Alfonso Albaisa is the global head of Infiniti design. He is also the American-raised son of exiled Cuban parents, part of the great political schism that occurred half a century ago when Cuba turned to Communism and Cubans fled to the U.S.
Infiniti designer explores Cuban roots
Albaisa never had set foot in Cuba -- until August, when he arrived with a freshly minted 2017 Q60 coupe to cruise the streets of Havana.
"I felt like it was time for me to go," the designer says, a little emotionally.
The trip was proposed by Fortune magazine. Just getting the new Q60 into Havana by container ship required months of paperwork.
But the real emotion began when he took to the streets, drawing an enthusiastic crowd as he stopped to talk to locals and look for the remnants of his family's vanished life there, like the house where his parents had lived. Albaisa reunited with a long-lost cousin and elderly locals who had been family friends.
Albaisa's father had been a prominent architect in the city before the revolution, as was his great-uncle, who designed Havana's iconic Tropicana Hotel.
"It was important for me to connect that line," he says, "to connect with those designers from my family's past, down to me, today. What I feel today about design was influenced by that DNA -- even though I had never been there to see it."
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