Cuba's Craigslist

Online black markets


In a country where commerce is frequently forbidden, Internet access is tightly restricted, and dial-up connections are very, very slow, you might not expect to find much online shopping. But the stripped-down look and off-the-books attitude of the American online classified ad site Craigslist is a perfect fit in a communist country with a thriving black market.

Cuba's Craigslist equivalent is called Revolico, which translates roughly as "Disarray." You can buy or sell just about anything on the site, including electronics, food, and sex. Since sales of American cars built after 1960 are illegal on the island, the car listings are a particularly fascinating window onto the distortions of Cuban commercial life. A quick search in August turned up a classic '57 Chevy Bel Air "todo original" and a '53 Ford Victoria with an asking price of 9,000 Cuban convertible pesos, or about $9,700. isn't hosted on Cuban servers, so it lacks the .cu domain name. But that hasn't stopped it from becoming one of the island's top websites, with 1.5 million page views a month, according to Reuters. Despite such popularity, President Raul Castro has left Revolico alone thus far, suggesting that official Cuban disapproval of both online communications and unregulated sales might be softening slightly.