I am typing this as we are flying over the Gulf of Mexico, making our way back to Florida. The last three days have been not just a trip to a cigar factory but an immersion into an amazing culture. Of course cigars were the focal point but we also got a lesson in art.
One only needs to drive through the streets of Estelí to quickly realize that the people here love color in their lives. Graffiti adorns the walls of most buildings but this isn’t from unwanted lawless activity. It is part of the culture and expected of the local artists to paint these impromptu murals.
Art is a huge part of what Drew Estate does, so much that they have created a place for local artist to work. Subculture Studio is located on the Drew Estate property right next door to the factory. It is here that many talented artists created wonderful works of art, not only to adorn cigar boxes, but countless other objects.
The head of this “mad scientist laboratory” is a gentlemen named Jessi Flores. His life story is certainly worth publishing. Jessi turned an accidental meeting in which he physically bumped into Jonathan Drew, into an art career that allows him to express himself and make money in the process.
It’s funny when you hear the term struggling artist here in the United States. That term takes on a whole new meaning in a city like Estelí. What Subculture Studio has done is give many of these poor graffiti and other street artists a chance to earn a living while sharing their talent with all of us. It is truly an amazing thing to see for yourself and I don’t think Drew Estate gets enough credit for their contributions to the Nicaraguan art community.
Jessi and his crew are often asked to paint murals in town. Their artwork, though closely associated with Drew Estate cigars and valued by loyal smokers, stand on their own accord.
I am very glad I got to spend a few days with Jessi and hear him speak about his art and what it means to him. I know he is thankful that he bumped into Jonathan that day, but he isn’t the only one. For all who love his work and that of his artists, we are equally blessed.
It was a great a great trip and I certainly look forward to returning next year. We went for the cigars, the education, the art, but most importantly the companionship with our friends from Nicaragua. All of the folks at Drew Estate are wonderful and if you ever have the chance to go, don’t pass it up.
Chris Gwaltney, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Certified Tobacconist
Follow me on Twitter @abccigarchris