John Carey, Professor of Government, Chair, Department of Government, John Wentworth Professor in the Social Sciences

My recommendation this time is Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten, which I’m reading these days in anticipation of joining an alumni trip to the island in February. The book weaves the story of generations of the Bacardi family, of rum-making fame, with the political history of Cuba. The Bacardis were leaders in the Cuban movement for independence from Spain in the late 19th century, then built one of the most successful export industries in the country during the first half of the 20th century. They opposed Batista, initially supported Castro’s revolution, and then felt betrayed when Castro nationalized their Cuban holdings. Through the years, however, the family had internationalized its production and distribution network. The company thrived even after the family left for exile, and eventually played a key role in the anti-Castro networks in Cuban-American Miami. Gjelten does a great job weaving the business history, political history, and family biography. Turns out there’s also more to making rum than I had thought.