Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba

By Tom Gjelten,

Book cover of Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause

Book description

In this widely hailed book, NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten fuses the story of the Bacardi family and their famous rum business with Cuba's tumultuous experience over the last 150 years to produce a deeply entertaining historical narrative. The company Facundo Bacardi launched in Cuba in 1862 brought worldwide fame to…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I love how Gjelten made me reconsider the ways histories of alcohol and nations were intertwined.

With his study of a rum company that survived the transition from capitalism to communism, the journalist Tom Gjelten observes that Bacardi rum executives advanced legislation designed to undermine their competitors and ultimately forged a brand that shaped Cubans’ and foreigners’ perceptions of the island.

This political and cultural history of Bacardi reveals alcohol’s integral role in forging newly independent nations. More specifically, Gjelten demonstrates how alcohol companies shaped nations.

This study made me think about how types of alcohol—like rum in Cuba,…

Foreign ventures, typically U.S.-owned, dominated Cuba’s pre-1959 economy. They often gouged Cuban consumers, mistreated Cuban employees, meddled in politics, and supported dictators. The  Bacardí Company, by contrast, was an innovative, well-run, and homegrown success story that relied on Cuban capital and expertise. The company also looked after its workers, offering retirement and sick pay, and an eight-hour workday before being legally obliged. In addition, Bacardí provided housing loans and profit-sharing options. Bacardí executives were noted for their honesty and competence. For this reason, Bacardí Chairman Pepín Bosch was recruited by President Carlos Prío to serve as his treasury minister. 

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