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Cubans Host First Harley-Davidson Rally

Mon, 16 Apr 2012

Relations between the U.S. and Cuba have been strained for decades but that hasn’t stopped some Cubans from enjoying a piece of Americana.

About 70 Cuban Harley-Davidson riders (or “Harlistas” as they call themselves) gathered in the resort town of Varadero for the country’s first-ever Harley-Davidson rally. They represented some of the 270-300 Harley-Davidson motorcycles registered in Cuba, all built before 1960 when the United States initiated its embargo on the communist nation.

The April 14-16 rally was organized by Max Cucchi, a proud owner of a 1958 Harley-Davidson.

“Normally all the motorcycles you see would be in a museum elsewhere in the world,” Cucchi told the Associated Press. “Here people use them to live.”

Though the motorcycles at the rally remain Harleys at heart, many contain a hodgepodge of parts from other vehicles as Cuban mechanics had to improvise to keep their motorcycles running without access to authentic Harley-Davidson components.

One rider for example, mechanic Jorge Fonseca, rides a 1954 Harley-Davidson Panhead, but the alternator is from a Ural.

Organizers hope to make the rally an annual event.

[Source: BBC, AP (Washington Post), Harlista Cubanos (Facebook)]

By Dennis Chung

See also: Donation of Photos and Memorabilia to Harley-Davidson Museum Reveal Glimpse of Early Days at Harley, Willie G. Davidson Retiring From Harley-Davidson April 30, 2012, Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Team Unveils Restyled V-Rod Drag Bikes.