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Kaliman Strikes for Peace

December 29, 1985|CAROL ANN HOWELL

His namesake is Kaliman, a Mexican comic-book superhero. He's muscular, but skinny. A scroungy yard dog fed on tortillas and masa.

Kaliman lives in Villa Comaltitlan, a town of 5,000 in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. His home is only a few feet from the river Chalaca, where he sometimes swims. His backyard consists of fruit trees, a well, a pila (or basin); chickens, ducks and turkeys--all running free--and a carpenter shop. His tropical garden is overseen by Lorenzo, a parrot who sings ballads. They say he sings about his lost love, amor perdido. Kaliman isn't spoiled the way dogs are in the United States. He's left to his own devices. His contribution to the family is to act as watchdog.

One day I was out in the yard dreaming and talking to the trees. I looked over the low fence to the neighbor's garden. Kaliman was in the neighbor's yard, trying to take a nap. His family's rooster was visiting there also.

The rooster was having a dispute with another rooster next door. Kaliman preferred tranquillity. He got up and took his own rooster carefully in his mouth, moving the bird to another part of the garden, and said, "Stay over here in peace. I want to sleep."

He went back to his own spot to resume his nap, but the roosters wanted to continue their argument and began fighting again. Kaliman got up and took his rooster in his mouth, removing him from the fighting arena, and slightly admonished him.

Kaliman repeated this action five or six times. For me, watching, it was a story of love and peace, a reflection of the character of the people who live in his house.

The hot afternoon drifted on. The roosters finally bowed to Kaliman's wishes. The only sound that remained was Lorenzo, singing his lost-love songs. I picked a papaya and squeezed some lime on it and sat down in my rocking chair in the garden. I thought about the competition on the freeways in Los Angeles and smiled. What we need in the city is a Kaliman, to teach us about tranquillity.

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