Fast and Furioso: Cuba’s Motor Racing Revolution

Cuba’s streets are literally lined with signs of change. ‘For sale’ placards sit in windows of cars and homes, now considered private property. Cuban Americans and tourists exchange ideas and goods with locals. Government billboards proclaim: ‘The reforms in Cuba are for more socialism.’ People are overwhelmed, excited, uncertain. Against the backdrop of such upheaval, a smaller but significant change has nearly gone unnoticed: the legalization of car racing.

The Cuban Revolution has always had a contentious relationship with racing. In the 1958 Cuban Grand Prix, Fidel Castro’s rebels kidnapped Argentine racing legend Fangio in order to publicize their cause. During that same race, an accident killed seven spectators. As a result of these incidents and the 1959 Revolution, car racing came to be viewed as a dangerous and elitist sport in Cuba. In 1962, the sport was banned entirely.

Nevertheless, underground drag racing has thrived, and last year the Cuban people, energized by all the recent reforms, successfully pressured the government to legalize car racing again. Yet in order to have official races, Cuban car clubs were given the task of training their racers and for the past two years we have been following the start-and-stop process for a feature-length documentary.

Hendy Cobas Santana is the President of Amigos del Motor, a club dedicated to promoting a racing culture in Cuba. His mission is to take drag racing off the streets and onto the tracks. But as everything in Cuba, es complicado. Watch the video to see how he does it!

Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda are New York-based filmmakers currently working on a feature-length documentary about Cuba’s underground drag-racing community and their quest to organize Cuba’s first official car race since the 1959 Revolution. To learn more about them and their film, please visit www.havanamotorclub.com

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