Part of Cuba’s attraction undeniably is its pre-1960s vintage from the classic American cars through Tropicana and Buena Vista Social Club to simply the feel and look of the place. That it also harbors something of a penchant for vintage Harley Davidsons is something of an open secret for those in the know but may still come as something of a surprise to visitors to the island. From April 14-15, 2012, over 50 Harlistas stormed the resort town of Varadero for the first Harley Davidson Meet of Cuba.
Although there have been many Harley events in the past few years, this first “international” rally aimed at uniting HD lovers and promoting the care and preservation of these vintage bikes. Hailing from different parts of the island, Cuban HD riders made their way to Varadero for three days of activities organized by Max Cucchi and Abel Pez.
Cucchi, who has lived in Cuba since 1998 and is an owner himself of a 1958 Panhead, said that in any other place these bikes would surely be in a museum. But in Cuba, they’re alive and kicking, and a far cry from being museum pieces thanks to the resourcefulness and spirit of their owners. For Cuban riders, imagination and resistance is the name of the game.
The event offered a fascinating portrait not just of Harley culture in Cuba (and believe me, the Cuban Harlistas are ‘loco’ for their bikes) but also to alternative culture in Cuba more generally and how concepts translate in Cuba (as in all things Cuban, there is a lot of invention, complications, gossip and outright fun!).
A Harlista himself, the popular Cuban pop-rock singer David Blanco welcomed the participants with a special performance at Varadero’s amphitheater. But the highlight for me was Cuba’s oldest Harlista, 102 year-old José Julio García, who told us how he had caught the ‘Harley Bug’ forever.
(see www.harlistascubanos.com for more details).
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