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[Detail] Fishermen. Key West, Florida

Dance | Folktales | Morality Tales | Lectors in the Cigar Factory

Lectors in the Cigar Factory

"Gallito el Torero" (Gallito the Bullfighter), Parts I and II, is a Spanish story about a bootblack who became a bullfighter. Although storyteller Martin Noriega asserted that the story was factual, it is actually based on an old Spanish novel that was read to cigar makers by lectors in the factories in Cuba and Florida.

Until about 1930, lectors (lectores in Spanish) read to workers in the cigar factories, who rolled cigars by hand. The lectors worked without amplification, so they had to be able to project their voices. They read newspapers, news from the labor unions, and novels. The workers themselves chipped in to pay the lectors' salary. Although most of the workers were uneducated, they listened as the lectors read great and challenging works of literature.

  • Why do you think the factory workers were willing to donate part of their wages to pay the lector? What were the benefits of having a lector in the factory?
  • One of the factors that led to the demise of the lector was factory owners' disapproval. Why do you think the factory owners disapproved of the lectors? Do you think their disapproval was justified?
  • Another factor that led to the demise of the lector was mechanization of the cigar-making process. How would mechanization have affected the lector's work?
  • Do you think that having lectors would be a good idea in any kind of workplace today? Why or why not?