Fearing the Hourglass

Bottle1Nestled amid the crystal glasses and barware of a hutch in my uncle’s home, there sits a bottle of Bacardi rum. Not just any rum, mind you, but a bottle of real Bacardi Anejo. What makes it real? Look at the label. Instead of the phrase “Puerto Rican Rum” that so many connoisseurs have grown accustomed to, this one bears the words “Santiago de Cuba.” This, is the real-deal. An original bottle of Bacardi, fermented and bottled in the Pearl of the Antilles, before the days of Castro’s ration book.

But that isn’t the only interesting fact surrounding this particular bottle of liquor. You see, this bottle was among those taken by Fulgencio Batista aboard the plane that ferried him out of Cuba on New Years Eve, 1959. It was later given to my grandfather—that’s a whole other story—who set it aside, vowing to drink it “the day Fidel falls.” Love him or hate him, Batista certainly wasn’t the maniac so often portrayed by Hollywood. True, his time was up and Cuba needed the a return to constitutional democracy by the time he fell, but those who continue to promote the idea that Cuba’s previous dictator—and yes, he was technically a dictator—was in bed with U.S. gangsters are trapped in a romantic work of fiction (guess who the author is?). Mayer Lanksy and his cronies didn’t own the Tropicana or Sans Souci. Those nightclubs were owned by Cubans. In fact, the flight that ferried my mother out of Cuba many years ago, also carried one of her best friends to safety: the daughter of the Cuban man who owned the Tropicana—but that too, is another story.

When I was a child, I often opened up the bar when nobody was around, to see how much of the alcohol had evaporated from the sealed bottle. Back then, it was nearly full, but over the years, I’ve watched the volume plummet. Currently, the bottle is only half full, and I’ve always viewed it as an hourglass, counting down the days till the death of the dictatorship. I pray that my interpretation is incorrect, for if it isn’t, Cuba won’t be free until sometime in January of 2059.

Truth-be-told, my most recent trip to the island didn’t do much to assuage my fears. I saw very little—if any—change. The reigns handed down to Raul a few years back, remain intact. Barely anybody on the island knows of the political prisoners or the various democracy movements. Ramiro Valdez has done an incredible job at keeping the cork on the internet. Meanwhile, outside the plantation, the international community is finally starting to wake up to the atrocities of the regime. While that is an incredibly long stride towards change, it isn’t enough. Something needs to happen from the inside, but without the ability of information to travel from one town to the next, from one province to the other, I fail to see how this will be possible.

During my stay, I had the distinct privilege to watch “A Mano Limpia,” “Maria Elvira,” “Noticiero Telemundo,” and “Noticiero Univision,” thanks to the illegal satellite TV hookup of a friend. The satellite cards used to secure the signal had been smuggled into the country by some rather famous artists—I can’t say what medium, lest I provide clues as to their identities—who you all know. In fact, many here in the U.S. have portrayed folks like those who took great risk to import the cards—and distribute them gratis—as lackeys for the regime. They are not, and we must think before making hasty accusations in the future.

The point is, that while I did see a few illegal satellite hookups, the vast majority of Cuban citizens have no access to this sort of information, and those who do, can’t simply walk around informing their fellow citizens like the newsboys of old, shouting “EXTRA, EXTRA, let me tell you all about it.” They watch the news, thankful for the ability to do so, and keep it to themselves. Well, not entirely to themselves—there is always some amount of gossiping that goes on when a defector appears on Miami television to divulge the dirty little secrets of the brothers-Castro.

And so, our little bottle of sweet sugar cane liquor continues to disappear, bit-by-bit, drop-by-drop. What was it the announcer used to say at the beginning of “Days of Our Lives?”

“….like sands in the hourglass…”

The rum bottle continues to lose portions of its contents, year-by-year.
The rum bottle continues to lose portions of its contents, year-by-year.

9 thoughts on “Fearing the Hourglass”

  1. I sent this to a friend the Great great Grandson of The Bacardis, he says keep the bottle laying not standing up, but when the Monarch falls there will be lots of Bacardi Añejo to be share. He also said it will be soon and My Ranch in South Dade will be the place to Roast the pigs and the Bacardi in celebration for all The Babaluans.

  2. Wahiro,

    I sincerely hope that your friend is right in his predictions because all we see these days is doom and gloom, not a glimmer of hope, no light at the end of the tunnel.

    Does your friend know something that we don’t?

    Just curious…

    We surely need something to revive our hopes like Fidel Castro dropping dead, Raul getting a heat attack while playing with his bodyguards (you know what I mean) because our prayers are not being answered and all we keep doing is burying the old folks that never had the chance to see Cuba free again.

    But if your friend is right you’ll see a party in this town the likes never experienced before and never will again.

    And I hope your friend invites us to the party but we know that day there’ll be parties all over town that will last several days.

  3. Anastasio:

    Could you do me a favor and tell me as much as you know about a brave man Manuel Blanco Navarro.

    Polishing a part of my book “Love and War in Cuba” it has to do with an ambush
    at El Paso del Corojo, on El Camino Real that goes past “Pinar del Agua” to the sea.

    Would you happen know more about that incident, supposedly Manuel Blanco (or Teniente Morales) were wounded there?

  4. Larry: Never heard of him. Why do you ask?

    And to Wahiro: I was thinking about your friend’s comment and keep coming back to the same logic – how would resting the bottle on its side help keep the alcohol from evaporating? With wine, that technique is employed to preserve the cork – the liquid being in contact with the cork when resting on its side, keeps the cork moistened, supple, and thus not dryed out. But with this sort of bottle, there’s no cork, it’s some type of plastic cap that rattles. My thought was to dip the head of the bottle into some molten wax, much like is done with wine bottles, actually. What might your buddy’s take on that idea be? Curious to hear!



  5. Anastasio,

    I’m sure the Bacardi family knows what they’re talking about regarding their products. Don’t be surprised if they have some of these bottles in their collection.

  6. Anastasio:

    Manuel Blanco Navarro was a decent
    and brave officer who was stationed at Guisa. He tried to mortar me once but obviously that did not work. Another time Blanco called the avioneta on me but the rounds missed….

    He later fought Castro and was eventually executed…

    What I would like to find out if anybody remembers him and if possible has more information on him than is the present drafts of my book of family memories “Love and War in Cuba.”

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