The Making Of American Icons Into Mobile Cuban Revolutionary Symbols
How did symbols of American industrial heyday become living tributes to the Cuban Revolution? A Spring 2013 article from Focus on Georgraphy exploring that topic has been added to the Resource Center database.
As the article "Cacharros: The Persistence of Vintage Automobiles in Cuba" explains, for most Cubans, public transportation is at or near the top of the list of pressing problems plaguing La Revolucion. Since the 1960s, the Cuban government has attempted to pursue a policy emphasizing public transportation. Private cars are a marker of class whereas buses and trains are society equalizers. In this regard private ownership of a car, even a very old one, bestows a degree of convenience and income, the authors note.
In answer to the question of how American products could have been symbols of the Cuban revolution, the authors write:
"For a half-century on an almost continuous basis Cubans are called upon to prepare for battle, to resist the enemy, to forge an “anti-imperialist” identity and solidarity. But for most people on the Island the battle has not been with armed invaders, but with chronic shortages, long lines, interminable delays, a bloated bureaucracy, and a declining standard of living. These are the very same issues that afflict anyone trying to keep their vintage vehicle running. Owing to extraordinary effort and a daunting struggle, the adopted cacharros have ceased to be American and have become symbolically Cuban."
As the authors conclude, "The cacharro is a surrogate for dealing with life and the system imposed by the Revolution with its shortages, its patchwork solutions, and its unfulfilled promises."