July 2012

A Look at the Trade and Uses of Tobacco

Beginning in the late 1700s, the increasing popularity of tobacco had a profound effect on cochabamba and surrounding areas. as the number of smokers grew exponentially, the industry expanded to keep up. walter sanchez provides an insightful look into this part of Bolivia´s history..

By: Walter Sánchez
Instituto Investigaciones

Tobacco advertisement
Photo: courtesy of Walter Sánchez

Nothing was known about the use of tobacco (nicotine herb) during the early colonial period in the Southern Andes. However, this lack of knowledge does not mean that people would not have known about or consumed it. On the contrary, it is possible that, at least within the Spanish and Creole establishment, the love for nicotine quickly became a popular result of the constant relations between Peruvian colonies and the Caribbean. In any case, the fondness for tobacco was instituted during the eighteenth century and its consumption became so great that the Quartermaster General of Santa Cruz had a general administrative office specifically for the payment of Tobacco Rent -to which all parties were subject during this administration. According to the report presented to Nicolas Arredondo (viceroy of Buenos Aires) by Governor Mayor Francisco de Viedma in 1793, “the orchards of Tabacales, cultivated in the Valle Grande, force a formal contract each year and different neighbors have bundles of tobacco that are sold for half a real each and sold for two reales in the entire province” in the Centre located in the village of Oropeza (now Cochabamba). All imported tobacco had a tax charged on it. In addition, a factory was established in Oropeza to provide tobacco to the cities of La Plata (now Sucre), Potosí, Puno and La Paz. This report gives an idea of how the tobacco distribution system was constituted and the ways in which it was consumed. Tobacco was marketed either raw or in powder form. Without a doubt, the raw form was consumed in cigarettes, while the powder had to be aspirated.

Tobacco pipe
Photo: courtesy of Walter Sánchez

With the birth of the Republic in 1825, fondness for tobacco increased. While Santa Cruz and Beni remained places of greater production, data shows that there were other rising areas of production as well. For example, in the Traveler’s Guide to La Paz (1880), Nicholas Acosta explains that, for these years, tobacco was already planted in Yungas and Caupolican, two provinces of the city. This production was important because it covered most of the demand from this region, home to thousands of habitual smokers. Nicholas Acosta´s guide also states the following: “Smokers are more commonly found in La Paz, not lacking in any neighborhood. The most accredited areas for smoking are the corner of Plaza July 16th and the corner of the barracks on Sucre and Calle Bolivar.” Also, La Paz´s city almanac, edited in 1881 by Federico Zuazo, notes that the “German Headgear” by R. Geerdts & C. (Hamburg-Arequipa-La Paz) offered imported “articles for gentlemen” in addition to “smoking cigars and cigarettes”. A drug so popularized among all sectors of society, it neither had a bad reputation nor was it considered a public health problem. 13 Moreover, its consumption was encouraged because it was a source of revenue for national treasuries. Consumption in Cochabamba was so high that the National Senate resolved the collection of a tobacco tax; it was approved by the city council on October 23rd 1890. The city ordinance produced the following letter: “Article1- Starting 1st of January 1891, there shall be the following tax on cigars and cigarettes: for each pack of 24 or less cigarettes, manufactured in the department, a cent shall be paid for retailers in this city, or in their enclosure. For each packet made outside of the department and imported into this city or its enclosure, two cents of tax shall be paid to the trader whose imports are for sale.

Article 2- The cigars, also known as habanos, will also be taxed at a cent each to be paid by the importing traders. Cigars from Santa Cruz, known were purchased in the distribution outlets, they would have been actually worth 12 cents per pack. La Orientalners as a stimulant drug and were also used as a central element in rituals dedicated to the Tío of the mine.

explained this decision in the following statement:“The extraordinary credit and constant demand for our Mauser cigarettes, both at home and abroad, would be a reason to keep our old prices; but that’s not how we think: we are convinced that our cigarettes are popular for their good quality; for this reason, today we want to reduce the price of our most favored product, even if our utilities are very small.

Rural women smoking tobacco
Photo: courtesy of Walter Sánchez

It is best to sell a lot and gain little. In addition, our facilities have improved considerably, allowing for greater economic gain in production. From today onward the Mauser will not only be the most elegant, satisfying, and best cigarette of the Republic, but, according to the press: among its class, if there are any able to match it, the Mauser will be the cheapest of them all!” Meanwhile, men and women of the popular social strata consumed tobacco sold by farmers in increments costing 0.40 cents. Potosí, a mining town situated 4000 meters above sea level, was another place of high cigarette consumption in Bolivia. The Guide to Potosí, prepared by Henry Lewis San Martin and published in 1903, notes the presence of a cigarette factory owned by Juan de Dios Ameller and located at 91 Bolivar Street. The products from this factory were consumed by miners as a stimulant drug and were also used as a central element in rituals dedicated to the Tío of the mine.

In general, the national importance of tobacco was so strong that, during the 1930’s, Casa Kavlin, a tobacco manufacturer in La Paz, not only industrialized production, but placed an advertisement in the Journal of Agriculture and Livestock Highlands (Year 1, No. 3, 1935), encouraging workers to increase production: “Farmers Cultivate Much Tobacco. We buy all their production and pay the best prices.”



Carlos Tinoco
Camilla Morrison

Calendario JuLio 2012

> CiClo dE CinE “JEan rouCh, CinEasta y EtnógraFo”

Lunes 2
“Petit à petit”
Martes 3
“Moi, un noir”
Miércoles 4 “Mosso mosso” Subtítulos en castellano

> ExposiCión FotográFiCa “VaiVén”.

6 de julio – viernes 13 de julio
Horarios de visita: 9:00 - 12:00 / 15:00 -19:00

> Charla antropológiCa “El Erotismo dE la wallunk’a”

(disertante Céline Geffroy)
12 de julio- 19.00
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