March 14, 2007

Brazilians Don't Chew Gum
Jacumã, Brazil

…They suck on cough drops instead.

I like chewing gum—I do it often. Perhaps as I tramp about the (developing) world, this action fits will with the American Yankee stereotype.

Baseball, the national pastime of the USA (second only to eating fast-food), goes hand-in-hand with chewing gum (or tobacco, I suppose). We've been packaging it with trading cards since before I was born—the gum, not the tobacco. I can think of no other sport where it is as widely expected to chew gum during play.

I have not noticed a correlation between the number of baseball diamonds in a country and the amount/variety of gum available for chewing, but there just might be (and sounds like an interesting research project for someone in need of an idea).

I haven't seen any baseball diamonds in Brazil—nor would I expect to—but what I have seen is a culture that does not look to gum for oral entertainment—they seek out the cough drop.

Cough drops for sale

The brand Halls dominates this particular market in Brazil. A wide breath of flavors are available to choose from, retailing for about BR$1 per pack. They don't seem to be your average full-strength cough drop, but there's still plenty of that mouth-numbing chemical in there to put your tongue to sleep.

The allure of this item is lost on me.

Chewing Gum Trivia

I did a little bit of background research on the topic (as is my nature), and found it interesting enough to share a bit on the history of gum.

Chewing gum, in various forms, has existed since at least Ancient Greece. The Greeks chewed mastic gum, made from the resin of the mastic tree. Betel, a mild narcotic, has enjoyed popularity in India for millennia. The American Indians chewed resin made from the sap of spruce trees.

Modern chewing gum was first developed in the 1860s when chicle was imported from Mexico for use as a rubber substitute. Chicle did not succeed as a replacement for rubber, but as a gum it soon dominated the market. Chicle gum, and gum made from similar latexes, had a smoother and softer texture and held flavor better. Most chewing gum companies have switched to synthetic gum bases because of its low price and availability.

In 1848 John B. Curtis developed and sold the first commercial chewing gum called The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.

In 1855 a group of liberals led by Benito Juárez and Ignacio Comonfort overthrew Mexican dictator Santa Anna, who fled back to Cuba. He then lived in exile in Cuba, the United States, Colombia, and St. Thomas. During his time in New York City he is credited as bringing the first shipments of chicle, the base of chewing gum, to the United States, but he failed to profit from this since his plan was to use the chicle to replace a rubber in carriage tires, which was tried without success. The American assigned to aid Santa Anna while he was in the US, Thomas Adams, conducted experiments with the chicle and called it "Chiclets", which helped found the chewing gum industry.


Tom Heimburger

March 14th, 2007

A little history of baseball cards and bubblegum:

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