top of page

Menendez & Amerino History

The history of Menendez family of emigration and perseverance.

Alonso Menendez

It all began in the 1930s when Alonso Menendez, along with José Manuel Garcia Gonzalez, founded Menendez Garcia Sociedade Ltda. in Cuba.


A successful journey in cigar manufacturing commenced with the launch of the Monte Cristo brand, which to this day remains one of the most renowned "Premium" cigar brands in the world. Years later, they acquired the H. Upmann brand, making them the largest producers and exporters of cigars in Cuba.


With the downfall of Fulgêncio Batista in 1959, Fidel Castro came to power and in 1960, he nationalized the Cuban economy, initiating the confiscation process. The Menendez family had their factory and assets seized, leaving them with no choice but to go into exile. The family moved to the Canary Islands (Spain), and Alonso and his sons, Benjamin and Félix, founded Cia Insular Tabacalera, continuing the cigar production activity that had begun in Cuba.

Benjamin Menendez

In 1961, there was an economic embargo on Cuba, and the family could no longer access Cuban tobacco. They began to "research" raw materials from other sources. This is how Alonso Menendez discovered Bahia/Brazilian tobacco.


The partnership between the Menendez family and Bahian tobacco led to an invitation from Mário Amerino Portugal to form a partnership.


In 1977, Benjamin and Mario Amerino Portugal founded Menendez Amerino & Cia Ltda in São Gonçalo dos Campos, Bahia.


In 1985, Benjamin Menendez went to the Dominican Republic to assume the Vice Presidency of General Cigar, at that time the largest cigar manufacturer in the world. Félix took over as the general manager of the factory.

Félix Menendez

Félix was born in the city of Havana, Cuba, on May 29, 1944. His education was split between Cuba and the United States. He began working in his father's company at the age of 13, graduated in accounting, and later worked for Companhia Insular Tabacalera, which was also owned by his family.


He was a cultured and sophisticated man who made a significant difference in the tobacco industry in Bahia, leaving an immeasurable legacy in the premium Bahian cigar.


In 1979, Félix and his entire family moved to São Gonçalo dos Campos, Bahia, where he took on the role of industrial manager.

"In Bahia, I felt like I was back in Cuba, mainly because of the warmth of the people, their colors, and a culture similar to my home country. In reality, I was a Bahian born in Havana."

Arturo Toraño

Arturo Eliseo Toraño, born on June 14, 1935, in Havana, Cuba, was a Cuban naturalized American. He began working in tobacco farming and in the family-owned warehouse at the age of 14.


After leaving Cuba, he worked in the tobacco industry in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Jamaica, always in the cultivation and fermentation areas. In Brazil, he worked for the Empresa Agro Comercial Fumageira S/A.


He started working at Menendez Amerino in 1978, focusing on tobacco processing, and is currently the Master Blend of the company. He added attributes to the product that made it a reference in the tobacco world, especially due to his dedication to perfection in the processes of selection, classification, fermentation, and maturation of tobacco, fundamental aspects in the production of a "Premium" cigar

Mário Amerino Portugal

Mario Portugal, who at the time was the largest exporter of this type of tobacco in Brazil, came from a family with a century-old tradition in the industry and had valuable information about the tobacco grown in the Recôncavo Baiano. This commercial relationship gave rise to a strong friendship, which culminated in an invitation in 1976 for Benjamin and his family to come and live in Brazil, bringing along a team of Cuban technicians. They brought seeds, equipment, and the tradition of cigar production from their home country. On April 22, 1977, Menendez Amerino Ltda. began its activities in São Gonçalo dos Campos.


The choice of the city of São Gonçalo dos Campos for the factory's installation was not by chance. It was a decision made by Benjamin and Félix Menendez based on information gathered from Mario Amerino Portugal and visits to producers in Cachoeira, São Félix, Cruz das Almas, Muritiba, and Maragogipe, where they observed that the region already had a tradition of cigar making using a traditional Bahian method called "lagartixa," which involved filling using a completely destemmed half-leaf. They decided that the Cuban process, which uses the "sapo" technique, a partially destemmed and folded leaf, would be better. Since São Gonçalo did not have a factory, the local workforce was trained by Cuban cigar makers, facilitated by the absence of an existing practice.

bottom of page