|Part Plymouth, part Dodge, this is a 1955 Chrysler export model.|
Fifty years ago this week, the United States instituted its near-complete trade embargo on Cuba, following the partial embargo it enacted in October 1960.
Sheesh, has it only been five decades? Judging by the shapes and styles of Cuba's old vehicles — the most visible symbols of the ongoing rift between neighbours — it seems like a lot longer.
|Roof rack-equipped '48 Chev panel.|
In February 1962, Ford was readying concept versions of its Mustang, and General Motors and Chrysler had their own sporty compacts in showrooms or on drawing boards. Car design was moving to a cleaner, trimmer look (even if mainstream sedans were growing bigger and heavier).
But in the island to the south, car time — at least, American car time — had stopped years before (see Don't Blame Dwight, Dec. 24, 2008). Even the newest vehicles in Cuba dated from an earlier design ethic, one in which the manufacturers lavished detail upon detail on their cars to catch the public's attention, like chefs adding ever more layers of icing to their confections.
The results were sometimes strange, often beautiful. Seen today — as they are, everywhere in Cuba — they are always, unmistakably, of their period.
The embargo was meant to retaliate for the Castro government's seizure of American properties, and to discourage Cuba from forming closer ties with the Soviet Union. Half a century later, it shows little sign of thawing.
Yet today the Soviets are long gone, and the American companies that lost holdings in Cuba were compensated decades ago by their own government. If any debt remains on the U.S. books, could not the Cubans equally claim recompense for the years the Americans have held Guantánamo Bay (dodgy Platt Amendment and Avery Porko treaty notwithstanding)? Seems like a wash.
Except to the U.S. and to Cuba, feuding neighbours for whom each passing year seems simply to add a new layer of resentment.
|See the USA -- and Cuba, too -- in your 1951 Chevrolet Styleline De Luxe.|