Exchanging an Argentine Fiat for a Cuban Roof / Yoani Sánchez

IMage from www.clasificadosdecuba.net
Image from www.clasificadosdecuba.net

He was awarded it as a perk based on merit, paying a subsidized price in 1975, the same year as the first Communist Party Congress. He won the chance to buy that brand new Fiat 125, made in Argentina, because he was a vanguard doctor and an unimpeachable Revolutionary. The first time he parked on his provincial street, the neighbors looked on with envy and respect. Behind the wheel he felt like someone just beginning to take the first steps along the promised path to prosperity. But time passed, over his own body and also over the blue bodywork that had begun to get chipped and dented. Now the car is about to be the same age as his oldest daughter, some 37 Decembers of benefits and setbacks.

For decades he held back on making any comprehensive repairs because his pediatrician’s salary wasn’t even enough to replace the windshield. In the mid-nineties he broke down and rented the Fiat to a neighbor who bought and sold merchandise on the black market. Between leaving it to rust in the garage or renting it to someone with resources, he preferred the latter. Thus, the car awarded as a prize for ideological fidelity, went to someone who had never been chosen by institutions to receive such a privilege. The currency of political loyalty that ended up conquered at the feet of another, more real, convertible hard cash.

When the purchase and sale of cars was authorized, he decided to legalize the transfer. The solvent neighbor who had already invested in new tires, air-conditioning, and even leather-covered seats, delivered some one thousand CUC ($900 USD) to close the deal. He didn’t want to pay one cent more, because he’d been paying a monthly rent for several years. Finally, before a notary, the Fiat swelled the list of 8,390 autos sold in the first trimester of 2012. With the money he made the doctor managed to buy the materials to restore the roof of his house and to get rid of the damaged nearly-100-year-old tiles. So he put out of his mind the object that had once been a major source of pride, for the concrete roof he never could have afforded on his salary.

May 22 2012