Friday, September 2, 2011

The Cuban Show

So Snafu won the distinction of guessing the movie I referred to in my previous blog -- I knew he would!  It is The Truman Show, one of my all time favourite movies. Not sure why, because I am not a fan of Jim Carrey, but he did an excellent job in this role.

Truman is the unsuspecting star of a 24 hour a day TV reality show watched by millions around the world. Unsuspecting because he was actually born on the set, and viewers got to watch him grow from a baby to a grown man. They were able to tune in every moment of the day to watch him live out his life. He had no idea that he was on TV. He thought the world he grew up in was the real world and that all the characters around him were real people, when in fact every single person was an actor directed by Christof, the director who 'created' Truman. His environment -- his home, his office, the streets, shops etc were all simply scenery, including the ocean on which the town where he lived was located -- created in the world's largest ever studio. To make a long story short, and not to reveal the ending for those who have not yet seen the movie, Truman begins to suspect that something is not right, and decides to get away from the town. Ultimately, he ends up on the 'ocean' in a sailboat. The director sends a storm, to encourage him to turn back, but he endures the storm and keeps on going, until....he comes to the end of the scenery -- which is where our sailboat photo of Cuba comes in:

That's our photo.

Below is a shot taken from the final scene of the movie:

While we were in Cuba, we saw lots of sailboats off in the distance on the horizon of the ocean, and it became a bit of a joke for us, that we were there, experiencing the "Truman Show" syndrome, which we ultimately called the Cuban Show.


Well, let me say right off the bat, that this is not meant to be a put-down of Cuba and the Cuban people. Our surroundings were beautiful and the people were also beautiful and so very friendly and we really enjoyed interacting with them. But somehow, it all felt so surreal -- like the Truman Show.

We came to Cuba knowing that it is a communist country, and we have heard much about Fidel Castro, so I guess that immediately gave a framework for what we might expect.

Also, we knew there was much poverty and that many foreigners who go there for vacations empty their suitcases to give as much as possible to the needy people around them.

But our location didn't fit our expectations at all.
We were in Varadero, at the Melia Las Americas Hotel - a five star hotel by Cuban standards, and indeed it was very nice. But everything about our vacation felt like a show - unreal.
We weren't seeing the real Cuba.

In fact, our very first view of life in Varadero, was a bit mind-boggling. Everywhere we looked there were American cars on the roads, dating back to the 50s and 60s. American brand ­ Ford, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Chrysler, Packard and other classic models. And not in a dilapidated condition as you might expect for a poor country, but in immaculate condition -- many with not a dent or scratch, perfect paintwork, original colours, shining chrome. Car collectors in the US would give all they own to get their hands on one of these!

Click here to watch an extensive video of the Cuba's American cars. It's long and well worth watching if you are interested in old cars, but you can get the idea in the first couple of minutes:

Here is a shorter look at some cars. Remember, one in every eight cars in Cuba dates back to the pre-60s!

So what is THAT all about?

Well, as best as I can understand it, the US embargo against Cuba took place in 1960. With no more commerce between the countries, restrictions were placed on ownership of cars in Cuba. Cars owned pre-1960 were allowed to be kept. Any car purchased after 1960 is actually state-owned. So these old cars are being preserved as best as possible, and are passed down through the generations; each one being probably the only car a Cuban will own throughout his lifetime. And even if the only original part left is the chassis, they are loved and cherished and kept immaculate.

So, imagine traveling on the tour bus from the airport to Varadero, past families living in tiny roadside shacks, signs of poverty everywhere and seeing pink Cadillacs and multitudes of other ancient yet beautiful collector vehicles driving all around you -- surreal!

But that's not all about the Cuban Show -- there's much more to come!


  1. Wow! I must be really out of touch. I've never even heard of that movie!
    Perhaps it was only released in Canada and Britain -- surely I'm not that much out of the loop.

  2. I have never been to Cuba but it does sound like there are contrasting aspects in their society. Castro was a special man, not because I agree with his politics but his life story is fascinating and he personally shaped his nation possibly more than any other leader has in recent history.
    I found that Malta was a living car museum too, when I went there some years ago, but 50s British cars.

  3. ChrisJ, you must have missed this one - a US box office hit! Even though yours and my tastes in movies may differ, I think you will find this one at least entertaining - worth renting!

    Snafu, I must confess I don't know much about Castro's life story - I must read up on him.

  4. I have got to seek this film out, now. Never heard of it, but it sounds fascinating. ♥