Cuba: From Vintage American Cars to the New Peugeot

Dariela Aquique

Cars for sale in Havana. Photo: cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — The word automobile comes to us from classical Greek (auto, meaning “self-propelling”) and from Latin (movere, “to move”). As the word suggests, an automobile is a self-propelling vehicle used to transport people, animals and objects. It was invented in Germany by Karl Benz in 1886.

In 1910, Henry Ford began to manufacture automobiles using assembly lines, a then innovative system that allowed him to reach production figures that had been unthinkable before that time.

Today, we have a broad range of automobiles. There are those used for individual transportation (tourism vehicles, vans and sport cars). Vans, in turn, can be sub-divided into several kinds (all-roaders, people carriers and pick-ups). We also have heavy-load vehicles designed to transport different goods and race cars, used in competitions.

For Cubans, however, these facts –the history of automobiles, their classification and all that jazz – are basically irrelevant. Cubans merely dream of buying a run-of-the-mill car, something they can move in.

Sure, if we could get our hands on a modern car, the ones you see in the movies, that would be marvelous. But, if we could buy just any old car, one that was still working, even the first car Karl Benz invented, that would also be fine.

After all, several generations of Cubans have seen nothing other than vintage American cars and the occasional modern car, rented out in hard currency or owned by a diplomatic corps.

This is why, when the law authorizing Cubans and foreigners residing on the island to purchase new and used cars came into effect last Friday, people stampeded to look for price catalogues and to download the articles dealing with the measure.

The residents of Havana, who have the privilege of being the first to find out about everything, were able to do a little more and set out to pay some State car dealerships a visit early in the morning.

Quite a number of people took photos of the price lists and, bold as brass, set out to leave their comments on every web page (pro-Cuba gov. or not) that was commenting on the situation.

Once again, disappointment grabs hold of the population, and this is but one of the measures already approved by the Council of State and Ministers, and put into effect, that has angered Cubans.

Authorizing Cubans to stay at hotels, cellular phones, laxer migratory laws, less restrictive custom regulations allowing Cubans to bring home appliances bought abroad more easily into the country, the possibility of connecting to the Internet around the country – all of these measures entail prices that are prohibitive for the immense majority.

However, the prices announced by the car dealerships, however, have rubbed salt on the wound. They have been tantamount to telling Cubans to give up on their dreams of ever owning a car.

According to the resolution issued by the Ministry of Finances, retail car prices have been established on the basis of the following criteria:

For new vehicles, eight times market price (the cost of the vehicle plus expenses paid to transport it to the dealership), plus the tax amount.

As a side note: “The sums taken in will be used to create a fund destined primarily to the development of public transportation around the country.”

This is why, in Cuba today, a 2013 508 Peugeot (one of the newest models being offered) is sold at 262,185.00 CUC (over 290,000 USD), a price you will not come across anywhere else in the world. I invite you to comment on this issue and, in the meantime, to continue catching the old 1950s cabs.

To be continued…

Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

14 thoughts on “Cuba: From Vintage American Cars to the New Peugeot

  • January 14, 2014 at 5:36 pm
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    What is there left to say? Fidel rides around in a two-year old blue air-conditioned van with blacked out bullet proof windows and a security detail escort. As far as he is concerned, there are no transportation problems in Cuba.

    Reply
    • January 15, 2014 at 8:51 am
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      You make a good point.
      Fidel is a disgrace to all dictators such as the 99% of them supported, installed and praised by the GOUSA who have multiple palatial homes, multiple new limousines, yachts and vacation homes in the south of France.
      Show me a former world leader who takes the bus.
      Of course Fidel is about 87 years old and in failing health and can’t very well take the bus, can he ?
      Anastasio Somoza the former, US supported dictator of Nicaragua also had a bullet -proof chauffeur-driven limousine he was driven around in in exile in , I believe Argentina or Uruguay . That vehicle proved to be no protection when it was bazooka-ed and Somoza wound up decorating the interior of that vehicle with his innards.
      You should note that when he was president and out in public , he was the lone leader in the world who could wade out into the crowds of thousands of Cubans whom it would have been impossible to search and without anywhere near a sufficient guard detail and never fear for his life.
      George Washington likewise should have been forced to take the same transportation as the average colonialist as should the Bushes, Clinton and all former heads of nations.

      Reply
      • January 15, 2014 at 12:38 pm
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        What a putz! …George Washington did take the same transportation as everyone else….it was called a horse, and he road it while in office, at Mount Vernon, and while campaigning (campaigning in the military sense)

        But this thread is a bit of a red hearing. I have no problem with certain officials, even when retired, maintaining security details. Although yes he is a disgrace. I would like to see his innards splattered inside the vehicle!

        Reply
        • January 17, 2014 at 8:46 am
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          Yes, of course, George Washington was just another poor working slob .
          But he did not deserve to have his innards splattered inside his carriage as you suggested.

          Reply
          • January 17, 2014 at 11:12 am
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            Hey John ! You are a wave of fresh air on this blog! Thanks for putting arrogant clueless and ignorant people in their place!

  • January 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm
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    Once again , a slap in the face to a strong population, who has had enough , but for some reason is afraid to topple their own government.True freedom comes with sacrifice .

    Reply
    • January 15, 2014 at 9:00 am
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      Nathan,
      The Cuban people have been under an economic attack from the U.S for over 50 years which makes their lives very difficult as intended by those who put it in place and keep it in place.
      The Cuban people simply refuse to surrender their revolution because , as bad as things may be for them now, they know it would be far worse should they give in and return to feral capitalism as is the aim of the U.S war on the Cuban economy and people.
      Some 95% of all eligible Cubans vote in every election.
      These elections are by secret ballot just as in the USA and no one need fear either voting or not voting.
      If they felt that their revolution, government, way of life were not what they wanted and were forced upon them as you suggest, they would stay home in far greater numbers than the 50% of eligible voters in the USA do .
      The totalitarian government they have is far preferable to them than a similar totalitarian government paired with a totalitarian capitalist economy.
      They made their sacrifice for their freedom from U.S.imperialism back during the revolution and now through the economic deprivation forced upon them by the U.S and people like you and Moses Patterson who support U.S. imperialism .
      Shame on you.
      A secret for you: Neither the U.S. government nor the U.S corporate media tells you the truth about Cuba .

      Reply
      • January 15, 2014 at 1:04 pm
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        “..the Cuban people simply refuse to give up the revolution”? …I did not know you were the spokesman for Cubans. How do you know that Cubans feel this way? If that were the case they wouldn’t flee the island as they do. Besides, when has the Cuban electorate been able to decide anything? I also thought you said Cuba was a dictatorship. …You can’t have it both ways.

        The reason the US, and most open democracies, have a low turnout rate is that no one is holding a gun to their heads to make them vote. Unlike Cuba where there has always been fear of reprisal (nothing is secret in Cuba). Besides these are government figures provided by a government that is less than transparent? The same government that hid arms shipments under bags of sugar in a North Korea freighter.

        I was 10 yrs old and remember my family going to vote while rolling their eyes, having to go through the motions for fear that el “Comités de Defensa de la Revolución” would cause them problems at the work place if they didn’t. Life was already hard enough, we didn’t need anymore problems.

        …And let me tell you something little man, I get my information on Cuba from…..wait for it….Cubans! I don’t need to get it from any news source. I lived it.

        I’ll say it again, as you are very “testaduro”. The sacrifices that many made during the Cuban revolution, a revolution that transcended class and social status, was betrayed by Castro. Remember he said “I am not a communist and neither is the revolutionary movement” So if that quote is accurate, then my father and many who supported him at the time were betrayed!

        Reply
        • January 17, 2014 at 8:42 am
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          I.C.,
          I’ll go point by point with you even though I’ll be repeating myself and wasting the effort on deaf ears and blind eyes.
          1.
          Cuba is totalitarian in its governmental and economic decision making. Agreed.
          Still Cubans vote at a 95% rate. They do not have to and if they feel they will be observed not voting, they can cast a blank ballot, a defaced ballot or a vote for Barack Obama if they like. They do this only at a 5% rate in any election and this is indicative of some degree of satisfaction or a refusal to surrender to the U.S.
          ,
          But Cuba distributes the necessary goods and services required for a decent life for all and this is recognized by the Cuban people.
          It is my contention that they recognize that while life could be much better for a relative few if they returned to capitalism as the U.S wishes it would be far worse for the vast majority.
          Cubans leave the island at a rate that is about the same as with the DR , Jamaica and other poor capitalist countries but which are not under economic attack by the U.S. and which do not have the benefit of the “wet foot-dry foot” law . The reason Cubans leave is economic and the reason Cuba is so poor is the U.S war on the system that has been in existence since 1960.
          2.
          The U.S. is NOT a democracy by any definition of that word anymore than Cuba is a democracy or the representative democracy ( republic ) either is purported to be.
          The U.S is a government run by and for the very wealthy who own every nationally elected official. This is called oligarchy or plutocracy : rule by the wealthy and/or powerful .
          People in the U.S don’t vote because they do not see any benefit from doing so. .
          The Cuban government statistics on voting can be checked by any Cuban who care to sit at the polls and the government statistics on the numbers voting have nothing to do with Cuban arms on a Korean ship .
          3.
          Your relatives voted and could have defaced their secret ballot or left it blank or voted no . No one would know .
          4.
          My sympathy for the Cuban revolution is based upon my antipathy for U.S. imperialism about which I know a great deal more than most Americans and certainly more than you. The fact that the U.S has made more than 75 interventions into the internal affairs of countries around the world for daring to try democratic economies and governments and that Cuba is the only one to survive seems lost upon you.
          If you wish to return to a dictatorship of the wealth which Cuba would become if it returned to what the U.S wants , if you prefer capitalism which is heading downhill into oblivion , then stay in the U.S. , work toward ending U.S hostilities upon your people and live YOUR life under capitalism.
          5.
          Were Fidel Castro to have declared at the outset of the revolution that he was a communist or simply announced his intention to make Cuba a country that would distribute the goods and services essential to a good life for ALL , he would have been killed by the USA .
          The Cuban revolution in context took place during the U.S. overthrow of the democratically elected Arbenz government in Guatelmala,, the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh government in Iran the prevention of the 1956 elections scheduled in Vietnam, was just after the Korean War and just after the McCarthy ( anti-communist) witch hunts in the U.S.
          Fidel would never have been allowed to live had he proclaimed the socialist ideals of his revolution .
          Were he to have kept Cuba capitalist , you would then have just one more in a long line of Cuban dictatorships and one that differed little from the U.S supported Batista dictatorship .
          If you don’t like the systems in Cuba, by all means work towards a change back to what was but please realize that if you return to capitalism , you will lose everything gained by the revolution and never see a smidge more democracy since capitalism is the most powerful and ruthless ( I wonder what became of Ruth ?) of all dictatorships. .

          Reply
          • January 17, 2014 at 11:07 am
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            You are indeed Testaduro and willfully blind to the reality that is Cuba. How can you possibly agree that Cuba is a totalitarian state and in the same breath laud the Cuban voting system? It’s a logical impossibility, an oxymoron if you will…with emphasis on the moron. Your hate of individual achievement and the exceptionalism of the US will lead you into the arms of any authoritarian dictator.

            I and many Cubans reading your moronic posts take personal exception to your flattering characterization of the Cuban totalitarian system as some sort of benevolent force distributing goods and services to the Cuban people. Those of us who actually experienced the reality behind the lie know better. And your mischaracterization of the Cuban exodus can’t hid the fact that my people risk their very lives on a daily basis to flee the island. In 1994 alone over 38,000 Cubans risked their lives on rickety home made rafts to escape your island paradise.

            It’s a source of endless wonder to see the idiocy of the armchair Bolshevik!

          • January 18, 2014 at 12:29 am
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            …and besides, if its a totalitarian system plus the elections are, as you say, “secret” how would YOU know how they vote? How would you know how the ballets are cast? I can at the very least say I observed this. What can you say?

      • January 17, 2014 at 9:09 am
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        You don’t even know what you are talking about. Shame on you! I’m a real cuban born and raise in the Island and I can tell you that you don’t have any idea how people suffer everyday in that country.

        Reply
        • January 17, 2014 at 9:18 am
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          The United States has wanted for the people of Cuba’s freedom and prosperity. Fidel Castro is responsible for all the misery suffered by the people and impoverishment that has gone to the Cuban people.

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      • January 19, 2014 at 9:22 am
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        John,
        You are a credit to (paid?) apologist hacks everywhere.
        I would wish that you’d cease posting your offensive, uniformed, partisan, faux intellectually rigorous “arguments” but that offends my belief in the natural right of free speech, a right that has not called Cuba it’s home for some 6 decades now. You, and your type, are NO friend to Cubans.
        Putz.

        Reply

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