Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yo ho ho and a bottle of Bacardi

In 1862 a businessman in Cuba with little experience in rum making opened a small distillery hoping to make a working man's drink - and invented a formula that made his rum famous.

Tom Gjelten is a veteran correspondent for NPR and a regular panelist on the PBS program Washington Week. In his book, Bacardi and the long fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause, he recounts much more than the tale of a famous Cuban family and its rum making tradition. This book is a journey through Cuban politics juxtaposed with the family’s business. The two were completely intertwined, with the Bacardi Rum Company participating in every aspect of Cuban social, political and economic life. It is a history lesson, family saga and rum making extravaganza all rolled into one. It would not surprise me if the Bacardi Rum Company's history became fodder for a Harvard Business School case at some point.

The Bacardi family tree is about as convoluted as the House of Plantagenet, but Gjelten does an excellent job of acquainting you with each and every important player in the story, (beginning with Don Facundo Bacardi, the man who started it all) explaining their role not only with the company, but what they and their actions meant for the island they loved so dearly.

This is an epic narrative, that should you read it, will make you stop and think each time you order a mojito, daiquiri or Bacardi and Coke, aka Cuba Libre as the drink is known.


JFP said...

I picked it up this book at my county's library recently... Unfortunately, on page 4 I found a stain of blood, so I returned it immediately. But now, you make me think that perhaps what I found there is just the liquid evidence of all the things that historically have happened in the island.......Today, Havana Club is marketed as the original cuban rum ... By the way this is a 50-50 joint venture between Pernod Ricard and Fidel, sorry, the cuban government

T. T. Douglas said...

My father's mentor was Don Pepin Bosch who features prominently in this book. Happily, I was able to spend a lot of time in this man's company towards the latter stages of his life. He was an exceptional human being, with a generous heart, a keen intellect and above all a fierce patriotism for his beloved island.