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May 4, 2012
Janis Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES, May 4 — Urban transportation, as the system vehicles for
moving people within cities, is one of the most pressing problems in Cuba.

Our economic and logistic inability to purchase automobiles is the
result of the economic embargo on the island, but it's also due to the
disastrous handling, decision making and allocation of resources by the

The result was people doing all types of things to get a car, since
private exchanges were illegal. Only recently was the selling of cars

The inventiveness of Cubans is unlimited when it comes to survival and
tackling one of our biggest daily headaches: transportation. To deal
with this, people have implemented several ways to achieve the movement
of so many souls outside of the fabulous world of the individually owned

State-administered public transportation has not succeeded, is not
succeeding and will never succeed at supplying the ever-increasing needs
of the population (paraphrasing the terminology of our old "scientific
communism" courses, now renamed "socio-political theory").

So, leaving us no choice, we've had to turn to private transportation,
thanks to which we can usually get to where we're going on time or not
arrive as late as we would otherwise.

What's curious is that this means of transportation in Cuba has a range
of providers.

One form is of course the fixed-route, multi-passenger jitney taxis,
which are mostly old Fords, Chevrolet, Willys, etc. In Havana these have
been baptized "almendrones" (or "big almonds") owing to the shapes of
those enormous jalopies from the 1950s).

People also ride on motorcycle/taxis, individually-owned TZ, MZ, Jaguas
or other brands of motorcycles dating back to the 80's, which was when
they were imported here from the countries of the now-extinct East
European socialist bloc.

Another form of transport is in trucks and vans that cover the same
routes as the public buses. These are most commonly used in places like
Santiago de Cuba.

With no shortage of mechanics, some of these creative individuals came
up with "Bici-taxis" (bicycle-rickshaws), which take fourth place on the
list of the most used forms of transportation here. What's most notable
is that these aren't phenomena unique to this or that city; bicycling is
used in every city and town in Cuba to get people here and there.

And since we're such a traditionalist people, there's always the
horse-drawn wagon, that ancient means of past centuries. As singer
Silvio Rodriguez once said: "The past is winning new fame."

What's more, this form of locomotion in not used exclusively in the
historic city of Bayamo, where most citizens get around in wagons and
carriages. Nor is it limited to the streets of Old Havana, where it can
be seen as a kind of gimmick to entertain tourists with memories of
colonial Cuba.

In all provincial capitals, municipalities and villages, horse-pulled
wagons play a significant role in getting people to work and schools, to
appointments, or just being able to travel from more distant locations.

Our different types of urban transportation will one day be museum
pieces that illustrate how we lived in Cuba for more than half a century.

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