Owner, Cien Fuegos Pipe and Cigar shop
Age: ‘old for quite a while now’
* Editors note: Alejandro passed away some years after this interview of multiple sclerosis. His family still runs Cien Fuegos. May he Rest in Peace.
Q: Being in the heart of San Telmo do you get a lot of international visitors here?
Yes, I get people from the USA, lots from Brazil, Italy and France – all over.
• You’re right here in the middle of the San Telmo Street Fair. What do you think of the city’s crack down on the illegal vendors who set up on the street?
I don’t have a problem with the artists selling their things. Part of it has to do with the problem of unemployment. But if you look at streets like Florida, a lot of the vendors are not even selling handmade items.
It all started after the economy crashed in 2001. People discovered Buenos Aires, but those of us that live here had already discovered it, there is an impact on the neighborhood. It’s not the tourists themselves — it’s the ambiance that is generated around tourism. There just has to be certain limits, if the vendors park themselves right in front of the entrance of my store and no one can get in, then it gets to be too much.
• What is the best cigar to buy?
The Vegas Robaina, at $74, it’s the best cigar for the money.
• You smoke a pipe, a lot of people who smoke pipes seem to have a certain Hemingway-esque style. How does one become a pipe puffer and is there a pipe smoker personality?
Well, people arrive at smoking a pipe via various paths, but 95% of the people who smoke a pipe probably remember a grandfather that smoked a pipe.
There’s not a personality type for the pipe smoker per se, but perhaps those who smoke a pipe are more reflexive types, because you have to sit down and take the time to prepare the pipe to smoke. It’s not like a cigarette where you can smoke one after the other and not even recall how many you smoked.
• How many years do you think smoking takes off your life?
It all depends on how much you smoke. The concept here is quality of life versus quantity. You could live a long time and have a horrible life, but what’s the point? You have to enjoy life. If people want to smoke they should – part of life is learning the balance, to do things you enjoy in moderation.
• What’s the best restaurant in the ‘Republic of San Telmo’?
El Refugio de los Gallegos.