Animals of stone live in Cuban peasant's zoo
Another site of interest in the area, near Yateras, is a "zoo" whose animals have been sculpted out of stone. Here, farmer-sculpter Angel Inigo Blanco has sculpted 300 life-sized animals from all continents out of large rocks that are scattered through the woods.
YATERAS, Cuba (CNN) -- Angel Inigo Blanco went for a walk near his home 20 years ago, and had an idea that many people would have dropped immediately.
There were no zoos in eastern Cuba, and it occurred to him that he could create one by carving animals from the huge chunks of limestone that abounded in the midst of a lush, semi-tropical jungle. He returned the next day and began work on a lion. It wasn't easy, and he nearly gave up.
"I came one day and worked and said, 'I'm not coming back,'" he says. "It's very difficult work." But he did come back, day after day for 20 years, and now he has a collection of 360 stone animals and birds ranging from gorillas to roosters.
Protected by a fence and a sagging iron gate, Blanco's zoo is home to elephants, lions, rhinoceroses, panthers, crocodiles and buffalo. There is a gorilla with a quizzical look on its face as it fights off several stone lions. There is a bear hunkering in the midst of extravagant green foliage.
There are humans in Blanco's zoo, too
There is a horned mountain goat and two other creatures with big ears and no horns and the same, over-caffeinated look in their eyes. They may also be goats. Then, again, they may not. A lion lurking behind a stand of bright orange lilies has the same quizzical expression as the gorilla while, nearby, waves of fat ripple across the back of a hippopotamus in profile.
There are chickens, rats and donkeys, some of them hiding amidst the greenery. There are even humans in Blanco's zoo. "The sculpture which took me the longest was the Indian village," he says. "I worked on that for seven months.
"Even now, 20 years into his opus, Blanco uses only a hammer, a lever and a file, and he says the work is still difficult. "Sculpting is hard work," he says, "whether you're working with mud or wood."
'I'll always be a peasant'
As sculpture goes, Blanco's work has a simple, almost childlike quality similar to a style of painting known as "primitive."
Blanco's, however, is neither so deliberate nor so philosophical. He does what he can, and while it will never be confused with great art, he is proud of it.
"I'll always be a peasant," he says.
One of his children works with him. He will inherit his father's stone legacy and, perhaps, the dream as well.