This Article was written in 1991, and first published in ‘Cigar World’ the trade magazine of Hunters & Frankau Ltd.
It is reproduced by kind permission

Havana Cigars
500th Anniversary
1492 -1992

On 12th October 1492, Christopher Columbus with his tiny fleet of three diminutive craft the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria made land fall in the New World on the island of San Salvador in Eastern Bahamas.

In one of history's more striking errors of navigation, he proclaimed that he had arrived in Japan, a country not visited but chronicled two centuries before by Marco Polo as "Cipango, rich in gold".

Hearing that there was a larger land mass to the South called "Colba", he set out confident that he would soon contact the mighty empire of Cathay where he would present his credentials to the Great Khan.
Instead he sailed into Cuba's Bahia de Gibara and on 29th October landed at a place now known as Baracoa to be met by natives whose simplicity and innocence hardly matched his expectations. Still convinced that the great Empire lay just over the hill he dispatched to the interior Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres.

In mid-November they returned to report that they had explored lands of extreme beauty and had been warmly welcomed by the population, which far from living in golden palaces dwelt in rustic huts made from palm fronds.

Far and away the most remarkable sight they witnessed was reported later by Bartolome de las Casas as it was told to him by Columbus himself:

"On their way, these two Christians came across many people walking through the towns, women and men: all the men had firebrands in their hands and certain herbs to breathe in the smoke, dried herbs enclosed in a certain leaf, also dried, a sort of musket made of paper, like those children make on the feast of the Holy Spirit, lit on one end, while on the other they were drawing or sucking, breathing in that smoke"

Thus the Old World was first introduced to tobacco in its finest form -- the cigar.

Controversy has never been far from tobacco in the intervening 499 years as Rodrigo de Jerez found to his cost when having smoked in public for the first time he was imprisoned for three years by the Spanish Inquisition. Some say that this tradition is continued today by the like of the European Commission but nonetheless tobacco is still with us and those who are involved in its trade have due cause to reflect and celebrate in 1992.

Columbus & Indians