I recently returned from a trip to Cuba with Witness for Peace and still haven’t been able to fully process it all. As a Cuban-American, the first to return to the island after my family left as refugees in 1960, the trip was wonderful, but also emotional. I will be posting extensively on the trip, but I thought the easiest place to start would be one of the most iconic, unique elements of Cuba: the classic cars!

In 1960, the United States began an embargo against Cuba, which is the main reason why there are so many classic American cars in the country today. This is both because America stopped exporting them and also because the Cuban government only allows people to keep them for private use if they can prove that the vehicles were acquired and registered prior to the revolution. Yank tanks or máquina, as they are called, are definitely some of the main attractions you’ll see. 

A convertible driving by the Malecon
A convertible driving by the Malecon

Our guide told me that there are probably only 50 authentic classic cars remaining in Cuba, meaning that all the original parts are there. It seems that most of these cars are now kept running by anything the owner can get his hands on. Many cars have Soviet parts from the days of the U.S.S.R. The ingenuity required to keep these beauties running is remarkable.

It's best if one can coordinate the car with the dress
It’s best if one can coordinate the car with the dress

Though Cuba may have finally opened sales for cars a few weeks ago (on January 3rd), the prices are insanely out of reach for most Cubans: Cuba New Car Price List. The average Cuban salary is $20/month, so how can they be expected to dish out thousands for a new car? It’s absurd.

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1950s Chevy cars are quite popular in Cuba and you will see them all over the place in every hue. I wish they still made cars in these bright colors.

 

The classic Chevy bird hood ornament
The classic Chevy bird hood ornament

Many of the classic cars are used as taxi cabs by tourists who get a kick out of riding in one. Though most taxis are from the 50s, I also spotted this 1914 Ford!

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For more pictures of cars (because of course I took more), click on the pics in the gallery below.

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