Caribbean, islands in the stream








Turks & Caycos
Dominican Republic
Puerto Rico
Virgin Islands
Leeward Islands
French Antilles
Windward Islands
Trinidad & Tobago
Dutch Antilles


By Charles Fernandez

We do not know exactly when tobacco was grown and smoked for the first time, but we know it was in the Caribbean and Central America. The first records of tobacco use come from the Maya. As the various tribes migrated they took the custom with them.
The etymology of the word Tobacco may derive from the island of Tobago or from the Mexican province of Tabasco. From the Mayan word sikar signifying the ceremony of smoking came the Spanish "Cigarro." Finally the Caribbean Taino’s called the tobacco plant “Cohiba." which became the name of a most prestigious brand of Cuban cigars.
Indigenous North and Central American cultures viewed smoking as a religious and socializing event. The shamans often invoked smoke spirits that emanated from sacred pipes. Cigars and cigarettes came much later. In the sixteenth century the fashion of smoking blazed in Spain and Portugal. It became a status symbol expressing wealth and power. Smoke and smoking were incorporated into Christian rites.

Caribbean, islands in the stream: Cigar

The practice came to France through its Ambassador to Portugal Jean Nicot, from whose name derived the word nicotine. In England the adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh reserved rooms in the best clubs for smokers. A special "Smoking Jacket was created for British nobles so as to not contaminate their expensive clothes,
The trade in Tobacco greatly enriched Spain. For more than100 years, all the tobacco coming into the European markets passed through the Seville monopoly where it was prepared and where the first cigars were packed for shipment to the rest of the continent.
The best tobacco came from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras. But the saga of the cigar is linked inextricably to Cuba.
Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara were always pictured with their favorites. Fidel was faithful to the Cohiba, while Che preferred to smoke large sizes in assorted brands, including Montecristo, H. Upmann, and Partagas. For Ernesto "Che" Guevara, cigar smoking was not a luxury but very much a part of the business of revolution, a spiritual complement to lessen the hardships of a life filled with difficulties.
Prior to the Revolution Cuba was a world capital of luxury, gambling, and pleasure for the rich, Cuban cigars became the clearest symbol of this sybaritic set. Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Ernest Hemingway, and Frank Sinatra were living advertisements of Cuban Cigar machismo.
Winston Churchill's favorite cigar brands included Romeo y Julieta cigars and (the no longer available) La Aroma de Cuba. With cigar consumption from age 21 to 91 of between 6 and 10 cigars a day, Sir Winston was estimated to have smoked more than 150,000 cigars.

Caribbean, islands in the stream: Che Gue Vara Caribbean, islands in the stream: Fidel Castro Caribbean, islands in the stream: Winston Churchill Caribbean, islands in the stream: John Kennedy

When he was around 90, a journalist asked him: Sir, what is the secret of your long life?
The memorable the answer was: first, no sport. Second, cigars and whiskey, my dear.
JFK secured an ample lifetime supply of his favorite “Puros” before signing the Cuban embargo. He did not live long enough to enjoy his stash of 1200.
Former Presidents Ulysses Grant and Abraham Lincoln never surrendered their "Puros" even when Grant suffered from throat cancer he continued to smoke.
The Cuban cigar industry was nationalized in 1960. At the time it was the islands second largest export industry. Many top executives and cigar experts left Cuba for nearby Santo Domingo, Miami, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Numerous historical brands went out of business and quality suffered. Facing a financial disaster, Castro called the renowned expert Zino Davidoff to revitalize this important sector of Cuban industry. Today the market is flourishing with Cuban Cigars exported all over the world except for United States where because of the ongoing embargo they are only available from smugglers and their co-conspirators who charge an untaxed premium for the world’s premium cigars.