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Veteran journalist explores famous Cuba rum family history, business

Posted by Elena del Valle on March 27, 2009

Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba book cover

Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba book cover

In Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause (Viking, $27.95) Tom Gjelten, a correspondent for international issues for National Public Radio (NPR), uses a literary magnifying glass to examine the history of five generations of the Bacardi family, world famous rum makers exiled from Cuba. The 413-page hardcover book, published in 2008, is divided into 23 chapters tracing 150 years of the family from the 1860s to the post-Castro era.

The idea for the book was born in 1999 as a way to tell the modern story of Cuba with a new twist, and Gjelten began writing it in 2003. He believes the Bacardis had the type of forward thinking community oriented mentality the island needed and failed to produce.

In the process of researching and writing the book he interviewed 100 people and conducted extensive archival research in Santiago and Havana, Cuba as well as Washington, D.C. and Miami, Florida. He traveled to Cuba 15 times and dedicated many weeks to the project in South Florida.

Gjelten believes the salient aspect of his findings is that although the Bacardi family business remains almost 100 percent family owned the company has survived through five generations of the family, and is thriving as a modern multinational company. The book has two sections of black and white photos of the Bacardi family, factories, buildings and people, including Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

Gjeltenis, a resident of Arlington, Virginia, is a regular panelist on Washington Week, a PBS radio program. He received George Polk, Robert F. Kennedy and Overseas Press Club awards for his journalistic work from the former Yugoslavia. Prior to Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba, he wrote Sarajavo Daily: A City and its Newspaper Under Siege.


Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba book cover

Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba book cover

Click here to buy Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba