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MEXICO: Santa Anna and chewing gum



Bienvenido Macario says: "A little known story about Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna is how chewing gum was developed. After the war ended in 1848, the General Santa Anna was said to have been exiled in New York. Like many Mexicans, Gen. Santa Anna chewed chicle, the dried sap of the sapodilla tree. While in New York, he gave some of the chicle to Charles Adams, an inventor. Adams tried to make several items out of the chicle but failed. Finally, he did what the Mexicans had been doing for years - he chewed it. Soon he added some flavoring and the rest is chewing gum history".

RH: Intense research has failed to confirm this, but it is possible. After his defeat, Santa Anna left Mexico in 1855 and finally settled in Cuba, then a Spanish colony! In 1874 he was allowed to return to Mexico, where he died in poverty on 1876. It seems he did visit New York, so the story is possible. The brings up a major issue in world affairs: chewing gum. It is a particularly American invention, and in England it was frowned on, although surprisingly the largest consumption per capita is in the Netherlands. When I came to this country, I was determined to do in Rome as the Romans do. At a Faculty Club luncheon in Berkeley, the famous historian Herbert Eugene Bolton, of English origin, offered me some chewing gum, which I chewed to keep him company. I was later told that this was unacademic. Do you chew gum? Do the Mexicans? Do the Chinese? Do the Russians? Do the French? Is American cultural imperialism winning? Do the Arabs? If we invade Iraq, a massive distribution of chewing gum might pacify the people. Perhaps betel would work better.

Ronald Hilton - 11/30/02


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