Cigars have a long and interesting history. They have been around for well over a thousand years, although not in their present form. Wikipedia defines a cigar as being a tightly wound bundle of tobacco that is ignited so that the smoke can be drawn into the mouth. This was, in fact, all that cigars were for many years. They are thought to have been invented by the ancient Mayans, who wrapped the tobacco in either palm or plantain leaves. In fact, an ancient Mayan pot from the 10th century depicts a Mayan man smoking one of these primitive cigars. While this clearly demonstrates that smoking was common at this time, it is not known just when the Mayans discovered the tobacco plant and its ability to be used for smoking purposes.
Christopher Columbus and his men were the first Westerners to encounter tobacco in recorded history. Local Indians introduced the tobacco plant to Columbus’ men through trade. One of Columbus’ lieutenants was particularly drawn to primitive cigar smoking and smoked every single day on the long journey back home.
Smoking caught on and became quite popular in Spain and Portugal. The French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot, made cigar smoking popular back in his home country; in fact, the word nicotine is derived from this man’s name. Cigar smoking then spread to Italy and other European nations. By this time, Spanish manufacturers had developed the art of wrapping dried tobacco in specialized papers instead of leaves, thus making smoking a refined art. While some rulers such as King Phillip II of Spain and King James I of England denounced smoking as being evil, the cigar grew in popularity as companies started growing tobacco for commercial consumption.
While most European cigars were originally manufactured in Spain, it was not long before the Spanish found that Cuba was the ideal place to grow tobacco. This country’s climate is in fact ideal for growing this plant, which explains why Cuban cigars have become famous the world over. When Spain originally tried to completely dominate and monopolize the cigar industry, many cigar manufacturers moved to Key West, Florida. Other manufacturers instead opted to grow tobacco in the Philippines, which was at the time a Spanish colony.