Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cuba: Yes That IS Your Great Grampa's Chevrolet

Yoani Sanchez
Award-Winning Cuban Blogger
Posted: July 31, 2010 01:06 PM

Cuba: Yes That IS Your Great Grampa's Chevrolet

There is a detail of our reality that fascinates tourists and surprises
collectors around the world: the number of old cars still running on the
streets of the country. Right now, on some Havana street, a 1952
Chevrolet purrs along, and a Cadillac, older than the Minister of
Transportation himself, is in use as a shared taxi. They pass by us,
rusting out or newly painted, on the point of collapse or winning a
contest for their excellent state of repair. These rolling miracles make
up a part of our country, just like the long lines, the crowded buses,
and the political billboards.

At first, visitors show surprise and pleasure on seeing the theme park
created by these vehicles. They take pictures and pay up to three times
as much to sit in their roomy interiors. After asking the driver, the
astonished foreigners discover that the body of that Ford from the early
20th century hides an engine that's just a decade old, and tires adapted
from a Russian Lada. As they earn the trust of the owner, he tells them
that the brake system was a gift from a European friend, and that the
headlights are originally from an ambulance.

Summer people marvel at the taste of Cubans in conserving such relics
from the past, but few know that this is more by necessity than choice.
You can't go to a dealership and buy a new car, even if you have the
money to pay for it, so we are forced to maintain the old. Without these
artifacts of the last century, our city would be less picturesque and
more immobile every day.

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