Monday, March 28, 2016

The Bacardi's of Santiago de Cuba

Bacardi Mansion in Santiago de Cuba
     Havana has its charm, but for pure Cuban history and colorful people it is hard to beat Santiago de Cuba.   From the battle of the Spanish Cuban and American War to what I want to talk about today, The Bacardi Family.   Emilio Bacardi Moreau, son of Facundo and Amalia, fought for independence from Spain, was exiled and jailed, once for four years. Eventually he became the first freely elected mayor of Santiago de Cuba. 

Facundo Bacardi Masso
          Facundo Bacardi Masso, youngest of four sons of a Catalonian stonemason. Masso emigrated to Cuba in 1830.   He set up his shop and worked it diligently , he became known as "Don Facundo," owing to his serious, Don-like manner.   Bacardi's wife, Amalia Moreau, and her wealth would end up helping Bacardi fund his business ventures over the years including the Bacardi Factory.    

     An earthquake almost destroyed Bacardi before it began.  In the summer of 1852, earthquakes hit Santiago de Cuba.  The city was nearly destroyed, along with it the aspirations of Bacardi.    The Caribbean experienced waves of cholera pandemics in the 19th Century, and Cuba was among the suffering countries. One such wave, which lasted from 1850 to 1856 and took two of their children, gave the Bacardi family an incentive to leave Cuba.   Not permanently, clearly, but after the earthquake and cholera outbreaks, Facundo thought it wise to return home to Catalonia for a time.

Bacardi Rum Factory Early Days
    They returned after a few years, at which point Facundo started toying with distillation.   Initially his rum was pretty rough stuff.   That  shouldn't surprise anyone, since it was basically developed as a "trash" product-in the sense that 17th Century sugar producers were beset with the problem their leftover molasses from the processing of the sugar  . In fact, they used to dump it in the ocean before somebody figured out how to ferment it and turn it into rum..

     Facundo Bacardi wasn't originally a distiller by trade.   A businessman looking for a hook, Bacardi and partner José León Boutellier toyed around with the process of rum distillation, incorporating the use of new white oak barrels for aging, charcoal filtering  and a proprietary yeast strain that Bacardi uses to this day.

Bacardi Daughter's Home on the Grounds of the Mansion
     The Bacardi Family lived a life of opulence in Santiago de Cuba.  Their home was massive and very beautiful.  Today you can tour the grounds and see the mansion that is being used as a school that Castro use to tech about the government of Cuba.   The daughter's house was also there on the grounds and just as spectacular.  They lived in a area that is nothing but huge beautiful mansions on the hills overlooking Santiago de Cuba. 

The Hatuey brand originated in Cuba and was owned by the Bacardi family.
     The Factory and the brewery are also still in full operation down next to the railway in the downtown area.  They still produce the finest rums in Cuba at this distillery.   The brewery, located just up the street from the rum factory is producing beers for local consumption only.  Even though the Bacardi's have been gone from Santiago de Cuba since 1959, their presents can still be felt.
Bacardy Rum Factory Today in Santiago de Cuba