Pepín Bosch, a Failed Uprising, and Bacardi Mexico

Gerardo Machado was elected president of Cuba in 1925 for a four-year term. By 1931, he had changed the Cuban constitution to keep himself in a position of power, and was elected “unopposed” for a second term. Political repression from his office grew more and more brutal, and his secret police, known as the “Porra” (translated as “club” or “cudgel”) arrested and killed perceived enemies of the government.

José “Pepín” Bosch, Enriqueta Schueg’s husband, vehemently opposed the Machado regime. When his friend Carlos Hevia was to take part in an armed uprising against Machado in August of 1931, Bosch wanted to be involved. He helped find a boat that would take Hevia, associate Emilio Laurent, and some volunteers to the northeast coast of Cuba for an assault on Gibara. With funding secured by Bosch for arms and ammunitions, the group was able to capture the police station, telephone exchange, and city hall at Gibara. The uprising was poorly supported, however, and failed when Machado bombed the city from the air. Many of the rebels were killed or captured. With his life likewise in danger, Bosch fled with his family to the United States.

In 1933, Enrique Schueg visited his daughter and son-in-law in the United States and offered Bosch the job of dismantling the failing Bacardi Mexico operations. Intrigued by the opportunity, Bosch agreed with the caveat that he could make his own decisions about what was to be done in Mexico. The Mexico plant had only been in operation for two years when he arrived, but sales were terrible and the company was in debt. With Schueg’s approval, Bosch launched a marketing campaign that emphasized BACARDÍ rum and Coke cocktails, as he had observed the popularity of Coca-Cola in Mexico. In addition, he began selling BACARDÍ rum in wicker-covered jugs to reflect the country’s love of handicrafts.

By December of 1934 Bosch had turned the Mexico operations around completely, doubling its profits and paying off its debts. Bosch eventually became the company’s president, known fondly as the “savior” due to his later efforts in protecting the company’s assets prior to the breakout of the Cuban Revolution.