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Sanity may yet prevail

December 17, 2014
Havana traffic

Cuba is famous for the old American cars on its streets (Photo copyright © 2014 Brenda Priddy & Co. Used by permission)

I honestly never thought I’d live to see this: on Wednesday President Obama announced plans to normalize relations with Cuba.

Prior to the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro and the communists to power, Cuba was almost like a 51st (well, at the time it would’ve been 49th) state. People traveled from the U.S. (especially from Florida) regularly and often. See Ernest Hemingway’s novels.

Needless to say, this development has evoked strong reaction from many quarters. Many on the right scream about “capitulation” and human rights violations (as if America is in any position to moralize on such matters). Others are giddy at the prospect of being able to buy Cuban cigars. I for one could get interested in baseball again if Havana were to be awarded a Major League franchise.

Then there are those who wring their hands about the possibility of Evil American Corporations corrupting the pristine Cuban landscape. Not surprising, given so many Americans’ embrace of the notion that the world outside of the U.S. and Canada is Disneyland writ large, a gigantic theme park that totally ignores the idea that people who live in these places are attracted to the way we Murkins live.

I’m going to guess most Cubans would be totally okay with a few McDonald’s or Starbucks in Havana if it meant that they could go to the corner store and buy toilet paper, instead of asking the relatives in Miami to send a 24-roll Costco pack with the next dollar remittance.

Cuba has become famous for the many (really) old American cars plying its streets and rural roads. Normalized relations and economic reform would certainly make it easier for these cars’ owners to keep them in safe running condition. But many of these cars are beyond worn out. People will need some kind of personal transportation, especially in a liberalized economy.

Cuban Vespa PX

Elizabeth d’Aversa photo

Like, f’rinstance, scooters! A reformed Cuba would strongly resemble post-WWII Italy, or present-day Vietnam. There would seem to be a tremendous opportunity for some company (perhaps even a Cuban Piaggio) to produce and sell a dirt-cheap, iconic 2-wheeler that will be forever remembered as the one that put Cuba on wheels in a big way. While Cuba may not become China overnight, the possibility of it developing along the lines of Vietnam would seem highly likely.

Over at Key West Diary Conchscooter, who in the manner of Sarah Palin can see Cuba from his living room ;), explores the possibility of a fast ferry service from the Keys to Mariel. I would love that. Here’s hoping it comes to pass. Favicon

The world-famous automotive spy photographer Brenda Priddy is organizing a group trip to Cuba to photograph those old cars, among other things. Wanna go? Simply go to and send a private message with your email address. Brenda works with American and Cuban travel agencies; an American Travel Director and a Cuban guide will go on the trip.

  1. December 18, 2014 6:05 am

    What a legacy for Obama to leave. To restore travel and relations with Cuba, that is something. Growing up in BC, we never really heard too much about the embargoes though.

  2. December 19, 2014 9:35 pm

    The thing I miss in Key West is winding mountain roads. And I’ve heard the beaches on the south shore of Cuba are extraordinary. In a country as extraordinary as Cuba. Can’t wait.

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