By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
Want a friendly new car with excellent comfort so you can make a trip anywhere you want, 24 hours a day, in Havana? We have reasonable prices according to your destination. We've got an experienced girl who's a great driver.
The guy who placed the ad doesn't answer the phone. But his driver, Fany, a young woman with a high-pitched, urgent voice, picks up.
"We've got a nice car, a white Lada. Yeah, I'll drive for anyone. I don't care if you're not Cuban. We can pick you up at the airport when you get to town. Just give me two days' notice, I'm there."
Subject: Hello, I'm looking for the woman of my dreams, a girl both beautiful and mature
Date: August 26, 2009
I live in Havana. I'm a very romantic and tender boy. I like to enjoy life every moment and to dance. I'm well off financially, and I'm spontaneous and natural. I'm searching for a woman to share her life with me. I work in a hotel. Chat with me on my MSN account, or call my cell phone.
Revolico also includes boys looking for girls and vice versa, ladies looking for ladies, dudes looking for dudes, and even a whole section for relaciones ocasionales.
There are plenty of earnest young Cubans like this 23-year-old with an anthropology degree and a boring job manning the desk at one of Havana's most exclusive hotels. The towering art deco jewel caters to the wealthiest foreign tourists and dignitaries.
Michel, a sharp-featured man with square glasses and spiked black hair, proudly wears bulbous headphones and a grim expression in his profile photos. (New Times has changed Michel's name and some personal details; otherwise his ad would be easy to identify.) He wants to find a wife.
"I posted on Revolico to get to know people. The site's very popular right now. I posted only a few weeks ago, but one Cuban girl wrote to me. We've had trouble staying in touch, though, because she doesn't have much internet access. Most Cubans don't. I'm lucky to work at a hotel with internet for the guests.
"But as far as the tourists, I can't talk to them. We're forbidden from asking where they're staying or what they're doing in Cuba."
Subject: Diapers and baby wipes
Date: August 13, 2009
A middle-aged-sounding woman answers the phone in what sounds like a busy kitchen. It's difficult to hear her over the banging pots and yelling. But it's clear she has a serious black-market-diaper hookup. In fact, she might just be the hot-diaper queen of Havana.
"Send me an email and I'll answer your questions. I've been able to exchange things on this site before. We're cooking lunch right now, so I don't want to talk."
Subject: Single women and girls, check this out, babes: I'm looking for a hot Cuban
Date: August 31, 2009
Hello, I'm a young man with eyes the color of coffee. My name is Pablo. My telephone is 796***. Send me a message.
The tan, rangy 19-year-old with a long face wears a goofy, crooked smile in all of his online photos.
He lives with his parents in Guanabo, a small beach town an hour northwest of Havana, and works in a hospital, massaging the stiff joints and tight backs of his town's elderly pensionistas.
It's not easy to meet girls there, so his sister, who lives and works in Germany, sent him a computer last month. He buys black-market internet time and posts almost every day in Revolico's personals section.
"I'm off today, but I work six days a week at a hospital as a massage therapist. I've been making new friends on Revolico. It's a great site. I make decent money at my job, and we began renting out rooms in our house to tourists after my dad's heart attack.
"I have a lot of friends who use Revolico. It brings you connections to people, but you have to be careful. One friend ordered some parts, and when they brought them over, they were all broken. Some people use the site just to take advantage, to defraud people."
Subject: American car, Plymouth 55
Date: August 23, 2009
American Plymouth 55 in mint condition. The motor and upholstery are good. I've put photos here for you to check it out. My telephone is 05** for Julio, or 765*** for my neighbor Silvia, or 765*** for my other neighbor, Maria. I want 5,000 pesos [$5,300] for the car. But the price is negotiable.
The seller has posted photos of a gleaming cherry-red Plymouth with red-and-black leather seats. Asked if he'd consider sending the car to Miami, he doesn't react well.
"I'm selling it for 5,000 pesos. Miami? No! It's impossible to sell it to you in Miami! I don't know how to make that work. Call the authorities, idiot." Click.
Cuba's Wired Future
When Jose and Juan moved their messy email lists onto the web, they began with a few hundred posts. On an average day, one or two dozen new ads would appear.
A year and a half later, the site's explosive growth has stunned its founders. Revolico nets more than 2 million page views a month, according to Jose — and 90 percent of the traffic is from inside Cuba. More than 50,000 new ads appear each month, which means around 2,000 Cubans post every day.