Praia Seca; a small and isolated fishing community in the remote South of the island of Príncipe. I have already been here for three days, waiting for a lift back to civilization by a boat that might never arrive: a hell of boredom in a tropical beach “paradise”. Bearing the wait with us are five fishermen, a dozen dogs, a hundred pigs and uncountable chickens. Today, however, the now familiar morning tedium is broken by the despairing squeals of a pig which has been carefully chosen among its peers by Peté, the farmer, and tied to a tree. My first guess is that the captive will not yell for much longer, or ever again, but I soon learn that he will be fine and it is “only” ( I am sure the poor animal would disagree on the choice of the term) time for him to be castrated. Satiro, my trustworthy guide, will perform the surgical operation, yet another of the many unrelated skills, which I didn’t know he possessed. I am informed that the timing is crucial, as the testicles should be removed only when the moon is full and the tide is low to ensure the minimum bleeding… While we wait for the ebb, Satiro prepares the surgical instruments (a blunt knife) and the antiseptic dressing (half a glass of palm oil and a lime). The pig, oblivious to its fate, dozes off.
The right moment soon arrives (too soon, the porker would claim). The swine wakes up, his legs are tied with a rope and while Peté sits on him to keep him still, Satiro swiftly proceeds with the operation. He grips the knife, makes two small incisions, squeezes out the testicles, twists them, severs them and the job is done. The area is then generously rubbed with oil and lime. In less than five minutes the pig is amicably sent off with a couple of smacks to his rear, its virility already a distant memory. In all of this I have a role too: I am proudly defending the freshly harvested gonads from the bold appetite of the dogs.
Later, when calm (and boredom) have been restored to the beach, and the dogs have eventually been fed with what I had fiercely defended, I take the liberty of questioning Satiro about his newly discovered talent.
- Have you done this (i.e. castrating pigs) many times before?
- Oh yes. People know that I can do it and they call me when they need me.
- But you don’t have pigs yourself, do you?
- Did you have them in the past?
- Someone taught you?
- So how and where did you learn?
- I saw it done once.
Astounded by the last answer I stop questioning and he wanders off. I can’t stop thinking of how I would feel if, minutes before undergoing surgery, having asked the surgeon if he had done many of these operations before, maybe just to relieve the tension, I was to receive the following answer:
“ No, but I once saw it done on YouTube”…
Blessed was the pig in its obliviousness.