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Graham Sowa: I've been living in Cuba for three years now. I would like to blame my obvious hair loss seen in this updated photo on the rigors of life here and medical school, but it is probably just genetic. I've made some of the strongest friendships during my time in Cuba from other writers on this website. The strength of those friendships has almost restored my faith that the online world can lead to offline and real life change. On that same note I've adjusted to using internet one or two hours a month. In the meantime I have rediscovered things like flipping through the pages of books, writing stuff down by hand, and having to admit that I don't know something instead of rapidly looking up the answer on Google while the teacher isn't looking.

Bocoy Rum Factory in Havana Closed Indefinitely

March 7, 2014 | Print Print |
The Bocoy rum factory.

The Bocoy rum factory.

Graham Sowa

HAVANA TIMES — Last week the Bocoy Rum Factory, the maker of Legendario brand rum, closed permanently with little notice to workers or the public.

I didn’t read about this in newspapers or hear it from street gossip; rather I heard it from the workers themselves.

The factory has a shop on the second floor which sells cigars, coffee, and rum along with touristy knick knacks.  Every once in a while I like to stop by after a day at the hospital and grab a cold beer in back of the shop…the only air-conditioned bar I know of in Cerro.

Within minutes of entering last week several people told me that the factory, opened in 1946 and formerly the exclusive producer of Bocoy brand rum, had closed down.

Inside the Bocoy Rum shop.

Inside the Bocoy Rum shop.

Apparently all of the workers were called to a meeting last Monday morning and told that the factory would close, they would be transferred to other places to work, and that Legendario rum will be distilled at a yet to be announced location.

No one really had any more information.

The casks of rum, visible from the second floor shop behind the shelves stocked with many of Cuba’s most known rum brands, still fill the warehouse.

bocoyThe factory shop is still open, mostly catering to tourists in on package tours who are dropped off to tour the factory.  However now that the factory is closed the shop workers are worried that the tour groups will stop coming through and eventually the shop will close as well.

The factory is located in the Cerro Municipality, which suffered another economic blow early this year when the Cuatro Caminos market closed its doors.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    What’s amazing is the lack of accountability that the Castros have in explaining why this factory is closing. Even more amazing is the sheep-like response of the Cuban workers who accept the closing without even a wimper.

    • Terry Downey

      Moses, the Castros don’t owe you any explanation about anything. And the Cuban workers will be transferred to new positions elsewhere. Wake up man. Factory closings are a way of life in the U.S. these days, and there’s no explanation needed because we all know why.

      • Moses Patterson

        You misunderstand. I don’t care for an explanation, let alone expect the Castros to give me one. I meant for the workers specifically and Cubans as a whole. Being transferred in Havana is a big deal. Your commute can go from 15 minutes to two hours. Public transportation in Cuba is a disaster and has a significant impact on life in Havana. When factories close in the US, explanations are demanded and given. My beef is not why factories close. My comment is the lack of accountability on the part of the Castros to explain the decisions they make that ultimately affect millions of lives and the timidity of Cubans to demand answers.

        • Terry Downey

          It is what it is. Such is the world we live in now…even in Cuba. I’m sure the Bocoy factory was very outdated and inefficient having been orginally built in 1948. The Legendario brand will survive, all-be-it distilled and bottled at another facility that is likely more modern, efficient, and profitable. But Bob, you’re right, the workers might be offered positions with the alternative facility, but it could be located too far away for many to entertain. Being a more efficient facility, they won’t likely have room for everyone either. Again, that’s the way things pan out for many workers these days.

        • Ruth Collins Larson

          What explanations do we get when companies close, in our affluent North American countries where greed abounds, Usually it is that the company is moving to a third world country where workers can be even more exploited and WE LET THE COMPANY CLOSE TO GO AND EXPLOIT MORE WORKERS AND TO MAKE BIGGER PROFITS – THE USA HAS MORE BILLIONAIRES THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!

          • Moses Patterson

            I agree that we may not like the explanation we receive but we get one just the same. Curiously, you write, “WE LET THE COMPANY CLOSE …”. Are you suggesting that “we” should not let a privately-owned company to close its doors should they choose to do so? By what right? If you ‘choose’ to sell your home and move, do I have the right to stop you? Having ‘billionaires’ is a bad thing? Since when? Why? Facebook founder Jeff Zuckerberg is a billionaire. What did he do to you to earn your scorn? Would you prefer to live in a country where there are probably only two billionaires? Say, Cuba with Fidel and Raul. Is that your preference?

        • james neil

          Moses
          I have noticed the exemplary record of American companies in being publicly accountable and responsible for their when they close a plant or business overnight.

      • http://www.BobMichaels.org Bob Michaels

        I would have to take exception to the “workers will be transferred to new positions elsewhere” phrase. I have been in too many towns where sugar mills have closed, such as Hershey, Australia, Guatemala, and Guaro, and see the laid off workers still sitting around decades later. The sad truth is there are no new positions elsewhere in Cuba. Now these people still are receiving minimal compensation and will forever. But they are destined to do nothing else but sit around for the rest of their lives.

        • Ruth Collins Larson

          Sounds like the good old USA and Canada. Laid off workers get no new jobs or minimum hour, insecure, low paid jobs. AND we live in an affluent country!

  • Hubert Gieschen