Life has afforded us many important occasions to enjoy the luxury of a good cigar. New parents hand out cigars when babies are born. People who acquire new jobs may celebrate with a cigar. Some people feel is a status symbol to smoke one after dinner while sipping a glass of brandy.
While it is not known when the first cigar was made, the history of tobacco is a long one going back at least two thousand years. It was first cultivated by the Maya people on the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. When their civilization fell apart, they took tobacco to South American and North America where it was used in the traditions of the Indians of Mississippi.
With the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492, smoking was introduced to Europeans. Two of his sailors reported that the Cuban Indians were smoking tobacco leaves rolled up in palm or plantain leaves. Perhaps this was the description of the first cigar. It wasn’t long before they were smoking tobacco too as did the Spanish and early colonists who arrived in America later. It wasn’t long until tobacco was introduced to Spain and Portugal by the Conquistadors and later to England by Sir Walter Raleigh. The first tobacco plantations began in Virginia in 1612 and Maryland in 1631. Tobacco was only smoked in pipes by the colonists in those times. It wasn’t until after 1760 that cigars were first smoked. A returning British army officer returned to his home in Connecticut taking with him a supply of Cuban tobacco leaves. He would later go on and grow tobacco from Cuban seed and start manufacturing cigars in Hartford in the 1820s.
Cigar smoking became popular in the United States during the Civil War. A general term for them was Havana since the best cigars were made from Cuban tobacco. The peasant tobacco growers in Cuba became the industrial working class that started an institution that has lasted from 1865 until today.
With the struggle for independence from Spain in the last part of the 19th century, many of the cigar producers left Cuba and settled in the United States where they started factories in Tampa and Key West in Florida as well as in Jamaica. Later, in 1961, Camacho Cigars was established in Florida when Simon Camacho, cigar maker was exiled by Fidel Castro. He became very successful and even sold cigars to British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
After the embargo was placed on Cuba by the American government, many Cuban cigar factory owners left Cuba to start up their factories again in Mexico, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Although the makers used many of the same names as in Cuba, the cigars bore no resemblance to the Cuban ones in terms of flavor. These new factories, especially the Dominican Republic has been the recipient of vast sums of money invested by the United States over the years to enhance the quality of hand-rolled cigars which had become very popular in the United States.
Cuba is not the only country that has produced fine cigars over the years. Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Nicaragua have all become experts at making the fine rolled hand-made cigars enjoyed by many in the world today. The new owners of Camacho Cigars, the Eiroa Family which had been growing tobacco in Cuba since 1900, the same company that started in Florida in 1961, sells its products to the United States and many other countries in the world.