Dogs of Cuba
When I went to Cuba, I carried a generalization that was about to be debunked for good. Travel certainly teaches me about myself and the world around me all at once. For a brief history about me, I was born and raised around the Caribbean. Those years were divided between 3rd, 2nd and 1st world countries, and those years left me with the generalization that Caribbean people don’t care much for dogs. Well… I was wrong.
Dogs on sidewalks, dogs hugged tight in arms, dogs on rooftops, dogs watching television, dogs in windows, dogs out for walks, dogs in doorways, dogs everywhere. Again: dogs everywhere! The first night I checked in to my casa particular, it was a man just back from walking his dog who called my hosts for me. I bumped into him by the elevator, and he carried his K-9 friend in one arm and my luggage in the other. “Oh, wow; people live like this in Cuba?” I thought. I obviously wasn’t as cultured as I believed I was, because right then and there I concluded that domesticated dogs was going to be one of those things I found came with the economic disparity. In other words, I assumed that a domestic pet would be something only those in the upper economic classes would have. I was wrong again.
A dog culture very much exists in Cuba. One that blows my mind and warms my heart. The Cuban People’s affection for dogs is so prevalent that it lead me to do some research once back home. Why are Cubans so in love with dogs? In short, as Cuba Travel Network explains it, “Cuban society is steeped in Yoruba tradition, which holds that dogs are sacred animals and should not be mistreated.” It might be true that dogs in homes of the higher economic classes are more well nourished, but the dogs of the lower income homes are equally loved. Even the strays are looked after. In a campaign launched by the government a few years ago, the homeless friends are being vaccinated, tagged and adopted by organizations that feed and provide shelter for them (you can read a little more about this in this helpful article).
So on this trip I was wrong more than once. I’ve never been so pleased about being wrong. The more I travel, the more I’m opened up to cultural differences. This means the “norms” I’m familiar with are challenged, my inadvertent assumptions are brought to light, and I leave a little more self aware than I arrived every time. I would have never expected people so affected by scarcity to be so attached to and caring for animals. Because where I’m originally from, they’re not. One little seemingly harmless assumption has taught me to be more aware of the little assumptions I carry, and to release them as just that. What a pleasant learning experience it was.