From Publishers Weekly
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.)
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Facundo Bacardi, who founded the eponymous rum company in 1862, came to Cuba from Spain as a teen-ager. By the turn of the century, as Gjelten lucidly recounts, the distilling operation that Facundo had begun in a shed was among the brands most closely identified with Cuba, and the Bacardis became inextricably entangled with the nations history. Facundo?s eldest son, Emilio, fought to overthrow the Spanish, thus inaugurating the firms long tradition of promoting revolutionary and progressive politics. But the Bacardis, despite their enthusiastic support for Castros revolution, were forced into exile in Miami in the nineteen-sixties; benevolent capitalists had no place in the new Cuban paradigm. Today, the family owns a multibillion-dollar global corporation that contributes heavily to the Republican Party.
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