Hola! This was written in Havana, Cuba!
This is a link to the complete Executive Director’s May 2016 Report
My family and I are vacationing in this beautiful and mysterious country. This is a country of contrasts. Some parts of the larger cities are surprisingly cosmopolitan but next to those areas are stark examples of extreme poverty. There is free higher education and medical care for all, yet food is rationed while restaurants offer a wide range of offerings to tourists. The infant mortality rate is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere but obesity and diabetes are rising fast. Black market commerce and corruption are mainstays as the people figure out how to work the system. This really is a country of contrasts and contradictions. Great food (biggest surprise) and mediocre service (no surprise). The locals were warm and friendly!
Of course, we were attracted to the classic cars. As of 2001 (Cuba is not big on updating surveys), there were 10,000 classic cars in Havana and over 500,000 in Cuba. As I viewed many of these cars and how the owners have tirelessly maintained them over the years, I thought about our own mission of preservation and restoration. Like many, I thought the Cuban classic cars were close to original with the engines having undergone periodic and creative overhauls since there are no New Old Stock parts available. Reality check: many of these cars are in horrible shape and calling them “clunkers” would be a grossly favorable overstatement. The bodies, especially the convertibles, are tenderly maintained. They tend to be painted every two to three years due to the salt air from the ocean. The interiors reflect the personality of the owner and usually highlight the marque logo. Few of the accessories work. Horns tones reflect the eccentricity of the owner. Hood ornaments, well, are really different!
The Cuban owners feel they have preserved the originality of their cars. Most of the owners, who use their cars as taxis for the coming influx of turistas, have never seen an original or correctly restored car. They have pictures and pamphlets to work from. Many of these cars have been cobbled together over the years from parts from other marques, a testament to the creativity of the embargoed Cubans. The cars do not fit our definition of restoration but they are restored…sort of. The cars were restored initially to be run as a necessary form of transportation; later they became a new form of commerce as taxis. Are some cars preserved? Again, sort of. Not close to original, but still charming in their current state.
My take: we should celebrate those old cars (& boats) even when they don’t fit our standards of preserved or restored. They may not be complete or even restored well, but try telling that to the Cuban owner who just “bondoed” his car body to keep it together or retooled a Pontiac engine with Buick & Ford parts. The smile and pride is overwhelming…and contagious. Share their enjoyment! Another friend made. Think about it! The same should apply to our dealings with other classic boat owners here.
Now to the boats! . . . read and see more of Hemmingway’s preserved boat as well as more ACBS news at this May Newsletter link.