocation is that of a writer or journalist, or perhaps an artist, which has kept you tied to your homeland, often the subject of your work, even if you don't live there anymore.

Since leaving, you've been back home several times, though not so much for work. Because if you did, you would be followed in cars and receive phone calls to let you know you are being watched.

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This Happened—November 25: Death Of A Communist Icon

This Happened—November 25: Death Of A Communist Icon

After winning a revolution, and ruling for almost half a century, Fidel Castro dies at the age of 90.

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Who was Fidel Castro?

The bearded face of Communism in Cuba and beyond, Fidel Castro reigned from 1959 to 2008 as Prime Minister and President of the island nation.

Castro had led a successful Communist revolution against the oppressive U.S.-backed Batista regime. His administration nationalized Cuba’s industries, putting an end to private ownership. He was a self-proclaimed “socialist, and Marxist–Leninist" who believed strongly in converting Cuba - along with the rest of the world - from a capitalist system in which individuals own the means of production into a socialist system in which the means of production are owned by the state and workers.

Why was Fidel Castro controversial?

After the U.S. repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to end Castro’s early rule with a series of assassination attempts, embargos, and the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion, Castro aligned more closely with the Soviet Union, allowing them to build missile launch sites on the island less than 90 miles away from the U.S., solidifying him as a sure enemy of Washington.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro was reportedly enraged when the Soviet Union agreed to disarm, rather than fire its nuclear weapons at the U.S.

When did Fidel Castro Die?

The 90-year old former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Council of State, Fidel Castro died of natural causes at 10:29 p.m. on Nov. 25, 2016.