Wrapped in a time machine and known as the Paris of Antilles, Havana, the capital of Cuba, was once among the most flourishing and fashionable cities in the world. Beautiful sculptures, and buildings with never ending arches adorned the city. It was full of expensive mansions and theatres, and the most sought after automobiles swept along its picturesque avenues. As trade flourished, these beauties became the choice of its well-heeled elites.
Back then, certain American car models would hit Cuban roads first, but then the revolution started and the island came under embargo. Riches fled the country, the car trade stopped and time stood still. American car manufacturers drew their shutters down on the Cuban car industry and stopped exporting spare parts. But, as author Leon C. Megginson said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” These beauties found a way to survive on spares made in other parts of the world, especially from what was then the Soviet Union, prompting the nick-name: United Nations.
Cuba was not just the seat of great Latin American revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, but also poets and writers. Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his most famous work from here, sipping on the famous Caribbean rum, and blowing puffs of smoke from Cuban cigars rolled on the thighs of virgins. Legend has it that Hemingway owned seven cars during the 20 years of his stay in Cuba. These included convertible Buicks, Lincolns, Plymouths and a white 1955 Chrysler New Yorker.
A walk in the streets or a ride in these cars would make every Detroit car-maker proud of their heritage. For years, many a household was run on the earnings from tourists who wanted to drive these old Cadillacs, Chevrolets and Chryslers. They remain a top tourist attraction in Cuba. In the 1900s, the island was the biggest Latin importer of American cars and considered among the top in terms of per capita ownership of vehicles. And back then, these beauties carried some of the richest and most powerful in the world.