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Friday, March 24, 2006

The Secret History of Rum

"... As its record shows, Bacardi is the original multinational. Its trademark is now held in Liechtenstein, one of the most secret and secure banking centers in the world, which contrives to be "offshore" in the middle of the Alps. However, while attending to business, the Bacardi family has never missed a chance to get its own back on Castro. Bacardi clan chief Juan Pépin Bosch brought a touch of the old connection between buccaneering and rum back to life in 1961 by buying a surplus US Air Force B-26 Marauder medium bomber in order to bomb a Cuban oil refinery. Later he was the money behind a plot to assassinate Castro. For many years Bosch was a major financier for the Cuban American Lobby and a major litigator who brought the United States to the verge of trade wars with the rest of the world. The technique has been to lobby legislators to exercise their anti-Cuban prejudices, regardless of general principles of international or indeed domestic law, and then to pay lawyers to implement the resulting legislation.
Bacardi was spurred into action when Castro's government went into partnership with the French liquor giant, Pernod Ricard, to market the renowned Havana Club internationally. Even though excluded from the US market by the embargo, Pernod was able to sell 38 million bottles of Havana Club in the first few years. In anticipation of an end to the Cuban embargo, it was gearing up for big sales in the United States. This was a challenge both political and commercial to Bacardi, which set to firing retaliatory legal broadsides and to the rediscovery of its Cuban roots.
Bacardi, wherever it is made, had for some decades tried to bury its Cuban origins, but in the 1990s it went into reverse. Its labels began to mention prominently that the company was founded in Santiago de Cuba in 1862 while eliding mention of where the rum was actually made currently. In 1998, "rum and Coke" or "Bacardi and Coke" suddenly became known as a Cuba Libre again. To match the myths, various stories were circulated to celebrate Cuba Libre, claiming that it had been invented by an American in 1898 to celebrate the American victory over the Spanish in Cuba. ..."


Yep, The Secret History of Rum (the essay is excerpted from Ian Williams's Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776, published in July by Nation Books.), is in many levels as exciting as the fluid itself. (via Bifurcated Rivets)