April 28, 2007
We paid our 10 pesos and settled to wait in the courtyard, but after only 5 minutes or so, our English speaking guide arrived to take the two of us around the museum. His English was not brilliant and we both found him difficult to understand, but thankfully most of the exhibits were subtitled in English and fairly self-explanatory. It was really interesting to hear how Cuba had built up its business based on locally grown sugar cane and massive imports of slaves from Africa. Somberly, our guide explained that the majority of the slaves did not survive the long sea-crossing and those who did disembark were unhealthy and so poorly treated that few survived to enjoy old age. Indeed, they were often punished mercilessly if they performed poorly just so their fellow slaves understood the consequences of not working hard enough. Apparently, Cuba was one of the largest "human importers" with over 300,000 being employed on the island in the early 1800s.
Our guide then led us down a dark corridor and, before opening a large imposing door, said that the next exhibit was the high-spot of the tour and his personal favorite. The doors were ceremoniously opened and there, laid out in front of us, was a scale model of a rum factory, complete with a model train chugging around the extremity. It was surely an elaborate model, but we found it difficult after a few minutes to share the guide's enthusiasm.
We made a move up a staircase at the side and found that we had a much better view of the whole layout. From here, it was much more interesting and the guide explained the site and the logistics of making rum. We were led past a life-sized fermenting barrel, with the accompanying bubbling, gurgling, and aromas (almost realistic). Next, the distilling process before we moved to a mock cellar with the smoky oak casks that will house the rum until maturity.
It's the end of the process, but not the end of the tour because next we find ourselves in the bar and we are now expected to try some proper rum. A hefty measure of what some refer to as a "a dazzling, transparent, amber-colored liquid" which taste nothing like the dark rum that I'm used to in the UK. This stuff will even challenge a decent whiskey!
From journal Havana and its museums