Hammocks have a long history. Looking at it, all one might see is a sling and a suspension design however culturally, it means so much more. Hammocks originally came from Aboriginal tribes in Central America and South America. Sometime around the time of the Spanish conquest, this is when colonists uncovered the use of hammocks by these cultures. Hammocks were used for sleeping in these cultures and were later applied in ships by sailors for the same purpose.
Explorers who came to these regions from Europe came to use hammocks when going through wooded regions. This was common for many years. Then, in North America, hammocks would come around to be used beginning by parents in the 1920s. They were used to contain babies to crawl. They eventually came to be used worldwide on camping trips, in the backyard, at the cottage, and in a variety of settings.
It is believed the word ‘hammock’ comes from a Haitian word meaning ‘stretch of cloth’, originating in the Taino culture. The first hammocks were made from woven tree back, replaced later with sisal fibers as sisal plants were more abundant. Hammocks proved to be tremendously useful in their early history, fighting against disease transmission, preventing insect stings, and reducing animal bites. All it took was suspending one’s bed above ground to protect the population from snakes, biting ants, and other similarly harmful creatures.
Sadly, hammocks throughout the 1800s and early 1900s were believed to be a white European creation. English-language sources detailing hammocks sought to erase Aboriginal history from hammock creation. Popular writer Samuel Johnson even claimed ‘hammock’ was Saxon. Although this was easily debunked in time, it is still an unfortunate bullet point in the history of hammocks.
To this day, hammocks are enjoyed worldwide by many cultures. In Mexico, they are still manufactured and are prominent in their culture. El Salvador is the world’s largest producer/exporter of hammocks. There are even ‘hammock festivals’ held here celebrating them. In Venezuela, there are entire villages where family homes are equipped with hammocks. Some families are raised entirely with hammocks, rather than beds. In India, ceiling mounted hammocks are also traditional to south India.
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