HAVANA, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Leonardo de Jesus Medina is barely 12 years old, but has already discovered he has a knack for model ship building.
Afflicted with lupus, a complex autoimmune disease that prevents him from attending school normally, Leonardo is homeschooled with the help of a government program.
The skill has served to raise his spirits and connect him with a wider community of fellow model crafters, Leonardo's mother Doris Garcia said.
"Since he started ship modeling in March, even his health has improved," Garcia told Xinhua.
Leonardo took part over the weekend in a show of model ships sponsored by Havana's Hemingway International Yacht Club, as part of celebrations leading up to the city's 500th founding anniversary on Nov. 16.
The packed show featured a nautical parade of model ships that were set afloat in the placid waters of Marina Hemingway and artistic works by some 60 model craftsmen, including model ships, airplanes, trains and iconic Havana buildings, such as The Capitol, which houses the parliament.
Leonardo makes scale models of old vessels, including a replica of the ill-fated Russian submarine Kursk, by using wood from old cigar boxes, thread for sewing shoes and bits of wire. His mother proudly displays two ships in a bottle Leonardo made with miniature Spanish galleons.
Leonardo says he is following the footsteps of fellow participant Jose Cardet, 73, a former naval officer who has built several different scales of replicas of Granma, the yacht that revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his men used to get to Cuba from Mexico while embarking on the rebellion against dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1956.
"I handed a replica to Fidel (Castro) and another to Raul (Castro), and since then I make models (of Granma) at the request of the authorities," Cardet told Xinhua.
Cardet has been making models of vehicles since his childhood. His first major creation was a locomotive made of cardboard based on an image in the magazine "Popular Mechanics."
"I made the body with a cardboard tube from toilet paper rolls," he recalled, laughing.
The veteran modeler, who also designed and built his own tools, is currently working on a scale model of Havana's San Agustin district as part of a community project known as the Artistic Laboratory of San Agustin.
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