6 Jan 2016

11. Pancho Cura

We wanted island lamb, not New Zealand lamb, for our first Christmas dinner here. So I went up into the mountains to find Pancho Cura, a shepherd I had previously met.

There he was, huddled under a tatty threadbare blanket with his back to a stone wall, his flock on the slope before him in the misty, freezing drizzle of Jinama. He whistled to his dogs to round up the flock and told me to go and choose the lamb I fancied. I couldn’t do that so he reluctantly got up and came back laughing and holding up a lamb by its front legs, belly towards me, for my approval. “But Pancho!” I said, “That’s a female!” (I knew the shepherds only sacrificed the males, the females were for milk and breeding.) He released the creature and came back with another, this time a male.

He refused my money and told me it was a Christmas present. He added that since I knew so much about his calling, I could come back and relieve him whenever I liked. I did go back, the next time we came to the island, with a present for Pancho – a genuine “Esperancera” shepherd’s blanket cape, creamy white with two blue stripes and made in Scotland. We remained good friends after that.

Sheep grazing in the pine forest.  Photo: Orlando Harris

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