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“Nosotros No Tenemos Armas Para Echar A Pique Sus Fuerzas Navales,
Pero Tenemos el Arma de Echar a Pique Su Prestigio en El Mundo.” Albizu 1930

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5th Letter by Oscar Lopez Rivera: “The History of Jibara Soy”

CAT-and-dog-webPublished October 5, 2013

Dear Karina, recently I heard news about a Labrador that died from bullet wounds in a house in Santurce and I have not been able to forget the dogs that have been in my life, and who were at my side, in good times and bad, until the day when I was arrested and the dogs bade me farewell with knowing looks.

I always had dogs at my side. As a boy, in San Sebastián, and later in my youth, when I immigrated to the US. And even in Vietnam, where they also suffered the horrors of the war. This is missing in jail: the closeness of such a noble animal, who is able to understand you, share nostalgia, and feel the sadness flowing between us.

In 1973, when I lived in Chicago, I had an extraordinary dog: a Doberman Pinscher named Jíbara Soy [“I am a Puerto Rican peasant”]. She was the most popular mascot of the town. Protective and intelligent, she always wanted attention. At that time, I had rented a small apartment in the same property where my older brother had his house. One of the conditions of the lease was that I couldn’t have the dog, but one night some thieves came into the house and I convinced my brother to keep her.

A few months later, I was gone for a few hours and when I got home, I found that Jíbara Soy had converted the beautiful garden that my brother had tended so carefully into a battlefield. She had made enormous holes from which she took out rats the size of a cat. I bathed her, I took her to the veterinarian to assure myself that she did not have injuries and to avoid the danger of contracting some disease.

When I returned home, I did what I could in the garden, trying to repair the damage. When my brother came home from work, I told him that I had some good news, and some bad news. The good was that Jíbara Soy had killed nine rats. The bad news he could see with his own eyes: the garden was ruined and he would have to work twice as hard to return it to its former grandeur.

My brother and his wife fell in love with the dog, who remained with us several years. She had her own easy chair, she listened attentively to classical music, and whenever I sat to read in the living room, she kept her eyes fixed on me, as if she were reading the thought and entering into the significance of what I was reading.

One day, she started to give birth. Until then, I had just thought that she was very fat, since the veterinarian gave her contraceptive pills. Something failed and she died giving birth to 16 puppies.

Your mother, Clarisa, is a great lover of animals. You also bend over backwards for them. So you will understand when i say how difficult it was for me to leave my dogs behind the day that I was arrested. I lived in clandestinity and they were company, especially when the situation was desperate. One day, they discovered my whereabouts and arrested me. Regarding my feelings in that moment, and of my fears when I was underground, I will recount at another time. I just want to tell you that that day in May, 1981, being under arrest, an FBI agent approached me and told me that he was Puerto Rican. The first thing I asked was what they had done with my dogs. He answered that they had taken them to the ASPCA, which was the animal shelter. Something in his expression made me think that it was not true. I insisted that he tell me the truth. There was a long silence and I knew what it signified. I thought about the fidelity of those dogs, and my memory brought me, one by one, memories of all the times we had had together, going back to growing up in San Sebastián. I thought about the badly wounded animals I had seen in Vietnam. And finally, I seemed to hear the valiant barking of my Jíbara Soy. Then I heard what I already suspected: “We had to kill them.”

Thirty-two years have passed since then.

I love the animals I lost. I love the ones that were mine and could not die with my words of comfort and my hand scratching their back. And I love those that I will have in Puerto Rico some day.

In resistance and struggle, your grandfather,

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