The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba's Last Tycoon

By John Paul Rathbone

The son of a Cuban exile recounts the extraordinary and contradictory lifetime of famed sugar baron Julio Lobo, the richest guy in prerevolutionary Cuba and the final of the island's haute bourgeoisie.

Fifty years after the Cuban revolution, the mythical wealth of the sugar rich person Julio Lobo continues to be emblematic of a undeniable lifestyle that got here to an abrupt finish while Fidel Castro marched into Havana. recognized in his day because the King of Sugar, Lobo was once for many years the main strong strength on this planet sugar marketplace, controlling significant swathes of the island's sugar pursuits. Born in 1898, the 12 months of Cuba's independence, Lobo's amazing lifestyles mirrors, in nearly lurid technicolor, the numerous rises and ultimate fall of the Cuban republic.

the main points of Lobo's lifestyles are healthy for Hollywood. He two times cornered the overseas sugar industry and had the most important selection of Napoleonica outdoors of France, together with the emperor's again tooth and dying masks. He as soon as confronted a firing squad merely to be pardoned on the final second, and later survived a gangland taking pictures. He courted motion picture stars from Bette Davis to Joan Fontaine and stuffed the swimming pool at his sprawling property with fragrance whilst Esther Williams came around.

As Rathbone observes, such are the legends of which revolutions are made, and later justified. yet Lobo used to be additionally a innovative and a philanthropist, and his genius used to be so broadly stated that Che Guevara for my part provided him the placement of minister of sugar within the Communist regime. while Lobo declined-knowing that their worldviews might by no means be compatible-his houses have been nationalized, so much of his fortune vanished in a single day, and he left the island, by no means to come back to his loved Cuba.

Financial Times journalist John Paul Rathbone has been thinking about this intoxicating, whirligig, and contradictory prerevolutionary interval his whole existence. His mom used to be additionally a member of Havana's storied haute bourgeoisie and a pal of Lobo's daughters. Woven into Lobo's story is her family's event of republic, revolution, and exile, in addition to the author's personal fight to come back to grips with Cuba's, and his family's, turbulent background.

Prodigiously researched and imaginatively written, The Sugar King of Havana is an enthralling portrait of the glittering finish of an period, but additionally of a extra hopeful Cuban earlier, person who may perhaps even offer a window into the island's destiny.

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He was once by no means merciless with the vanquished, ruthless with the disposed, nor prejudiced with racial minorities. ” Lobo as soon as acknowledged he sought after his Napoleon assortment to be a “laurel to the Emperor,” which on my own indicates he observed his assortment as a monument of appreciation instead of considered one of emulation. Like many creditors, Lobo’s have to appreciate used to be more than the necessity to be popular. funds is the collector’s ordinary constraint, and as Lobo’s wealth grew so did the gathering. first and foremost, Lobo kept his Napoleon records and relics in a haphazard model round the residence in Miramar. After the divorce from María Esperanza, whilst he moved again to 11th and Fourth streets, the gathering elevated till it coated a number of flooring of 2 of the homes, with Lobo residing in a rooftop condominium within the 3rd. by the point of the revolution, it had grown into the biggest choice of Napoleonica open air France, with over 200,000 files and 15,000 items, controlled via a employees of 5 full-time specialist librarians led via an aristocratic bibliophile, María Teresa Freyre. Lobo dispatched his assistants to France for classes in Napoleonic heritage, after which to England for the Wellingtonian view. again in Havana, they used a unique cataloguing procedure commissioned by means of Lobo and designed by way of Josy Muller, a curator from Belgium’s Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire. If Lobo desired to seek advice a unprecedented record or e-book, an assistant could deliver it to the library, a room solely for his personal use. Lobo might learn in a simple chair, his head tilted into the publication, straining in a circle of sunshine, looking one of the pages. “It used to be a sacred position for Julio,” remembered Audrey Mancebo, the library’s second-in-charge. “I frequently questioned what percentage of his rules have been born that manner. ” Lobo’s Napoleon-bedecked sitting room. Havana, 1958. Lobo’s assortment was once the extravagance of a real collector. It was once obsessive and pointless, but via definition all nice inner most collections are so. In 1959, while Lobo privately released a quantity of letters among Napoleon and the Comte de Mollien, his minister of finance, common Charles de Gaulle, one other tricky guy with a feeling of future, wrote from Paris to thank Lobo for “this necessary contribution to the examine of the Imperial Age. ” this present day, so much of Lobo’s Napoleonic books are stored at the best ground of the museum. Ringed by way of a breezy terrace, it's the purely shiny room within the outdated condominium. wood cabinets run down either side, bursting with leather-bound books, a few with the initials “JL” gold-embossed on their spines. whilst I requested one of many attendants if i may open a ebook, simply to have a peek, she acknowledged no, reflexively, even if maybe the manager may be able to support. I climbed down the marble steps, knocked at the cracked window of an workplace at the flooring ground that ignored the backyard, and a skinny girl with the beleaguered glance of a minor civil servant got here out. We sat within the color of an arbor overflowing with crimson and orange bougainvillea, and she or he with politeness defined, with a resigned experience of the absurd, that tristemente, unfortunately, no one was once allowed to refer to the books, now not even specialist Napoleon researchers.

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