Going topless for the tourists

Open-air 1958 Chevrolet seen in Havana in 2011 was once a hardtop. More cars are losing their roofs for the tourist trade, according to Havana writer Conner Gorry.
   CONNER GORRY is flipping her lid over the number of convertible conversions in Cuba's largest city.
   The American ex-pat and Here Is Havana author says collective taxis are being pulled from their routes serving locals to have their roofs sliced off so they can ferry visitors on open-top tours of the capital.
   Her fantasy? Watching "fun- and sun-seeking tourists from Kansas jump into the convertible and instead of traveling around ‘Disneyland Havana,’ they’re taken into the dark, gritty depths of Jesús María, La Timba, Fanguito, Los Pocitos and Coco Solo, ending up in Mantilla … and left there."

   She bemoans the "incalculable" environmental damage from "all these cars without catalytic converters" – perhaps unaware that most every vehicle in Cuba runs on leaded gasoline or low-grade diesel, neither of which is catalytic-friendly. A few more won't make a discernible difference.
   Gorry's resentment of those who come for Cuba's "classic car cliché" is part of a larger lament about boorish tourist behaviour, from drunken college kids to line-jumpers to people who refuse to acknowledge that Spanish, not English, is the language of the land.
   She's wise enough to recognize, however, that her gripes could seem churlish given Cuba's dire need for tourist dollars. On the convertibles, she concedes that the conversion work provides jobs for many, and the car owners can earn far more than they could with local fares.


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