Rodrigo de Jerez

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Rodrigo de Jerez was one of the Spanish crewmen who sailed to the Americas on the Santa Maria as part of Christopher Columbus's first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. He is credited with being the first European smoker.

In September 1492 the crew first encountered tobacco, at San Salvador island in the Bahamas, known to the natives as Guanahani. The natives presented them with apparently valuable dry leaves that spread a peculiar fragrance. The leaves were discarded.

In November 1492 Jerez and Luis de Torres first observed natives smoking. They were searching for the Emperor of China in Cuba. Apparently the natives made rolls of palm and mais leaves in the manner of a musket formed of paper, with tobacco on the inside. One would light one side and drink the smoke out of the other.

Jerez picked up this habit, and when he returned to Europe in the NiƱa, he introduced the habit to his home town, Ayamonte. The smoke surrounding him frightened his neighbours: the Spanish Inquisition imprisoned him for his sinful and infernal habits. When he was released seven years later, smoking had caught on.

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