Due to--in roughly equal parts--the fifty-plus-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and the island's catatonic communist economy, the country has been unable to import many new cars or spare parts. Exceptions have been for vehicles for high government officials or others, like Olympic medalists, who have made outsize contributions to the country. But even these lucky few could only hope to get Ladas, Mukovitches and other Soviet brands about as exciting in design and performance as week-old borscht.
For some lucky reason, the East German Trabants, with their plastic bodies and two-stroke, two-cylinder engines never made it to Cuba.
The rest of the Cubans were left to deal with the herd of balky 1940s and 1950s American beasts. The ingenuity of these street mechanics is an inspiration. You can't help but wonder where this country would be if the all-controlling government were replaced by one that not only allowed--but encouraged--individual initiative and creativity. One that stopped restricting people at every turn and instead shouted: "Go at it folks! Let's get this country going!"
[In a comment to a previous blog, reader Joseph McClain mentioned "Yank Tanks," a 2002 documentary about how Cubans go about keeping these hogs running. I've ordered it from Netflix, but it hasn't arrived yet.]
|Double transplant: This Cadillac received a diesel truck|
engine and an air conditioner (right behind the grille). The
owner swears it all works--most of the time, anyway.
|Party time: With nary a cross word or an argument, these six guys|
went at it and by late afternoon the Caddy was back on the road
--roaring and blowing thick, black smoke--presumably
until the next on-street mechanical drama.