Havana Cuba Business Travel Culture and Politics

Havana Cuba News

Cuban American News

Posted June 24, 2007 by publisher in Cuban Americans

Email this article | Print this article | Search Havana Journal        

(original title: Sugar royalty in Palm Beach presses CBS not to smudge family in series)

By SUSAN SALISBURY | Palm Beach Post

Coming this fall: an epic television drama from CBS about a wealthy Cuban-American family in the sugar cane business.

A video clip of the series - it’s called Cane - on the network’s Web site opens with a party in Palm Beach.

Any of that sound familiar?

Click on the image to watch the Fall preview trailer and this clip too

If you’ve lived around here for a while and those details remind you of the Fanjul family of Palm Beach, you’re not alone. The Fanjuls think Cane might remind viewers of them, and they’re not really happy about it.

Joseph Klock Jr., Miami-based general counsel for the Fanjul’s West Palm Beach holding company, Flo-Sun Inc., said Friday lawyers for the Fanjuls are in communication with CBS and the scripts are being reviewed.

“We want to make sure it is absolutely clear it has nothing to do with the Fanjuls or their companies,” said Klock, of Epstein Becker & Green. “None of this conduct is the kind of conduct the Fanjuls engage in.”

Cane, which some industry observers describe as a “Cuban Sopranos,” is filled with the usual TV mayhem you’d expect from a glitzy prime-time soap: sex, violence and murder. There’s also an internal power struggle between two brothers in the powerful, fictional Duque family. The chief protagonist in the series is Alex Vega, an adopted son of the Duques played by Jimmy Smits, a well-regarded actor of Puerto Rican descent most recently featured on The West Wing.

“I would think if CBS wants to produce some sort of entertainment series that has a bunch of slimy people doing slimy things, they would do everything in their power to make sure the good reputation of the Fanjuls and their company are not even remotely implicated,” Klock said.

Gaston Cantens, a spokesman for Florida Crystals Corp., the Fanjul’s Florida sugar company, said Cane has some obvious parallels between the Duques and the Fanjuls.

“It portrays one prominent Cuban-American family in the sugar business, and that is the Fanjuls,” Cantens said, adding that the Fanjuls are the only Cuban-Americans with a sugar business that includes hundreds of thousands of acres in Florida, which describes the Duques of Cane.

For its part, CBS says it’s just a story.

“Cane is a completely fictional series and is not based on any members of the Fanjul family or any other real persons,” said Jennifer Solari, a Studio City, Calif.-based publicist with CBS Paramount Network Television. “We have given these assurances to representatives of the Fanjul family in response to their inquiries.”

Members of the Fanjul family would not be available for comment, Klock said.

Chuck Elderd, who heads the Palm Beach County Film and Television Commission, couldn’t be happier about the series.

“This is a CBS show. It took place in Palm Beach County. That’s huge,” Elderd said. “It is a class cast and very professionally done. From that viewpoint, it is a wonderful thing for Palm Beach County.”

Other members of the Cane cast include Hector Elizondo, Rita Moreno and Nestor Carbonell.

“It’s fiction. It is based on the fact a lot of the sugar business in Florida was the result of people emigrating from Cuba,” Elderd said. “It is not based on any family. The similarity ends there.”

The show also could boost interest in Florida’s sugar industry, Elderd said.

“People will get curious about sugar cane,” he said. “There will be more interest in sugar cane and the things that are happening with it.”

The chief screenwriter of Cane is Cynthia Cidre, the Cuban-born daughter of a sugar chemist who grew up in Miami and was pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Miami when she began writing for the film industry. Cidre could not be reached for comment.

“It’s a hot show. It’s very rich in terms of the quality of the show, the color and culture,” said a CBS spokeswoman who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “The number one show internationally is CSI: Miami. The draw to South Florida is a huge selling point, which is why the whole international community has embraced this show.”

Most of Cane will be shot in Los Angeles, with some scenes shot in Miami or Palm Beach County, the spokeswoman said.

Elderd said the commission received a call several months ago from the governor’s film commission, saying CBS was looking to shoot a pilot with a unique theme and needed sugar cane fields. The county film commission arranged the shooting at U.S. Sugar Corp.‘s fields near Pahokee in late March.

U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said a car scene was filmed in the cane field in one day.

“What I get a sense of is that it is supposed to be some sort of Dallas-y show, a family drama with action,” Sanchez said. “Who knows where they are going to take this thing?”

The depiction of Florida’s sugar cane industry might not be especially accurate, she said.

Sanchez said producers asked her to find some cane cutters. She told them cane is harvested mechanically now, but the producers said hand-cutting with machetes would be “more romantic.”

The dialogue also includes a reference to sugar as “the new oil” and a statement that it is 10 times more efficient to produce ethanol from sugar than from corn, which industry experts say isn’t true.

Barbara Miedema, spokeswoman for the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida in Belle Glade, which includes the Fanjuls in its membership, said she doesn’t see much realistic about Cane. “From what I have seen, it looks like pure fiction.”

The Fanjul sugar empire was founded in 1960 by brothers Alfy and Pepe Fanjul, who came to the United States a year after Fidel Castro’s revolution. Flo-Sun, the holding company for the Fanjul interests, owns the Domino, C&H and Florida Crystals brands of sugar and grows about 10 million tons of cane on 400,000 acres of land in Florida and the Dominican Republic, according to its Web site.

It also produces 50 million gallons of molasses, 50 million pounds of rice, 2.3 million crates of corn and 65 million gallons of furfural, a cereal-waste byproduct with industrial uses such as solvents and dyes. Unlike the Duque family in Cane, the Fanjuls do not make rum.

Flo-Sun and its subsidiaries employ about 25,000 people and post annual revenues of $2.5 billion.

Cantens, the Fanjul spokesman, said when the family first learned about Cane a few months ago, they thought it was going to be a documentary. They learned differently a few weeks ago, he said.

“Someone sent me an e-mail. Then it went to the legal end of the building,” Cantens said.

“People are going to say, ‘Oh, my God, it must be about the Fanjuls,’” he said. “That is their concern: if there are going to be similarities.”

The Fanjuls are proud of their history, Cantens said.

“They have done things the right way and grown their business through hard work and sacrifice and become successful at it, to live the American dream,” he said.


Flo-Sun Holdings
Headquarters: West Palm Beach
$2.5 billion in revenues
400,000 acres
10 million tons of sugar cane
3.5 million tons of refined sugar (Domino, C&H, Florida Crystals)
Renewable energy: largest biomass power plant in the United States
Casa de Campo Resort,
Dominican Republic
50 million gallons of molasses
65 million pounds of furfural alcohol
2.3 millon crates of corn
50 million pounds of rice
25,000 employees
Source: Flo-Sun Inc.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on June 24, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Do old Cuban American exiles ever do anything without lawyers?

    First they feel entitled to dictate US Cuba policy with the failed Plan A Embargo then they act like idiots and sue to have Elian Gonzales illegally stay in the US and now they demand to review the script of a television show?

    I guess I should expect a letter from the Fanjul family lawyers telling me I have no right to criticize them or even use their name on my website without their review?

    I don’t know the Fanjul family. I give them lots of credit for coming here and contributing to the US economy and it sounds like they have built a nice fortune for their hard work which is the American dream.

    Maybe this story leaked out and they are not really sending the lawyers in to censor the CANE television show BUT IF THEY ARE I will be watching them and criticizing them for pressuring the producers to alter the script.

    Either way CANE has all the makings of a real world drama and the more press it gets, the more average Americans will think about Cuba and ultimately the failed Plan A Embargo.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on July 12, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    We have just launched our CANE CBS tv show forum in our Cuban American Forum.

    If you have any information about this upcoming show, please post it.

    Once the show starts in September, we will start a new thread for each episode so Havana Journal members can discuss each episode.

    Cuba consulting services

  3. Follow up post #3 added on July 12, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    We bought the domain name http://CaneForum.com so just remember that and you’ll end up at the CBS CANE TV show forum in the Cuban American Forum of the Havana Journal.

    Cuba consulting services

  4. Follow up post #4 added on July 15, 2007 by Miriam

    I am excited, and a little leery, of the responce to the upcoming show Cane. I wasn’t a fan of the drama “Sopranos” but recall much of the controversy surrounding its stereotyping of Italian-Americans. As a Cuban-American from a predominantly hispanic community, I will be watching carefully to ensure that our culture and traditions are accuratly portrayed and respected.
    However, I’m not ignorant to the attention a show like Cane can bring to the political atmosphere of current day Cuba. Perhaps, a show like this might solicite interest in the economic and humanitarian conditions of Fidel’s regime. But most importantly, I look forward to the cultural revival of what was once a beautiful country with a rich, yet troubled, history of what was once considered—in Frank Sinatra’s day—the American Riviera.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on July 25, 2007 by U dont know

    you dont know what you talking about these people are hard workers… they had everything in Cuba and it was taken from them and moved to the US with nothing at all and the second that a Cuban starts doing well here all the fat as Americans that cant do anything get mad…..stop talking shit about these people and use your time to go make some of your own money…..fat and lazy shit talking americans

  6. Follow up post #6 added on July 25, 2007 by Miriam

    You obviously didn’t read carefully at what I was wrote in my post. I know how much Cubans lost, and I know how hard it was to rebuild a life in a foreign country. My parents lost everything, a promising career, but most importantly they lost their family. Do you know how hard it is on my mother not being able to see her mother for 35 years? Not to have the freedom to travel and visit her family because of the fear of the current govenment. Cubans, both in Cuba and in the US are amongst the hardest working and proudest hispanics in the world, but you can’t deny the fact that its virtually impossible to prosper in a communist regime. I don’t blame the people, but the Cuban and American governments for the political atmosphere in current day Cuban.  Don’t just to conclusions, but listen and read carefully to the silent sorrows of the lost promise of pre-Fidel Cuba.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on July 26, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Well said Miriam.

    Emotions run high in the Cuban American community. Regarding the show, I think it will be somewhat of a learning tool (as good as a Hollywood produced TV show can be) for the average American about Cuba and Cuban American culture (although the Cane family is certainly not the typical Cuban American family).

    What I hope does not happen is that the show somehow offends the old Cuban exiles and they either protest the show or worse force it off the air.

    For example, say one of the Cane characters suggests going to Cuba do cut a deal with Fidel to grow sugar for ethanol. An interesting story line but they would have touched the “third rail” of Cuban American politics and boom, just like that the show is off the air.

    I am not making a prediction but the show could go off the air like that.


    Cuba consulting services

  8. Follow up post #8 added on July 26, 2007 by you dont know

    That is not it at all…..this is not a show that will show the Cuban people and all their greatness rather its going to show the culture as a money hungry killers that cant even control their own family because fighting will take over the family…..as a Cuban I and we should not be supporting this show…..the Cuban people are going to be portrayed even more like a “scareface” or “sopranos” we need to put an end to this and show what the real Cuban culture is truly about great food, dance, family and religion!!!!

  9. Follow up post #9 added on July 26, 2007 by to the publisher

    you dont know what this show is going to bring you an idiot and i hate to see dumb ass cubans that like the “scarface reputation” shut your mouth because you clearly don’t know what you are talking about I work for Viacom which if you didn’t know is the holding company for CBS NBC MVT ect. And I have see this show and it is the worst this that could happen to the Cuban people and I plan on leaving my great position the day the show airs….. know that facts before you just start running your mouth about something you clearly don’t know about>>>

  10. Follow up post #10 added on July 26, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Here comes the Cuban exiles stifling American freedoms again.

    Sue and whine and protest. That’s the vocal MINORITY of Cuban Americans.

    Cane is entertainment, NOT a documentary.

    Cuba consulting services

  11. Follow up post #11 added on July 26, 2007 by Miriam

    To “U don’t know”... first of all, how can anyone take what you’re saying seriously if you can’t seperate your emotions from your logic. Your outbursts are childish and embarrasing, and frankly it discredits you and your message. Everyone is entitles to their oppinions, and trust me what you’re say is exactly what “publisher” and I are saying. But bring it down a notch or you’ll just be proving to skeptics out there that Cubans are irational, violent, and our of their minds.
    Now… if you’r call and clear headed, maybe we can have a rational conversation about this. This just break it down into simple terms for you…. Both “publisher and I agree with you. Yes… we agree that a show like this can endanger the reputation of Cubans and the Cuban culture. Many people who perhaps never met a Cuban ever might chose to stereotype us based on this show just as many Italian Americans are stereotyped now by the Soprano show ans every other mob-movie out there…. that is a risk and one that I will be watching closely to make sure doesn’t happen. BUT…. what I’ve added that perhaps you rushed to judgement on was that from this show—be it positive or negative—will come an awareness to the American culture that Cuba and Cubans are a society rich in histiry, culture, religion, and family. But most importantly, a show like this might bring attention to the humanitarian issues in Cuba. We’ll here more about it in the press and maybe we’ll bring the topic of the current political issues to the table.
    So, “u don’t know”.... we’re with you on this. You can be sure that many Cubans are anxiously waiting to see how the network choses to portray us. If they chose to go the way of the Sopranos, you kow we’re not going to stay quiet about this. I’ll be right there with you protesting and boycotting the network… but don’t let you’re passion get ahead of you… relax, wait, and see how things unfold.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on August 23, 2007 by Libertyman

    I will watch the show very closely. I strongly believe in the First Ammendment on freedom of speech that does not exist in Cuba.

    I am one of those that came over in 1961. I was seven years old.

    Without freedom of speech, we would be in the same situation as Cuba has been for over four decades.

    If this show has anything that is not accurate concerning us I will be out there speaking out against it which is my first ammendment right.

    However, we have to watch it closely because this is the liberal media and we all know how they are very much interested in lifting the embargo against Cuba.

    First I am against lifting the embargo. Cubas has represented a threat due to its biological weapons. One thing I would do while still maintaning the embargo is to seek out those in the Cuban government that were not responsible for executing and torturing innocent Cubans I would then call upon those of the new generation in government to start a dialogue in a third country and have conversations on what needs to be done before any lifting of the embargo. As a first step prior to any dialogue a declaration on the part of the Cuban government would have to be made that all Cubans both inside and outside Cuba are part of one nation. It would have to be followed by returning Cuban citizenship to all Cubans outside the island with no other pre-conditions no matter what may have ocurred in the past. Once that happens then the dialogue can start. If any like Raul Castro or any of the old guard try to get involved in these discussions then same will be discontinued. Also no other third parties may interfere in any such discussions. We must think of a post Castro Cuba one that would be without Raul Castro and any of the old guard. By the way this concept in speaking to Cuban officials of the new generation was put forth by the Cuban American National Foundation from what I heard. However there may be slight differences in their strategy and that which I propose.

  13. Follow up post #13 added on September 18, 2007 by Osiris7

    Be sure to watch the (free) CBC (Canada) documentary on sugar, which features footage of the Fanjuls and also their story.  Part 1 is here: http://tinyurl.com/2r5r4t and part 2 is here: http://tinyurl.com/39lehu

  14. Follow up post #14 added on September 19, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I watched the movies and they are interesting but have a “Michael Moore” quality to them… which I do not mean in a good way.

    Cuba consulting services

  15. Follow up post #15 added on September 19, 2007 by Osiris7

    Yes but are you disputing the facts in the program? Thousands of people tricked into coming from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, only to have their passports taken away so they could not return. They are also shunned by residents of the D.R. (I know, I’ve seen this firsthand). Then, they are not allowed to grow their own food and are forced to buy from the company store at twice the price. No health care is available, and people are paid $2 a day while being required to cut one ton of sugar cane each day, some of the hardest work imaginable.  Slavery is still alive and well, and people like the Fanjuls are essentially slave holders.

  16. Follow up post #16 added on September 19, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    No doubt it’s a crappy job, crappy lifestyle and crappy pay. That’s life in Haiti in general from what I understand.

    Can they quit and walk away? If so, they are not slaves.

    Can they strike and decide not to work without getting whipped? If so, they are not slaves.

    There are plenty of places in the world where life sucks. I’m not sure this is Fanjul’s fault.

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know the Fanjul family and have no reason to defend them. You are the one who suggested that I watch the movie.

    So, now it’s not about big sugar but really a movie about the plight of the workers? Smells like propaganda or at least a movie with an agenda.

    Cuba consulting services

  17. Follow up post #17 added on September 19, 2007 by u dont know

    i agree with the publusher….the movie had an agenda

  18. Follow up post #18 added on September 19, 2007 by Osiris7

    I think the movie made it pretty clear what sleazy tactics were used both in getting as well as retaining the workers. The workers cannot return to their former country, and cannot work elsewhere in the Dominican Republic. They are forbidden from growing their own food. I’ve read stories of people who try to leave being forced back at gunpoint. Sounds a lot like slavery to me. In a land of great potential wealth, there are a few with great wealth and the majority with nothing, and the power brokers that exist want to keep it that way.  To suggest otherwise reminds me of people who say, regarding Cuba, “Why don’t people just leave?”  As if it were that simple.  Since an argument based on ethics and humanism obviously would never sway you, the other point of the movie is that these same power brokers are granted huge subsidies while at the same time are able to keep their product at a higher per unit cost than anywhere else in the Americas. In other words, my tax dollars go to pay for Mr. Fanjul’s profits, and I don’t like that.  Another great example of corporate welfare at work.

Would you like to add more information?

Only members can add more information. Please register or log in

  • Advertise at Havana Journal Inc
We recommend this AirBnB Food and Drink Experience... Cuban flavors: Food, Rum and Cigars
Images of Cuba
Red classic Buick or Chevy
Follow Havana Journal
SUBSCRIBE to our Cuba Watch newsletter
LIKE us on Facebook

FOLLOW us on Twitter

CONNECT with us on Linked In

Section Archive
Havana Journal, Inc. BBB Business Review

Member of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy