HAVANA._ Gary Heathcott is a U.S. citizen who has a strong liking for Cuba, her wonderful products and, above all, her people; a fondness that sprang from a close relationship with the Cuban culture and cigars.

Gary Heathcott is a U.S. citizen who has a strong liking for Cuba, her wonderful products and, above all, her people; a fondness that sprang from a close relationship with the Cuban culture and cigars.For Gary, last December 17th‘s announcement about the decision by U.S. and Cuban authorities to work towards a resumption bilateral relations was quite an event.

He attended the 17th edition of the International Cigar Festival (February 23-27 at Havana’s Convention Center) where he served the jury for the Habana sommelier contest, an honorary position he has held for several years.

He was also awarded the 2015 Habano Man of the Year Award in the communications category.

GARY‘S CUBAN TALE

Gary has been coming to Cuba for 24 years.

“Initially my interest was simple curiosity,” he said adding that, himself and his wife, who almost always comes with him, soon felt they should do something to help.

He is a U.S. citizen who steers clear of wars - gourmet food, friendship, and smiles are what motivate him.

The couple has brought a wide variety of items to the island, from medicine to wheelchairs, medical equipment, automobile spare parts, and baseball balls.

The story behind the baseball balls is quite interesting and very special to him.

On one of their trips, as they were walking around the Capitol Building in Havana, Gary and his wife came up with a hilarious idea.

They had some baseballs with them and saw a group of boys playing baseball out in the street with an improvised bat and a rock wrapped in a sock as their ball. Those kids had their first encounter of what would later become a friendship with Gary.

Gary asked the young boys to throw the ball to him. He put it behind his back, took a real Major League Baseball ball out of his pocket and threw that back to them instead.

Since then, the couple has brought more than 1,000 balls for children playing in the streets, simply for the sake of sharing that sensation of happiness and promoting a sport that is very popular both in the United States and in Cuba.

Owner of a public relations firm in Little Rock, Arkansas, Gary has been involved in the business for 41 years. He is very fond of Cuban cigars, which he considers the best in the world due to their unique flavor.

Some years ago he decided to write articles and make documentaries about Cuba; particularly about the Habanos cigars he smokes whenever he comes to the island. Some of his pieces have been published by the famous magazine “Smoke.”

The first of his documentaries is entitled “The Passion of Cigar Rollers,” which shows the cultural aspect of cigar rolling, as expressed in the famous reading sessions at Cuban cigar factories.

He wrote his first article about Cuba in 1999, and then moved on to documentary film making. He has made films about Ernest Hemingway’s stays in Cuba, about special Cuban drinks, rum, mojitos, daiquiris, and about Cuban music.

Gary said he does not necessarily promote Cuban cigars, but features cigar producers and the humble people who put a lot of effort into the making of this highly priced export product.

He is happy and optimistic about the improving relations between the Cuban and U.S. governments as well as its people since he regards Cubans as very friendly and hardworking people.

Gary said he will continue to visit Cuba and “will do everything possible to encourage Americans to visit this country and experience everything it has to offer.“

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