The Fanjul Family
Through inheritance, Alfonso Fanjul, Sr.
Mr. & Mrs. Alfonso Fanjul
Photograph by Bert & Richard
controlled the Czarnikow-Rionda Company in New York and the Cuban Trading Company in Cuba. When he married Lillian Rosa Gomez-Mena, the combined holdings of the two families included ten sugar mills, three alcoholic distilleries, and real estate throughout Cuba. Fidel Castro seized all their assets in 1959.
After fleeing to New York, Fanjul and other Cuban refugees raised $640,000 to buy 4,000 acres in Pahokee. By barge, they brought sections of three small sugar mills from Louisiana and reassembled them into the Osceola mill. In 1961 they began sugar production as the Osceola Farms Company. Fanjul’s oldest son, Alfonso "Alfy" Fanjul, Jr., helped his father to manage the early development of the company. They were later joined by Jose "Pepe" Fanjul, Alexander L. Fanjul, and Andres B. Fanjul.
Osceola Mill, 1980s.
Courtesy Florida State Archives
Since 1961 their company, known as Florida Crystals, has become a fully integrated sugarcane operation. The company plants and harvests sugarcane and then processes it at its sugar mills, packs it, and distributes the product throughout the United States. Florida Crystals has three processing plants: Okeelanta processes about 22,000 tons of sugar a day; Osceola mill processes 13,500 tons a day; and their Sem-Chi rice mill handles rice products. The company was the first to grow certified organic sugar and they also pioneered growing organic rice in Florida. To help provide power for its mills, Florida Crystals has a renewable energy plant. The facility also provides power for about 43,000 homes. Florida Crystals has become a household name as the parent of Flo-Sun, Inc.’s Florida holdings, but is also a family business, owned by the “first family of sugar.”