Papagayo, papagayos, Maray Suárez

From Cuba to Miami: the migration of parrots

LAS TUNAS, Cuba. — Using them as a simile in this sad parody, in which not to cry of shame it is better to laugh, I want to apologize to the parrots and also to the migratory birds that exist thanks to that magical, mysterious and beautiful prodigy that is the autumn migration, when, precisely as human beings would like for themselves, they seek shelter and food in their wintering sites and then, when spring arrives, return without fail to their territories of origin.

In Cuba, for some in possession of power, it is very useful to have a parrot. Some will say, and not without reason, that there are myriads of trained parrots, so perfectly trained, that, even when things are very bad, domesticated parrots repeat: Socialism or Death! Country or Death! Everything is fine, fine, fine, very fine. They may even have been trained to say that everything is fine in English, and then say: Oká, Oká, Oká.

That learning and the repeated misery of the parrot can lead it to decide to leave, migrate like a flower duck and fly 90 miles regardless of its clumsy wings to leave behind the yoke oak and look for a branch in the American oak. Then, with his mouth full of Coca Cola and McDonald’s, the parrot will say that everything was very, very bad on the island/cage and that they forced him to say bad things about his fellow creatures.

But maybe instead of a parrot it is a smug parrot —and forgetting her job as a loudmouth for the bosses on the island/cage— the one who, using her bilabial experience, becomes a manager/seller of practices for the good living of the people she previously spat on and cursed, calling them scum, mercenaries and traitors.

It seems great to have herds of native and foreign parrots promoting shells like steak. Don’t you think? Listen to me, a parrot is like a chameleon, only chameleons don’t speak, they are harmless beings.

For that reason —the danger of living with parrots trained by power— it is preferable to live with a cow. Yes sir! It is more convenient to share space with a silent and sometimes mooing cow than with a Viper parrot. A parrot trained by power —and even more so if it is by red caciques—, with its curved tongue, is not a game. Imagine what it will be like to live with flocks of them, (well, you will know it there in Florida in a few days, when the parrots acclimatize) it is terrible: they lower their necks like this, like this, so that they scratch their feathers and give them some breadcrumbs, some feed for broilers and, of course, the forced foot for the speech on duty. Then, that curved tongue, like a sharp sickle blade, made to walk, days and days, weeks, dismembering everything and everyone around it, until the handler, or they themselves, change the forced foot and the flock of parrots starts with other verbiage, venomous or stupendously flattering, depending on the order of the day. Oh my God. Frightening.

But a good cow is something else. A good cow is dignified and knows her trade. So much so that if they don’t repay her effort she doesn’t give milk, not even a drop. Do to a cow what you did to a parrot and she will see the consequences. The cows do not believe in stories like the parrots that believe all the stories that are told to them and then repeat them verbatim, until they decide to emigrate without an iota of shame together with those who previously denigrated with their chatter.

But that is not the case with a Holstein, a brown swiss, a Charolais or a good Zebu cow. The cows need classical literature, something like Cervantes, the dramaturgy and neatness in the dialogues of Benavente. And no hymns or slogans, but music, but not drums and maracas, no sir, but classical music: Beethoven, Mozart. Yes sir, as I say. That’s why here, in Cuba, we don’t have milk or cheese or butter or meat and people flee. We need art to manage cattle. But how to ask the Minister of Culture or the former minister to learn how to milk? How to ask the President of the Republic, I say, del Hato, to learn how to milk if the Minister of Agriculture does not know how to excite a cow?

For this reason, parrots abound in Cuba and good cows are scarce. Because with parrots it is different. Parrots will settle for a tablespoon of anything, whether it’s soybean oil or used motor oil. For that reason the red caciques raise parrots instead of cattle. Cattle need good management: grass, hay, water, shade… but parrots don’t, it’s enough for them to keep them entertained and chattering constantly, mowing down whoever they are ordered to cut and gut with their sickle-curved beak. And it is that a genuine parrot feeds on words. That’s the reason for the long speeches: feeding parrots. That is the reason for so many ministers who, although they do not know how to milk, are understood in curved tongues. But beware! Although the domesticated parrots never disobeyed the red chieftains on the island/cage, once they arrive in Florida they may begin to demand rights from Washington. Some already do.

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