Hitchhiking My Way Around Cuba

On a small, poor, socialist island like Cuba, where there are 32
cars for every 1,000 people and many of the existing vehicles date
from before the 1959 revolution, transportation solutions need to
be very creative. One answer: Any Cuban with the privilege of
possessing a vehicle is required, in the true spirit of socialism,
to pick up hitchhikers. For citizens of the island, hitching a free
ride to town, the beach, or work is a way of life,
reports Danna Harman for the Christian Science
Monitor
.

The system itself is highly organized. Hitchhiking stations are
set up like bus stops along main roads; state officials enforce the
rules, wave down cars, and do their best to keep things running
smoothly. Not all cars are required to stop (brown, blue, black,
and green license plates denote military, private, diplomat, and
tourist vehicles), and many that are supposed to stop don’t. The
system can be slow and unreliable, too, but many of the Cubans
Harman encountered while sampling the system insisted that,
overall, ‘it works.’

A limited bus system, costly taxis, and limited resources make
the ride-sharing system a key way for many Cubans to get around.
With a US embargo making car parts nearly impossible to come by,
it’s also a great way to make few resources serve the greatest
number of people. Indeed, the old Chevys and Buicks, relics of
1950s Americana, have become synonymous not only with the Cuban
streetscape, but with Cuban perseverance and ingenuity in the face
of adversity.

Harman, while pleased with being ‘a bona fide hitchhiker —
living the Cuban experience,’ writes that, at adventure’s end, she
‘was also ready to hail a tourist cab.’ — Elizabeth
Oliver

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Backstory: Hitchhiking Across Cuba

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