Showing posts from October, 2014

Daily Fix, 3


Daily Fix, 2


Their daily fix

Where I live, I don't see many people fixing their own vehicles. Cars break down less frequently than they did even in the 1960s and '70s (take a bow, fuel injection and electronic ignition). And when they do stop working, the cause is usually something that cannot be addressed, even temporarily, with some friction tape or a length of pantyhose.    It's different in Cuba, where cars are old and parts and money are scarce. Own a vehicle in Cuba, and you had better know how to repair it.

Diani's Chinese bicycle

When the Soviet Union came crashing down, an island on the other side of the world felt the shock waves. For three decades, Cuba had relied on aid from the USSR and its Eastern European satellites.    Now those infusions – approaching an estimated $5 million a day at their peak – had disappeared, and Cuba was short on food, medicine, and especially, oil. Without cut-rate Soviet petroleum, the island could not operate its farm tractors, its municipal buses, even its power stations.
   Cubans adapted. In the grim years that Fidel Castro would call a "Special Period in Time of Peace," they structured their lives around daily power blackouts. They lost weight – 15 pounds per adult, it's been said – on a meagre diet of staples like pasta de oca: a mix of flour and tiny bits of ground goose.
   And to get around, they rode Chinese bicycles. According to the International Bicycle Fund, between 1991 and 1997 Cuba imported 1.5 million two-wheelers, primarily from China, while pro…