jueves, 21 de junio de 2012



Some years ago I was talking to a Dutch friend, and I explained to him about the geographic characteristics of my country, Cuba.

I said that the island is long and narrow, and some people compare it with a partially submerged crocodile.   That’s why the island is also known as “The Long Green Lizard” (with eyes of stone and water, as written in the popular poem of Cuban national poet Nicolás Gillén).

He was listening with attention, and then told me that also the map of Holland is frequently compared with an animal, in this case the king of the jungle, the feared Lion.

He told me that looking very carefully the map of Holland it’s possible to see the figure of a lion coming out of the sea.   Many times I tried to see the hidden lion in the map, but finally I surrender and assumed that my Dutch friend was wrong about that.

An angry lion coming out of the sea in Havana
Anyway during all these years I was always fascinated with the mental picture of an angry lion coming out of the sea.

But recently the well-known Cuban artist Roberto Fabelo (Camaguey, 1950), turned into reality that fantastic vision, when he installed the sculpture of a big red lion on the reef of Havana’s malecón, the famous avenue that kiss the Atlantic Ocean in the Cuban capital.

Cuban artist Roberto Fabelo presenting his lion to the press
This lion is one of the many sculptures installed in different places of the city, during the giant art festival known as “Bienal de la Habana”.

Suddenly I remembered the story of the map of Holland representing a lion coming out of the sea, and made a search in the internet trying to find out information about this subject.

Thanks to the magic of the World Wide Web, I realized that my friend was right.   He was mentioning the Dutch Lion or “Leo Belgicus”, Latin name for Netherlandic Lion.

Ancient map representing The Netherlands in a lion shape

It refers to an ancient map of the Low Countries (the current day Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium), drawn in the shape of a lion.

According to Wikipedia, the earliest “Leo Belgicus” was drawn by the Austrian cartographer Michael Aitzinger in 1583.  The motif was inspired by the heraldic figure of the lion, occurring in the coat of arms of several of the Netherlands:  Brabant, Flanders, Holland, Limburg, Luxembourg, and Zeeland.  


Map of the Low Countries as "Leo Belgicus"

One thing led to the other, and again I learned many interesting things thanks to the red lion of the Cuban artist Roberto Fabelo and the Dutch antique maps, where art, science and poetry come together as one.

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