Tile Addict previously explored Little Havana in Southern Florida, admiring the mural by Santos Mendez at TD Bank which captures the bright, bold essence of Cuban culture. It was a delight to find out that just outside the original Havana stands a miraculous mosaic masterpiece spanning the small fishing neighbourhood of Jaimanitas.
It all started with one home and one mind: both belonging to José Rodríguez Fuster. In 1975 he began transforming his home into a work of art and it didn’t take long for his neighbours to take note and offer their own homes for decoration. Now more than 80 houses are canvases for his mosaics, along with benches, arches, sculptures, and street signs; and the colourfully-adorned town has taken the unofficial name Fusterlandia to honour the artist.
European artists take their place as source of inspiration for Fuster, a ‘homenaje a Gaudí’ (homage to Gaudí) welcomes visitors to the park and his figures often depicting Cuban cultural icons have a surrealist flair, leading him to be named the “Picasso of the Caribbean.”
Despite the European influence, Fusterlandia is decidedly Caribbean at it’s heart: celebrating figures important to the Cuban people such as “Our Lady of El Cobre, the Queen and Patroness of the Cuban Peoples” – otherwise known as the Virgin Mary – who features alongside other individuals from her story. Cuban flags are a repeated motif and ‘Viva Cuba’ stands proud atop eight chimney breasts.
Chickens and palm trees, dancing figures and disembodied eyes, suns and crocodiles bring the streets to life. Inspiration from folk history and the Santería religion make Fusterlandia not only an incredible visual spectacle, but also a deep cultural insight that educates and excites. Even more incredibly, Fuster himself can often be found at his studio or in the neighbourhood, able to offer context and stories behind his designs.
Fuster also incorporates unbroken and independent hand-painted tiles throughout the mosaic and within the studio, and some are for sale to visitors. For those that can’t make it all the way to Cuba, a number of his individual works can be found around the world in more than 600 exhibitions.
The town continues to be blanketed with mosaics, with his aim to create the world’s largest mural. Locals and other artists are also encouraged to contribute, and to keep the new tradition alive even after he is no longer able to do so himself. This neighbourhood has been transformed in the most remarkable of ways, and the ceramics are definitely here to stay.
Images from Dan Lundberg on Flikr
A new post by Hanna Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, June 2019.