Photo from

Since 1865 torcedores, cigar rollers in Cuba have been being read to as they work. The lectores sit on a raised platform or a high chair and read from newspapers, magazines and books.

The Economist‘s story focusses on the H. Upmann factory in Havana, where their lector has read them The Count of Monte Cristo three times since she started working there in 1992. (Montecristo is one of their cigar brands.)

This short (fictional) film focusses on the troubles of a lector in Ybor City, Florida in 1924 dealing with the threat of radio. His edition of Robert Louis Stevenson looks suspiciously like a modern Barnes & Noble de luxe edition to me.

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According to the Economist piece today’s Cuban lectores have coopted radio to broadcast their readings to cigar workers in other departments, those containing despalilladoras, rezagadores and escjedores who work in rooms other than the one in which the lector sits. There are still about 200 lectores at work, and UNESCO is considering making them part of Cuba’s cultural heritage.

Sure beats “Music while you work”, the background noise to mill work in my youth.