University of North Carolina Press publishes some really, really interesting titles.
The same model as Che Guevara’s first car. His was apparently emerald green with the white top.
Che’s Chevrolet, Fidel’s Oldsmobile: On the Road in Cuba is a fantastic look at the history of car ownership in Cuba, combined with the author’s tales of travel through the country, and a basic outline of the countries political history since the early 1900s.
I was not trying to start a theme, but the two books I’ve read this weekend have both involved ingenuity of transportation, and both coincidentally included stories of the author’s reaction to 9/11. In Cork Boat, Pollack is working as a Washington speech writer when it happens, so he is heavily affected by both the events and the hysterical aftermath that existed on the hill. In Che’s Chevrolet, Schweid is conducting his research in Cuba, and thinks the Israeli tourist who tells him what happened must have gotten her news wrong. He has to hunt down a ritzy foreigner hotel to see the news, as Cuba’s media is completely controlled and their are only two state run channels that show local, controlled stories.
Schweid’s book shows a Cuba that was quickly developing, with a lot of help from the US, that came to a dead stop after the revolution. With no economy to speak of, and the inability to import much, the country has stalled. Schweid makes the history of the automobile on the island the case in point, how there are approximately 60,000 1950s era cars on the road in Cuba, kept running by shear ingenuity, and piecing together parts from the Eastern European and Russian cars that are slowly imported.
He spends a chapter describing how Cuba was keeping up with America in the “planned obsolescence” of vehicle manufacturing in the ’40s and ’50s, this changed with the embargo, and I really enjoyed Schweid’s passage on how their attitude toward the cars changed:
” Mabye even now Cubans would buy a new car every couple of years, like North Americans, if they could. But the fact is right now they cannot. So they have cared for and maintained the same models that North Americans bought and threw away in great numbers, so many of them scrapped that the remaining few have become collector’s items. The mechanics in Havana and Santiago de Cuba who have kept these cars running all these years belong to a genre of Cuban genius. They have done these cars much prouder than the manufacturers who built them to throw them away.”
Pages read in current book: 216
Total pages read: 501
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