You know I love motorcycling… especially in Cuba, where several of my pals are harlistas: Owners of pre-revolutionary Harley-Davidsons.
One day about three months ago, Jens called me to introduce himself. He wanted to meet in Havana. Proof that great minds think alike, he suggested one of my favorite restaurants: La Chucheria Sports Bar. Cool!
Jens brought me a gift: A copy of his brand new coffee-table book CUBAN HARLEYS, MI AMOR.
Illustrated with superb images by Italian photographer Max Cucchi, this stunning 172-page book offers a fascinating paean to a unique Cuban sub-culture, and to the passion and ingenuity that the harlistas employ to keep their pre-revolutionary hogs on the road.
Cuban Harleys, Mi Amor opens with an enthralling introductory paragraph profiling the history of Harleys in Cuba… including the intriguing tale about how after the Revolution triumphed in 1959, Fidel Castro ordered that all the police and army Harleys be buried in a big hole under what is now the Boniato prison outside Santiago de Cuba.
Three years ago my pal Luis Enrique González and I led the first U.S. motorcycle group to circumnavigate Cuba since the Revolution. We headed up a mountain outside Santiago de Cuba to look over the prison and salute the Harley-Davidsons still buried there. It’s a fascinating chapter that still awaits a just ending.
Luis is one of 50 harlistas honored with their own personal profiles in the book. “We used valves from a Russian Kamas truck,” he recalls of the tough years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Cylinders from a Russian Gas 69 off-road vehicle would also fit, albeit with slight modifications,” adds the renowned über mechanic.
And there’s my pal Ernesto Guevara, with his 1948 Harley-Davidson big-twin flathead.
Cucchi’s sublime photographs perfectly capture the spirit of Cuba in a remarkable visual homage. And Jens’ exquisite text brings the individual harlistas’ own passions to life, weaving unforgettable anecdotes into the warp of this remarkable and endlessly entertaining story.