Raúl Viqueira, Xardín Paraiso (Garden of Paradise)
Laraño (San Martiño), Galicia, 15897, Spain
Although the chapel and castle are located toward the rear of the site, many of the smaller works are easily viewable from the road.
About the Artist/Site
Viqueira has worked as a portero, a doorman and general helper, at the Conxo Psychiatric Hospital in Santiago de Compostela for about thirty-five years. As his village is located just southwest of Santiago and the hospital is located on the southwest side of town, he easily and quickly travels back and forth. With a secure—albeit low-paying—job, happily married to his wife, Mari Carmen, and with one son and two daughters (and, as of 2008, a grandson, with hopes for more to come), he was content with his family and his life, and he enjoyed the lush garden of trees and plants that surrounded his home.
One day in 2002, walking on the beach, he saw some lovely small stones, washed smooth and round by the tides. He decided to take some home, perhaps to ornament a flowerpot or planter box in his garden. He was so pleased with the results that he thought he could expand his labors. Although he had had no training in art or architecture of any kind, occasionally he would put pencil to paper to help him remember an image or a design that struck him, so that he could reproduce it in his garden.
Viqueira had never had any experience working in concrete, so he worked slowly as he learned the characteristics of his chosen materials. As he worked, he gained confidence and began to increase the size and the complexity of his works, creating several lanterns, birdbaths or fountains, and other pedestals towards the front of his property near the street. He later topped several of these with purchased cast “stone” or ceramic statues of hackneyed romanticized figures from history, legend, or religion. Unfortunately, these purchased statues detract from the elegance of his own work, which is evidenced by gracious lines and fine craftsmanship. Nevertheless, Viqueira is proud of the entire environs that he has developed and, by 2003, he had named this space the Xardín Paraiso [Garden of Paradise].
From the very beginning Mari Carmen had encouraged his work, had helped him gather stones at the beaches, and had washed and sorted them upon their return home. When she became ill, Viqueira made a promise to the Virgen de la Milagrosa [The Virgin of the Miraculous] for her return to health and, after his prayers were answered, she suggested that he build a chapel in honor of their faith. At first he was incredulous, for there was a substantial physical and technical leap from erecting vertical columns to designing and engineering an entire building. Nevertheless, he decided to build a small chapel toward the rear of his property. As he worked, it became bigger than he had first intended: 15 feet high, and almost 63 square feet on the interior. Every inch of the interior is elaborately ornamented with stones, shells, and glass “jewels,” as is the exterior as well, built not only to honor the Virgin but also St. James, whose camino passes close by Viqueira’s property.
The chapel is by far the most sumptuous work on the property, but Viqueira has also built a castle for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves that is of significant scale. Mindful of the images from Disney productions, he planted pines around the structure to make it look as if it were on the top of a mountain, the typical location of Spain’s castles. He is almost of retirement age, and looks forward to spending even more time collecting stones and shells by the beaches and constructing more garden ornaments. Although the chapel and castle are located toward the rear of the site, many of the smaller works are easily viewable from the road. If the artist is at home, he is generally amenable to showing visitors around the site.
Update: Raúl Viqueira passed away on November 25, 2017 at the age of 70.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
Laraño (San Martiño), Galicia, 15897 es
Latitude/Longitude: 42.870259 / -8.585729
Roales, Castile and León