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Book Review: Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause by Tom Gjelten

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Do you love rum? History? The history of rum? Then this is the book for you.

Listed as “Notable Book of the Year” (2008) by The New York Times Book Review, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten is one of the most riveting ways to tell history: through the lens of a cultural icon. Whether you prefer Oro or a Breezer is no matter for this modern saga.

Today, Bacardi products proudly wear the “Made in Puerto Rico” seal while few know of the brands “Made in Cuba” heritage and roots. This modern history delves deep into the intricacies of the Barcardi family, their business, and their nationalistic relationship with Cuba as a Spanish colony, American protectorate, and Castro’s revolutionary experiment.

After being exiled from the island by Castro, the Bacardi family has become a powerful force, if not the key player, in the American anti-Castro movement concentrated in Miami. Exactly how the Bacardi family came to inhabit this force in American domestic politics might surprise you. After all, they did support an independent Cuba and were some of Fulgencio Batista’s largest opponents, which appears to be the perfect recipe for a pro-Castro ideology.

Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba places much emphasis on the building of the multinational Bacardi brand we know today, explaining how — through branding and marketing, some of the earliest features of this family business — Bacardi set itself apart, making it an easy target for Castro’s Cuba post-revolution. Castro and his government hoped to maintain the Bacardi brand without the one all-important ingredient: the Bacardis themselves. This family proved to be too potent an influence in Cuba not only economically, but politically and socially too.

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About Amy L. Schaaf

  • Definitely. It will be even more interesting when both Fidel and Raul are gone although some small strides are being made under the latter (i.e. allowance of cell phones, and the selling/buying of property).

  • ikariam

    sounds great, it’s going to be interesting how thing are going to change now in cuba, when fidel finally leaves…