Cano's Castle - Beer Can Folk Art
Cano's Castle rises out of an otherwise unremarkable neighborhood of homes. Its silver walls are blinding in the Colorado sunlight, its five separate structures have all been enlarged upward: a house, a garage, a shed, and whatever lies at the base of its two soaring towers.
Scrap aluminum gives the castle its dazzle: wire, hubcaps, grills, screen doors, window casements. Bicycle reflectors add notes of color. Countless beer cans, carefully cut apart, predominate. The tops and bottoms are nailed to the walls in repeating patterns; the middles have been turned inside-out and hammered flat to create aluminum siding.
For all of the castle's showmanship, Cano himself is a private man. He lives off the grid, so we just showed up, guessing that early morning might be a good time to spot him. The property seemed deserted, but one of Cano's neighbors assured us that he was around. Several minutes later, he appeared.
"My time is very, very important," Cano said. He told us that he usually doesn't speak to strangers unless they are "nice ladies" or, in our case, because God told him to.
Cano may have begun life as Dominic Espinosa, but that name has vanished for him, as has his original purpose for building the castle. He didn't want to talk about that, he didn't even want to acknowledge that the castle was his work. "God built it," he said. There are reports that Cano invented his name because of all of the beer cans, but he told us that his name is pronounced CAH-no and that it's "an Indian name; it's like, 'reborn.'"
Cano calls his creation "Jesus' Castle." He said that Jesus has been living in it since 1987. "I made Jesus my neighbor so Jesus will back me up," Cano said. "I want to persuade Jesus that he needs to go to Washington so that I can go with him."
Cano sliced the air with his hands as he ticked off a list of injustices: he was on food stamps for 35 years, his uncle was murdered by a greedy sheriff, his dad was serving in World War II when his land back home was given to a Nazi! Cano said that he must go to Washington, DC, to meet the President.
To address the injustices, by Cano's reckoning, the U.S. should give him a large chunk of southern Colorado (and some of northern New Mexico as well). The land was stolen from his family in 1921, and was a gift from God to Cano's uncle (the one who was murdered). Cano wants it back.
There are thousands of aluminum-sided square feet in Cano's castle, but he lives across the street in a trailer behind some trees. Jesus apparently has the castle to Himself, and, also, the local utility company has shut off its water supply (another of Cano's grievances).
Always resourceful, Cano now seems to be living off of the land, with a well-tended garden in an adjacent lot, and a pen of goats, geese, and sheep. On the other side of a creek he showed us a sweat lodge he had just built out of mud.
Doomsday, according to Cano, might arrive soon if the President gives him the cold shoulder. Cano originally believed that Doomsday would arrive in 2000, but its tardiness has not discouraged him.
The End will be here quick enough, Cano said: a rain of God-targeted meteorites that will kill two of every three people with pinpoint accuracy. "Jesus is coming to get rid of all the bad people," he told us.
Cano said that the meteorites will also flatten all of the world's skyscrapers. That would include Cano's Castle, but that doesn't seem to bother Cano. It'll be sad to see the castle go, so everyone should visit it while they still can, and maybe get on the good side of someone who has the ear of God.
"Hopefully you'll hear that I got to Washington," said Cano as we left. "You let the people know what it's all about."