Everyone's loss

   Recent posts about a certain website’s wide-eyed excitement over the potential value of rare cars in Cuba seem to have struck a nerve. “I don’t feel it is helpful that you disparage our information in an effort to build your blogsite/reputation,” the site’s author responded in a message.
   OK, maybe I was a tad harsh. (Though not to enhance my reputation, which, we all will agree, is beyond salvage.)
But here’s the thing. Cuba’s classics – from sturdy Ford sedans to prized European exotics – are a collective treasure. For the enthusiast, the sight of so many pre-1960s cars puffing along in daily use can be as thrilling as a trip up the Amazon to a birdwatcher, a backstage pass to a rock fan.
   And even the person who normally cares little about cars cannot help but be moved by the bright colours and bold lines of these vintage vehicles (an expression of post-war confidence, and so different from cars today), and by the message their long service conveys about the depth of conflict between neighbours.
   Inevitably, the rift between Cuba and the United States will end. And inevitably, Cuba’s fleet of cacharros will dwindle. Some will survive as tourist taxis; some will be preserved as collectibles, to be shown off at the usual car shows and cruise nights. But no longer will they be seen everyday on every street, in the numbers that so long have made Cuba a place like nowhere else, a place outside of time.
   It would be unfair to deny Cubans the chance to replace their weary rides with modern vehicles, or,    for some, to finally reap some reward for heirlooms held in the family for generations.
Still, when it happens, we know that something unique and special – for the people of Cuba and for the citizens of other nations who have long looked upon the island with wonder – will be lost. Car enthusiasts, especially, should lament.


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