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

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  480 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
A unique history of Cuba, captured in the life and times of the famous rum dynasty

The Bacardis of Cuba, builders of a rum distillery and a worldwide brand, came of age with their nation and helped define what it meant to be Cuban. Across five generations, the Bacardi family has held fast to its Cuban identity, even in exile from the country for whose freedom they once foug
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published September 4th 2008 by Viking Adult (first published 2008)
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May 02, 2015 David rated it really liked it
I bought 5 books for my trip to Cuba and ended up reading parts and skimming most.

This was the best non-fiction history, but it dig bog down a bit on the deep details of the Bacardi family. The best part for me were the years up to the revolution, the revolution and the initial period after the revolution triumphed and the beginnings of the anti-Castro movement in exile.

Our tour guide guide was superb for the week in Cuba, and while I had feared that she (as an employee of the state) would be e
When one picks-up a 400+ page non-fiction book, it is an excellent sign when the final 40 or so pages are footnotes. When the author can actually write, one is in for a treat.

Not only is the subject matter vastly interesting, spanning the history of Bacardi Rum from the 1860's to 2008, the tome is incredibly readable. The author took joy in this little project and the hard work, research, and editing truly paid off into a very readable micro-history.

The Bacardi's--originally Spanish but quickly
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Soulful blend of genealogy, biography and history tells the story of the Bacardi family of Cuba and the rum that made them famous. Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, the story covers an incredible span of history, from the fight against the Spanish colonial masters through the paternalistic and not entirely disinterested liberation by the United States and the brief interlude of self-government to the bitter end of independent Cuban freedom to the right-wing dictatorship of Batista and ...more
The book as it best in detailing the birth and growth of Bacardi in Cuba. The author's voice is wonderful as it presents the Bacardi family and their trials & tribulations in growing it to a global entity up to its seizure by Castrol in 1959/60.

It lost me a little, although necessary, with the machinations of the Cubans-in-exile plots to overthrow Castro. I would have welcomed a more in depth analysis of where the Bacardis landed within their own company.
Aug 21, 2013 Chris added it
Shelves: bookclub
Exhaustively reported. One-third detailed history of the Bacardi family in Cuba, one-third thrilling tale of revolution and exile, one-third excruciating minutiae about international patent law. What I learned: All dictators are evil. All politics are corrupt. Buy rum from an independent distillery.
Adam Steinberg
Feb 01, 2016 Adam Steinberg rated it really liked it
This book was exceptionally well researched and gave a lot of information on this private company and its long history. Bacardi is one of the few family companies that has survived beyond a generation and the fact that this company achieved its great success while operating under the oppressive regime of Fulgencio Batista and after being forced into exile after Fidel Castro came into power. Bacardi, alone among the nationalized Cuban companies, beat Castro in the Courts and in the market. The ta ...more
May 17, 2015 Joseph rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
This book was recommended by a good friend and, to be honest, my expectations were not all that high. Was I surprised! This is a very interesting account of the origins and evolution of one of the largest family-owned businesses in the world, from Facundo Bacardi’s origins in Catalonia to his migration and creation of a rum business in Santiago Cuba, which ultimately expanded to the rest of the world. Most fascinating, the story is told in the context of Cuban history and the frustrated desires ...more
Apr 10, 2009 Andy rated it really liked it
Have you ever picked up a bottle of Bacardi rum and, studying the label, wondered, Who is Ron Bacardi? Well then—at long last—here is your introduction to Ron and the entire Bacardi clan. In keeping with its weighty title, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba covers over 150 years of Cuban history as viewed through the amber-tinted lens of the Bacardi Rum Empire.

Gjelten’s expansive account traces five successive generations of the Bacardi family, which has comprised—variously—Cuban patriots, meti
Mar 22, 2010 Crystal rated it it was amazing
The history of the Bacardi family in Cuba is really the history of modern Cuba, and anybody interested in that or in the history of America's on-again-mostly-off-again relationship with Cuba should read this book. Also this is a must-read for anybody interested in business, as its also the history of a highly successful global business. The CEO at the time of the Revolution, Pepin Bosch, was probably one of the most savvy business leaders in history. This book totally changed my view of the Cuba ...more
Tammy Tanner
May 11, 2010 Tammy Tanner rated it really liked it
Like many non-fiction historical books, this book was a bit dry in places, which is the only reason I didn't give it 5 stars. Being from central Florida, I was fasciated by the subject matter, so I plowed through the dry parts, and actually much of it was page-turning and very entertaining. I learned things I had never suspected about the US relationship with Cuba, dating back to well before Castro's time. And I learned about Cuba's dynamic with the Soviet Union and, more recently, with the Chin ...more
May 19, 2009 Nick rated it really liked it
I am generally not a big reader of non-fiction, but I really enjoyed this book. It's a fascinating account of Cuba's recent history through the eyes of the Bacardi family -- which was at the heart of each of Cuba's revolutionary struggles, from its initial efforts to gain independence from Spain to Castro's ascent to power (eventually culminating in 1959) and then as the pre-eminent player in the various efforts by the Cuban exile community to undermine Castro's regime. The book also traces the ...more
Jarrod Reid
Feb 05, 2013 Jarrod Reid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would have to say a very high 4 1/2 for this one. If you are a fan of history, or business, or business history or love political intrigue, this is the book for you.
But it's also a story of family and sacrifice and taking risks in order to better oneself against the odds.
And then there's the rum, which conjures up any number of memories and could potentially zip you off to Santiago and the warm nights watching a Cuban sunset.
This book hooked me almost instantly as a fan of family history an
Jun 16, 2011 Gregory rated it really liked it

There are really two parts to Tom Gjelten's Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba (2008). The first is a history of Cuba from the 1860s to the 1960s, centered on Bacardi and the city of Santiago. The second is a narrative of how Bacardi became global and also obsessed with fighting Fidel Castro. The Bacardi company went from being an icon of Cuba to a conglomerate struggling to maintain a Cuban identity.

The first part is excellent. Bacardi was in the mi
John Hood
Sep 21, 2008 John Hood rated it it was amazing

Bound September 18, 08

Rum Punch

Tom Gjelten Chronicles La Familia Bacardi

By John Hood

Castro is nothing, compared to Bacardi. Okay, so the former had a little Revolution, and in some form or another has been holding on to dear power for nearly 50 years. But outside of Miami and Havana, Fidel’s surname is seldom spoken.

Not so Bacardi, which gets said just about every time anyone, anywhere orders a Cuba Libre. And if it doesn’t get said, it still gets served, n
Jul 05, 2010 Dru rated it liked it
and a half. Shortly after Castro takes over, about 2/3rds of the way through (the guy ruins everything--including the narrative), the Bacardi family tree has grown so intricate and confusing (it doesn't help that they name half their offspring "Facundo") that the book stopped being fun for me. Not only are there too many Bacardis at this point, but they also start forming an endless number of organizations with interchangeable acronyms (FRD, CRC, RECE, CANF). That, combined with their somewhat t ...more
Nov 28, 2008 JoeM rated it liked it
Recommends it for: drinkers of rum or those interested in Cuban history.
Shelves: read-in-08
I liked this book. When I was younger, I knew members of the Bacardi family. I met them in Mexico City when I was in my early teens. Aside from the recognizable surname, I had no idea about their family history. This book presents the family's complex relationship with its homeland in as clear and seemingly unbiased way as possible given the history of the Cuban nation.

Some of the family members I know were in the book. I am now interested in hearing their reviews of the book and what they perso
Feb 09, 2016 Myersakrawiec rated it did not like it
Shelves: cuba, history, non-fiction
Unfortunately, I did not finish this book, although I wanted to but had to return it to the library or incur a $1 a day fine. Since I did not finish the book and I did not feel it was worth $1/day in fines to keep it in order to finish the book, I have to give it the rating of 1. Very interesting, but the author did get too involved with name dropping and very wrapped up in Fidel Castro's life story towards the middle of the book. I kept thinking, I didn't know I was reading a biography of Castr ...more
Massimo Monteverdi
Riciclando, suo malgrado, l'ultra-britannico motto: giusto o sbagliato, è il mio Paese, la famiglia Bacardi fu così connessa alla storia e allo spirito cubano che vien voglia di aprirne subito una bottiglia. Le generazioni si susseguivano, gli oppressori anche: dalla Spagna agli USA, da Batista a Fidel. Ma, anche dall'esilio in Florida, l'amore per la madrepatria non smise mai di essere distillato.
Feb 25, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: hist-misc
Extensive, thorough, and objective account of Cuba, rum, and the Bacardi Family. I'm married to a Cubana and I didn't know Bacardi was Cuban-that's embarassing. I thought they were Puerto Rican. That was because of their extensive efforts to re-brand themselves after Fidel appropriated the company. I didn't know they owned the breweries in Cuba-Hatuey Beer. Bacardis were fighters for Cuba against Spain. They welcomed Castro and realized too late he was not the answer. Bacardi is thriving today b ...more
Catherine Woodman
This is a story that I was completely unfamiliar with but is a great one--the Bacardi family essentially created rum in Cuba that was of a decent quality and took it out of the realm of sailor drink and made it chic--and that may explain why all the good rum drinks also come out of Cuba--they had a commercial reason to push great rum cocktails. The Bacardi's were also big supporters of Cuban independence, which is why it is ironic that they then got pushed out of Cuba--about the last 60% of the ...more
Jan 09, 2015 Ann rated it really liked it
I don't read a lot of books about wealthy families in exile but believe I may begin to do so after reading Gjelten's. fascinating history about Cuba's political history and this family's intimate ties to that as well as issues of self-identity and national identity.
Susan Hester
Dec 27, 2009 Susan Hester rated it really liked it
Really, really good history of the Bacardi family and their struggles to 1) make rum a worldwide beverage and 2) to deal with the socialization of companies under the Castro regime. While I really enjoyed it, I believe that Gjelten tried to both present a history of rum and its primo family and at the same time, to give a history of Cuba. Probably the latter could have been minimized a little more than it was, although it was interesting. If you are wanting to know about Cuba, don't expect that ...more
Fred Gorrell
Jul 25, 2011 Fred Gorrell rated it really liked it
A history of Cuba from colonial 19th century forward, told through a biography of the Bacardi family and companies. Though the book is a bit dry, it does a competent job of describing the events in Cuba that shaped the perspective of the family that owns this prominent corporation. One particularly intriguing detail, relevant to current day political discourse, is a concern about Ronald Reagan's perspective voiced during Reagan's campaign for the presidency by Pepin Bosch, the leader who transit ...more
Deborah Kramb
Dec 10, 2015 Deborah Kramb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
In anticipation of a trip to Cuba next year I decided to bone up on my Cuban history. I found this book fascinating and an easy read. The story of the Barcardi family was interwoven into the political and historical events of the day giving me a feeling of what it was like to live in Cuba for the last 130 years. I found the business/economic details a little over my head but that didn't ruin the story. The book may be a little too pro-American for some - but there definitely was a hint of the ne ...more
Jan 10, 2015 Joe rated it it was amazing
A sweeping, yet accessible, history of the Bacardi family and their Cuban homeland. It paints a vivid portrait of each generation, and includes accounts and anecdotes that help shed light on the present day.
Margaret Sankey
Jun 29, 2012 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it
The Bacardi family rose from being one cane raising rum producer among many through quality, marketing and fortuitous timing (seeing a promoting a modern brand during American prohibition, mostly), while supporting the generally liberal causes of Cuban politics--more independence from first Spain and then the US, protests against Batista and corruption. However, the hard turn of the Castro revolution to confiscation and asset seizure drove the Bacardis to Puerto Rico with their bat-labeled bottl ...more
Martin Doudoroff
Oct 09, 2009 Martin Doudoroff rated it really liked it
Well-researched, highly readable popular history of Bacardi and Cuba (largely through the history of Bacardi). The first two thirds cover Bacardi's founding and evolution from a family business to a multinational company, spanning the independence of Cuba from Spain through the fall of the Batista dictatorship. The last third covers the history of Bacardi and Cuba during the Castro dictatorship. The book isn't about rum, per se, but it's probably still essential reading for anybody interested in ...more
Mar 02, 2014 Jose rated it it was amazing
Now, this was a well researched work. I was totally fascinated by the level of scholarship that went into this book. He paints quite the chronological picture of the history of the Company, the family members and the Cuban society. I really enjoyed how all the elements were tied together and explored from the varying perspectives of the main characters developed in the telling. I highly recommend this book for any aficionado of history and rum!!!
Temple Dog
Apr 19, 2009 Temple Dog rated it it was amazing
The book was riveting. It combined the best of literary worlds, history, intrigue and contemporary context.

With the Obama's renewed interest in our volatile southern neighbor I found this book remarkably timely.

Additionally, Gjelten keeps you engaged with contemporary references i.e. Desi Arnaz 's connection and Raul's marriage to a Bacardi, while weaving them seamlessly into the historical fabric of the novel.

I could not put this book down and I highly recommend it to history, political and pr
Roger Castillo garcia
May 11, 2015 Roger Castillo garcia rated it it was amazing
Un paso por la historia de cuba de la mano de la familia Bacardi, muy pero buen libro la verdad me impresiono todos los datos que contiene con exactitud, nos deja mucha nostalgia y lo mas bonito es q nos deja mucha esperanza. Uno de mis favoritos, disfruté mucho aprendiendo mas sobre mi país, algunas partes tristes en las que se define el rencor hacia ese líder que le arrebato a los cubanos todo. Todas las partes del libro bien escritas y sobre todo el final ese es mágico inspira
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