LatinaLista — The Bacardi family name is synonymous with rum. It is an association that has proven profitable financially, socially and politically. Yet, the Bacardi legacy entails more than just creating a well-known brand — it’s about sustaining a patriotic connection for over 140 years to Cuba, the birthplace of the family business.
Who would have thought that the history of the Bacardi family, one of the most instantly recognizable names in the liquor industry, would also be a lesson in Cuban history? After all, isn’t Bacardi rum native to Puerto Rico?
No and sÃ. It’s exactly that contradictory answer that hints at the complex relationship the Bacardi brand has with the country where it all started. In “Bacardi and The Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause” by Tom Gjelten (Viking 2008), readers learn that the true origin of the infamous rum was born and perfected in Cuba, and that the company’s history is so entangled with the struggles and oppression of the island nation that it’s impossible to separate one from the other.
Courtesy of Gjelten, readers are transported back through time when the Bacardi brothers, sons of an illiterate Catalan bricklayer, first arrived in Cuba from their native Spain in the 1800s. One brother, Facundo, had the vision to create a business that would not just provide a living but leave a legacy.
It’s a legacy that every generation since then has fortified, expanded and used to wield political and social influence. From their early beginnings in Cuba, the Bacardi family name has been synonymous with Cuban patriotism. Family patriarchs, who were also the company’s leaders, were imprisoned and exiled throughout Cuba’s tumultuous past.
Yet, with each challenge, the Bacardi family adapted their business to operate under the tough conditions that ensued. It helped that the sons and son-in-laws were strategic thinkers with a brain for business, the know-how to market and a sense of respect for the elder members’ feelings for history and the family’s native birthplace.
“Bacardi and The Long Fight for Cuba” is a fascinating read and serves as much as a primer on creating and maintaining a successful business as it does as a tribute to a product that has survived 146 years.