It’s been a while since we visited Havana, the year seems to be flying away. I’m getting round to writing up the Cuba visit but will split it into three posts, this one is cars and transport.
We visited Havana – Cuba in March, we came back and I for one returned exhausted. Two weeks later I took a tumble on a pushbike, the rest is history as they say.
Yes, when I go away I am there to photograph and Cuba offers some particular issues. Firstly t’Internet isn’t what we know in these parts. To access it one buys a scratch card and sits in a park with the rest of the world. Speeds are limited so in my terms there’s no immediate Dropbox backup which means I’m immediately in my ‘awkward place’.
But before that there is the issue of flying into a country with an embarrassment of technology, this is a poor country that is rich, or a rich country that is poor. Whichever way the Nikons and Leicas that I was carrying around are firmly in the realms of the unattainable for most, but I was allowed through Cuban customs – yes they check your bags on entering the country.
Most people know the story, but Cuban transport is very much centred around American cars of the 50’s with a spattering of Russian cars such as Ladas and GAZ Volgas. I briefly drove a 1950 Chevy running a Hyundai diesel engine and Volga steering, it ran well, straight and tight. People repair things when there’s no easy alternative.
Motorbikes tend to be of eastern European origins frequently equipped with a chair, there are quite a few electric scooters around the city too.
We initially stepped out of the airport in the early hot hours of the morning, I had never seen so many ‘classic’ American cars. The morning after looking down from our apartment on the street below I assumed I was looking at some invented reality, a tourist pleaser. But no this is reality, Cuban reality, the cars mean a huge amount to their owners, often passed down through families. They cost a fortune and if they break they get fixed, parts are fabricated by hand even if it means sitting on the bonnet of a 55 Belair with an offcut of metal and some tin-snips. This is a world of embargoes, of low quality sometimes scarce fuel but this is very much the real deal.
P.S. People of Cuba
Over on my headshot website I’ve just posted a story about the faces of Cuba