Hard shell


The tolerance towards those who operated as private carriers without a license had lasted too long. For two years this was the best known and broadest flexibility of Raúl Castro’s government, though the foreign press paid more attention to permission to buy a computer, open a cell phone account, rent a hotel room, or receive a grant in usufruct for a piece of land for ten years. The permissiveness for the drivers impacted our daily lives more than these new services available only in convertible money or the collapsing agrarian reform.

Last Friday the streets of my city awoke with few colectivos—shared taxis—because the new regulations require them to have a license. I understand that economic activities have charges and inspections that regulate them, but I fear that this measure will reduce the mobility of thousands of people. I’m not talking about an elite that can pay ten Cuban pesos—a day’s salary—to go from Central Havana to the municipality of Playa, because these old cars move people of all social classes From the student who has to be on time to classes, to the retiree who goes to visit his grandchildren in Mantilla, to the musician who gives a concert in a nightclub.

These “almendrones” exhibit qualities public transportation lacks: reliability, frequency and good access to all areas of the country. These ramshackle cars have witnessed successive plans to rehabilitate the state-owned buses and have also watched these momentary patches come apart at the seams. They have the merit of having resisted the strict controls, the obligatory “bite” to pay off the cops, the restrictions on buying spare parts, and the high price of fuel. Despite all of that, these oval vehicles keep their hard shells rolling through the city. We hope their stubborn frames will be shockproof against these new constraints.

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21 thoughts on “Hard shell

  1. YOANIS SANCHEZ, ME ALEGRO MUCHO DE CONOCER QUE EN NUESTRO PAIS HAY PERSONAS COMO TU Y LAS MUJERES DE BLANCO QUE ESTAN PERESENTES Y FIRMES LUCHANDO POR LA LIBERTAD DE NUESTRO PUEBLO, COMO VEZ SOY CUBANA COMO TU, QUERIA QUE SUPIERAS QUE ME GUSTARIA COMPARTIR CONTIGO PARTE DE MIS VIVENCIAS, LA INFANCIA Y PARTE DE MI ADOLECENCIA Y JUVENTUD, PUES TENGO UNA PARTE DE MI FAMILIA QUE TODAVIA CREE EN EL REGIMEN DE FIDEL Y OTRA PARTE NUNCA PUDO SER SOMETIDA, ENTRE ELLOS ME CUENTO, ME GUSTA MUCHO TU TRABAJO AUNQUE SE Y NO HE LEIDO CASI NADA DE EL PERO COMPRENDO Y SIENTO COMO ES VIVIR SIN LIBERTAD, YO SOY LIBRE PERO TENGO MI FAMILIA TODAVIA AHI EN CUBA Y SE COMO ES.SUERTE ESPERO ALGUN DIA PODER VER ANUETSRO PAIS LIBRE, POR QUE CREO QUE HEMOS PAGADO UN PRECIO DEMACIDO ALTO POR LA LIBERTAD Y CREO QUE HEMOS TERMINADO DE PAGAR ASI QUE ESTA CERCA QUE LLEGUE ESE MOMENTO, DIOS ASI LO PERMITA, UN BESO GRANDE Y SIGUE ADELANTE HAY MUCHOS QUE NO SABEN DE NUESTRA SITUACION Y NECESITAN CONOCERLO,UNA CUBANA QUE PIDE POR CUBA.POR TODOS.

  2. hi, i’m from croatia, ex comunist country, i red article in our newspaper about you. Just say hello to you, btw. belive freedom is most valuable gift, i know that very well, because i remember past times here, times when i was careful what i’m talking about everything. Thank to God, that times gone whith the wind here. last but no least God bless you Mr. Reagan becouse such times gone in eastern Europe.

  3. I discovered your blog today after reading about it in The Reader’s Digest. You go girl! I will following you along and posting a link to your blog on mine. Carry on the good work!

  4. y your good don t give up dear……im worry about you your so white ..you should go to the beach enjoy the sun you need it…don t stay in bed all day …..lots a tourist ..your very busy…

  5. poor immigrante.the end is near not the end off castro but the end for all you idiots ..

  6. I happen to know for a fact that the “Packard Clubs” in the US have been over there and they bought up just about all the old Packards. How many Packards have you seen in Cuba? Not many. Because the yanks bought ’em all up. Embargo-emschmargo blockade-block-a-doodle-ock-ade… you know those commies’ll take money wherever they can get it. When they heard the Packard people were coming they probably ran around the country ‘nationalizing’ all the Packards and made their bundle off of them. Because of course really they’re the worst capitalists… they just don’t want anyone else to have money, only themselves.

  7. I used to tell a little joke to my friends that the way to get rich when castro dies would be to know someone working at the Houston ship channel that could tell you where the out bound and empty container ship closest to Habana was. you would then arrange to meet the ship at the docks in Habana and load up with those old cars in the confusion before anyone knew what was happening. Once in the states you would have to sell the cars before people realized that inside that classic American car’s body was a 4 cylinder lada diesel engine. Consider that these cars are a monumental testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Cuban people. The skills with which they keep them on the road, the care with which they preserve and protect them. Too bad they do not have the material resources with which to keep their homes and buildings in similar repair. Too bad they live under a system that keeps that resourcefulness and ingenuity from being economically productive.

  8. Dear Candido, don’t be so “candid” (just kidding) there is only a specimen that hate the cuban people as much as to call all of us liars, there is only a been that consider the cuban people is “the enemy”…. this been, this specimen is the castro tyranny and its mobsters, so, the self called Mexicano, Anonimo, Marcos (the pseudoitalian) and all those that only comes here to spit their hate, the same hate the tiranny feels on the cuban people, ARE NOT MEXICANS, ITALIANS OR WHATEVER THEY PRETEND TO BE.
    They only are trying to divert, to disguise them selves and make you and other untrained commenter believe they are foreign supporters of the castro regimen but it’s easy to find they aren’t. You only need to analyze the stupid complain they post about why Yoani has a laptop and such bias to immediately understand they are cuban agents that never have been out of Cuba and doesn’t know the free world.

  9. El Mexicano:

    It is very offensive from your part, calling us, the Cubans, as liars,,,,, remember, and just in case that you don’t know this, was a very honorable Mexican President, named Benito Juarez who said : “When you respect the rights of the others , then you will get peace”.

    If you are a truly Mexican, you should exhibit a little more respect and humility, and instead to call us liars, you should revise yourself as a person who probably is leaving and enjoying the “gringo side” as a free human being, which just shows that you already did vote, using your feet!!!!! , since the very moment that you did enter walking in USA.

    Your own foot is the vote!!!!

    Candido

  10. One more thing Mr King of the Ever Changing Pseudonyms —

    So at least come clean with: are you living in Canada? Mexico? Which is it? Did you find yourself at the bottom of the heap there and now you’re unreservedly bitter — realizing your own country prepared you for nothing? Dreaming of the Cuban utopia that never was? Blaming the whole world (and one thin young woman) for all your own problems?

  11. Anonimo-Anonimo-El Mexicano —

    Not to mention Kenny and all your other little pseudonyms. You think we can’t tell you’re all the same person masquerading as a communist army of none?

    But I have to come back to the same question. You’re a communist. You support Castro. You’re proud. And strong. Everyone else is a worm. Why won’t you show the lowly worms your face? What’s with all the silly pseudonyms?

    Why don’t you stand up like a man (or a woman, for all that) and proudly show your face for what you believe in.

    Imagine, little Yoani is not afraid to do it. But you are. She doesn’t change her name several times a day. But you do?

    I really can’t understand it. It begs the question — who is the one who is really in the pay of others?

  12. One more thing about those old cars -the American one- that still are working.

    Do you know how, and why are still working?.

    Did somebody ask how this can be possible?

    Did somebody ask how, after 50 years of “Embargo”!!!!, where has been almost impossible to buy parts and replacements for those American cars, why still they are working?

    Here is the answer to all those questions:

    The majority of those cars, still have the “American Body”, in other words, they still can show outside the American brands -Ford, Chevrolet, Buick, etc, but, inside, 99 % of the parts, equipments, engine, etc, are Russians parts, that the owner of the car, has been able to find in the black market.

    After the Second World War, Russia was able to “duplicate” a lot of the American trucks and vehicles that the American Army used during the war, then, all those Russian brands such as “Gas, Zil, KP, etc, were manufactured under similar system than the American one, then, were good copies of the American parts.

    After 1960, Cuba saw an avalanche of the vehicles from Russia as part of the Russian military expansion that was using Cuba as a Caribbean Base, with Castro’s authorization, then, all those trucks, jeeps, etc, etc, were the main base to support the “cannibalism” that was done to a lot of those Russian vehicles.

    There are parts such as, pumps, pistons, electric devices, etc, etc, that are the exact replica of the American Cars, that the only problem was how to get it, but, with 50 years of training, plus how clever the Cubans are, this was pretty easy to solve.

    There is a black market that even involve the own Army, because at the end, everything is translated to “money”,,,,and the only way to survive, even for somebody that belongs to the Army is “the black market of Russian Parts”!!!!

    Today’s day, almost 99 % of the cases, every American Car, running in Cuba, those that from outside still keep the American Brand and anybody can say that is an antique,,,,really,,really are just a facade,,,the hearth, the brain, etc, are Russian, plus, that the Cuban, as the artifice of the invention, is the real reason why those old cars still are working!!!!

    Candido

  13. that is the problemo with you cuban…..bunch off cry babies .not only in cuba people are slaves .its not the only country where people are suffering…now i know why cubans are the only one to lie trew a lie detector because there a bunch off LIARS……………

  14. candido don t make me cry……….. you should off went to germany….or haiti will be better for you

  15. I forgot, another kind of “piracy” done by Castro’s regime.

    During the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s, when still the Europe communist countries were “alive”, a lot of those countries, such as, East Germany, Poland, Russia, Romania , etc, etc, did not have the ability to find workers to do the hard jobs, such as miners, physical operations, etc, then, those Europe Communist Countries had an agreement with Cuba, which under that contract a Cuban Enterprise named “Cubatecnica”, was able to provide Cuban labor force, under “criminals conditions”.

    The workers were selected among young Cubans , that were not attending to school, or simple wanted to work, but, still their attitude was in favor of the Cuban regime.

    The offer was: “Do you want to go to Germany for 5 years and work there?

    Image a prisoner, receiving his freedom!!!!,,,because, that young man , could go to another country (means traveling), learning another language, eating better than eating in Cuba, knowing new people, a new culture, and buying clothes, and things such as a Motorcycle, that once he returned to Cuba would put that young man in another scale inside of Cuban society.

    But, what the Cuban authorities never said to those young men, was that their salary, in reality would be paid by the Cuban authorities directly, because Germany or Poland, or Russia, etc, would paid directly to Cuba’s authorities, then, the Cuban Government would keep the rights to paid directly to those Cubans workers, dividing the money in a way that the worker just would receive a 20 % of the total contract.

    In top of that, the offer was, for example: Would you like to go to Germany to work as a technician in a factory?

    The reality was, that the Cuban worker was used to do the hardest job, such as carbon shoveler, or any kind of job that the specific citizen of that country did not want to do it,,,something similar than, “exchanging slaves by money”,,,,,slavering their own people without any kind of hesitation.

    The majority of those young Cubans, -even, after been treated as slaves and rejected by the citizens of the country where they were working-, were able to learn and see, that those countries were even better than Cuba, and after two years at the moment that the airplane where they were coming back for vacations landed in Gander, Canada, their solution was “defecting and ask for Political Asylum.

    Most of those, that were able to buy a motorcycle and returned to Cuba with it, were enjoying the pleasure of been different than a typical Cuban, because they were the owners of a motorcycle,,,,which is exactly the same way than the cars, but once again , the motorcycles were not allowed to be transferred to nobody else,,,,,even after been totally paid by their owners !!!!!!! .

    Those young men that came back to Cuba for vacations, and enjoyed that time with their family, when they were going back to Europe, to do their slave job, again!!!!,,,,,,they just asked for the same petition when they landed in Canada, they wanted to free for ever an ever!!!!!

    They forgot their motorcycles,,,,,it was changed by freedom and for a later for a new car,,,this time, their own car!!!!

    Candido

  16. Anonimo:

    I’m not going to answer you directly because if your ability to process facts is as good as your mastery of english, then it’ll be a useless pursuit.

    Just so that readers are not confused by your misinformation, people in Miami don’t have to pretend anything as regards to what is scarce or what takes place in Cuba. They have lived it.

    People in Miami also talk to their relatives in the island frequently, monthly or even weekly, and are provided with endless lists of items that people clamor for. And I’m not talking about goods for hedonistic pleasures. I’m talking about devises and supplies for the treatment of various deceases including diabetes, medicines, underwear, clothing, vitamin supplements (due limited diet), implements of various kinds so they can make things and do business and survive off the black market, etc…..

    Most importantly, they ask for money or hard currency, so they can go to the free markets and buy food supplies that would otherwise be out of reach.

  17. Yoanis:

    With regard of this new comment about the old cars that still are working in Cuba, I remember something related with this situation.

    Just a couple of years after Castro take over the power, I would say , by 1962,63,,,,the possibility to buy a new car -like before those years- for any Cuban was “0”!!!!, because Castro, step by step was eliminating the imports from USA and from that moment on, there was no more buying of cars in Cuba.

    From those years on, the only new cars that the Cubans were able to see, were the officials cars, like the new “Alfa Romeo”, that was used by the Elite of the Government and the Police, the foreign people working for an Embassy, and Sailors that sometimes were allowed to enter a car (usually, a used car),,,,that’s it!!!!!.

    Just by 1973 – 10 years later- Castro made a deal with Argentina, and this country gave a credit to Cuba, to buy “new cars” – old models-, that were assembly in Argentina”.

    That year, Cuba’s population, over all in Havana City, started to see, an avalanche of “Chevis, Ford Falcon, and Dodges”, that originally were used as official state taxis, and Fiats 125 and Peugeot 404, that were sold to professionals (Doctors, Engineers, Accountants, etc) in their jobs, according with their seniority and ” political attitude”.

    That was something extraordinary that the Cuban people saw with expectation and surprise, because, the opportunity to buy a new car, was something similar that the opportunity to win the Lottery!!!! because the fortunate one from that moment on, would be a privilege citizen!!!!.

    Let me tell you to all of you, that buying those new cars (Fiat 125, or, Peugeot 404), was something similar that a “butchering” at the moment of the selection of the person who would be the fortunate one to obtain the car, because the car, could be assigned by direct instructions of the Party, or the Director of the Factory, or the Union, etc, based on the political attitude or simple friendship, then, I think that anyone can image how hundreds of people, attending a meeting under the same roof ,were claiming their own rights to obtain the car, showing their own good record and of course, showing any kind of weakness to the others, because there were only 5 cars available to be assigned !!!!!.

    Finally, whoever was able to buy the car, had the opportunity to receive a credit, and after paying the monthly payments, later the car would be his own car for ever!!!!,,,,,That what any normal people would think!!!!!!!!.

    After you end the payments and closed the debt, the car, by Law, never could be able to be sold -even by his owner!!!!!-, never could be able to be transferred, even, to a relative of the owner, including his children, wife, etc,,,,if the owner just die , the car would be a “State Property”, and I’m not talking about those peoples that decided to immigrate!!!!,,,for those peoples, one of the first “commandments” is to refuse the car and give up the vehicle as a “State Property” , because if it was not done, then your exit permission of Cuba will denied!!!!

    May be, anybody can ask how the Government can control it, and is very simple,,,every 2-3 years, every car should renew the registration, but, in Cuba, this process MUST be done by the owner PERSONALLY, physically in front of the police officer who prepares the renewal, this is something mandatory, no changes,,,,no violation,,,in other words, whoever who allows somebody else, different than the owner, would be doing an extortion and could be paying a hard punishment sooner or later.

    Years after, the Government implemented a new and more cruel way to sold out new cars for private citizens, this new system, is, in a few words, a new kind of “Piracy”, because, just the people who was able to accomplish an “International Mission” (working in foreign countries, as a doctor, or engineer,or teacher, or some special soldiers, etc,)would be able to get the opportunity to buy a new car!!!!,,,then, the same attitudes will be applied for those who were coming back of their missions, or, during the mission!!!!,,,,every one of them were always pending of the others all around (during the mission) to be able to use any sing of weakness or bad attitude to show it at the moment of the famous meeting where the cars will be assigned!!!!!,,,,once again,,,,the same “butchering”!!!!

    Today’s day, those Fiat 125, Peugeot 404, Chevis, Ford Falcon, etc, are pieces of junk that together with those American Cars from the 40 and 50 still are working and serving as loyal friends to the poor Cuban people.

    Candido

  18. Wouldn’t it be great if the government gave antique car owners special incentives for maintaining and keeping their cars attractive? This is after all one of the unique attributes that Cuba for better or worse is famous for, – i.e. a mother load of jewel cars from the 1940’s and 1950’s era, a cache that adds pizzazz to the island.

    Oh no, but the mentally challenged, senile dictators don’t think that way. They are so busy dreaming up useless state controlled projects and figuring out how to stay in power that clear thinking and any consideration of private enterprise is off the limited range of radar screen.

  19. your good y very good……………count yourself lucky to have a computer like my friend anonimo ask you before how can u afford to buy a lap top when must people on your island are hungry…..jjaaa.thats what they pretend in miami sicko …

  20. I discovered your blog today – after reading about in in the UK sunday papers.
    It is indeed excellent.
    Just wanted to tell you that you have a new regular reader in Norway.

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