Anyone who has been to Cuba can speak to its contradictions. Over a few years we travelled to Cuba’s less visited South Eastern coast near the revolutionary capitol city Santiago de Cuba. We were struck by its crumble, its natural beauty, the empty roads, the legacy of revolution, and the people.
There it is. That’s the image of a seemingly pristine American automotive classic that is often the hero of any Cuban photoshoot.
Get inside one of those streamlined cars — which is essentially an illegal act on the part of your driver — and you find out that the dash holds a retro-fitted Sony stereo and there’s a Russian engine under the hood.
Samples and facsimiles of contemporary American popular culture peek at you occasionally but the amusements are mostly ad hoc reproductions. Like the oddly tasteless cakes we ate in one hotel, many Western artefacts seem like they were assembled based upon an overheard recipe passed down too many times. The quite brutal truth of rationing and enforced scarcity certainly don’t help.
Cuba’s cities can be rather stunning with their colonial architecture, swathes of colour, unlit mid-century neon, and living sign-writing arts. The patina is captivating but then the roofs have caved in, the facades are held up by single propped bits of timber, sewage flows down narrow streets, and more windows than not are pasted with Xs.