Little Havana’s ‘La Casa de los Trucos’: A Cuban American boy’s paradise

As a boy growing up in Miami’s Little Havana, there were few places my friends and I found more exciting than a visit to La Casa de los Trucos, the House of Tricks, where we could buy all sorts of mischievous items such as stink bombs, firecrackers, costumes, and magic tricks. The store, located on Calle Ocho, was a veritable paradise for young Cuban Americans, where we had a massive selection of fireworks and items we could use to prank each other and our parents.

Whenever we were able to round up enough cash, we would jump on our bikes and head east on Calle Ocho to La Casa de los Trucos. There we would find a plethora of toys, fireworks, and contraptions we could use to make noise or just be as obnoxious as we could be. It was there where I purchased my first stink bomb, which later that day, led to my mother very overtly expressing her displeasure over the very foul stench it created in our backyard.

Originally founded in Cuba over one hundred years ago, La Casa de los Trucos was reborn in Miami’s Little Havana in 1972 and is one of the few iconic Cuban American establishments still around today.

Via CubaNet (my translation):

La Casa de los Trucos: A 100-year history between Havana and Miami

La Casa de los Trucos [House of Tricks], with a history dating back over a century, is a symbol both in Cuba, where it originated, and in Miami, where it flourished again in 1972.

Jorge Torres, the manager, talked to Diario Las Américas about this iconic establishment located in the heart of Little Havana.

According to him, The House of Tricks was born over 100 years ago in Cuba. “It existed before 1920, because we have catalogs from that time,” he points out.

Originally located at 115 Bernaza Street, in Old Havana, “many still remember its countless costumes and jokes. My father is one of them, because in the 1950s, as a child, he was very happy when my grandfather bought him a shiny piece of feces or turd (fake, of course, but very convincing), which was one of the most popular products in those years, along with glasses with mustaches and masks for parties,” Torres recounts.

After the closure of the establishment in Havana, following Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959, The House of Tricks was revived by Esteban Torres in Miami in 1972.

Diario Las Américas points out that Pilar L. Benítez, in her thesis on the role of Cuban exiles (1960-1973) in the development of Calle Ocho, recounts how Esteban Torres arrived in the United States on a 14-foot boat after Fidel Castro closed Cuba’s borders in October 1962.

Over time, The House of Tricks has exponentially expanded its assortment, going from 1,000 to 15,000 different styles of costumes since 2003. Jorge Torres highlights that, in addition to traditional Cuban costumes, they now offer a variety ranging from Miami Vice suits to contemporary fashion accessories.

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