Showing posts from October, 2014

Daily Fix, 3

A 1953 Plymouth gets some attention in Havana. Newer vehicles are not immune from breakdowns. While one driver-mechanic dives deep into an Asia Motors bus (you can just see his feet), his colleagues look for clues to the cause of the coach's problems. Asia was a subsidiary of Korea's Kia Motors. The brand was dropped when Kia was acquired by Hyundai in 1999.

Daily Fix, 2

Russian cars have been the workhorses of the Cuban fleet for decades, and that long service  –  not their construction  –  is why you regularly see them undergoing roadside repairs. The Moskvich, above, however, is widely considered to be less reliable than its similarly shaped cousin, the Lada. Cubans are adept at keeping their Ladas going. They've had years of practice. A nother Lada pit stop. Once fixed, this one, a top-of-the-line 2107, will be ready for a tank of leaded "Black Gold" gasoline.

Their daily fix

Door repair will have to wait until engine work is complete on this 1953 Dodge. (Correction: It's a '54 Chevrolet.)    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. Committee consults on stalled Moskvich in Miramar. In Old Havana, the owner of an ailing '52 Chevrolet gets advice from the local beat cop.

Diani's Chinese bicycle

Bikes imported from China included the Phoenix, the Forever and the Flying Pigeon, above.    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 Bicycl