From the Publisher
"The Bacardi liquor story is every bit as engaging as Cuba's tumultuous political history, and both narrative strands are inexorably intertwined."
-The Washington Post
"A gripping saga that tells us just as much about human nature and the struggle between power and freedom as it does about Bacardi's transformation from a fledgling business into the world's top family-owned distiller."
-The Wall Street Journal
"It's hard to imagine that any [Cuban history] is as enjoyable . . . as smooth and refreshing as a well-made daiquiri."
-Barry Gewen, The New York Times
The commonplace view of Cuba's prerevolutionary business establishment as a corrupt kleptocracy is revised in this intriguing history of the Bacardi rum company and its involvement in Cuban politics. NPR correspondent Gjelten (Sarajevo Daily) paints the 146-year-old distiller, once an icon of Cuban industry, as a model corporate citizen-efficient, innovative, socially responsible and union-tolerant. Its leaders were pillars of nationalist politics, he contends: company president Emilio Bacardi was a leader of Cuba's rebellion against Spain, and in the 1950s CEO José Bosch helped fund Castro's insurrection. (After Castro nationalized Bacardi's Cuban holdings, Bosch started funding anti-Castro exiles.) Bacardi's image as Cuban-nationalism-in-a-bottle becomes farcical when the company, now a multinational behemoth, fights an absurd court battle with Cuba's state rum company over the "Havana Club" trademark. But Gjelten's account of a liberal, progressive Cuban business clan complicates and enriches the conventional picture of a society torn between right and left dictatorships. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Equal parts company history, family history, and country history, this is a history of Cuba as filtered through a tall rum and Coke. Gjelten, a noted NPR correspondent, follows the Bacardi family tree back to Facundo Bacardi, who started the rum business in 1862. From there the tumultuous stories of Cuba and Bacardi are intertwined, through the Cuban revolution in 1868, the Spanish American War in 1898, Prohibition in the United States in the 1920s, Batista's coup in 1952, and finally Fidel Castro's takeover in 1958. After the Bay of Pigs in 1961, Bacardi property in Cuba was seized and production was moved to Mexico and other locations. The all-important Bacardi trademark stayed with the family, enabling them to use brand leverage to strengthen U.S. and European sales and thus make up for their loss of income and property in Cuba. By 1983, Bacardi accounted for two-thirds of the world's rum sales. With the passing of power from Fidel, Bacardi may yet return to its homeland. Overall, Gjelten has concocted an interesting combination of corporate and political history. Purchase where there is interest.