Museo Del Ron
Your trip to Cuba would be incomplete without sampling the local rum (or 'ron,' as the Cubans say - pronounce it more like the verb 'run' than the name Ron). You may already have had your fair share in Havana's many bars such as favourite Hemingway hang out, Floridita. However, in the interests of empirical research and to get to know the national tipple a bit better, a trip to the Museo del Ron is recommended.
Rum in Cuba
Rum has been produced from local sugar cane in the Caribbean and Latin America since the 17th century. The story is that slaves working on sugarcane plantations realised that molasses, which are a by-product of the sugar refining process, could be fermented into alcohol. Cuban production really took off in the 19th century.
History, politics and rum
Perhaps nowhere else in the Caribbean has rum been so closely intertwined with the political fortunes of the country as in Cuba.
The founder of Bacardi, now the largest privately held, family-owned spirits company in the world, was Facundo Bacardí Massó. He came to Cuba from Spain and founded a distillery in Santiago de Cuba in 1862, where he is credited with developing white (clear) rum. For 100 years, Bacardi was Cuban rum.
Originally supporters and bankrollers of the revolution, the Bacardi family - by now a significant dynasty - turned against Castro, Guevara and company once the politicians' attraction to communism and Soviet Russia became apparent. Hedging their bets, Bacardi had already moved assets elsewhere and when their remaining Cuban assets were seized by the new government in 1960, the final nail was hit into the coffin of Bacardi rum as a Cuban product.
Although the city of Santiago is still a major producer of Cuban rum, the one which is probably best known on the international market is Havana Club.
The Museum del Ron offers an insight into Cuban history that is of sufficient general interest, even to non-connoisseurs. Guided tours are offered in five languages and photography is encouraged. Visitors learn about the role of slavery and industrialisation (particularly the creation of the Cuban rail network) in the production and marketing of rum as well as the distilling techniques. You'll have the opportunity to see the full range of rums from the white 3-year old through the Añejo Especial to the 7 year version which are all common in European bars, as well as the more specialist Añejo Reserva and aged varieties. You might be tempted to pick yourself up a bottle of Maximo - a snip at US$2,000!
You get a small taster at the end before being shown the shop where you can buy all manner of merchandise for the rum lover in your life. There is also a bar and shop on site, although any of the neighbourhood bars might offer a marginally more authentic experience.
Get InspirationAll about where to go and what you can do
Christopher Columbus Cemetery (or Cementerio de Colon in Spanish) is generally recognised as the most historically and architecturally important cemetery in Latin America. Home to over a million interred bodies including politicians, musicians, writers, artists, military heroes, and religious figures from both Cuba and around the world, this landmark of the Vedado neighbourhood is worth a visit for any culturally- or historically-inclined traveller.
Two young members of the Sarra family emigrated from Spain to seek their fortune in the Cuban colony. The museum at the Drogueria Sarra charts their huge success as they and their descendent created a pharma business, which by the turn of the 20th century was the second biggest worldwide.
For visitors interested in Cuba's history, Chorro de Maita is a popular day excursion from nearby Holguin and the resorts of Guardalavaca. The archaeological site, reconstructed Taino village and museum offer a vivid insight into the lives of indigenous Cubans around the early years of the Spanish colonisation.
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