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Smoker beyond the Sea - The Story of Puerto Rican Tobacco

Smoker beyond the Sea

The Story of Puerto Rican Tobacco

By Juan José Baldrich
Hardcover : 9781496842107, 290 pages, 8 b&w illustrations, 12 tables, 9 graphs, and 4 maps, October 2022
Paperback : 9781496842114, 290 pages, 8 b&w illustrations, 12 tables, 9 graphs, and 4 maps, October 2022

The first narrative to weave together the many threads of tobacco history in Puerto Rico


In this groundbreaking volume, Juan José Baldrich traces the deep changes affecting Puerto Rican tobacco growers and manufacturers and their export markets from the Spanish colonization of the island to the present. Based on more than twenty years of research in the United States and Puerto Rico, the book sheds light on the important history of tobacco in Puerto Rico while highlighting the people and practices that have indelibly shaped Puerto Rico and its culture.

Smoker beyond the Sea: The Story of Puerto Rican Tobacco is a work of recovery that examines tobacco’s transitions from medicinal use to rolls fit for chewing and pipe smoking, followed by the appropriation of the Cuban paradigm for cigars and cigarettes, and, finally, to the US models after the 1898 invasion. This pioneering volume also offers the only history of the US tobacco monopoly in local agriculture and manufacture from its beginning in 1899 to the bankruptcy of its last successor company forty years later.

Baldrich's extensive research documents the organization of the cigar and cigarette manufacturing sectors and the resulting development of trade unions and socialist ideals. This multidisciplinary investigation gives due attention to the modifications that farmers made to tobacco planting and harvesting techniques in fine-tuning plants to the expected aromas and tastes of the manufactured commodities. In addition, Baldrich pays considerable attention to gender relations in the labor process, not only in the manufacturing sector but also in tobacco agriculture. The book also provides the only narrative of the rise and maturity of the Hermanos Cheos, a powerful apocalyptical movement that began and spread in the tobacco growing regions. Ultimately, this encompassing volume fills a major gap in the histories of tobacco-producing islands in the Caribbean.


"Juan José Baldrich brings together a wealth of information to produce a longue-durée Puerto Rican tobacco history, melding the political, economic, and social-cultural, and embracing class and gender, while also interweaving individual stories that bring the narrative to life. Such an all-encompassing book on Puerto Rican tobacco history is long overdue and long awaited from an author who is the recognized leading authority on Puerto Rican tobacco."

- Jean Stubbs, author of Tobacco on the Periphery: A Case Study in Cuban Labour History, 1860–1958

"Baldrich demonstrates succinctly how the globalization of trade and consumption patterns had an impact on the cultivation, preparation, and manufacturing of tobacco . . . This book has made an important contribution to the history of cash-export crops in Puerto Rico, as well as the local and global history of capitalism."

- Ismael García-Colón, CENTRO Journal