The HOTY (a.k.a. Husband of the Year for new readers) and I have just returned from a magnificent trip to Cuba. Yes, Cuba. I still can’t believe that this time yesterday we were in Havana. Worlds, no galaxies apart. Traveling to Cuba is like traveling in a time machine back to the year 1959. From the moment we landed: 1959.
I’m so excited to share everything about the trip! I’m so excited, in fact, that I offered to do a power point presentation in (our daughter) Finally Five’s Kindergarten class. Seriously. Her teacher said, “Sure!” but looked at me as though I were a little off my rocker. Clearly, they didn’t have power point in 1959.
I am still processing the reentry into a life of abundance…and by abundance, I mean food, running water, democracy.
I will have much to share over the next few days, but in the meantime I thought I’d start with the most visible evidence of the time machine: Cuban Cars.
Everywhere we looked we saw rambling 1950s Fords, Buicks and Pontiacs, some in mint condition, others (most, actually) on the verge of collapse. I was stunned to learn that there are an estimated 60,000 pre-1960 American cars roaming Cuba. About 150,000 existed at the time of the 1959 revolution, shortly after which the Detroit auto giants and all American manufacturers were forced to stop sending goods to Cuba to conform to the United States’ embargo.
There is a feeling abroad that Cubans love old American cars. We learned first hand that nothing could be further from the truth. Cubans love new American cars, not old ones, but the newest ones that they can get their hands on are 45 years old.
Speaking of getting their hands on cars, it was just one month ago that Cubans were granted permission by the government to buy and sell cars to one another. Seriously. Prior to this, they did trades. Literally.
To own one of these vintage cars, known as cacharros, or less commonly, bartavias, in Cuba defines who you are, how you spend your time and how you wish to be known. When plugs don’t spark, when a faulty brake line can’t be repaired, when the engine sputters into a coma, when a person runs into any difficulties, equipment is fabricated personally, shared with a friend, or bought from a stranger. Or the car is put on blocks until the right part appears the next day, month or year. Our dear guide told us, “We do not have mechanics. We have magicians.”
The Silver Lining is that there is still an indomitable charm and determination omnipresent in the cars on the streets of Havana.