Living among corpses

By: José Manuel González-Rubines

Movimiento animalista cubano

He could never imagine that puppy – especially since dogs are unable to imagine or reason anything – that he, or his corpse to be more precise, would give what to talk about and less that would be printed on any page. An unfortunate event, the last of its existence, led him to that.
As perhaps every day, that small white and cinnamon can, of Creole breed – which is the race of the un raza – set out to cross Avenida Independencia (Boyeros) by its intersection with San Pedro street, just one block from the habanera Plaza de la Revolución. That morning, marked by the fire of the nefarious in the thread of his life, he was unlucky enough to find on the way a distracted driver who, in one and certain blow, sent him to sleep the eternal dream.
The story that motivated these lines begins there, because the one who writes had the misery of going through the “crime scene” just a few moments after being this perpetrated, when the lifeless body rested still hot on the lawn of the separator. At that time, a quiet condolence was imposed for the terrible fate of the animal and, perhaps, a bad thought – formulated by the low, as the one who does not want the thing – thrown as a poison dart against the driver. So, that was it.
At the end of the day, at that time called late-night by the Cubans and sunset by the dictionaries, I came back on my steps and much and very unpleasant was my surprise when I almost stumbled upon the puppy. I imagined him resting somewhere far away, at the mercy of scavengers just as far away, but no, there he was yet, showing what taphonologists – scientists who for strange reasons study the processes of decomposition – call rigor mortis, the classic rigidity of corpses.
“In the early morning they’ll take him away, ” I thought hopefully. But, to paraphrase Augustus Monterroso: “When I woke up, the corpse was still there.” He had advanced from the fresh state, the first of the decomposition, to the swelling and threw his smells into the wind, splashing the noon with the less sympathetic smells any nose could desire.
Without encouragement to be too graphic, I will only say that in that place the body transited through all stages of rot. With his stench he nuanced the transit through the piece of avenue to walkers and drivers, who in his presence invariably carried their hand to their nose and mouth, as one who wants to disguise a sneaky smile.
Still there are his remains, some skin and bones, on his “island of cadaveric decomposition”, the experienced would say, as a gift from some conscientious Community Services worker to the paleontologists of the future. Just an apple from the seat of the Government of the Republic, in one of the busiest arteries of the capital, a dog died and fossilized without anyone picking up his body.
But this story would only be an isolated event if it were not for a reality, outside of possible accidents, much deeper and anthropological: in our city they swarm everywhere remains of animals that infest it with their rot. The causes vary and range from the insensitivity of some to the negative acting of adherents of religious practices, although they all are rooted in the lack of civility which, to our misfortune, is already a hallmark of broad masses of fellow citizens.
How many of us have not twisted our faces, in a grimace of disgust and pity, before the body of a small kitten or puppy, abandoned in a bag and died of cruelty? Who hasn’t seen a rooster’s corpse or a goat’s paws at a crossroads or at the foot of a tree?
Since Homo sapiens is Homo sapiens – and even before, when it was a more simious and hairy being – animals cohabit with us as an essential part of who we are. This coexistence has configured our identity as a dominant species, but called to the protection of others, so it is unthinkable, by horrible and lack of logic, that indifference and cruelty are our rewards for the loyalty and love they give us.
They are not inferior and dependent beings, placed here solely to meet our needs, but the travel companions – often the only ones – whom we turn to in search of comfort and companionship. A culture of sensitivity and respect for those with whom we live should be part of our DNA; it would also have to be a member of the very large concept of humanity from which we boast.
It is also unthinkable that some people claim the right to harm the city with rotting corpses and smells, arguing as an excuse that it is the expression of their faith. Any form of personal freedom, including that of worship, ends where the collective space begins and the city is that space par excellence. Like humanity, civility would have to be an organic and central component of our formation as citizens.
This raises worrying questions that this journalist will leave for future reflections, own or others: How long will waste collection services work poorly? How long will it take for such a s requested animal protection law to arrive? How can manifestations of faith that violate coexistence be regulated? Like all questions, they invite you to look for answers. Ω

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