Alberto Antonio Cruz Serna has been building models with toothpicks since he was 12
He currently resides in the town of Puerto Berrio, in the Antioquia district teaches natural science to high school students at the Antonio Nariño Educational Institution, and has built more than 200 artistic creations with his own unique style.
Among his works there are also small-scale replicas of Catholic buildings such as Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Puerto Berrio and Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
Cruz, who is the father of five children, has displayed his works in a number of cities in Colombia, such as Medellín and Barrancabermeja. He has also won several awards.
“What motivates me to build these works of art in toothpicks is the challenge of it. The structure is spectacular. It’s not like the wood you cut and set in place. Here it’s about joining stick to stick, seeing the lengths and making shapes. The degree of difficulty makes it more interesting,” the 59-year-old teacher told CNA.
Cruz revealed that he has never visited the monuments he has reproduced with toothpicks. Nor has he studied architecture or design. He just does research on the Internet and in books on every detail of the artwork he wants to reproduce.
His tools? A nail clipper and special wood glue.
Cruz commented that his motivation for building the replica of Saint Peter’s Square was that in late 2015, he learned that Pope Francis might be visiting Colombia. The Vatican would later confirm the trip, which is scheduled for this September.
The construction of the artwork took 17 months. Cruz spent about five hours a day on the project. On weekends, he worked almost all day.
The Saint Peter’s Square model was made of more than 36,000 toothpicks. It measures about 6 feet long by 3 feet wide.
Cruz said that one of the most beautiful characteristics of St. Peter’s Square are the columns because “they are like arms that welcome Catholics from all parts of the world each time that the Pope celebrates a Mass or appears. The shape of the plaza is like a hug.”
While he was working on this structure, Cruz also made a reproduction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Roman Coliseum.
Regarding the pontiff’s visit to his country, Cruz said that “we Colombians are waiting for the moment when the pope visits. It is critical to the process we are going through (as a nation).”
He added that the Pope is important to him because “I’m Catholic, my family is too. And so, who would not want to meet the Pope? If he is the closest representative of God that we have on Earth? For Catholics, who would not want to be at his side?
Cruz said that he would like to display the model of St. Peter’s Square and the other works of art in Medellin during Pope Francis’ apostolic visit.
“My dream is that wherever the Holy Father is, I’d be nearby with my artwork and so he could take a look at them…That is the dream I want to fulfill. So he would be with me for just a few seconds.”
The teacher hopes that the Antioquia political and religious authorities will take an interest in his work and he will have the opportunity to display them. “I’ll keep on persevering and knocking on doors,” he said.
Cruz said that the governor of Antioquia will soon be visiting the school where he teaches, and he will take advantage of the occasion to show him the Saint Peter’s Square, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Roman Coliseum.
His upcoming projects include the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Las Lajas, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
By Maria Ximena Rondon