Life, Culture and Travels from the perspective of a Cuban
“Old Cars Never Looked Better”
Categories: Cuba Inside Out

On my way up to the office I saw a tourism ad about Cuba that read: “Old cars never looked better”. I chuckled for a second, rolled my eyes and thought about how much Cubans would like to have modern cars and how often they struggle when these heavy giants break in the middle of the road.

When people around the world think of Cuba they romantically picture a 50’s car and a smooth drive under the island sun. I don’t think Cubans hate their “almendrones”, many of them wish to at least have an old car as it is not easy to own a vehicle in Cuba, but you have to become a mechanic who spends countless hours fixing, adjusting and changing parts. There is no end to it.

These old cars are not beautifully parked in a garage to be driven from time to time while you have a newer car for your everyday use.

The interesting thing is that because these old jewels are used as taxis in the city,(the cheapest option, which is $10.00 Cuban pesos for a particular route), they cost around $13,000 USD. I know of families that ask for money to their relatives abroad JUST to purchase an almendron and to start a business. A few people even own more than one car for this purpose.

In general, owning an “almendron” that serves as a taxi (a.k.a botero) is a profitable business. Some owners rent the car out to a driver, who gives them a fixed amount per day and takes the rest of the earnings from himself. The driver, on a slow day, could take home as much as the monthly salary of a Cuban working for a state-owned enterprise.

Last year, I was in Cuba with a friend from Madrid and we moved around Havana and as far to Santa Maria beach in almendrones. I encouraged her to experience the real Cuba, the one that residents feel, besides photograph it. She did not regret it.

If you ask me, the best photos about Cuban old cars are not while they are moving around the streets of Havana showing its curves. The best shots are those with people fixing them, paying their fare, getting in and out… Interacting.

The truth is that owning an old car in Havana is a pain but a privilege as well. If you have one you better keep it running and running… I recall the rainy day that a driver told me: – “Today I will be working as late as I can. There are lots of passengers looking for taxis and not too many cars out there because of the constant rain. Today is going to be a good day”.


Also published on Medium.

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