CARS AND MOTORCYCLES IN CUBA

"Cine America" - These cars -in spite of the cinema's name- are Russian: a GAZ "M-24 Volga" and three Lada "Zhighuli"

These black/white pics are taken from a beautiful book of photos, "Autos de Cuba", realized by Luigi Bortoluzzi (Edizioni Gribaudo, the e-mail address is edizioni.gribaudo@libero.it ). This gallery shows the incredible variety of the Cuban cars: probably, Cuba is the only country in the world where the Soviet and American vehicles are together on the roads, showing the contrast between two different cultures, between two types of past (the age of the Batista's regime, symbolized by the American cars, and the revolution, symbolized by the Russian cars). This is only a little part of the pics present on the book. I suggest this work for the beauty of the scenes. I extracted some pics, and a part of text very explicative. The following text is by Danilo Manera, the pics are by Luigi Bortoluzzi.

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"Mgtrabant" and "Black Volga and woman in white" - these cars are a  modified East-German Trabant "P-601" and a Gaz "M-24 Volga"

"Cuba really is a little like these cars. Few images so aptly portray a country trying to catch up with the present after decades of hardship. The American cars of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s ply the urban streets of Havana, Santiago and Camagłey; they cruise the rural roads between villages and towns up and down the island. That they keep running is the work of skilled Creole mechanics with an uncanny talent for recovering serviceable parts and pieces from an abandoned washing machine or a tractor, from a ship being scrapped or a motley fieet of four­wheeled vehicles. Strange hybrids have evolved, producing chimeras in an automobile bestiary that rumble alongside the purebreds tended to with the loving care of a collector. During the 1960s and 1970s room had to be made for the arrival of Soviet-produced sedans that filled Cuba's streets with boxy Ladas and homely Moskvich". 

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"Service station" - in this pic, there are a Polish Fiat-FSM "126", a Lada "Zhighuli" and a Jawa 350 motorcycle.

 "Many can still be found, one of the few gifts Cubans appreciated receiving from their Eastern European cousins. But they now pass by almost unnoticed since the return of Detroit's dinosaurs. Reemerging from dusty garages, the colorful creatures enliven Cuban street.
Scenes with their flamboyant profiles, sumptuous curves, extravagant bumpers and the dents they wear with aristocratio demeanor. They contain a microcosm of daily life: fans, vignettes of saints sacred to afro-antillean cults, revolutionary slogans, plastic covered leather seats plastered with foreign advertising messages, and plastio seats covered in leopard spot imitation leather. They carry entire school classes, orates of fruit and vegetables, or generations of family relatives They're used for weddings, trips to the beach, nights out drinking or love making. Many have been turned into taxis for tourists. But the one thing that never changes no matter what their use is the sound volume of music played full blast, whether it's salsa or bolero, wild or moody".

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"Urban landscape II", "Karla", "Dreaming of a Harley-Davidson"- these bikes are a Czech Jawa 350, a Russian Izh "Planeta 350" three-wheeler, and a Czechoslovakian CZ 175 scooter

 "The quality of the gasoline varies with the cocktail mix of fuels that go into its making. It sends out clouds of smoke, leaving a persistent smell of exhaust fumes everywhere. One can feel it in a perambulating metaphor of the Cuban way of making do, a certain mixture of decadence and pride that characterizes an island that has made an art form out of survival, courage and misfortune."

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"The Karl Marx Theater", , "Guard of the revolution" - the American '50s cars (Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, De Soto. etc.) are one of the the most important symbol of Cuba in the world.

"So it's not surprising that these cars often figure on the picture postcards and photographs enthusiastic tourists take home with them. They stand parked like tropical beauties aloof to the world or sway heavily under the weight of a cargo of passengers and family members. They reflect the bright blue sky of utopia and the grayness of desperation, the dim shine of a rare street light and the gaudy colors of party festoons."

"Last evening light" - A revolution's slogan and an old American car: two opposite faces of the same planet.

"In the warm and nervous darkness they seem to emit a certain glow of their own. In the deep of the night they awaken like steel fairies. Their motors whisper from afar and begin to purr, their bald tires roll while handfuls of stars sleep on wheel covers, grills, trim and mirrors. Listen and watch. Like ships in the night, a weary, mysterious fleet cruises the island's lonely streets, vanishing at the first rays of an uncertain dawn.

Adagio ma non troppo."

All pics taken from "Autos de Cuba", by Luigi Bortoluzzi, Edizioni Gribaudo (edizioni.gribaudo@libero.it) - Text by Danilo Manera

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