|Tobacco and Cuban cigars are a profitable combo.|
The word " cigar " originates from Mayan civilization that used 'sikar' or 'cikar' to mean "smoke". Its major component is tobacco which Mayans traded with fellow Indians from Caribbean islands, including Cuba.
Centuries later, in the midst of European hegemony, tobacco became a valuable cash crop. Mattoon Curtis, in The Book of Snuff and Snuff Boxes (1980), notes that: "Tobacco's first speedy conquest was the maritime world, then the great port cities, and finally the Church and State capitals of the world."
Different uses of tobacco
Different uses of tobacco
Civilizations during pre-Hispanic America were the first cultivators and consumers of tobacco. Between 2000 BC and 987 AC, it was planted in Chiapas, Campeche, Yucanta, Guatemala, and Honduras. Ernesto Montero's Tobacco as a Medication (n.d.), describes how the Mayans, the Aztecs, Brazil's Aracunas, Colombia's Huitotos, and other Native American Indian tribes used it as part of their diet and/or to treat diseases and to ward off insects and pests. Furthermore, according to Curtis (1980), early American Indians used tobacco:
- to restore physical and mental energy;
- to prevent hunger, thirst, and fatigue;
- as a ceremonial item in religious, civil and social events (e.g., birth, marriage, and funeral);
- to please gustatory and olfactory senses;
- as a narcotic and as a stimulant; and
- as a medium of exchange or barter.
The cigars' introduction to the world market
Rodrigo de Perez and Luis de Torres were among Christopher Columbus' crew during his journey in 1492. They first encountered tobacco in the Bahamas and saw it again in Cuba. Columbus brought tobacco leaves and seeds when he returned to Europe. De Torres was said to have been jailed for sorcery when he lit tobacco leaves in 1493. Later, in 1501, de Perez was tried by the Inquisition as well.
Spain was the first state that produced and marketed cigars (cigarro), followed by Portugal. It colonized Cuba in 1511. The following year, Nicolas Monardes published De Hierba Panacea, the first book on tobacco. By 1521, Spanish forces took control of a Southeast Asian archipelago which they later baptized Philippines in honor of then King Philip II. Upon converting many natives to Roman Catholicism, they appropriated vast lands for themselves and Christian missionaries, consequently marginalizing Islam and existing Muslim communities. Around 1530, tobacco was used in African slave trading.
Decades after, it became popular among Europeans. Spain monopolized tobacco trading in 1557. Jean Nicot de Villemain popularized it in 1560 when he cured the migraine headaches of Queen Catalina de Medici (or her son, Francis II, according to some sources). As a tribute to Nicot's achievement, Jean Liebault gave tobacco the scientific name Nicotiana Tobacum when he published Agriculture and the Rustic House in 1567.
Expanding tobacco's market reach
Based on Curtis's accounts (1980), tobacco became a globalized commodity by 1575. The Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade (1565-1815) helped fuel Spain's domination of the New World. The Spaniards exported goods, most notably tobacco, to its colonies in 1592. In the Philippines, Catholic clerics were the ones who cultivated tobacco plantations.
Around 1600s, tobacco smuggling occurred in Cuba, prompting the Spanish government to decree a cease on tobacco production. It was during this period, in 1612, when European colonist John Rolf started a tobacco plantation in Virginia, over a century before the United States (US) gained its independence. Rolf exported the crop to England.
In spite of the legal prohibition, the smuggling of Cuban tobacco continued. Havana cigar production in England and Germany was recorded between 1760 and 1788. During this period, in 1762, Israel Putnam brought back Cuban cigars and tobacco seeds to Connecticut which saw the rise of early cigar factories in North America. This development coincides with the Tobacco Monopoly in the Philippines from 1776 to 1880. Large-scale commercialization of Havana cigars was also recorded between 1790 and 1797, starting with factories in the mountain range of Pyrenees, as well as in France and Germany.
Years after becoming a union in early 1800s, the US witnessed tobacco's use for pipe smoking and for chewing. John Rolf also ventured into producing Havana cigars. In 1820, not only did Britain manufacture the same item, but they also imposed an import tax that made foreign cigars expensive. It was also the year when Spain finally allowed Cuba to trade its cigars to other countries, further boosting their presence in the international market.
In late 1800s, Compania General de la Tabacos de Filipinas in the Philippines was established. Now known as La Flor de la Isabela (The Flower of Isabela), it is regarded as the first cigar factory in Asia Pacific. It was also within this period when James Buchanan Duke invented a machine to produce cheap cigarettes to counter pricey cigars. Almost a century later, Cuba gradually adopted machines to manufacture cigars. This development adversely affected the production of handmade cigars.
- Borio, Gene. 2003. Tobacco Timeline. (accessed November 10, 2010).
- Boriss, Hayley; Kreith, Marcia; and Geisler, Malinda. 2010. Tobacco. Agricultural Issues Center, University of California. (accessed November 9, 2010).
- CigarOne Cuban Cigars. (accessed November 10, 2010).
- Cigars. A Bit of History. (accessed November 11, 2010).
- Cigars Magazine. The History Timeline. (accessed November 11, 2010).
- Cuba-Junky. Cuba and Cigars. (accessed November 11, 2010).
- Cuban Cigars History. (accessed November 9, 2010).
- De Jesus, Edilberto C. 1980. The Tobacco Monopoly in the Philippines: Bureaucratic Enterprise and Social Change, 1776-1880. Ateneo de Manila University Press. (accessed November 16, 2010).
- Fox, Stuart. 2010. “Why Are Cuban Cigars Considered the Best?”. Life's Little Mysteries. April 20. (accessed November 9, 2010).
- La Flor de Isabela. (accessed November 9, 2010).
- Perry, Joseph M. et al. 1998. The Cuban Cigar Industry as the Transition Approaches. (accessed November 9, 2010).
- Rarick, Charles A. 2008. Note on the Premium Cigar Industry. Andreas School of Business, Barry University. (accessed November 9, 2010).
- Samson's Cuban Cigars. (accessed November 11, 2010).