El Mago, which translates to ‘The Wizard’, was inspired by a couple who created magic from the little opportunity that life first offered them - my grandparents, Maria and Gonzalo Torre. The first two letters from each of their names is what brought the name Mago to life. My grandparents, whom I called Babi and Pepe, died together on June 24, 2021, in Miami, FL, when their building, The Champlain Towers, suddenly collapsed in the middle of the night. It is my honor to keep their legacy alive and share their story through a tradition that was passed down from one generation to the next.
The Cuban tradition of cigar smoking was passed down to me from my grandparents. My grandmother was known as a master roller and my grandfather jokingly claimed he was a “master smoker”. In classic Cuban-Miami fashion, my grandfather would smoke a cigar at the front desk of his hotel every day. On my many occasions, I would join him in smoking a Cuban-style cigar, drinking Cuban coffee, telling jokes, and sharing stories.
I created this brand to commemorate their incredible life journey, which spanned across five different countries, ultimately in search of a better life for their family. Together, my grandparents journeyed from Cuba to what used to be Czechoslovakia, to Canada, to Venezuela, and finally to Miami, which became their home.
Pepe first escaped from Cuba on supposed military orders to Czechoslovakia, a clever lie he came up with that could have led to dire consequences. Upon arriving, my grandfather become an engineering student at a local Czechoslovakian university where he met my grandmother and quickly fell in love.
They began their adult lives, after getting married in their college dormitory hall in 1965, with incredible odds stacked against them. Many newlyweds nowadays are worried about planning a proper honeymoon, but for my grandparents, they worried about escaping communism.
My grandparents quickly became exhausted by the oppressive communist regimes in both Cuba and Czechoslovakia and were able to escape after being granted asylum in Canada in 1968. With two babies and another on the way and only $100 to their name, my grandparents began the next chapter of their lives. My grandpa used to recount, with tears in his eyes, that the airport security guard could see their struggle and gave them some money as they entered a brand-new country in which they couldn’t speak the language.
Babi & Pepe started off working in Canada as a janitor and a librarian for several years, until an opportunity came up in Venezuela where they were able to utilize their college degrees. My grandfather worked as a metallurgic engineer and my grandmother was a schoolteacher of Geology. After years of immense perseverance and hard work, they were both promoted to Managing Director and Principal, accordingly. As they experienced twice before, they saw the economic decline in Venezuela rapidly approaching and were forced to move once again.
By 1984, my grandparents moved their family to Miami in what later became their permanent home in the Champlain Towers. It was here where my grandfather invested in what is now the most eclectic/Art Deco-styled hotel in Miami Beach: The James Hotel, which is proudly depicted on our cigar label. My grandfather owned and operated this hotel for over 30 years with the help of his wife, children, and grandchildren. The rest of their days were well-spent in this beautiful city, where they enjoyed the company of their 3 children and 6 grandchildren.
Shortly before their passing, in a moment of triumph and elation, my grandmother turned to my grandfather and said, “We made it” as they broke down in tears and embraced each other. This very moment was the culmination of their extraordinary life story…they had succeeded against all odds.
El Mago is an ode to their love, life journey, and incredible legacy.
- Nicolas Fusco, C.E.O and grandson