Jaimanitas is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in all of Havana. Over the course of my travels to Havana I have met charming people from this sleepy town nestled out past Miramar between the western tip of Playa and just before Marina Hemmingway. Running through the town into the Atlantic ocean is the Rio Jaimanitas where, at dusk by the bridge on 5th Avenue, you can watch the fishermen stealthily slip out into the night to try their luck by the moonlight.
Jaimanitas has two legendary stars: one is a vivacious artist who goes by the name “Fuster” and the other is a local chef known as “Santy”. Either one, depending on your interests, either art or food (or in my case, both), make the short excursion from the depths of Havana well worth the trip.
In some ways, Fuster, whose full name is José Rodriguez Fuster, has more or less claimed a section of Jaimanitas as his own or, at least, as his own canvas. A painter and sculpturist who works mainly with vibrant tiles fashioned into fantastical and exhilarating murals of street art, the pilgrimage here is to his house and nearby streets and alleys.
In recent years, Fusterlandia, as it has become known, has become a mainstay on many Havana bus tours, which can be quite comical since the tour buses are massive and the Jaimanitas streets are tiny. At this vibrant ceramic mecca it is common to seek flocks of tourists, like fish out of water, wandering the blocks around Fuster’s home absorbing the artist’s sprawl as, month by month, year by year, his art spreads to neighbouring homes, street benches, bus stops and garden walls. A splattering of art shops have sprung up as a result of this attraction and the hawking of art and trinkets can hit a fevered pitch at times! Regardless, some intriguing and unique canvases or key chains can be picked up here as mementos.
If whimsical art is not your thing but the taste of the city’s freshest seafood is, then you should be parking yourself at a seat at Restaurante Santy Pescador, or “Santy’s” as it is more commonly known. That is, if you can find it!
Jaimanitas is a veritable warren of tiny streets and alleys with no apparent rhyme nor reason. But take a taxi who knows how to find it or keep asking locals the way to Santy’s and eventually you will get there.
Santy’s claim to fame was that he was a good pal of Fidel’s. In recent years, he opened this riverside paladar with internationally acclaim that has recently permitted a second floor expansion. Santy’s features both the most elaborate of sushi dishes on offer in all of Havana as well as the most delectable fish platters, so fresh you can almost imagine the creature still flapping on your plate. Much of their fish supply is secured from passing fisherman. Try to find fresher, I dare you!
This may not be your most expensive meal in Havana but, thanks to all the publicity, close to it so be sure to bring enough cash. A limited but reasonably priced wine selection is available as well as beer and mojitos. But watch your step! You are so close to the water at Santy’s you are one slip to becoming fish food yourself!
Restaurante Santy Pescador
Calle 240A #3023 esq. 3raC, (just below 5th Ave.at Rio Jaimanitas), Jaimanitas
Jaimanitas- just ask anyone- it can’t be missed!
A.J. Twist is a Montreal based travel writer and photographer
still learning to grill fish and paint ceramic coffee cups.
For more Fuster on VisitCuba click here