A Fusterlandia Fairytale
When I'm planning a trip, I research, research, research, and I make tons of lists. These lists include must see attractions, and the others I'd like to see, but if it doesn't happen, it's ok. This was one of those places that immediately went on the must see list when I saw the pictures. It is just something straight out of a fictional dream sequence. I was in awe because I'm not sure my imagination could come up with something so picturesque, and vivid that to see it actually come to life was like taking a stroll through a magical, imaginary place.
Fusterlandia is located in Jaimanitas, which is several kilometres outside of Havana. It is the hometown of José Fuster, the artist responsible for transforming this previously poverty-stricken neighbourhood into the work of art we see today. Fuster is a popular artist, who had tours across Europe, and got inspiration from Gaudi, specifically from his public works in Barcelona. He came back to this neighbourhood, and decorated his home with the ceramic, mosaic tiles. His designs in the neighbourhood are brightly coloured, with simple shapes and characters such as the palm trees, crocodiles, and roosters being represented. These are his signature characters which can also be found in his stand alone art pieces. His home which is also his studio became the start and is the centre of the creation of Fusterlandia. After he was completed with his home, he asked a few of his neighbours to decorate their houses, and they agreed, and it has just grown to the point where it now covers two streets. He considers it to this day a work-in-progress, and is constantly adding to the existing work of art. Even the bus stops close to Fusterlandia have been touched by Fuster's mosaical hand, so it's ever extending.
José Fuster has been called the Picasso of the Caribbean, and his works have been compared to his inspiration Gaudi. Today, it's considered one of the must see public works of art in the world. This fantasy park now has many visitors, both tourists and locals, and has greatly stimulated the economy, and overall ambience of this neighbourhood. It just shows how the power of a man's resolve, coupled with talent, and support can truly transform an entire community.
Admission is free, but you can donate any amount. I feel like this may be better than an admission fee, because you're freely and openly welcoming people to view your creation, a true work of art, and after seeing it, they will definitely contribute something, which would quite possibly be higher than any reasonable, but mandatory admission price. The studio is also open to the public, but cameras are not allowed, and art pieces can be purchased on the spot. I went to Fusterlandia as part of a customised tour I created based on what I wanted to experience in Havana. The best part of this was that our tour guide, Pedro would tell us fantastic stories about the places, but then leave us to wander at our own leisurely pace. We never felt rushed. In fact, he always encouraged us to go slowly, and reminded us that it was our trip, and he'd be there whenever we were completed, or around if we had questions. I mention this because while we were there a tour bus with tourists arrived, and I heard the director informing them that they'd have twenty minutes to explore, and then they needed to be back. While this may or may not be sufficient time, it was just so great to know that we were not on a rigid timeline. Hell..we were on vacation, and the only thing that rushed us was the intense heat. That I can live with, so my advice will always be to pick fewer places if you're limited on time, but give yourself enough time to truly soak in the essence of the places. They shouldn't just be places on a checklist. These are once in a lifetime memories, and you should let yourself be immersed in the experience.
The houses are decorated according to the profession of the persons in the house, so it's not just haphazard art, but rather a true reflection of the occupants.
The below is the village doctor's house.
There's also places on the stretch to purchase souvenirs. I'm obsessed with fridge magnets, so I got a few of them. They were to share, and I put them on my fridge until they reached their new homes, but three months later, I think they're home. Yes..terrible on my part I know, but they're beautiful and remind me that life is filled with beauty. Also, as was the case throughout the trip, the heat was insane, so the coconut vendors outside were a welcome respite. It was about CUC$1 for a coconut filled with lots of delicious cool water. Sooo worth it.
I am devoting an entire blog post to this experience because I think it's deserving. Also, this is going to be an image heavy post, because even these images can't do justice to the beauty of this place. So, scroll through slowly, so you can imagine yourself there. A mental vacation is the next best thing to a real one. Enjoy!
Let me know if you've ever been, or what place you've visited that has taken your breath away.
Light and love always!