Presence of Classic American Cars Reflects Cuba’s History

HAVANA—Visitors to Cuba are charmed by the omnipresence of vintage American cars, often hiring the classics for a chauffeured ride around town. About 60,000 roam the streets because after the 1959 revolution, it was illegal to buy and sell new cars, hence the ubiquity of Fords, Chevrolets, Buicks and Pontiacs from the 1950s.

The classics are works of art. But while outsiders revel in nostalgia, locals contend with another reality of the socio-economic system upheld throughout Fidel Castro’s leadership—old cars that are expensive to repair and fuel. Last year, President Raul Castro announced a new law to ease restrictions regulating property ownership, making it possible for Cubans to buy and sell houses and cars. The change is promising, however few Cubans have the financial wherewithal to benefit from it.

Meanwhile, the vintage cars are everywhere. The symbolic autos captured here were spotted in central Havana during the biennial.

View more coverage of the 11th Havana Biennial.

All photos © Arts Observer

Read more about the history, challenges and changing status of the American classics here.

View from the rooftop of Hotel Parque Central of cars parked in front of the hotel.

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