Growing up in the southernmost part of Mexico, it wasn’t uncommon to encounter a wide range of wildlife. From small, radiantly colored frogs that looked like they had been hand painted by a master. To large and ominous cats that prowled the night and who’s purrs made your own chest tremble. On the 4 acres or so of land that my family owned and lived in and made a couple houses in, there was an abundant population of chickens, turkeys, five dogs, a cat, pigs, and two horses. But out of all the animals I had seen throughout my years there, one stood out from the rest.
When I was a little boy in a household so busy to their own things, the only individual I could hold a conversation with was the bird my grandmother had in her house. Which by the way was only a few steps away from mine. I never knew how she got it, but that bird followed her around her house, flying from furniture to furniture to keep up, and sleeping perched up on the top of the hammock while she herself slept there. She had named it Camila, a feminine name as my grandmother liked the bird’s flair and poise. She said it was something only a female could own.
Grandma had taught it to say a few things. “Grandma, water please,” it would say when thirsty. “Camila hungry,” when she wanted food. “Don’t look at me,” when she wasn’t in the mood, among other things she learned throughout the years. But the most entertaining thing to me was when it whistled for the dogs to come. It would screech and yell at them, sounding awfully close to a human laughter every time the dogs ran to it, thinking it was grandma calling them.
I had the task to feed it after school every day, and it was then when I observed her feathers. Blue, yellow, green and above all red and vibrant. I conversed with her and laughed with her and whistled a tune I always whistled. After a few days, I whistled every time I opened the door to the house, letting her know of my arrival, and every time she responded to the tune whistling it back.
It went on for years, and then one day the Macaw became sick, it wouldn’t eat and gloomed and looked around as my grandmother desperately tried to make her feel better. When she couldn’t, I helped her take Camila to a veterinary clinic hours away.
On that day, we discovered two things about Camila. First; she had swallowed a few rocks. Second; she was not a she. Camila was actually male, but since we had called her by that name for years, we continued to call him by it. He did not mind.
When I reached the age of sixteen, I headed to Chicago, pursuing a higher education and studies on the fascinating things that surrounded me growing up. Ironically I could only do so in a city half a world away and not there, on the field itself.
There I studied, I married, I worked for an institution. When it was time to head to familiar lands in search for the elusive and endangered Scarlet Macaw, I headed to the first place I could think of to start my expedition. The vast rainforests of southern Mexico and the islands off the coasts of it.
By then, grandmother had passed, and her children, my aunts and uncles were in charge of keeping her old home in good shape and maintaining her land and all those animals she always had. Since the town where we lived was on the edge of the jungle, it was the perfect spot to start the expedition, and decided to spend a couple days visiting family too.
It was a rainy day when we arrived at the town, but I was happy. And even though the roads were anything but mud crawling along the lower half of our pants, the feeling of the air uncontaminated by the life of the city was as liberating as sailing the vast ocean.
My family welcomed us, and when I gathered my things to bring inside, I opened the door. It creaked, but at the same time I heard a familiar lovely tune I hadn’t listened to in years.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in