to restore or not to restore

…is not even a question for Cubans! In that other universe, for the last fifty years, the stock of pre-revolutionary gas guzzlers was (almost) all Cuba had as private transport. If they could afford the petrol. Just keeping them going and refurbished is their automotive industry.

Iconophilia thanks Jan Luedert for these recent photographs of a 1953 Buick being reconstructed in downtown Havana. Jan writes: “the pictures where taken near Trinidad the UN World Heritage City. The shop was set up by two Cubans as a private enterprise. The interesting thing about these vehicles is the way that it represents “true sustainability” as these cars are rebuilt, recycled and always find their way back to the road. What they also do at the shop is install a more modern diesel engine so the while the chassis is old style 50s the engines are usually new and often diesel. It is incredible to watch how without a fair degree of ingenuity and with how few resources a car that would rust away in our world finds its way back to the road. Cars are mostly communal in Cuba and one hardly ever finds a car with less than five people in them.”

More paint than metal, methinks. For more background, read this piece by Tom Miller from the NYT.

But who among you doesn’t feel just a little bit guilty that we in the outside world take such perverse pleasure in observing the fact that Fidel’s Revolution has subjected his country to this technological time-warp? How pictureque is it (still) that Cuban citizens are forced to live out the historical antipathy to the U.S.A. by driving around in these decaying icons of the excesses of the decade of the 1950s? Contradictions abound in such circumstances. For example, what are we to make of this 1948 Cadillac Fleetwood snapped by The Iconophile in the back streets of Tehran in 2007? If it looks somewhat abandoned, consider (a) how difficult it would be to get spare parts these days, and (b) how much more politically incorrect it would be on the streets of Tehran than Havana?

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Jan Lüdert on 02.24.10 at 7:28 pm

Indeed – Sustainability and Romanticized Gaze in One thank you for posting iconophilia.

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