Business & Economy

Cuba’s first woman rum master reflects on her path

By Laura Becquer

Santa Cruz del Norte, Cuba, Mar 4 (EFE).- Becoming the first female member of the select club of Cuban rum masters was the result of “effort, commitment and responsibility,” Salome Aleman told EFE.

“You fall in love when you enter this factory,” she said during an interview at the Corporacion Cuba Ron S.A. distillery in Santa Cruz del Norte, 66 km (41 mi) east of Havana.

Aleman, 57, has spent a good part of her life working at the facility that produces all of the light rum varieties sold under the Havana Club name.

In 2016, the Havana-born chemical engineer was certified as the island’s first female rum master, shattering a long-standing taboo and paving the way for Noemi del Toro, based at a distillery in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, to join the club three years later.

As a master of Cuban rum, “the first responsibility, among many, is to be a guardian of an inherited tradition, of a way of making rum that differs from other countries,” she said.

That legacy includes matters of technique and practice as well as the role of rum as a symbol of Cuban identity, Aleman said.

Last year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized Cuba’s rum-making craft as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Generations of Cuban masters transformed the rum that was introduced to the island from Puerto Rico in colonial times “with an entire series of sensory aspects that made it what we offer the world today with much pride,” Aleman said.

She insisted that she did not face any professional obstacles when she set out to become a rum master.

“Being an apprentice allows you to be part of the teams of the masters, to listen to them, learn from their experience. They themselves wanted the incorporation of a woman in the movement,” Aleman told EFE.

She added, however, that a woman pursuing professional advancement must still contend with “the traces of machismo in Cuban society,” as well as the burden of being the primary caregiver in the family.

“They have been difficult times, but only that commitment inspires you to move forward and seek alternatives in your person life,” Aleman said.

At the end of the tour of the Santa Cruz distillery, she said that she remains enthusiastic about her work.

“I have the commitment to continue training aspiring masters and good technicians for the future,” Aleman said. “I have a commitment to my factory and my barrels.” EFE lbp/dr

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