Folklore looms large in the history of rum, spanning across multiple countries and production styles. In Cuba, the legend of the Giraldilla is linked with Havana Club, as the brand uses her for its logo. But who or what exactly is the Giraldilla and how did it become an icon for one of the most famous rum brands in the world?
A tale of love, art and history
La Giraldilla is the statue of a Taino woman that carries a pine tree trunk in one hand and the Calatrava cross in a flagpole in her other hand. She was constructed as a weathervane by the Cuban sculptor Geronimo Martinez Pinzon between 1630 and 1634. Originally, it was located at the top of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force) in Havana and overlooked the harbour in the Old Quarter.
The story behind the creation of La Giraldilla is filled with passion and heartbreak. Her tale began in 1537, when the King of Spain dispatched Governor Don Hernado de Soto to prepare an expedition to Florida from Cuba. De Soto was obsessed with looking for the Fountain of Youth, though he heeded the king’s mission and sailed from Havana’s harbour to Florida.
In his absence, de Soto left his wife Isabel de Bobadilla in charge of Cuba. Isabel spent her days climbing to the turrets of the castle, looking out to sea and waiting for her husband to return. But he never did. De Soto died on the banks of the Mississippi river on the 30th June 1540. Eventually, Isabel died of a broken heart.
Pinzon wished to immortalise the passion of Isabel and used her as appearance for the inspiration behind La Giraldilla. The weathervane stood tall for over three centuries, until it was badly damaged by a tropical storm in 1926.
A replica was made by Cuban sculptor Hipolito Nodarse in 1960 and set up on the castle. The original was transferred to the Havana City Museum and then brought back to the museum of the Castle of the Royal Force.
From her position atop the castle, La Giradilla continues to signal the direction of the wind for ships. She represents the passion of the Cuban people and the free spiritedness for which they choose to embrace life.
She’s the perfect symbol for Havana Club, which fought tooth and nail to become one of the most recognised rum brands on the planet.
Another popular figure from folklore that’s been married to rum is La Diablesse. Find out more about her story.