According to the international website Tripadvisor, visitors to Havana head first to La Habana Vieja, then to the Malecón, the top two destinations in the site’s “Things to Do in Havana” category.
A little further down the list at #8, just after the nightclub and cultural hub F.A.C.—the Fábrica de Arte Cubano—is the former fishing village of Jaimanitas, at the northwest end of Havana’s Playa district.
Or as most visitors know it, Fusterlandia.
A self-taught painter, sculptor, and ceramic artist, José Fuster moved to Jaimanitas in 1975. Success as an artist brought him to Europe, where he was captivated by the art of Pablo Picasso, the fantastical, mosaic-covered architecture of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, and the monumental outdoor sculpture of Romanian artist Constantin Brâncusi, whom Fuster has called his “spiritual father.”
Back in Jaimanitas, he was inspired to create a Gaudí-like environment, covering every surface with colorful tiles. With his own studio-workshop as its epicenter, Fusterlandia slowly expanded as family and neighbors joined in.
At this point, more than 80 households have volunteered their homes as canvases for Fuster’s ceramic creations.
They bear titles like “House of Princess Diana,” “House of the Mexican,” and, for a local doctor’s office, “Giselle Miriam, Médico de familia.”
Unlike Disneyland, the focus of Fusterlandia is art. And according to more than 1,600 reviews on Tripadvisor, that’s what makes Fuster’s environment so appealing.
“Everywhere you turn you can see the twists and turns and caricatures of ceramic pieces creating a visual delight,” wrote one visitor.
“It is like crawling into the mind of Miró…in 3-D!” wrote another.
In May, the UK newspaper The Independent wrote: “Evocative of Europe’s artistic greats it may be, but the project is Caribbean in soul: chickens, palm trees and crocodiles dot the walls, with nods to indigenous folk history and Santería beliefs. Of course, Cuban flags and “Viva Cuba” can be seen all over the barrio.”
In May 2017, the New York Times published “Inside ‘Fusterlandia’: Cuba’s Kaleidoscopic Neighborhood,” a short video (below) that uses 360-degree panoramic technology to survey the project. (For the panorama effect, move the cursor anywhere on the image as the video plays.)
“I don’t think that when I die this will fall apart in three days,” Fuster says in Spanish in the video. “I think that maybe new people will come and do a better job than I did.”