Cuba: A Look Back At The 1950’s

I’ve just returned from Cuba with the kind of tan that an Albertan farmer would be proud to own. Cuba is a fascinating country that has had many of its road-going machines frozen in time for the last 50 years. It was fifty years ago that Che Guevera, Camilo Cienfuegos, Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and their revolutionaries declared victory over Fulgencio Batista’s oppressive, corrupt, and US-backed regime. Since then, what we would consider classic cars have been kept running for lack of a better alternative. A United States embargo, a restrictive communist government, and a lack of discretionary spending have necessitated that ’58 Bel-Airs, ’59 Cadillacs, and Fiat 600’s roam the streets of Havana as we speak.

Interestingly enough, the last few years have brought increased freedoms and foreign currency into the island nation. This has resulted in the ability of residents to buy new cars (that aren’t decrepit Russian Ladas) for the first time in their lives. For most people, this means the choice between a Peugeot 206 and a Hyundai Elantra, as these are the only two new cars the average person can buy. To get your hands on something else, you have to be either very wealthy, a foreign ambassador, or a very good smuggler.

If you get the chance to visit Cuba, and manage to get away from your lush resort, you’ll find that there are also a fair few horse-drawn carriages. These became more popular after oil became tough to obtain subsequent to the instant collapse to the USSR, Cuba’s preferred trading partner for, well, everything.

6 thoughts on “Cuba: A Look Back At The 1950’s

  1. Janaki says:

    Wow. That’s an impressive gallery!

    Here’s a real question, though: did you drive any of these fine vehicles during your stay? ;)

    • Peter says:

      I wouldn’t exactly call our rental, a Renault Samsung SM3, a “fine vehicle”. So…no.

      The taxis we took were a Skoda Octavia wagon and a VW Passat wagon. Slightly more interesting that the SM3, but so is a bicycle.

  2. Vivian Manasc says:

    Nice article – and great cars. Where can I get one of those Kharman Ghia’s ?

  3. Howie says:

    Which certain beneficiary of nepotism did that ML 63 belong to?

  4. Peter says:

    Vivian, probably in the states somewhere.

    Howie, it was someone who should be thankful that they never ran into me. I would most certainly have reminded them of the principles upon which Cuba subscribes.

  5. Pete D. says:

    Updated with photos. Que bella!

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