Cuban Exile Cigar maker Gilberto Leon


    Gilberto Leon at his cigar-rolling station in 2002.
    Leon and two assistants made about 600 cigars each day, and
    prices ranged from about $3 to $6.

    Leon learned to roll cigars as a
    teenager in the factories of his
    native Havana. “We were poor.
    You had to learn to do something,
    and that’s what I learned,” Leon
    said in a 2002 interview.
    Hand-rolled cigars on a wooden press.
    Leon opened his 6th Street shop in Los
    Angeles in 1979. The small, crowded
    space had tobacco leaves stacked on old
    desks, a wooden counter and a tight work
    space where he rolled cigars.

    A fresh bundle of handmade cigars
    at Leon's shop in Los Angeles. He
    bought tobacco grown from Cuban
    seeds in Mexico, the Dominican
    Republic and Central America.
    Gilberto Leon fires up one of his creations for a friend.

    Leon closes his 6th Street shop for the day in
    2002, carrying a machete he kept for protection
    but never had to use.
    Gilberto Leon, 87, died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los
    Angeles, a family member said.