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A Comprehensive History
of the Cigar


When Marco Polo, Vasco de Gama, Cortes, Sir Walter Raleigh and Christopher Columbus roamed the high seas, the European sailing ships made Puerto Rico the expected supply stop. Here, among other things, the sailors and traders found fresh water, fruits, vegetables, tobacco and sugar.

The early explorers found the indigenous population cultivating, blending, rolling and smoking tobacco. Europeans had never seen tobacco rolled into tubes for smoking. The natives of the region called the whole process sik’ar, which was then taken immediately into the Spanish Language as cigarro. Snuff was all the rage in Europe in the 1450’s. With the arrival of cigarros, Puerto Rican tobacco became the ultimate luxury of the royalty in Europe for almost two hundred years! More than half the shipping tonnage between 1460 and 1660 contained cigars from Puerto Rico.

As cigarros made their way through the castles and courtyards of Europe, the beggars in Seville began the practice of taking up the discarded cigar butts, stripping them down and rolling the remnant tobacco in small pieces of paper calling the result papaletas. The pitifully poor French population copied the practice, calling their end product cigarettes . You should know that cigars can not be made from modern cigarette tobacco.

Sir Walter Raleigh brought back tobacco from Puerto Rico to London where he began the famous company which still bears his name. The luxurious tradition of cigar smoking was brought to North America with the arrival of some of the first European settlers in approximately 1650. Since then, the smoking of cigars has evolved a global sense of tradition. Last year in the U.S. alone, 13.4 billion cigars were sold at an average price of seven dollars each.

From 1900 until 1927 Puerto Rico produced around 35 million tons of tobacco a year. The Hoja Prieto has always been the most important of the plants grown here. It is primarily the most flavorful wrapper leaf grown in the world. The Hoja Prieto was used exclusively on the best premium cigars made in the world. Record exports were made as late as 1957 to North America, England, Spain, France, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and other main cigar making areas of the world. Until that time, Puerto Rico was the fifth largest exporter of tobacco in the world after the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela and Africa.

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