Photos courtesy Maria Sokola.
It’s tempting to think that if the old cars of Cuba survived the decades until now, they’ll be around forever. They’re timeless, right? They’re a cultural institution, which means they’re essentially guaranteed to remain on the roads of the island nation, aren’t they?
Except, as anybody who bothers to look beyond the flashy colors of the novelty taxis or read beyond the tourism board hype already knows, many of the Fifties cars still on the road in Havana are hanging on via spit and bailing wire, bodged together time and time again. While they’re worth the world to the Cubans – passed down as heirlooms – we wouldn’t bother to give many of the wrecks a second look were we to see them here in the States.
And the thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States puts those cars in a precarious position. It’s anybody’s guess what will happen to the older American cars of Cuba over the next several years. Will prosperity make them irrelevant? Will the Cubans fiercely hold on to them out of tradition and pride? Will they become relegated to tourist taxi-duty?
Whatever the outcome, it’s perhaps important that the old car landscape of Cuba be documented as much as possible before the changes take hold. Fortunately, we’ve had plenty of old cars in Cuba submissions from readers over the years that we can put together a sort of photo documentation series to help capture the state of the Cuban old car scene.
Perhaps the largest submission we’ve received to date comes from Maria Sokola, whose husband Joe sent us the collection of Hartford, Connecticut, carspotting photos. Maria’s trip to Cuba took place in 2015 and the photos she brought back include a wide variety of cars on the street, at the curb, and lining the back streets. Old cars, new cars, Russian cars, derelicts, spruced-up cars, and drivers. The collection as a whole paints an interesting picture, one we hope future installments in this series will embellish.