Havana, Cuba: A living vintage car museum
Wang Yutong
Havana, the capital of Cuba, is a unique place. Its history is perceptible throughout its beautiful streets, its relationship with the U.S. - even now, after the trade embargo has been scrapped - is still a mystery, and the enthusiasm for salsa dancing never stops.
“Can you imagine seeing such a nice car? It's like in the movies!"
“In the Netherlands, it is rare to see a car like this, and everybody is like 'wow, that's a cool car,' and here they are just everywhere!”
“It's an adventure living in Havana!”
These are just some of the raves by the tourists who have traveled to Havana, a rolling museum of vintage cars.
Cuba's car culture remains one of the island's most distinctive attractions. Its roads are like a time capsule to an era where cars from the 1940s and 50s still reign, and a sightseeing tour of vintage cars is a must for every trip to Havana.
The tour usually costs 20-30 CUC (20-30 U.S. dollars) per hour depending on the route and car brand. You can ask the driver to stop wherever you want and take pictures as you wish. Some of the old cars are part of taxi fleets and you can ride in them for roughly 4-5 CUC per trip.
Michel is a vintage car chauffeurs and he offer visitors the chance to see the sights of Havana in style.
“I've been doing this for the last five-10 years. The car was in the family but this wasn't a business, this only became a business like five-10 years ago”, he said.
While it may seem romantic, this daily reality for local Cubans can have its drawbacks. Cuba became isolated from the world in 1962 when the U.S. enacted an embargo. It meant Cuba hasn't been able to bring in new cars or the parts needed to fix them, meaning mechanics have had to create their own ways to keep these pieces of the past rolling.
"The mechanics are one of the most important things, but not every driver here is a mechanic", said Michel.
Roxana Arroyo is the only known female car mechanic in the capital. She works on keeping these old antiques moving with her ingenuity and creativity.
“Not just Havana, but Cuba entirely is full of classic cars, old cars, and it's nice because these are cars that we know are already obsolete in the world, there are few, but not here, they are still alive here thanks to the creativity of the Cubans, thanks to the adaptations that keep them alive and running on the street.”