In Yoruba, Yvette and Yvonne Rodriguez are called, ibeji, a name for twins.
Ibeji are considered to come to this world in a divine birth in the traditions of the West African people.
It is through a special message by a Santeria priest that the Rodriguez sisters were told that they carried a special task. During a spiritual reading the priest told them of their intertwined fate would lead them to carry on their Cuban heritage.
12 years later, the Afro-Cuban morenas who don afros operate, Tres Lindas Cubanas Cigars, a cigar line retailing in the south, mid-west and east coast.
The first black-woman-owned cigar company (they share the venture with two African-American men), the sisters deal with a male-dominant industry that often attempts to undermine or over look their venture. The sisters laugh because they walk with their foremothers.
The Rodriguez sisters grew up in Miami with a cigar-smoking grandmother named Esperanza and a prim and proper, Dade County Suburbanite mother.
After college, the twins entered into media, Yvonne worked at Telemundo then Yvette worked briefly as a reporter then left for a career in PR.
When they decided to pursue a cigar bar, the sisters went to their Cuban roots. While in Cuba on a visit to a cigar factory, they discovered that black women deveined the tobacco leaves. In the bars, black women rolled the fat puros distinctive to the island.
Taking the name, Tres Lindas Cubanas, is an ode to their grandmother and mom, and a time they sang Cuban melodies and danced to the salsa music of their youth.
Their brand uses high quality tobacco leaves to blend three signature cigars: the La Negrita, La Mulata and La Clarita, all different shades of women of African descent who often go invisible in Cuba.
A line targeting the growing group of black cigar smokers in the U.S., the pair work to collaborate with a Cuban travel company to conduct cigar tours.