When you visit Cuba, one of the things that’ll strike you as odd is the number of vintage cars on the street. They come in all possible colors and are very pleasant to look at. They certainly add to the illusion of Cuba being stuck in a 1950’s time warp.
Why Does Cuba Have So Many Classic American Cars?
So, why does Cuba have so many Classic American Cars? Unfortunately, the history behind these beautiful cars is not so pretty. The simple version of the story goes like this…
From 1952 to 1959, Cuba was ruled by a dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Many Cubans believed Batista to be corrupt who catered only to rich Americans while the wealth gap between the rich and poor increased. Fed up with poverty, the people of Cuba rose up in revolt led by Fidel Castro. As the revolts, riots, and demonstrations against the dictator increased, so did the repression of them by Batista.
In 1958, in recognition of the atrocities of the Batista government, the USA withdrew its support of Batista and banned him from entering the country. As a result, the dictator fled Cuba and the revolutionaries succeeded. The US initially supported the new government formed by Fidel Castro, despite having reservations on the execution of around 500 Batista supporters by the revolutionaries. However, when the Castro government started seizing private property and nationalizing private companies, the US was not pleased. Further, when heavy duties and taxes were levied on American products the US government had to respond with trade restrictions of its own. This started the bitter trade war between the two countries.
Cuba, in response, grew closer to the USSR and expanded trade relations with them. In the time of the Cold War, the strengthening ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union didn’t sit well with the US and so began the permanent trade embargo. A further blow to the relations between the two countries came when the US discovered that Cuba was providing a military base for the Soviet Union leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The relationship between the two countries was now beyond repair. In the years following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the USA has increased the economic strain on Cuba by punishing the countries that trade with it.
Due to the trade tensions with the USA, Cuba could no longer import American cars into the country. Trade with other countries was expensive due to geographical distance and the additional trade restrictions imposed on the other countries by the US that trade with Cuba.
With no new cars coming in, the cars that were already in Cuba remained the only cars that the Cubans could use. When they broke down, they fixed it up with local parts. So, even though the cars are vintage, what’s under the hood is probably not.
Classic American Car Tours
Riding in a classic American car is now one of the hottest tourist attractions of Cuba. If you want to experience this yourself, you can buy a 2-hour Classic American Car ride through Havana. On this tour, you’ll ride a Classic American Car with an English speaking guide who’ll take through the suburbs of Centro Habana, Miramar, and Vedado. You’ll pass by some notable points of interest such as the Malecon, Anti-Imperialist Square, and Revolution Square. The car ride also has a stopover at the hidden Havana Forest, a large foresty area in the middle of Havana with a river running through it. The tour ends at Hotel Nacional, where you’ll enjoy a cocktail as you look on the Malecon during sunset.
I hope you enjoy Cuba and all it’s attractions as much as I did. If you did, please share your experience in the comments below!
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