American classic cars in Havana

In Monday’s post I posted a picture of Red Buick in Havana as an example of the good condition most of these cars were in.
The question is why are there so many vintage cars in Havana?
Well to answer that you have to go back to two years after the Cuban revolution – 1962.
The new Cuban government nationalised all property owned by the USA, USA business’s and citizens. In retaliation the USA strengthened its existing commercial, economic, and financial embargo that was imposed two years before to be almost total. That meant no spare parts! So the Cubans somehow managed, with a great deal of innovation and opportunity, to keep most (at least 60,000) of these on the road. The opportunity came when some cars become unrepairable or written off and were stripped for it’s parts to create a huge second hand car parts market.
Interestingly the Soviet imported cars (the only ones allowed in the country) are not so well looked after. The Ladas taxi I got from the airport lacked a huge amount of love and care!

The front of a Red Buick, one of Havana's old classic cars

The front of a Red Buick, one of Havana’s old classic cars

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Yank tanks in Havana

You know before I went to Havana, I had heard that the place was full of American vintage cars but until I saw it with my own eyes I didn’t realise how many!
Almost every car was a ‘yank tank”. What I also didn’t expect was the condition of them. A collector of vintage cars would be in their element. Most were in superb condition like this taxi below. Polished and shining they obviously were well cared for and in the ones I travelled in, literally ‘purred’ along.
More on this on in the next post.

A Red Buick, one of Havana's many classic cars

A Red Buick, one of Havana’s many classic cars

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Che Guevara in Cuba

In Cuba the late Che Guevara is everywhere. On buildings, T shirts, posters and books to name just a few. His popularity seems from an outsiders point of view to be bigger than Fidel Castro’s. Maybe dying young in pursuit of another cause creates martyrdom or maybe the many years of Castro’s dictatorship has made the Cuban population blasé about their leader.
I’ve been away for a few weeks to watch this spot fro some images from Morocco, France and England.

Che Guevara in colour on the front of books on Che Guevara

Che Guevara in colour on the front of books on Che Guevara

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A sleeping painter in the Paseo de Marti, Havana

In the midst of a city rich in culture and tradition lies the boulevard of Paseo de Marti, one of Havana’s icons. Also called the Prado, the boulevard, initiated in 1772 and completed in 1852, stretches a kilometre southward and uphill from Parque Central to the mouth of the harbour. Being the city’s most well-known thoroughfare inspired the erection of aristocratic mansions on each side. Remodelled in 1929, the boulevard is guarded by eight bronze lions and at night is given light by brass gas lamps topped with griffin-shaped globes.
Most of the time it has a lot going on. Thronged on either side by artists of different genres it is also a part time playground for school children and adults alike.
Obviously this guy had had enough of trying to sell his works of art and decided a siesta was in order.

An art vendor asleep on the job in Havana's Prado

An art vendor asleep on the job in Havana’s Prado

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Mulatto of Havana photo

Mulatto of Havana Lady in costume looking for photo tips © 2010 Nick Katin

Mulatto of Havana Lady in costume looking for photo tips © 2010 Nick Katin

In Havana’s several tourist spots there are these beautiful women in colourful dresses parading on the streets and the leafy squares. Whilst the term Mulatto means mixed race it has also been borrowed to describe these women who approach tourists for ‘picture money”. You pay for the privilege of taking a photo of her with or without you. I was intrigued with guy selling newspapers sitting watching her walk by. What was running through his mind? 1/160 f/8.0 125 mm  ISO 100

Old Cuban band in a Havana square

Old Cuban band in a Havana square © 2010 Nick Katin

Old Cuban band in a Havana square © 2010 Nick Katin

The run down Havana oozes character and music. Just about everywhere you go there’s someone playing music mostly what’s called son, made popular worldwide by Buena Vista Social club. There was a band in every restaurant, every club, every bar and on on almost every street corner including these old guys in the the Catedral de la Habana plaza. The guy on the right with the glasses looks pretty disinterested. Not really sure what instrument he was playing but they all sounded pretty good!

havana!

we had a week in havana last year. what a place! music is everywhere mostly what’s called son, made popular worldwide by buena vista social club. there was a band in every restaurant, every club, every bar and on on almost every street corner. this guy playing the bass was part of a band playing in an outdoor restuarant in old havana.
old havana looks in parts like beirut must have done after its civil war – derelict! worried about pickpockets no! worried about debris falling on your head si! si!
but let me tell you about ken! eating a superb pork dish in “la bodeguita del medio” and in walks two cubans and a man in a kilt with a chivas regal shirt on. they sit down opposite us and began a conversation in spanish, the guy in the kilt has an unmistakable scottish accent (or was it tone) which was really weird as i wouldn’t reconise a spanish dialect – hard enough reconising the language! anyway long story short the guy in the kilt was ken who was from edinburgh and the regional manager for chivas (or their owner pernod ricard). he was here to promote chivas regal which at $100 a bottle i would have thought would have been out of reach for 99.9% of the rum loving cuban population. but as ken said “there are poor communists and there are rich communists”. you can see more images of havana and surrounds here.