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Hemp in Latin America

Hemp in Latin America


While we made sure to fully cover the most important facts regarding Hemp cultures on the territory of the United States of America as well as Canadian lands, the time has come to go down South, all the way to Latin America!


Even before the English and the French were thinking about exploiting the New World, Spain was trying to promote hemp production in her colonies throughout Latin America.

As early as 1545, hemp seed was sown in the Quillota Valley, near the city of Santiago in Chile. Most of the hemp fiber from these initial experiments was used to make rope for the army stationed in Chile. The rest was used to replace wornout rigging on ships that docked at Santiago. Eventual surpluses were shipped north to Lima, Peru.

Throughout the years, 49 attempts were made at cultivating hemp in Peru and Colombia, but only the Chilean experiments proved successful.

hemp in latin america

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Hemp is believed to have been brought to Mexico by Pedro Cuadrado, a conquistador in Cortes's army, when the conqueror made his second expedition to Mexico. Cuadrado and a friend went into business raising hemp in Mexico and were very successful at it. In 1550, however, the Spanish governor forced the two entrepreneurs to limit production because the natives were beginning to use the plants for something other than rope.


In the eighteenth century, several hemp experts were sent to various colonial outposts in Spanish America to teach the inhabitants the fine points of growing and preparing hemp for markets. Three years later, special orders from the king instructed all viceroys to encourage hemp production throughout New Spain. The Mexican authorities decided that the province of California would be an ideal place to begin hemp farming but the individual farmers in the parishes preferred raising food crops and cattle to hemp.

When no hemp arrived for shipment to Spain, experts were sent to California to instruct the people how to grow and prepare hemp for market. The area around San José was chosen as an experimental farm area in 1801 and an earnest effort was made to raise hemp for market.The first results were encouraging. By 1807, California was producing 12,500 pounds of hemp. About 40 percent came from Santa Barbara. Good harvests were also reported around San José, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. By 1810, California was producing over 220,000 pounds of dressed hemp.

Production would probably have continued to increase, but in 1810 a revolution in Mexico isolated California from the main seat of government. As a result, the subsidies that had stimulated hemp production were no longer available, and with the elimination of this incentive, commercial production of hemp ceased and was never started up again.


No one knows for certain when cannabis was introduced into Brazil, Portugal's main colony in South America. The words for marihuana in Brazil include maconha, liama, and diamba, which closely resemble West and South African terms such as riamba, diamba, and liamba. On the basis of this linguistic similarity it is possible that slaves abducted from their homes in Africa arid brought to Brazil as plantation laborers may have brought some seeds with them to the New World.

The earliest actual reference to cannabis in Brazil dates back to the early decades of the 1800s.

hemp in brazilPhoto Source

In 1808, the king and queen of Portugal fled to Brazil rather than risk capture by Napoleon who at that time was threatening to overrun the Iberian Peninsula. After Napoleon's defeat, the royal couple returned to Lisbon in 1814. Three years later the queen became ill and death was imminent. As she lay awaiting her death, she asked for someone to "bring me an infusion of the fibers of diamba do amazonas, with which we sent so many enemies to hell." An infusion of marihuana and arsenic had been assembled for her mistress which had such analgesic properties that the queen felt no further pain, and shortly before her death she sang and played her guitar.

This article contains info from “Marihuana The First Twelve Thousand Years”, by Ernest L. Abel

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