Che's Chevrolet, Fidel's Oldsmobile

Che's Chevrolet, Fidel's Oldsmobile: On the Road in Cuba

RICHARD SCHWEID
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807888629_schweid
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  • Book Info
    Che's Chevrolet, Fidel's Oldsmobile
    Book Description:

    Vintage U.S.-made cars on the streets of Havana provide a common representation of Cuba. Journalist Richard Schweid, who traveled throughout the island to research the story of motor vehicles in Cuba today and yesterday, gets behind the wheel and behind the stereotype in this colorful chronicle of cars, buses, and trucks. In his captivating, sometimes gritty, voice, Schweid blends previously untapped historical sources with his personal experiences, spinning a car-centered history of life on the island over the past century.Packard, Studebaker, Edsel, De Soto: cars long extinct in the United States can be seen at work every day on Cuba's streets. Havana and Santiago de Cuba today are home to some 60,000 North American cars, all dating back to at least 1959, the year the Cuban Revolution prevailed. Though hardly a new part has arrived in Cuba since 1960, the cars are still on the road, held together with mechanical ingenuity and willpower.Visiting car mechanics, tracking down records in dusty archives, and talking with car-crazy Cubans of all types, Schweid juxtaposes historic moments (Fidel Castro riding to the Bay of Pigs in an Oldsmobile) with the quotidian (a weary mother's two-cent bus ride home after a long day) and composes a rich, engaging picture of the Cuban people and their history. The narrative is complemented by fifty-two historic black-and-white photographs and eight color photographs by contemporary Cuban photographer Adalberto Roque.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0573-9
    Subjects: History, Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-1)
  3. [Maps]
    (pp. 2-4)
  4. chapter one LOCOMOBILES & MODEL T’S
    (pp. 5-51)

    One of the first things most visitors to Cuba note is the absence of advertisements for anything other than the Revolution. The relatively few billboards to be seen stand at the entrances to towns or at important urban junctions. They carry short, punchy, revolutionary exhortations in bright letters—social realism in advertising. Some call on the Cuban people to set their sights on the future, and others pay homage to heroes of the Revolution like Fidel Castro Ruz and Ernesto ‘‘Che’’ Guevara de la Serna, the Argentine physician who fought beside Castro and later died trying to organize a revolution...

  5. chapter two TUDORES & FORDORES
    (pp. 52-95)

    Havana’s Vedado has to be one of the world’s most amazing urban neighborhoods. Built during the last part of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth, to the west of the central city’s narrow streets, it occupies a huge expanse of land that for centuries had been reserved as a woodland, a vast area that was forbidden to be cut. Even before the war with Spain in the 1890s, it was being bought up by Havana’s upper class and cleared to serve as a residential neighborhood, a wealthy suburb. It was upscale Havana in a big way,...

  6. chapter three BUSES & TROLLEYS
    (pp. 96-134)

    Call him Jorge, a guitarist in one of the licensed groups that play on a circuit of three or four clubs in Santiago de Cuba,casas de la trova(houses of the ballad), where every night people come to dance and listen to the infectious rhythms of that purely Cuban music calledsonand discreetly hustle tourists. He is thin, in his early thirties, angular and intense, with his hair in dreadlocks. The young, attractive, raven-haired, olive-skinned Israeli girl who rents the room next to mine on a rooftop patio brings him back every night after the clubs close. Through...

  7. chapter four 1957 CHEVYS
    (pp. 135-171)

    Each of the three main squares in Santiago de Cuba has a different feel. The knot of debating men around the benches and the goats pulling carts full of children are emblematic of the Plaza de Marte. This is a big, wide space with lots of benches and shade trees. It is a family park, where all the social niceties apply. People meet here and take great pleasure in greeting each other: the men shake hands all around, slapping palms effusively, and the women’s eyes light up at seeing each other, even if it was only yesterday they last met....

  8. chapter five CHE’S CHEVY & FIDEL’S OLDS
    (pp. 172-216)

    I wake up every morning in Havana by seven, with no need for an alarm clock. This may be the capital city and the most cosmopolitan place on the island, but it is not an urban sparrow’s chirping or pigeon’s cooing that greets the dawn. It is a rooster crowing upstairs in full throat that wakes light sleepers every day. Habaneros tend to think of themselves as worldly-wise and sophisticated and of the rest of the island as lush green countryside peopled withguajirosandguajiras, hardworking but gullible country people with no style. Nevertheless, the Habanero who lives on...

  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 217-226)
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 227-228)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 229-239)