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A budding artist? Elian’s flowers on display

SHARE A budding artist? Elian’s flowers on display

HAVANA — He may not be Vincent van Gogh, but Cuban shipwreck survivor and budding artist Elian Gonzalez had his own flower painting on public display Friday.

By express order of President Fidel Castro, original drawings of flowers by the 6-year-old, and some classmates, went on display at a museum in their provincial hometown.

Elian, and the young friends who joined him in the United States toward the end of the 7-month custody dispute, did the artwork in Washington on Mother's Day, in honor of Cuban women, while they were waiting for a legal ruling in the case.

"Coinciding with Mother's Day, each boy painted a flower on cardboard and sent them to Cuban mothers," museum director Lazaro Miranda said in a telephone interview from Cardenas, a sleepy port on Cuba's northern coast.

The paintings form part of a special wing at the Oscar Maria de Rojas museum dedicated to Elian and Cuba's massive campaign to bring him home from the United States.

Elian returned at the end of June, in accordance with his father's wishes, following a saga that began with a November 1999 shipwreck that killed his mother and 10 other illegal Cuban migrants. The family feud over his future also turned into a massive political tug-of-war between Castro's government and anti-communist Cuban American groups in Florida.

"It is a pride to display the boys' picture work in the special room dedicated to Elian and the Cuban people's struggle for his return to the fatherland," added Miranda.

He said Elian would likely visit the museum once he returns permanently to Cardenas.

A government statement late Friday said Elian has finished a crash-course in Havana to bring him up to date on his schoolwork. He plans to take vacations with his family before returning to his old primary school in Cardenas for the next school year.