Monday, June 8, 2009

Swine Flu: Blame Isabella of Castile

Except for the unfortunate Egyptian pigs, the swine flu never became the tragedy it was predicted to become a month ago. Some very sad cases did emerge. A pregnant woman in MN became a victim. A baby in TX died. Over 100 other people succumbed to the virus. As most hotdog lovers know, these deaths were not the fault of the pigs. Although rare, past outbreaks of Swine Influenza were transmitted from pigs to humans, but the origins of the recent influenza outbreak are unknown. It is thought to be a mutation of the influenza A virus found in either humans, birds or pigs. Thus, it was renamed the far less dramatic name of “H1N1 virus” which can roughly be translated from science jargon as “we don’t know where the heck this thing came from.”

Still, I am fingering Isabella of Castile for causing all this mess.

Why it is Isabella’s fault (sort of)
It all began with Columbus’ second voyage to America in June 1493. For this voyage, he was given more funds and a larger crew consisting of 1500 settlers. Because Isabella was bankrolling the voyage, she wanted to make sure her business venture was profitable. So she advised Columbus to do the sensible thing when taking a long voyage….make sure to pack some pigs.

The pig suggestion proved even smarter than packing spare underwear for several reasons:
  1. The pigs became a valuable source of protein for hungry settlers. I have no idea why anyone would want to eat the star of Charlotte’s Web, but if you are so inclined, a pig’s flesh yields 65-85 percent meat and I am told it tastes pretty good too.

  2. They were pretty self-sufficient. Have you seen what a pig will eat? It’s not pretty. They also will run you over for food. The Native American certainly didn’t appreciate them eating all their corn and named them “Spanish beasts.”

  3. They are prolific. Female pigs will start breeding as young as nine months and will give birth to as many as twelve little piglets. That makes for an ongoing food supply.

  4. They poop everywhere. No need for chemical fertilizers.

  5. The Spanish used them as piggy inquisitors. Jewish people obviously didn't eat pork so if Columbus saw someone passing on the pork chop then he immediately pinned them for a Jew. Darn snitching pigs!
Those were the advantages to the Spanish. The bad news is that the pigs also spread diseases and killed off much of the Native American population and many Europeans too by transmitting anthrax, brucellosis, leptospirosis, trichinosis, tuberculosis and eventually influenza.

So there you have it. Blame Isabella. Or blame Columbus. Put please don't blame the pigs.

Sources and Further Reading:
Davis, C, Kenneth.
America's Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation, New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks, 2009.
American Experience: We Shall Remain, 2009


Heather Carroll said...

Sounds like I need a pig!

I have recently been reflecting on what a useful animal/pet a goat is (I have no idea how that began)but it's so interesting how many uses they found for our pink porky friends.

Bearded Lady said...

So true. Pigs certainly helped cure diabetes since we got our first insulin from cows and then pigs. And now we are using pig guts to make livers and hearts. The poor oinkers don't get enough credit!

BurtonReview said...

My father (RIP) had a heartvalve somehow made from a pig.
But I had never though I would see the statement "Swine flu.. blame Isabella.."
LOL Thanks for information though, it was a great read!

Lucy said...

That darn Isabella, always responsible for something! You showed me pigs in a totally different who loves 'Babe' so!

Debbi said...

I grew up on a farm, and I wouldn't care if you blamed every bad thing that ever happened on pigs! Just kidding...

But they are terribly stinky critters! And not terribly nice to each other, either.

Carrie K said...

Isabella, not the nicest queen.