My father’s parents were born and raised in Cuba. They came to America just before the rise of the Cuban Revolution and never looked back. If you get to know me just a little bit there is a chance that my Cuban heritage will come up.
I don’t have a large Cuban family (there’s three people outside my immediate family), I don’t speak Spanish, and as of yet I have never visited Cuba. That being said, I am still a very proud Cuban-American. I jump on any chance I get to learn more about my culture. So when I was invited to an advanced screening of Havana Motor Club I immediately said yes.
Havana Motor Club is a documentary about the events that led up to the first legitimate car race in Cuba since 1959. When the Cuban Revolution overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista, car racing was banned. It was seen as a capitalist sport that only benefited the wealthy.
The love for car racing did not die for many Cubans though. They began street racing illegally with the hope that eventually racing will be legal again. Fast forward to 2012 and while racing is still illegal the chances of that changing had finally become more promising.
While watching the documentary a few thoughts came to mind…
The American view of Cuba being stuck in a time warp is jaded.
I have been part of conversations with people who say that they want to visit Cuba quickly before it is commercialized with fast food chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s. I have even nodded my head in agreement because from the outside looking in, Cuba is time capsule of vintage cars and art deco buildings. There is no denying that it is a sight to see, but what impact does that have on the people who are living there day-to-day? The buildings are run down and the reason the cars are vintage is because Cubans were not allowed to buy new cars until 2012. Since the average Cuban makes about $20 per month the chances of them being able to afford a new car is unlikely.
Americans take their privileges for granted.
I include myself in this sentiment. This is a country where we can literally go down any career path of our choosing, A country where with hard work and ambition, success and wealth can be achieved. The only roadblock is ourselves. In Cuba (and in many other countries) options are limited and new opportunities are hard to find.
There was a man in the documentary who described himself as a rafter. Over the course of eight months he attempted to come to the United States five times times. The most heartbreaking time being when he got so far he could see American shores, but was caught by the Coast Guard and sent back. Every trip he took, he had to sell a piece of his beloved car until eventually the car was left to just the shell. He risked his life and his family’s well-being to be in a country that is inhabited by people who do not know how lucky they are to be there.
I need to make a trip to Cuba happen.
This movie taught me about something that I literally knew nothing about. It made me realize that there is so much that I do not know. I was not blessed with a large family who could pass on Cuban traditions to me. The only way I will learn is by immersing myself in the culture. This means a trip to Cuba is necessary. Thankfully with the changing laws, trips to Cuba directly from United States will soon be easier.
Havana Motor Club was such an amazing documentary. It impacted me on a personal level that I was not expecting it to. It will be in theaters (limited release) on April 8th if you are interested in Cuban history or are simply looking for an interesting documentary to watch. You can also rent it on iTunes, Amazon Video. and Vudu. Definitely give it a watch, you will not be disappointed.