When we were in the Cuban capital of Havana at the beginning of 2020, we were finally able to visit somewhere which had captured our imagination many years previously. Fusterlandia is a colourful and totally unique open air art gallery and is the conception of artist, Jose Rodriguez Fuster. His unique project is situated in the Havanan neighbourhood of Jaimanitas. We had seen Fusterlandia featured on a TV programme and also read about it in a travel blog. We love both art and quirky places and knew immediately that we would make it to Fusterlandia one day.
Jose Rodriguez Fuster
Born in 1946 in Villa Clara, Cuba, Fuster is one of Cuba’s most exalted artists. He studied at Havana Art Instructor’s School. Afterwards, he toured Europe, where he was inspired by the likes of Antonio Gaudi along with Romanian sculptor, Constantin Brancusi. In fact, in Barcelona, he was so impressed by Gaudi’s Park Guell and other public works, that he decided that he wanted to do something similar in Havana.
From Fishing Village to Fantasy Wonderland
Fuster moved into a two-bedroom house in the rundown fishing village of Jaimanitas in 1975. In the first place, he decorated his studio together with the exterior of his house with colourful shards of broken tiles and pottery. Although inspired by Gaudi, Fuster’s work has very distinctive Caribbean and Cuban influences. Indeed, his work reflects the history, politics and people of Cuba. Images of mermaids, palm trees, fish and cowboys abound, along with the Cuban flag, which features strongly. Although the area is fairly small, it is brimming with all manner of fantasy figures and eye-catching curiosities.
Using the Neighbourhood as a Canvas
Having created his own artistic enclave, Fuster then asked his neighbours if he could decorate their homes and businesses. Consequently, over ten years, much of the neighbourhood was decorated in his distinctive style, including bus stops, doorways, benches, walls and even the local doctor’s surgery. Across the road from his house is a mosaic mural featuring Granma Yacht, which carried revolutionaries, including Che Guevara, from Mexico to Cuba in 1956. These days the neighbourhood has been transformed into a whimsical residential fantasyland which tourists flock to see.
Opposite Fuster’s house, there are a row of cafes and art galleries, along with a stand selling fresh coconut juice. As a result of Fuster’s vision, locals have been inspired to create their own works of art, adding to the vibrant character of the neighbourhood. These days, Fuster has his own team of local artists who have worked with him for many years.
Fuster’s World of Creativity
Additionally, Fuster’s own domain has developed further over the years. Spreading over four levels, it’s a maze of walkways, passages, archways, fountains, pools and sculptures galore. The colourful creation resembles a psychedelic playground. The best views are from the top floor, from where you can get an overall perspective of the courtyard. There is also a small shop where it’s possible to pick up a souvenir of Fusterlandia, many of which are reasonably priced. Sometimes, Fuster himself is present, working on a new piece of art or hanging out in the studio.
Our Trip to Fusterlandia
Before we even arrived in Cuba, we had decided that the one thing that we would splash out on would be a classic car tour. After some research, we opted for Havana Vintage Car Tours as their reviews were impeccable. We also asked for Fusterlandia to be included in the two-hour tour. On our second day in Havana, we were picked up in one of only two orange Buicks in the city. We couldn’t believe it when it started to rain almost as soon as we got into the car and we had to have the top down! Thankfully, it stopped after the first hour! Indeed, our driver was excellent and even added a little extra time to our tour free of charge as well as taking lots of photos for us! The two-hour tour cost $110.00 US for us both.
Fusterlandia is about 12 miles from downtown Havana. If you aren’t taking a tour, you can take a taxi from downtown for around $20 each way. Alternatively, if you feel up to the challenge, the cheapest way to get there (by far) is local bus. You can take the T-1 bus to Restaurant La Celia in Miramar and then transfer to the T-2 bus. Ask to be dropped off at Casa de Fuster.
Fusterlandia is located just off Avenida 5ta. There is no entrance fee, but donations are welcome. All proceeds go towards the expansion of Fusterlandia and future artistic projects. Fusterlandia is open between Wednesday and Sunday between 9.00 am and 4.00 pm.