Twin Sisters Started Miami's First Afro-Cuban, Woman-Owned Cigar Company

Twin sisters Yvonne and Yvette Rodriguez are breaking down barriers in the cigar industry. In 2014, they started Miami's first Afro-Cuban, woman-owned cigar company. The sisters say that society still associates the old, white Cuban male when they think of the cigar industry, but they're using their cigar line Tres Lindas Cubanas Cigars to change that and to discuss and express their culture.

Yvonne and Yvette grew up in South Miami Heights where they soaked up all of their cultural influences from their Cuban mother and black Cuban father. They also grew up around their cigar-smoking grandmother who always sat in her rocking chair at the end of the day, discussing feminism and black power.

After high school, the sisters attended Miami Dade College then the University of Florida where they received degrees in journalism. They both worked in the journalism field for years before deciding to tackle a business venture they were both passionate about.

Through their cigar line, Yvonne and Yvette offer three signature cigars: “La clarita” — which means fair-skinned — and is light-medium bodied; “la mulata,” which means mixed black/white as is medium-full; and “la negrita” means black which is their strongest, full-bodied cigar.

“As women in a male-driven industry, it was more of a shock to the men when we would walk into a cigar shop,” Yvette told the Miami New Times. “I embrace the shock.”

Their line of cigars can be found in a number of cigar shops, but Yvonne and Yvette still get some skeptical looks and condescending advice from their colleagues and shop owners. They even get questions about whether they actually know what's in their cigars. But these two women have done their research and thrive off the skepticism.

“Even to this day, they don't think we smoke cigars, so imagine I'm trying to sell it,” Yvonne says. “We were starting not even at level zero; we were starting at level negative five.”

The two sisters are passionate about their business and about making the Afro-Latino culture more visible in their hometown. They've partnered with other Afro-Latino family businesses such as On Cuba Travel to offer rum and cigar tours. They can also be found speaking at Miami-area high schools and volunteering with Women of Tomorrow where they mentor at-risk teenage girls.

Despite other people's doubts, their business has slowly grown and their cigar line can be found in cigar shops from Chicago to Baltimore to Atlanta. Their cigar line has helped spread the word about Cuban tobacco to black consumers.

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