As someone who grew up in a Cuban household in Miami surrounded by Cubans, the scent of violets is as prominent in my childhood memories as the scent of black beans cooking in the olla de presión (pressure cooker). My house and every single other Cuban house in our circle of family and friends with a baby or a small child had a bottle of Agua de Violetas. Back then, it seemed like every Cuban American baby in South Florida smelled of violets and to this day, that tradition continues.
The story of Agua de Violetas is quite an interesting one. The tradition of spritzing all babies with this violet cologne began in Cuba, but the cologne and the Cuban company that produced it soon made it to Miami with the rest of the exile community.
Agua de Violetas: A Familiar Fragrance With An Untold Story
If you grew up in Miami and are of Hispanic descent, chances are high that you smelled like violets as a baby and sometimes beyond your childhood years.
The tradition started in Havana almost 90 years ago when a man named Agustin Reyes developed the first violet-scented cologne in Cuba.
The fragrance was not intended to become a baby cologne but the light, fresh scent became popular among Cuban mothers, who doused their infants in the mixture.
“It was difficult. Sure, at the beginning people didn’t understand it. You know, it was ‘what is this? What do you use it for? Perfume for babies,” said Agustin Reyes III, who currently runs the business his grandfather established, from a plant in Hialeah.
A year after Castro’s revolution took effect, the Reyes family fled the communist island with the formula covertly in hand.
Once settled in Miami, they reestablished the business with the fragrance that had brought them success on the island nation.
Word of mouth quickly spread among the Cuban exile community and Agustin Reyes, Inc. enjoyed newfound success, picking up on a tradition that went on to become iconic in the Cuban culture and beyond.
Decades later, the shelves at most Miami drug stores remain stocked with more than ten brands of the fragrance.
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