The Godfather Part II notwithstanding, Havana in the 1950s was hardly a hotbed of Mafia activity, reports Peter Moruzzi in Havana Before Castro: When Cuba was a Tropical Playground.
Yes, organized crime figures, notably money guy Meyer Lansky, were present, but mainly to protect Mob investments in Havana’s casinos by ensuring they were run in a reputable fashion – just as the Mafia made sure the early Las Vegas gambling sites were seen as safe and always above board.
And if you control casinos, who needs to rob or extort? Better to maintain a low profile.
Whether it was Lansky and his cronies or others, however, someone was buying a lot of Cadillacs. Havana is said to have been home to the world’s busiest Cadillac dealership in the 1950s. I don’t know the source for this claim, but I do know Cadillacs remain a common (and enjoyable) sight on Cuba’s streets.
These photos from Havana Before Castro (original source unknown) show two Cadillacs that may well be in service today. Above, a ’51 – perhaps a Coupe de Ville? – is unveiled as the prize in a civic boosterism contest. Below, a glorious ’54 Series 62 convertible, one of only 6,310 built, discharges guests for an evening of gaming and entertainment at the Tropicana night club.