(WJBK) - It's been more than 50 years since Cuba was cut off to American travel and trade but the island that's just 90 miles from U.S. territory is back open for American travelers. When you get there, however, you may as well be on the other side of the world.
In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with the country. Today, 54 years later, the Obama Administration has reopened travel and trade to the nearby nation, giving new hope to the country.
"This country, we need change so much," said one man.
"Maybe in the future, it's going to change. With the new relation with the United States. I think it's going to be better," said another.
Despite the doors being opened, the Cuban people still live under communist rule and many live in extreme poverty. Violent crime, however, is low and in tough times, people help their neighbors.
The country is virtually untouched by American culture - except for their cars. A Detroit icon - the heart of the Motor City's industry - has become the soul of Cuba.
"Chevrolet, 58,57, it's good car," said a woman.
"In my opinion, the Cadillac is the most beautiful American car," a man said.
Every day in Havana is like a tropical "Dream Cruise."
"It's like a live museum, you have to come see it to believe it," one man said.
The classic cars may be old but they've been kept in excellent condition. And the engines? They purr like they just rolled off the line.
The engines are the original engines with the car, a man said.
These cars not only represent how long the embargo was in place - to the Cuban people they demonstrate how resilient and adaptable they had to be through all those years. After all, you don't get a 58 Chevy to keep running like new 54 years later without getting creative.
Some say they even smuggled American parts through Miami.
"They're very good mechanics," one man said. "The ones in Cuba have to be very good. Because they are still running after 50 years,"
Their efforts have also built tourism, which has helped the poverty.
Currently, the average Cuban citizen makes only $20 per month.
"Cuba is going to change," a woman said. "We hope for the change because we need the change."
The one thing they don't want to change? Their cars. Those classic cruisers are just fine with them, thank you very much.
"I have one Chevrolet 1953 and I love my car," another resident said.
"The '57 Chevy Bel Air of course. Bel Air. Always go for the Bel Air," a man said.
They said they don't want new cars and they want to keep the ones they have. However, they're not closing doors to Americans.
"If you never been to Cuba, you're missing," a man said. "Because there's no place like it anymore in the world."
After all, it's an opportunity to form a bond with long-lost neighbors, over something we already share: the Motor City's finest machines.