When parts aren't available, they create them. They invent them. No matter what, these cars run and in Cuba a car is never totaled.
cuba car used as taxi in havana
Photo: Michael Freas

Engineers, doctors and economists are leaving their professions to drive taxis. After spending years training for their professions, these cuentapropistas (entrepreneurs) are becoming drivers because they make more money in a day, behind the wheel of one of Cubas cars, driving a taxi than they did in a month working as a practiced professional.

After the overview you saw in episode one, in this episode of Startup Cuba, we take you to learn about cars in Cuba. This entrepreneurial industry in which these brilliant professionals go from earning the equivalent of sixty U.S. dollars a month to over one-hundred in a day as Cuban taxi drivers. Paid in CUC, the money also goes further as the CUC, also known as the Convertible Peso is pegged to the value of the U.S. dollar. Even students are recognizing this and sacrificing their studies as lawyers and economists to drive.

Related Post: El Paquete Semanal: Startup Cuba Docuseries #4

Beyond Cuban taxi drivers, there’s also an industry to rebuild and just keep the cars in Cuba on the road. And the mechanics behind these vehicles are masters at their craft. You’ll open the hood of a ’57 Chevy and the engine is a mixture of Honda, Mercedes and Kia parts from different decades. When parts aren’t available, they create them. They invent them. No matter what, these cars run and in Cuba a car is never totaled.

Buying a car in Cuba is, as you can expect, quite complicated. The main car dealer in Cuba… it’s the government. We checked out an automobile lot and noticed that a used Kia can be purchased for the equivalent of over fifty-thousand U.S. dollars. With an average state salary of twenty-five dollars a month, well, you get it.

cuba mechanic
A Cuban mechanic.

Related Post: Restaurants and Paladares in Cuba: Startup Cuba Docuseries #3

There is a black market to buy an old car in Cuba, just like there is for everything else in Cuba. In this case, we gave it a try using Cuba’s version of Craigslist called, Revolico. Technically the site is not legal in Cuba but it is well respected and “permitted.” We found a five year old Kia with 130,000 kilometers (80,000 miles) on the odometer selling for 55,000 CUC.

cuba cars
Reynaldo Lopez Garcia is a legendary mechanic who keeps Cuba’s top underground drag racers running.

The car we eventually found and saw in person had no odometer but the owner anticipated that his 1999 Fiat, he was selling for 35,000 CUC, possibly had 400,000 kilometers on it.

cuban taxi
Photo: Michael Freas

Cover photo: Jonah Elkowitz

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Hola todo el mundo. Sometimes our stories are sourced from multiple people on our team. Or, we like to keep you guessing... You know... anonymous. And, for that, soy el escritora; "El Equipo." We exist to amplify the voices of writers, photographers, and content creators in the space between the United States and Cuba, and we also feature stories from Puerto Rico, Latin America, and the Latinx community in the US. Topics of interest are personality-driven and include pop culture and music, featured current events, climate and the environment, and travel and tastemakers. Oh, and of course we're always 100% independent. No governments, businesses or other influencing factors play a role in our work.

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