Origin of Tobacco

Most historians believe tobacco originated in America, where it was grown by the indigenous tribes, both in South and North America. A very reasonable hypothesis has it that the plant was first grown in the eastern valleys of the Bolivian Andes, and was brought to Brazil by migrating indigenous tribes, particularly Tupi-Guarany Indians.

In November 1942, Christopher Columbus saw for the first time Indians smoking. According to historians, in 1530, tobacco plants are supposed to have been taken to Europe, and the Royal Family in Portugal started the first plantations for ornamental and medical purposes.

In 1560, Jean Nicot, then French Ambassador in Portugal, upon learning that the plant was a good cure for migraine, sent it to Queen Catherina de Médicis in Paris, who suffered from this ailment. It is believed that the queen acquired the habit of smoking, and was immediately followed by the nobles of the court, from where it spread throughout other European countries, giving origin to powdered tobacco, also referred to as sniff tobacco.

In just one century it came to be known and used in the entire world, expanding in two manners: the first, through sailors and soldiers, as tobacco was a good pastime during the long voyages; the second, through Portuguese expeditions carrying the plant across Portugal and then France and then cross other European, African and Asian countries.

Tobacco in Brazil

At the dawn of the 16th century, the first Portuguese that landed in Brazil came across tobacco plantations on the land of many indigenous tribes. The Indians of Brazil considered the plant sacred and of mystical origin. Its use was normally restricted to voodoo rites, as a call to the gods and in predictions, as well as for medicinal uses, for curing wounds, migraine, stomach aches and its use was strictly reserved for the chiefs of the tribes (normally wizards). Among the Indians, tobacco was consumed in different ways (eaten, chewed, drunk, inhaled and smoked), but the habit of smoking prevailed, and this form of consumption spread all across the world, over the years.

From the magic and religious plant of the Indians, tobacco progressed to a commercial product in the European colonies, particularly in the Antilles, Virginia (from 1612) and Brazil.

As a result, tobacco cultivations and sales made rapid progress in Brazil’s colonial time, to the point that in the 17th century legislation on the crop was passed, taxes were levied on the product, becoming a major export item during Brazil’s Imperial time. This importance is still present in the Coat of Arms of Brazil, which shows coffee branches on the left side and tobacco branches on the right side, a fine finishing touch to the Brazilian nationality symbol.

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