The history of hammocks

Like nothing else, hammocks embody the relaxed way of life experienced in Latin America, which some of our readers might have already experienced while travelling to the Caribbean, Brazil or Mexico. It is the object of identification for Latinos as such.

In the northeast of Brazil, the Caribbean countries and all tropic regions of Latin America life without a hammock is unthinkable. A lesser known fact: Columbus not only discovered the Americas but also the hammock. When he returned from his journey to Europe he introduced it to his home continent, where it soon became indispensible for the sailors of colonial times. Until today, the hammock has remained a popular commodity, favoured by children, couples, families, individual travellers and physiotherapists alike. Its main aim is to provide relaxation and well-being, but there are also practical reasons for valuing the hammock: it is highly space-saving, extremely flexible in usage and can be suspended and demounted in a matter of seconds.

The origins of the hammock

As the miniature hammock made of pure gold, which is presented in the museum of gold in Bogotá, shows, the origin of the hammock lies with the indigenous people of Middle and South America. They knew its value very early on, as they started calling the hammock the “cradle of the gods”. The first hammocks were made of the bark of the hamack tree, making the origin of the original name “hamaca” abundantly clear.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-12958-0034 / CC-BY-SA

Hammocks and seafaring

Columbus discovered the hammock in the Bahamas, where he stated on the 17th October 1492 that “people were sleeping in nets between the trees”. He brought the hammock back to Europe where mainly sailors started using it extensively. Instead of having to sleep on the wet, hard and not to mention dirty deck, which was infested with vermin, sailors could now sleep relaxedly in their hammock, using the swell of the sea to fall asleep.