Monday, November 23, 2009

One if by land, two if by pig.

I recently watched the movie The Good Shepherd, which came out in 2006. As I recall, it was billed as a spy film, and while that is not untrue, it is a much better example of a tragedy than it is a spy film, a fact which delighted this English major to no end. Boy, it was great. I could extol its virtues at length, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about pigs.

Before I go on I would like to mention that when I took American history, we spent most of the year studying the Revolution, the second World War, and everything in between. We covered the period from 1945 to about the year I was born in roughly a month. Consequently I have no idea what happened between 1982 and about 1998, which is when I was old enough to really start paying attention. I think there might have been an iditarod and an Olympics during that time, but I'm not sure. The name "Kristi Yamaguchi" is coming to mind. The point is: I'm sketchy on the events of the second half of the twentieth century, and it isn't entirely my fault. In my defense.

But back to the pigs. In the beginning of The Good Shepherd, Matt Damon goes to Cuba because something important is going on at the "Bahía de Cochinos." Having never taken Spanish, I deduced from the period eyewear and the fact that Cuba was involved that the mysterious fuss was over the invasion at the Bay of Pigs. However, when the fuss was all over, I wasn't entirely sure what had happened because no clear facts are revealed in spy movies until the end, if ever. So I thought to myself, "Maybe that wasn't the Bay of Pigs." And THEN I thought, no kidding, "It couldn't have been: there weren't any pigs."

And it occurred to me then that for my entire life I've had some vague, never-entirely-debunked idea that actual pigs were somehow involved in the invasion. And while that misconception is (unfortunately) probably not uncommon, I bet most people did not, as a consequence, grow to connect Cuba, for their entire life, with ham. The word Cuba means two things to me: Hemingway and a sizzling slice of ham. Castro, Desi Arnaz, communism, no. Ham, yes.

The irony is that apparently "cochino" actually refers to a species of fish. And you have to admit, it makes a lot more sense to name a bay after the kind of fish that live there than to name it after pigs. In light of this, I don't think it was totally out of the question for me to assume that since it was such an odd name, there must have been a reason for it, and that that reason must have been the presence of pigs. So the fault does not belong to me so much as to the first stupid American who did not look up alternative meanings of "cochino" before immortalizing "Bay of Pigs." If it had been called "the Bay of Fish" invasion, I honestly think it would have seemed like less of a fiasco. Pigs are just silly.

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