To the memory of Teresita Fernández.
Why did that song of the kitty Vinagrito touch our souls so deeply? I don’t think the answer is the children’s visual wasteland we experienced in the seventies and eighties, filled almost entirely with the productions Made in the USSR or other Eastern European countries. Nor is it found indirectly in the human search for recognition, already so brilliantly described in The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. No, it wasn’t just that, although these, too, could be enumerated as some of the reasons to repeat the catchy chorus.
The story of Vinagrito, the cat rescued from the street, had that sweet sensitive side missing from so many socialist camp cartoons. These were sober, tragic or instructive enough, but they lacked the melodrama spiced with touches of humor and ridicule that define the Cuban identify. With his name alone — a diminutive of the vinegar used in cooking — the crazy-haired feline already made us love him and mock him at the same time. There, we found a story of rejection, redemption and transformation. Vinagrito managed to become what no one expected of him: a beautiful and happy pet, calmly dipping his whiskers in his milk.
It was hard not to identify with the “ugly and skinny” guy picked up off the street, when so many of us also felt that the “outside” represented a loss of self and the end of the individual. Vinagrito returned — instead of us — to a home with the warm embrace of a family, surrounded by attention. He was rescued, while we were lost. He ended up at home, while so many of us were leaving for a dorm, a camp, a platoon. He meowed to the moon… while we chased an ideological mirage.
It was nice to have his tail and his taste for the fish, without him everything would have been so much more boring.