The Animals of Cuba: Chelsea

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Walk down the streets of Trinidad and encounter a world that most people in First World Countries will never believe. The beautiful cobbled streets lead to different squares where music follows around every bend. And as you turn the corner of the street, you have to avoid the horse drawing a carriage of tables and chairs. What!? Yes. In the streets of Trinidad, the 1800s can still be found. An old man rides a donkey down the street. A horse drew a carriage with furniture to its unknown destination. In a world of fast technology and being on the go, animals still have an original purpose.

In Cuba, animals are still used as pack animals, as a form of transportation rather than for mere companionship and enjoyment. They have jobs, which Cubans in rural and small city Cuba still rely on today. Driving down the narrow roads from one town to the next, you pass shacks in the middle of fields with nothing else in sight for miles. There are no cars in the driveway but there are horses munching on dry grass one field over. The bus has to swerve and looking out the window, you will see a man with a cell phone, riding his horse to a destination. Time is slower in Cuba because no matter how much you push, those horses wont go as fast as a car. The passing of loud vehicles does not phase the animals. They just keep moving down the street at the same pace. The horses and donkeys appear to grow smaller on the island. The US has bred such large horses that seeing a small horse pulling a giant cart was a startling. But upon reflecting, all of the animals in Cuba are generally smaller in Cuba. This could be from any number of things. Including a lack of hormones and artificially enriched foods.

Birds are enjoyed for their beauty and their companionship. As a sign of wealth, someone might have a more tropical bird in a wrought iron cage. For an ordinary citizen of Cuba, dainty little black birds are carried in wood cages. They hang from the entry of shops, are carried, or rest in stands in gardens. Their happy chirps and songs fill the air along with local musicians.

And then there are the cats and dogs. The only distinction between an animal that has a home and one that does not is a tag around its neck. They all wonder the streets together and as a community, Cubans feed them. In a world very different from the US, animal care is not a pressing concern. Once or twice a month, clinics are opened to animals that need to be treated, mostly those owned. The rest of that month, those clinics see people. To date, there are no shelters like what exist in the United States. And for all that some of these animals are in sad shape, overall, Cubans are kind to the strays, feed them and pet them as they walk by on the street. The cats wonder in restaurants and patrons drop meat for them to eat. Surprisingly there does not appear to be an overpopulation problem despite the lack of veterinary care and surgeries to spay and neuter.

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