Fusterland (Havana) May 2019

                  Jose Fuster was born in 1946 in Caibarien, a little seatown on the north side of the island in the Villa Clara province. He moved to Jaimanitas, where he lives now, another fishing village but this one is 15km west of downtown Havana. Jaimanitas is now considered part of Havana.
                   Jose was not there on this visit but that didn’t stop the busloads of tourists from visiting Fusterland. Although his is the most elaborate (obviously), he’s transformed several blocks of houses into an art display on the way to his house. When he began this project more than 25 years ago, he had no idea the community would come together to make this a neighbourhood affair. He also didn’t limit himself to painting, he also took up drawing, etching, ceramics & sculpture & is influenced by Antoni Gaudi & Pablo Picasso. The pictures have never given you the full scope of this project. It started simply, he began fixing his house, a typical wooden structure you see a lot of outside the city. The first pieces, Alex told us, were placed on the outer wall and it spread out from there. One day, a neighbour came by and asked Jose if he could help him fix up the front of his house in the Fuster style. After that, another neighbour came to him and said “If you did it for him, why don’t you do it for me” and it kept growing from there. Now, 18 years later, it has become a successful urban project with most it being done with their own money.
                   I came across this artist by chance while surfing the internet one day and bookmarked it. I decided to visit him on a trip shortly after that. He wasn’t there on that trip but we were graciously received by his son Alex. He was an excellent host with the little time he had and took us on a private tour of his home/studio. He was expecting a bus load of Americans on a humanitarian mission. When Jose Fuster is at home, he always finds the time to welcome anyone who visits. Neither father or son were there on my visit this time.
                     The road to Jaimanitas, Calle 226, runs off of 5th Ave and is marked by a street sign showing the way to the Fuster house. His street is 2 blocks towards the ocean going north. As soon as you take a few steps you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore. It almost starts immediately, most of the fronts of houses are decorated in glazed tiles and majolica ceramics and in some cases even the sides and tops of houses are wildly painted and adorned.
                      When you finally get to his house you can see from the outside that this is going to be something special. When you step through the entrance it feels like you’re entering a fairy tale, like Alice in Wonderland. The front door is always open and the locals that come by don’t take notice of the Jose house but when you arrive here for the first time your eyes don’t know where to look. You have huge statues over 2 meters tall covered in colorful ceramic tile. Most of the stone walls and floor are adorned with art of some kind but then you look up. You have multiple levels and balconies and several covered roofs. There’s also a colossal sculpture that stands as a revelation “The Olympus of The Five”, a tribute to the five Cubans imprisoned in the US. Jose’s tribute to freedom (they have since been released).
                       A must visit if you’re looking for something different to do….you can easily spend more than an hour here between visiting Fusterland and the surrounding area. In recommend you walk there from 5ta Avenida to get the full effect, it isn’t too far from the main road.

PS……they’ve opened a drink stand where you can buy a soft drink or beer and they’ve installed decent bathrooms for visitors.

5th Ave and 226 Street and go north, you can’t miss it.

Entrance from 5th Avenue