The tobacco plant originally came from South America.Even though it is impossible to state exactly when it was brought to the largest island in the Antilles, it can be said that that happened between 3000 and 2000 B.C.The aborigines considered tobacco a miraculous medicine and an essential element in their religious, political and social ceremonies. It was a part of their agriculture and an inseparable adjunct of life. Europeans were introduced to this planta source of great physical and spiritual pleasure when they first reached the Americas. It didn’t take long for the Old Continent to develop a veritable passion for it. As was only to be expected, Spain had the most smokers who were also the first to be subjected to terrible punishments for smoking. The habit later spread to Persia, Japan, Turkey and Russia, where the cruelest punishments were established.
Curiously, as bans on smoking gained ground, tobacco was increasingly used for medicinal purposes. On April 11, 1717, King Philip V established a royal monopoly on tobacco-growing in Cuba a decision which has gone down in history as the Estanco del Tabaco. Tobacco-growers who opposed the onerous law lost their lives.
The monopoly remained in effect until June 23, 1817, when a royal decree did away with the monopoly, permitting free trade between Cuba and the rest of the known world as long as it was through Spanish ports. No slaves were used in tobacco-growing.
Sugarcane wasn’t such a delicate crop, and slaves could be used in its cultivation and harvesting, but as Jose Marti said, tobacco plants had to be handled as carefully as if they were fine ladies. Immigrants from the Canary Islands worked in the tobacco fields, laying the foundations for a very special breed: Cuban farmers. The 19th century provided the final reaffirmation of Cuba’s tobacco production. In 1859, there were nearly 10,000 tobacco plantations and around 1300 cigar factories in the capital. Cuba entered the 20th century in very precarious condition since the devastating war of independence had just ended.
Tobacco & Cuban Cigars
A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco one end of which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the smoker’s mouth through the other end.
The word cigar is from the Spanish word cigarro, which the Oxford British Dictionary suggests is a variation on cigarra, Spanish for “cicada” due to its shape, especially that of what is now called the perfecto. Other sources have indicated that it may be derived from the Mayan word Sikar, “tobacco.”
Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in such nations as Brazil, Cameron. Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua and the United States of America. Cigars manufactured in Cuba are widely considered to be without peer, although many experts believe that the best offerings from Honduras and Nicaragua rival those from Cuba. The Cuban reputation arises from both the unique characteristics of the Vuelta Abajo region in the Pinar del Rio Province at the west of the island, where a microclimate allows for high-quality tobacco to be grown and the skills of the Cuban cigar makers.