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Showing posts from October, 2011

Spot the Hino, win, well, bragging rights

VISITORS CAN be forgiven for thinking that every second truck in Cuba is a product of Japanese manufacturer Hino.
    In fact, the only Hino contribution to most of those trucks is the winged badge on the grille. Everything back of that badge is pure -- OK, pure-ish -- Soviet technology.
    Why do Cuban truckers mount big chrome Hino logos on their vehicles? I think it's because they look so cool.
    So can you tell which of the vehicles below is a real Hino, and which are imposters?

I'll provide answers in my next post.

Er, grab the bottle?

Nick Miroff seems quite taken with the female hitchhikers in Havana. In areport for NPR, he tells of watching "two dozen or so young women trying to coger botella, as it's called in Cuban parlance" on the Malecón one afternoon. The term, he says, "literally means 'grabbing a bottle,' after the universal thumbs-up sign."
    I've seen it translated as "making the bottle," but "grabbing" is new to me.
    "Only no one here uses thumbs anymore," Miroff continues. "Instead, when cars pull up, smiling women lean in to ask drivers for rides. Some practically force their way into cars, even to travel just a few blocks up the street."
    At the risk of appearing cynical, I might suggest that the young ladies on the Malecón, the oceanside boulevard known for its jineteras (and jineteros), may well have been offering the motorists a ride.
    Some, of course, would have been seeking only transportation. As Miroff point…

Same cars, different Hershey

Last week the old cars and their owners, many just as old, assembled in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the Eastern Fall Meet that is a premier date of  the Antique Automobile Club of America.
   As long as they're ticking, cars and owners will be back for future autumn meets.
   But John Dowlin dreams of more such gatherings, in another place called Hershey.
   In an op-ed column in the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News, the co-founder of the TailLight Diplomacy group proposes an annual car show in Cuba that could be a sister event to the antique car fair in Pennsylvania.
    And what more suitable site, he asks, than the village established east of Havana in 1917 by confectioner Milton S. Hershey to support his sugar mill?
    Dowlin's non-profit TailLight group seems to sputter along on two cylinders — the other being Rick Shnitzler, a fellow Philadelphian. It has no website. Many Castro opponents view it with suspicion.     Yet the tiny organization has succeeded in alerting Americans …

Five reasons why Cuba's car-ownership reforms mean next to nada

As of today, Cuban citizens are finally allowed to buy and sell all years of vehicles — and not just the 1960 and earlier cars and trucks that were in private hands before the revolution.
    Some observers believe this change, part of reforms promised by the government in April, will hasten the disappearance of the island's vast fleet of Packards, Studebakers and other rolling relics. Proclaimed Britain's The Independent newspaper: "For the bangers of Havana, it's the end of the road."
    Hardly. The old cars — many battered, some pristine — will soldier on in Cuba. Here's why.

    1. No cash for even clunkers. The average Cuban makes the equivalent of $20 U.S. a month. That won't buy a tank of gasoline, let alone a car to put it in. Remittances from relatives outside the island may help some families get wheels, but won't be enough to dramatically alter the Cuban car scene.

    2. Show me your papers. Decree 292, the law permitting title transfers for …