This Little Piggy...

For Christmas my family decided to slaughter their pig. They got the pig as a tiny piglet just as I moved in so I have watched it grow and fatten over the past few months.

A pig for Christmas is very special for them... Last night they told me they would be inviting the entire family over early in the morning to begin cooking and preparing to make tamales. While I couldn't help but feel for the doomed porker, I remained as culturally objective as possible on the matter and crawled into bed.

I had planned to go running early this morning but lazily hit the snooze button... Suddenly I was jolted awake by not my alarm, but rather the most horrifying sounds I have ever heard in my life. It sounded like BOSE surround-sound demons blaring in my room... I wrapped my pillow around my head as tightly as I could, and cupped my hands over my ears but it barely dulled the roar. Felix, our friendly neighbor was slaughtering the pig on the front lawn, just outside my window at 7am this morning. Needless to say it was an unpleasant wake-up call.

I don't know much about slaughtering animals but I would think it best to put the animal out of misery as soon as possible. I'm not sure what the standard methods are here in Guatemala but this pig screamed for an agonizing 5 minutes. My stomach twisted as I lay in bed hoping for the thing to just die already. Sometimes there would pass a few seconds of silence only for it to begin its wailing again... -Until finally the sound grew weaker and eventually sputtered out.
In the past year I had quit eating meat for a variety of reasons; health, environment, and for the animals sake. After this experience I am sure I will never touch another piece of pig meat in my life.

Every morning I let my kitty outside to play at about 5am because she switches from "sleep" mode to "annoy the crap out of Grace" mode. Today was no different and I thought about her out there in that war zone as the pig lie screaming and dying. After a few minutes of silence I decided to go out and look for her. There in the yard I saw the pig... dead on the table as Felix expertly shaved off its fur with a sharp knife. A second man was pouring hot water over the animal to soften the skin, and the water, hair, and blood dripped to the ground. - That's when I spotted my cat... She was poking around under the table, licking at little pools of pig’s blood. She was smattered with water and blood and had clumps of the pig's wiry hair stuck to her paws and back. GROSS...

I grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and locked her in my room where she cried for about 10 minutes before she finally got some class and cleaned herself up. -Meanwhile, I decided I deserved a good strong cup of coffee. I grabbed my coffee maker and headed out to the pila (sink) to rinse it out. I grabbed the dish used to scoop up the water and as I lifted it, a warm liquid sloshed onto my hand. I peered into the dish and saw it was in fact full of pigs blood. It felt as if I might be in a horror film (for pigs)...

For the rest of the morning I decided it would be best for the kitty and I to stay in my room. Occasionally I would peer out the window to see if the blood-bath was over, only to be greeted by a clear view of the two men hacking up the pig’s body. Eventually I had to leave my room and I did my best to avert my eyes but even in my peripheral vision, I could see the slow dismantling of the animal throughout the day...

This was a very special occasion for the family and I know they felt incredibly blessed to be able to share this feast with their loved ones. I made sure not express my discomfort in front of them and I was very polite when I declined the offer of fried pig skin... I am happy for them to have had such a bountiful feast this Christmas and feel lucky to be here sharing it with them (even if I am not actually sharing the food).



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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.