Long before De Niro was puffing a big, fat cigar in Cape Fear or James Gandolfini was handing out Cubans that “fell off the back of a truck” in The Sopranos, tobacco and cigars had been an iconic piece of American culture and a historic symbol of European expansion in the New World.
Many people mistakenly believe that the cigar originated in Cuba. While Cuba is famous for its cigars, cigar smoking didn’t actually originate there. In fact, archeologists in Guatemala have discovered pieces of Mayan pottery from the 10th century depicting people smoking bound-up bundles of tobacco leaves. The Mayan word for the bound-up bundle – sikar – likely led to the Spanish word cigarro, which in turn became the word ‘cigar’.