As you're probably aware, we've imposed some pretty heavy trade embargoes against Cuba since just after Fidel Castro deposed Fulgencio Batista, and we've encouraged our friends to do likewise. As a result, there's a dearth of post-1960 cars running around the island nation. Pistonheads have long viewed Cuba with some interest, figuring that once Fidel and his brother Raul go bye-bye, the now closed, Communist nation will open its doors and sell
However, like much about Cuba, the notion of pristine 1957 Chevrolet Bel Airs not only lining the streets of Havana but being ripe for the picking is more fantasy than reality. National Public Radio's Jason Beaubien recently traveled to Cuba (reporters are generally not as not bound by travel restrictions) to catch Raul Castro's July 26 speech commemorating the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. Beaubien's plan was to fly into Havana, then simply catch a flight or a train east to the Holguin province, home of the Castro brothers. Only trouble was, no hay flights, no hay trains. Eventually, Beaubien arranged to rent a Samsung sedan with the trunk taped shut for $100/day and just drive across the Autopista Nacional, Cuba's main highway.
Along the way, Beaubien discovers roads so empty that farmers use them to dry crops. He's also shocked at the $4 a gallon gasoline. Not horrible by our standards, but absolutely insane in a nation where the official salary is $20 per month. They also meet a man who, "dreams of emigrating to the Dominican Republic where he's heard he could earn 70 U.S. cents an hour." All the while, the road is blanketed by signs reading, "Continuaa Su Obra." Literally, "Continue Your Work." Definitely worth a read or listen.
[Source: National Public Radio | Image: Jason Beaubien/NPR]