Cuba’s Car Culture with Filmmaker Justin Clifton – Cuba Travelogue Part 3
In part three of his Cuba travelogue series, filmmaker Justin Clifton explores Cuba’s car culture.
Like most tourists traveling to Cuba, I was fascinated with the classic cars filling the roads. As a photographer I found myself looking for opportunities to capture these classic cars against the iconic architecture and everyday life of Old Havana.
At first glance, it is almost as though time stopped in 1960, but this is a romantic notion of a country I had a shallow knowledge of prior to visiting. What I didn’t realize was that these cars represented something stagnant. Like some sort of metaphor, these cars are shells of their former glory. Cobbled together with parts pulled from other makes and models, these American classics are more akin to Frankenstein than a nostalgic relic from the glory days of this island nation. It is the ingenuity employed to keep these cars running that provides a constant reminder of the embargo that has kept Cuba at arms-length from modernization.
While we revere the nostalgia that these cars bring, every taxi driver I asked said they would prefer a modern car, but that they had no choice but to keep these cars running because it’s all they have access to in order to provide a living for their families. These cars remain expensive, costing upwards of $25,000 to purchase. When you consider the average Cuban makes around $20 per day, this would be the equivalent of paying $250,000 for a used car in the United States.
Being immersed in Cuba’s car culture provided a deeper and more empathetic understanding of the creativity and ingenuity of the Cuban people. Imagine what this country could be if the embargo were lifted and Cubans were allowed to imagine a different future for themselves. Perhaps the cars would become tourist attractions rather than the only option for a community of people repressed from the advantages of a modern world.
Don’t miss the other posts in this travelogue series…