I leave the hotel and turn left into Santo Christo Street. At the Cathedral I turn right and follow the Caleta de San Juan towards the city wall. When I exit the other side of the walls, the view over the bay is superb.
San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, was founded in 1521 by Juan Ponce de León, who named it ‘City of Puerto Rico’, or ‘rich port’. In the early 16th century, the city Spanish expeditions left from here on their journeys to unknown parts of the New World.
I take a picture of the El Morro fort at the entrance of the bay, which repulsed English explorer Sir Francis Drake in 1595.
I continue walking, following the wall towards the port, which was the Caribbean centre of trade for centuries. Even today it is the busiest port in the region.
I point my camera towards the other side of the bay and scan the coastline. I stop as I see two wind turbines appear in my screen. I zoom in. “There it is,” I say to myself. “The largest rum distillery in the world!”
“Say hello to Casa Bacardi,” I say to my camera, while I release the shutter.
The ferry across the San Juan bay
At the harbour I head straight for the ferry terminal and buy a ticket for the boat to Cataño on the other side of the bay. I board and take a seat next to the window. The ferry starts filling up. Locals on their way to work, and tourists – probably on their way to a tour of the Bacardi distillery.
Not me. I’m meeting Joaquin Bacardi III, the great-great-grandson of Don Facundo who founded Bacardi in 1862 in Santiago de Cuba. The Bacardi family left Cuba in 1960 when the Castro administration confiscated the Cuban company’s assets. Five years later Joaquin was born in Puerto Rico.
I take out my iPad and read the notes I made in preparation for the meeting. “Joaquin E. Bacardi III is president and chief executive officer of Bacardi Corporation,” I say out loud. He is responsible for managing operations and marketing for the Caribbean region. He also serves on the company’s North American Global Executive Committee.
The ferry lands at the Cataña terminal and I disembark with the other passengers. I exit the terminal building and hail a taxi. “To the Bacardi distillery, por favor,” I say to the driver. “Not to the visitors centre, but to the offices. I’m meeting Mr Joaquin Bacardi himself,” I add with a sense of pride, but the driver doesn’t seem to care.
Read more: “Meeting Joaquin Bacardi part 2”
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