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"We can't believe it," Jose says. "It's not something we could have imagined being possible."
The site's exponential growth mirrors the breakneck pace — at least by Cuban standards — of growing internet access. Last year, after decades of living behind a virtual iron firewall, Cubans with enough money could legally buy personal computers thanks to Raúl Castro's decree. Just this month, the Cuban leader allowed post offices around the country to build internet kiosks where ordinary people can check email and surf a handful of approved sites.
The government tightly regulates the addresses of sites allowed on state web access and has established hefty punishments for violators. Under Article 91 of the criminal code, Cubans can get slammed with 20 years in jail for posting "counter-revolutionary" works online, according to a report this year by Reporters Without Borders. Getting caught on a black-market internet hookup can carry a five-year term, according to the study.
So, will Revolico cause real change?
Many doubt it. Several experts questioned the backstory the site's founders gave New Times. Jose was contacted through an email sent to the site's administrator.
Some say he's working directly for the regime, testing a small free-market reform for the government. "The Cuban government has always been very good at alleviating some of the people's needs without fundamentally changing the Communist system," says Antonio Jorge, a Cuban finance vice minister who broke with the Castros and now is a professor emeritus at Florida International University.
Others say Jose, even if he lacks official permission, is likely bribing government censors.
"Someone in the Cuban government must have OK'd this site, because there's no way it's flying under the radar," says Sebastian Arcos, a former Cuban political prisoner now in charge of community outreach in FIU's Department of International Studies. "The question is: What are his connections exactly?"
Jose denies any government link. The regime, he says, has nothing to fear from a long-standing black market moving online. "There's no way this would last if there was a political slant to it," he says. "There's nothing political about Revolico."
The pair moved to Spain last year, just a few months after Revolico went live. They went mostly for jobs, he says. Revolico brings in only a few hundred dollars a month with Google ads, he explains, so the founders have to keep working.
Jose says he has already received offers to buy the site, but most have come from Americans who want to use Revolico as a political tool against Castro.
That's not Jose's dream. His biggest hope is that when the United States and Cuba normalize relations, the site will become a sensation. In the free-for-all certain to come, the most-visited online trading site on the island could be worth some serious cash. In fact, the two partners say they're working on a new site that will equally test their homeland's boundaries. Jose won't talk about the project except to promise it will "help Cuba emerge in the internet age."
"When I left, I heard so many people say that Castro has made Cubans lose their entrepreneurial spirit. But it's not true," he says. "We're more entrepreneurial than anyone else on Earth, because we must be to survive."