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The Greater Caribbean this week: The Nationality of Rum

Rum is a recent creation and although there is no specific date for its origin, its emergence is placed at the start of the 16th century, and being a matter of centuries, we could date its birth in the year 1550, because rum was not born in one day, it involved a process of ageing that lasted several years and whose epicentre was the Caribbean, which made rum known around the world.

Rum finds its origins in the English, French and Spanish colonies of the Caribbean. In the English colonies it was called Kill Devil while in the French islands it was referred to as Rumbullion, a name that was shortened over the years to Ron in Spanish and Rum in French, however it was also known by other names such as Tafia.

Rum was discovered by the indigenous peoples and the slaves and for them it was the healing drink, as recognised by Father Jean Baptiste Labat of the French islands.

Rum is a cultural product of the Caribbean. According to Father Labat, "it was the drink of the slaves and the indigenous peoples". Father Labat tells the story of how he observed the coloured and indigenous folk of the island "prepare a drink" which he describes as "strong and brutal made from sugar cane juice that made them merry and relieved their fatigue".

For many years, rum was the drink of the slaves and the sailors (pirates, buccaneers and adventurers). The English fleet later instituted a rum ration for its crew, since rum is what helped them to carry on with their lives of hardship. The owners of the sugar cane plantations, having witnessed the merits of this beverage, began its production and sale and thus it was sold to the rest of the world, however, the Caribbean was always its historic epicentre.

Today, the rum producing countries of the Greater Caribbean include Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Dominica, Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Nicaragua, nevertheless it can be said that rum is produced throughout the Greater Caribbean as a national or regional beverage, though not all rum producing countries are rum exporters.

In the islands of the Caribbean, there is a difference of opinion among Barbados, Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe as to the origin of rum (just to mention the most vociferous), but as the sorceress says in the film "Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Mans Chest" (Tia Dalma) regarding the content of the chest after the pirates relate the different versions "its the same story, though with different versions, but all are absolutely true". In other words, there is some truth in all versions of the origin of rum, but what is certainly true is that rum is a product originating in the Island Caribbean, extended throughout the Greater Caribbean, that is to say, the countries of the continent.

With rum being a cultural product, its place of production determines the types and variations of rum that exist and if we were to draw up a brief list of the names used to describe the different types of rum, it would include: light rums, gold rums, dark rums, flavoured rums, over proofed rums, Premium rums.

In the same way that champagne comes from the region of Champagne in France and tequila from Mexico, the origin of rum lies in the Caribbean, and that should be an element to be considered by the rum industry of the Greater Caribbean and to encourage them to promote joint action with the relevant international organisations, in the conquest of this historic and cultural truth, abundantly supported and recognised by the international community: Rum is a product originating in the Caribbean made from sugar cane derivatives.

Source: By Manuel Madriz, Caribbean Net News

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