With a Stroke of the Chaveta

With a Stroke of the Chaveta /
Con el toque de la chaveta

Directed and produced in 2007 by Pam Sporn
28 minutes
Spanish with English subtitles

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Con el toque de la chaveta is a poetic documentary short (28 minutes) that leaves us wondering where to draw the line between "worker" and "intellectual."

From the middle of the 1800s to the early 1900s lectores, or readers, were an integral part of the world of cigar workers in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Florida, and New York. Through "la lectura," or reading, communities of cigar workers were entertained, educated, and developed a sense of class solidarity.

The voice of the cigar makers’ beloved lector is but a whisper in most places. How has the tradition of factory readings survived in Cuba?

Con el toque de la chaveta (With a Stroke of the Chaveta) takes viewers into the legendary cigar factories of Cuba to witness the unique practice of "la lectura de tabaquería", the collective reading of literature while tabaqueros roll habanos. From "lectores" Odalys, Aguila and Gricel we learn about the challenges of meeting the expectations of a knowledgeable and demanding workforce and the satisfaction of receiving the applause of hundreds of "chavetas" in unison. Cigar makers inform us that they can't imagine working without a reader to accompany them.

Festival Screenings and Prizes

  • First Prize: Festival del Habano Film Festival, Havana, 2012
  • Best Documentary Short: Cine Las Americas Film Festival, Austin,Texas, 2008
  • Festival internacional del nuevo cine latinoamericano, Havana
  • Maysles Cinema, Harlem, NY
  • Chicago International Latino Film Festival
  • London International Documentary Film Festival
  • Gasparilla Film Festival, Tampa, Florida
  • Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival


Partially funded by a research grant from the CUNY/Caribbean Exchange Program at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, City University of the City of New York.