A History of Mankind at the Center of the World

And record only human history in it.

Istel, a 94-year-old French-American, founded Felicity in 1986 on a vacant lot in the California desert he had purchased decades earlier.

What started as two small houses turned into a “quirky”, “kitsch” and “charming” place for tourists.

Felicity includes pieces such as Michelangelo’s sculpture of the needle of God’s right hand in the Sistine Chapel and an old piece of the Eiffel Tower staircase with a sundial.

But the heart of the city is an ambitious open-air museum. 723 massive red granite panels inscribed with capsules on history, geography, politics, science, fashion and culture.

“It’s nowhere else on the planet,” Istel, who named the town after his wife Felicia, told AFP.

Center of the world

From the sky, the arrangement of panels resembles a woman in a dress.

From the ground up, they are distributed thematically.

Istel adds a personal touch to these granite sheets, duly edited by Felicia.

Space works between the least warm months of October and April in this scorching desert, just a few kilometers from the Mexican border.

“Welcome to Felicity!” Diane Baptiste greets tourists. Immediately the guide says that here is “the center of the world, with an official seal”.

“The center of the world could be anywhere,” admits Istel with a smile.

But not all places have an official certificate.

According to her childhood myth, an invisible dragon found the center of the world in Felicity. The coordinates of this place were certified by local authorities in 1985.

The center of the world is guarded by a six meter high granite pyramid.

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In front is the Museum of the History of Mankind, and a small chapel stands at the opposite end.

Isdell has been honorary mayor since 1986, when he received three votes in Felicity’s poll, which had only two people.

There was no fraud: the officials verified that the third vote was that of the invisible dragon, which found the center of the world.

“A Troublemaker”

Istel was born into a privileged family in Paris in 1929. Wars crossed his life on many occasions.

“My father has gone to England [Charles] De Gaulle, my brother left the French Army to go to Canada, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and eventually died, and my mother and the rest of us came to America.

With short answers and a sharp sense of humor, this economist, who dreamed of becoming an engineer, made skydiving a career, embraced it when it was a dangerous activity, and helped turn it into a sport.

Thanks to his experience and contributions to Parachutes Inc., he is considered by some to be the “Father of Skydiving in America.”

It is now considered the “Horsebird of History”.

At 94, he steadily climbs the 49 steps to the cathedral that crowns the city.

He swims half an hour a day in his pool and enjoys a cold beer while talking about his meeting with the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, a story he would come up with some time later in the Korean War.

He does not snack on water to avoid bad luck, nor has he lost the habit of eating breakfast in bed. “I was spoiled from an early age,” she says of her study, where diplomas, books, photographs and period furniture tell the story of a unique life.

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“He was a troublemaker,” she says of her youth. “I hope I’m still here!”

His wife of five decades, Felicia, petite and always smiling, never reveals her age, which must be close to her husband’s. But he says the secret to longevity is to “keep moving.”

“All Forgotten”

ISTEL envisions the museum as an educational space. Unless there is a major earthquake.

“The positive side is that future archaeologists will find a great find,” jokes this man who doesn’t believe in traditions: “Everything is forgotten.”

But his determination left its mark in this region of orange sunsets and endless skies.

“Felicity is a small community,” says Shelley Evans, who has traveled from Georgia for nearly a decade to fire dozens of panels, often at night to avoid the desert heat.

But there are still blank panels.

“This is what keeps me up at night!” He smiles. “That’s not true, I sleep well. But I’m thinking about the next panels.”

“At Felicity we don’t do things by halves. We do them right or we don’t do them at all.”

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