E-mail from Ernesto About Cars in Cuba

[Ernesto – Age – Early 20’s; Birthplace – Havana, Cuba; Residence – Havana, Cuba; Lives with Mother and Extended Family; Occupation – Educated in Business and Finance, Works in Hotel Operations for Government Owned Hotel; Fiancé of Marisa]

Via e-mail

Dear Franklin:

It was good getting to know you when you were here in Havana earlier this year. Marisa sends her regards.

You asked me to explain to you again how the ownership of cars works here in Cuba, and how it might change under the proposed laws. Private property ownership doesn’t really exist as somebody who lives in a non-communist country would think of it. When we are permitted to “own” something, that doesn’t mean we can transfer it, or sell it. Real property is treated similarly, although it has its own unique laws.

You know that Cuba is full of American standard cars from 1958 and before. After the revolution, imports and exports involving the United States ended. Naturally, that means there are no retail or wholesale vendors of parts, and no ability to order parts via Internet or mail. So finding replacement parts if a car breaks down is much like going to a junk-yard in the U.S. Individuals sell parts, sometimes, rather unofficially. There’s no organized way to find them. And you might find somebody who has parts, but perhaps has ten or twenty very specific parts for particular models and years of cars. For those reasons, repairs involve creativity. One must devise or build a part from whatever materials one can find.

In general, there is no law against selling a car that predates 1959. But of course, since we all make approximately $35 to $40 dollars American per month, there is not much possibility to pay for one.

Only certain people are permitted to own other cars, and the only cars on the streets later than 1958 models are small European and Russian cars. Of course, the Russian cars are now old as well.

Click this link if you’d like to see a link to a U-Tube story about cars in Cuba. As you know, Franklin, I manage to get some slow, Internet access on an ancient computer in the government hotel where I work. While many sites are blocked, sometimes I can find things like this:


The Party Congress says it’s going to loosen the rules regarding owning, buying and selling cars. But just like the proposed change in real estate ownership laws, we Cubans aren’t that excited about this. Considering that most of us have no way to make any significant income, we just can’t afford to buy even the least expensive car. Lately, as you know, the government, under Raul’s rule, has made a lot of changes, supposedly to improve the country’s financial condition, but we are still the same. They’ve fired a multitude of workers and told them to go learn how to work as businesspeople, and have removed products from the list of what we can purchase under the subsidized system. But, bottom line, is it’s all the same.

So, Franklin, I saw Yaineris the other day. I think you know she was deported to her home city after her conviction for prostitution at the beginning of the year. She and her daughter are residing with the lady who has the apartment on the fourth floor of my building again. I don’t talk much to her since Marisa doesn’t really like her line of work, and I guess feels threatened. But you know, Marisa is the love of my life, and I would never do what she is probably afraid I might do. But anyway, Cuban men don’t have money to pay for those activities. People who work like Yaineris work with foreigners.

You need to come back soon, and bring your family next time.

Un Abrazo.


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