Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It doesn't pay to be too ahead of the times

From An Empire of Plants: People and Plants That Have Changed the World by Toby & Will Musgrave, a funny story. Or not, if you were directly involved with it.

Europeans firs made the acquaintance of tobacco on 12 October 1492 when, after 71 days at sea, Christopher Columbus first sighted the coast of America. He named the island where he landed San Salfvador, and here, according to his logbook, the indigenous people 'brought fruit, wooden spears, and certaind dried leaves which gave off a distinct fragrance'. The gifts were accepted, the fruit eaten, but the yellowish leaves were tossed overboard. Columbus sailed on, arriving off the Cuban coast on 28 October, where two conquistadors, Rodriguo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, were sent inland to scout. The natives they encountered wrapped dried tobacco leaves in palm or maize 'in the manner of a musket formed of paper', and after lighting one end, they commenced 'drinking' the smoke through the other. Rodriguo took a hesitant puff and became the first European to smoke tobacco. Columbus returned to Spain with some dried tobacco leaves, and Rodriguo, who by now was a confirmed smoker, took his habit back to his home town, where he unwisely lit up in public. So frightened were his neighbors b the smoke billowing up from his nose and mouth that he was imprisoned by the holy inquisitors, only to discover upon his release several years later that smoking had become a national habit.

Yeah, just imagine Rodriguo getting out of prison, and being told, "Hey, you know that crazy thing the inquisitors nailed you for? Everybody does it now, completely free of legal consequences. Have a nice rest of your life.

I imagine there was smoke coming out of him at that point, no tobacco needed.


susan said...

Oh dear, that is certainly is one of those sad but true stories. Even today nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Ben said...

Their chief weapons are surprise, fear, and an almost fanatical devotion to... I'll come in again.