I had a pet pig as a kid. Not the kind you tied ribbons around. The kind you fattened up and ate. How we came to own these animals I don’t know, but my brothers and I each had a pig in the wooden corral my father built. After school we’d race over to their sty everyday to prod and poke those poor animals with whatever stick or tree limb we could find. We’d argue about whose pig was the fattest and whose pig was the fastest-growing until we grew bored of their sluggish stares and gestures. They were never too amused by our antics, and though we argued there was no denying my younger brother Junior’s pig was the fattest.
His real name is actually Moises like my father, but we took to calling him Junior instead. It was easier and more pronounceable for our white friends. Actually in those days Spanish was still the main language we spoke at home – that was before we figured out that if we just spoke English our parents couldn’t understand most of what we were saying – so we really called him Lluni.
Our pigs were light-complected; they were cream colored with white patches smeared across their round little bodies. That’s when they weren’t covered in slimy mahogany-brown mud from head to toe. Our darker pig came much later when we moved to the big city. Joaquina was her name, and my mother had found her strolling through our suburban neighborhood in the north side of Houston one day. I know many people consider Texas to be a huge countryside where farm animals roam freely, and while that may be true for some parts, in Houston owning a pet pig, especially one as large as Joaquina, is not the norm. I’m sure our neighbors would have a lot to say about the months Joaquina spent in our backyard, even now.
We had fun with her anyway, and by that time we had learned that she was only around momentarily until she was big enough to sell or eat. I was in high school. My eldest sister had already gotten married and moved away. My mother loved Joaquina and thought it was divine providence she had found her, after all how many pigs roam the streets of suburban neighborhoods. Our earlier swine did not have names. They were our entertainment, our toys.
That is until one day we awoke to find Lluni’s pig hanging upside down from the tree in our yard, her belly slit open, and her intestines lying beside her in a common gardening wagon. We didn’t understand what was going on, why she had been punished. Maybe my brothers did, but I was horrified at the sight of that poor animal hanging there, lifeless, being butchered into pieces. Shortly after that, the two remaining pigs were loaded in the back of a pick up and taken into town.
We never saw them again, but my parents explained to us that the animals were serving a purpose. Because of them we were getting to eat all assortments of fine meats prepared in different chili sauces, accompanied by homemade rice and pot boiled fresh beans. More importantly, my parent’s had a few extra dollars in their pockets to see us through.
When Joaquina made her departure in the same way Junior’s pig had, there was no sadness in my heart. I felt happy to have met her, to have made so many memories with her, and to be witnessing the end of her time with our family.