Emilio Bacardi Moreau Museum

As you explore Santiago, it's tough to miss this stunning building across the way from the Palacio Provincial. The Bacardi Museum, as it's often simply called in English, is housed in an architecturally impressive building with neoclassical flourishes. One of Cuba's oldest museums, this place is home to archaeological discoveries, an impressive Spanish art collection, exhibits on Cuban history, and the only Egyptian mummy found anywhere on the island!

The Emilio Bacardi Moreau Museum was founded by its namesake all the way back in 1899 (though the current building dates only to 1927). But in order to understand the museum and its mission, we have to understand a bit about the life of the man himself.

Who Was Emilio Bacardi?

Of course most of us recognize the Bacardi name from the eponymous brand of rum—and yes, Emilio did take his father’s company and helped it to grow towards the international brand that it’s become today. However, the man who founded the Bacardi Museum was much more than just a rum-distilling industrialist.

Though born in Cuba, Emilio Bacardi moved to Spain with his family due to an earthquake and subsequent cholera epidemics in Santiago. Even when his father returned to the island, he remained in Spain—gaining an education, but also steeping himself in the liberal European ideas of the time.

When he returned to Cuba as a young man, Emilio was more interested in art, philosophy, and politics than the day-to-day running of a business. But regardless, as the first-born son and the presumed heir to Bacardi, he had little choice but to engage himself in the family company. With time, he proved to be a more successful businessman than anyone could have guessed!

But that doesn’t mean that he threw his convictions to the wayside. Especially after he became the company president in 1877, Emilio began using his power and influence to support the radical idea of Cuban independence. After the Spanish-American War, Emilio was appointed the mayor of Santiago. He was generally recognized as an honest and competent leader, a reputation which later led to a seat in the Cuban National Senate in 1906.

Bacardi’s Museum

Emilio Bacardi founded his first museum in 1899. However, it was soon decided that the facility was not adequate to fulfill the museum’s mission. As such, construction on a new site began in 1922 and finished up in 1927. This building, designed specifically to house the museum’s collections, features an eclectic façade with neoclassical influences.

The Bacardi Museum houses three sections devoted to art, history, and archaeology. The art section contains an impressive collection of paintings representing the 19th century Spanish costumbrismo movement as well as some nice pieces of Cuban art. The history section provides plenty of information about Santiago’s past and also displays some personal belongings of national hero José Martí. The archaeology section, arguably the museum’s most famous, contains pre-Columbian American artifacts as well as the Egyptian mummy responsible for a large part of the museum’s fame across the island.

The Bacardi Museum is located in central Santiago and as of the time of writing is open from 1 PM to 5 PM on Mondays, from 9 AM to 5 PM on Tuesday to Friday, and from 9 AM to 1 PM on Saturdays. The museum is closed on Sundays.

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