Almendrones Roll in Havana
- Submitted by: manso
- 07 / 25 / 2011
By: Alfredo Boada. Havana, (Prensa Latina) The "almendrones", the name given by popular usage to those old North American cars of all models produced over half a century ago and still circulating in Cuba, now look almost like new, in their daily persistent comings and goings on the streets and avenues of Havana.
Emblematic and active elements of this city, perhaps the one place in the world where so many old cars circulate together with a large number of modern cars of different origins, the popular "almendrones" owe the origin of their nickname -born of the imagination of Cubans- to the hardness of their metal bodies.
Considered a very attractive phenomenon for tourists that come to this land, it could certainly be part of an open-air automotive museum; people are constantly surprised to see bright and well kept cars of brands like Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, Mercury, Dodge, Ford, Oldsmobile, Chrysler, Desoto, Packard and others, which in the last century were hallmarks of the global automotive industry.
The blockade by the White House against Cuba, following the social programs of national independence and sovereignty initiated by the Revolution, prevented even an original spark plug for repairing these cars from entering the island. Then Cuban ingenuity gave a lesson to the blockaders.
With the same body, decorations, interior upholstery, lights and bumpers that the US engineers originally designed and built them, these ancient motor vehicles seem to relive their glory days, and they do it with great aplomb, full of passengers when they work as taxis.
Preferred by city people to arrive early and as quickly as possible to their destination, these cars survive here by grafting and adding parts from some other equipment or parts that are often the product of the skill of a national innovator.
In Havana there are several taxi routes for these "almendrones"; most leave from the vicinity of the capital's Central Park, from the intersection of the famous Prado and Neptuno streets, from Monte or Arsenal Avenue, from the Havana railway terminal, from different areas of the capital to fixed destinations.
Others initiate their route in front of the Capitol of Havana, the former seat of Congress in the capitalist era and now a remarkable museum visited by tourists, or they pass through the tunnel under the bay of Havana, an architectural marvel born in the twentieth century, to reach the township of East Havana and the populous neighbourhood of Alamar.
Some of them travel to the town of Santiago de las Vegas, near the José Martí International Airport, or to the beautiful beaches of Boca Ciega, Santa Maria and Guanabo, the nearest to downtown Havana.
Although the nation's transportation experts may not know the exact numbers of passengers these ancient cars move every day, especially in the capital, a memorial should be built to the almendrón for the transportation service it provides to Cubans.
With over five decades of rolling around, these vintage cars 'fruit of the limitless inventiveness of the inhabitants of this land and the urgent need of daily transportation- are still rolling, mocking the punitive U.S. measures against Cuba and overcoming the irrevocable passage of time.