VIN­TAGE CAR ME­CHANIC

On Cuba - - CUBA WONDER -

Ri­cardo Medel ded­i­cated many years to re­build­ing his Austin-Healey, a beau­ti­ful Bri­tish car. He al­most did it com­pletely and was able to re­cover its ini­tial splen­dor. Medel is well-known as a Cuban vin­tage car mae­stro.

On the is­land, he says, “there were cars of all the trade names, even Euro­pean ones. Af­ter­wards many were dis­man­tled for spare parts.” Main­tain­ing the cars set in mo­tion Cubans’ in­ven­tive­ness, some­thing that was taken to many other fields. “Not only parts were made but also tools to work. They were made and adapted.”

Me­chan­ics and driv­ers forged a brother­hood around vin­tage cars and the short­ages. They ex­changed parts and so­lu­tions to the most di­verse dif­fi­cul­ties in or­der to main­tain their relics. With the boom in tourism, ex­plains his wife Lupe, the aware­ness about con­ser­va­tion has even reached those taxi driv­ers who charge in na­tional cur­rency. An aes­thet­ics cul­ture is be­ing de­vel­oped, some­thing that al­ready ex­isted among those who work with for­eign­ers. “They have been try­ing to im­prove their cars. They learn English to re­late with the for­eign­ers, be­cause vin­tage cars are part of Cuban her­itage, one of the im­ages that

rep­re­sent Cuba abroad, which is at­trac­tive for visi­tors,” she says.

Ri­cardo notes that, with the en­try of modern cars to Cuba the auto park is be­ing ren­o­vated. Some as­sess the pur­chase of a new car as the pos­si­bil­ity of im­prov­ing, some­thing that could con­demn the old ones to dis­ap­pear in a per­haps dis­tant fu­ture.

“Many are tired and think that hav­ing a modern car will make life eas­ier for them. But here they are go­ing to fall into an­other trap, be­cause Cuba is still not pre­pared for that un­til the day in which the en­try of new

cars and new parts are al­lowed, brought over by the same in­di­vid­ual. Oth­ers will have the aware­ness to con­tinue main­tain­ing them.”

“Or they will be­come col­lec­tion cars,” Lupe adds.

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