Jacksonville, Florida. (March 4, 2010) – A first in U.S.-Cuba relations, Director of Deposito del Automovil (the Cuban Automotive Museum) Ing. Eduardo Mesejo Maestre, will make a trip to the United States as the first Cuban official to judge a major U.S. automotive Concours, with his participation at the 15th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, March 12-14. Despite the commercial, economic and financial embargo that was partially imposed on Cuba in 1960, approval for Ing. Mesejo’s visit came from the Offshore Financial Asset Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of Treasury, the U.S. Interest Section in Havana and the Cuban authorities just this week. The participation is heralded as a milestone in the collector car hobby and an important embrace of common interests between the two countries.
Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated substantially following the Cuban Revolution and have since been marked by tension and confrontation on diplomatic talents. However, similar to a symbolic “Ping Pong” diplomacy, which forever changed the U.S.’ relations with China in the 1970s, Ing. Mesejo’s visit signifies a possible “car-guy” diplomacy among enthusiasts, surpassing any preceding political barriers.
There is an important link to American history and the automotive heritage of Cuba; as embargo laws prevented the importation of vehicles to Cuba, Cuban enthusiasts have kept some of the most beloved American cars of the 1950s alive and running through innovation, improvisation and creativity for more than 50 years. Though these vehicles have not been seen in the U.S. for that long, generations atop generations of Cuban families have taken care of and passed down these amazing American relics, in addition to other great collectible automobiles from around the world.
Efforts to host Ing. Mesejo at the 2010 Concours began in early 2009, when a group of Amelia Island Concours Foundation representatives led by Co-Chairman and founder Bill Warner, took a fact-finding tour to the capital city of Havana to meet with Mesejo, in an effort to learn more about the island’s dynamic automotive history. On this trip, they realized that there is no difference between the U.S. auto enthusiasts and their counterparts 90 miles off Florida’s coast, except 50 years of silence. The team then invited Mesejo to judge at the 15th annual Amelia Concours and after months of discussions with U.S. and Cuban government agencies, approval for Mesejo’s visit finally came in early March. In this way, they hope to bring people together over a love of the automobile.
“Cars are a common language among enthusiasts worldwide. The passion that Ing. Mesejo and the Cuban people have for the automobile transcends all geo-political boundaries, and we hope that this is the beginning of great things to come because Cuba has a tremendous automotive racing heritage,” said Warner. “Our goal isn’t to make a political statement, but to simply extend a hand to car guys around the world who share a bond through their love of the automobile. Ultimately, we hope that hobbyists from America and Cuba will one day be able to enjoy these cars together, car guy to car guy.”
During the Amelia Concours, Ing. Mesejo will join racing legends Denise McCluggage and Sir Stirling Moss OBE, winner of the Cuban Grand Prix in 1958 and also in its final year 1960, on a team that will judge the “Cars of the Cuban Races” class. These will include examples of the winning Maseratis from the 1957 and 1960 races, the Carroll Shelby Ferrari 410 and Phil Hill’s Ferrari 335S. The Cuban Races were held only in 1957, 1958 and 1960.
Ing. Mesejo has been the Director of Deposito del Automovil for 16 years where he has become an automobile historian, while searching deeply about the unknown history of the cars in Cuba. He is recognized as the best consultant and the clearest source for people who would like to know anything about old cars in Cuba from the past (since 1898) to the present day.
He has written many articles for automobile magazines and is currently preparing a book entitled, “The History of Cars in Cuba.” Since 1997, he has organized several Cuban Concours of elegance and rallies, and has founded the most important event concerning old cars on the island: Autos Clásicos.
He knows all the secrets about how the Cuban car owners keep their old cars running day to day without supplies in one of the largest fleets of old cars in the world. He is now finishing and supervising all of the work of the first professional restoration of old cars in the country as well as beginning his graduate research for a PhD in technical science regarding the extension of an automobile’s life.
Mesejo has been involved with old cars since he was a child, and found his vocation learning to fix and drive his father’s car. He graduated as an Automotive Engineer in 1985, and spent his first years as the head specialist of a national transportation enterprise. Since 1994, he has been working for the Historians Office of Havana as a member of its directive board.
Visit www.ameliaconcours.org for more.