Fusterlandia Havana Cuba

A Look into Cuban José Fuster’s Fantasyland Fusterlandia

One of the true joys of going on a people-to-people tour in Cuba was the fascinating look inside the real life and culture of Cubans. Our first cultural visit occurred on the very day we arrived in Havana after a charter flight from Miami that morning. We were met at the airport by our fabulous, charismatic Cuban guide Abel, and taken to see the work and community art of Cuba’s most celebrated ceramic artist, José Rodriguez Fuster, at his outdoor ceramic fantasyland “Fusterlandia”.

A step inside “Fusterlandia” is like taking a walk inside a Disneyland of art. The entire community surrounding José Fuster’s studio and home is decorated in Fuster’s unique style of mixing painting and ceramic and it is utterly surreal.

Fusterlandia Havana Cuba

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An American in Cuba

I have dreamed of going to Cuba ever since I was a teenager standing at the edge of Mallory Square in Key West, Florida. There near the end of the square lies a certain landmark that boosts we are at the southernmost part of the continental United States and that Cuba lingers only 90 miles away.

For five years straight in the early 90s, I traveled with my family to the Florida Keys over the Christmas holidays to escape the long and brutal winter in Minnesota. We spent every New Year’s Eve in Key West, a town known for its margaritas, Jimmy Buffett and the end of the road before Cuba. I always wondered what this forbidden island was like.

Landmark in Key West Florida. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Free Commons.

Landmark in Key West Florida. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Free Commons.

Sadly, American tourists have been unable to travel freely to Cuba ever since the US-imposed embargo that severed Cuba from the United States in 1960. Deemed by many as an absolute failure, it is surprising that the blockade or bloqueo as the Cubans call it continues. But that is an entirely different issue in itself.

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Cuban worker

Perspective: A look at Havana’s architectural past

After a recent trip to Cuba, I discovered that Cuban life is all a matter of perspective.  As I mentioned in my last post “A Taste of Cuba“, the country is perhaps one of the most fascinating places I’ve been given its eclectic mix of history, culture and politics. What makes Cuba so incredibly interesting is that almost everything has been magically frozen in time since the Cuban Revolution over half a century ago.

One of the most prevalent examples of this reality can be seen in Cuba’s architecture. Once gorgeous buildings and mansions of a rather decadent era are today in various states of decay as time leaves her mark. Some have been beautifully restored to their previous grandeur while others are slowly but surely being regentrified. For me, it is all a matter of perspective as to whether there still remains beauty in the peeling paint, the crumbling facades and the deteriorating walls of Cuba’s phenomenal past.

Here is an old Spanish Colonial mansion found in Old Havana and typical of the 18th century, in the process of restoration. Let’s take a look and judge for yourself.

Cuban door

The remains of a once glorious past.

staircase cuban architecture

The stairs to the top.

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Cuban man

A Taste of Cuba

A trip to Cuba is possibly one of the most fascinating travel experiences ever. Landing in Havana is like taking a step back in time to the 1950s where everything remains frozen in time yet in various states of decay.  I instantly fell in love with Cuba the moment I got off the chartered plane and saw my first 1950s retro-fitted American car. The history, culture, and people of Cuba are utterly invigorating and Havana has an energy that swept through my veins and left me craving for more.

Over the past eight days in Cuba, I took well over 1,200 photos and 50 pages of notes on all the various historical, cultural and social facts about this unique country. I learned a great deal and am so excited to share my insight into Cuba over the next several months on my blog.

As an American being required to enter Cuba on a special visa for a “people-to-people” trip (one of the only ways Americans can enter legally as a tourist) allowed me to gain firsthand knowledge and insight into the ins and outs of Cuban life, history and culture. Although I’d rather travel there freely, being on such a tour felt like taking a university class. I learned so incredibly much in so little time.

It will take me a few days to unwind and digest my trip to Cuba. In the meantime, I wanted to give you a quick taste of some of the highlights of this wonderful, captivating place, a country that stole my heart. Below are some selected unedited photos to give you a delightful taste of Cuba.

Old Vintage cars in Havana

Vintage American cars from the 1950s dot the landscape of Cuba sweeping you back into a different era.

Havana street musician

Cubans love their music and street musicians are everywhere.

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