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(2022 - Winter Issue)


How One Man’s Art Transformed a Havana Neighbourhood

The Scene

Walking into the neighbourhood of Jaimanitas in northwestern Havana is like falling into a psychedelic dream. Nicknamed Fusterlandia, this corner of Cuba’s capital emerged one ceramic artwork at a time from the wild imagination of José Fuster. Walls, chimneys, courtyards, rooftops and gates in homes, businesses and even bus stops—there’s not a spare inch of boring in this fantastical menagerie, all bringing a previously rundown neighbourhood to dazzling life and attracting much-needed tourist dollars to Jaimanitas. As a proud Cuban and one of the country’s best-known artists, Fuster is an unapologetic nationalist. Cuban colours, flags and figures feature prominently among the hundreds of works.

The Hits

Don’t miss the epicentre of Fusterlandia, the site of the inspirational spark. The home of José Fuster is a work of art splashed with the thousand shades of his imagination. Climb to his rooftop to experience a work of art three blocks wide. Pop into his studio where the master himself might be selling souvenirs. Fuster’s isn’t the only casa doubling as a gallery, so explore the neighbourhood.

The Backstory

As a budding artist, Fuster was called, “the Picasso of the Caribbean.” While touring Europe’s art galleries, the Cuban ceramic cubist became fascinated with the art of Constantin Brâncuși  of Romania and Antoni Gaudí, the architect and artist who gave Barcelona its personality. Gaudí’s grand Sagrada Família cathedral, his ornate gingerbread houses and especially his utopian Parc Güell neighbourhood inspired Fuster. Returning to Cuba in 1975, he got to work, covering every surface of his house and studio with whimsical mosaics. About 30 years ago when his house could no longer contain his vision, he flooded Jaimanitas with his art as if a dam had burst.

The Takeaway

Today, Fusterlandia is not only one of Cuba’s best excursions and a source of national pride, it’s inspiration for Havana’s busy arts scene. From the National Art Schools down to the Experimental Graphics Workshop in the downtown tourist district, Havana hums with creativity. See and buy Fuster’s work at Havana’s Museo Nacional de la Cerámica, as well as at the Center for Cuban Studies in New York City.

Depending on the day, Fuster himself may be greeting guests to his home and neighbourhood. Because he’s now in his late 70s, it’s as likely a friendly family member will greet guests and eagerly fall into conversation about the great man. As one of them said of the artist, “Gaudí was like his favourite uncle and Picasso his father.”

Travel Planner

Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing and WestJet fly direct to Cuba. Book a guided tour at almost any hotel or just ask a taxi driver to take you to Fusterlandia. Everyone knows where it is.

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