We just returned from the island of Rum, Cigars, Great Music and Beautiful Women – Cuba. There, we got the feeling that time had somehow stopped. And it was there that we witnessed thousands of Cubans going about their daily lives, transported via late-50’s American automobiles.
This collage, above, was a JOY to shoot and dream about on our trip. Just as cool, at lunch one day in Havana, Tom Miller joined our group (photo: standing, Larry sitting). He’s the author of “Trading With the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro’s Cuba.” This New York Times article he penned is a fabulous read. That ought to clear some things up.
America’s dominance of Cuba ended when I was a tween. Today, wherever you turn in Havana, you see rolling relics of days gone by. Cubans don’t necessarily love classic cars, per Miller. They simply have not been able to get anything else for five decades. Bottom line, no choice. These cars were there, then the door slammed shut on American-sourced goods. Ever since, Cubans have kept those autos going, handed down from dads and granddads. With no Pep Boy stores for parts, the owners make due. They tinker with anything possible to keep the autos rolling. Because, without them, they have even less than the precious little they have.
The cars are what visitors love. We drove in five of them, if I recall correctly. The oldest was a ‘53 Chevy with practically no interior left – good times! We made this trek via National Geographic Expeditions, and flew there out of Miami. People, scenery, countryside, architecture, climate, everything in Cuba is eye candy to the camera, whatever stage of decay. I thought India was colorful… WELL! And the drivers were so cool. Point a camera and they slow down until you get your shot. Then, a warm wave and carry on. No camera? WATCH OUT, they do not stop (easy to understand, given inertia).
Not a car show, merely a parking lot.
Stand still, the beauties stream by, day and night.
Even small neighborhoods have a nonstop flow of late-50 Chevrolets, Fords, Bel-Airs, Packards, Studebakers, even Edsels.
The colors, so… Cuban!
Me, on a Havana street, checking out the autos.
White wall tires. I remember my parents’ cars having them. We used Comet or Bon Ami cleanser to scrub them clean.
By this point, it was hard to remember it was 2012, so I started shooting in black and white, my first shot was after the sun went down (below). Quite Godfather-esque, wouldn’t you say?
They look stunning shot in Sepia, as well. Covers up many sins:
(Yes, I have posts planned on food, scenes, and the like. Stay tuned…)
National Geographic Cuba Expeditions… go here for more details.