The Big Cigar: Is Tajo Based on a Real Person?

Huey P. Newton is forced to flee the country when he is accused of killing a teenage sex worker. Apple TV+’s ‘The Big Cigar’ follows the events that unfold as Newton tries to save himself from the law by evading capture and his friends from Hollywood come up with the idea of helping him under the pretense of making a fake movie. The easiest way to do it seems to be through the air. If only someone could fly Newton out to Cuba, the problem would be solved in a poof. For this, Bert Schneider seeks out a pilot who he thinks can take on this task. SPOILERS AHEAD

Tajo is a Fictional Character in an Otherwise Real Story

While ‘The Big Cigar’ follows the true story of Huey Newton’s attempts to flee America lest he face charges, go to prison, and die, certain parts of the story have been fictionalized for dramatic effect. The story about the fake film is known rather well, but the here-and-there details of the whole thing had to be concocted, which is where Tajo’s character comes into the picture.

In the end, Newton and his then-girlfriend (later wife), Gwen Fontaine, ended up in Cuba on a boat after a harrowing journey, but it makes sense that they would have explored much easier options before ending up with the only thing they could do. The show explores all these possibilities, which opens the doors to the introduction of characters like Tajo. The idea of taking a private flight to Cuba would certainly have crossed the minds of Newton and Schneider, and the show presents a version of why this idea would not have panned out as they’d expected.

In the series, Schneider seeks out Tajo because, at the time, Newton is too well-known a person, and no random pilot could be called upon to fly him to Cuba. He eventually lands on Tajo, a Cuban, who is perfect for the job because he has made illegal flights to Cuba, running drugs, a hundred times. He is well-versed in carrying packages for money and not asking any questions. But while Schneider trusts him and gives him a lot of money upfront, Newton is not so trusting of the guy. His suspicions are proven right when, on the day they were supposed to leave, Tajo doesn’t show up.

In line with his character, Tajo ends up gambling away the entire money. When he realizes he is in too much trouble, he tries to bribe his way out with information, which will surely create more problems for Huey Newton. Tajo’s unreliability leads to the possibility of even more drama, further heightening the stakes for the protagonist.

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