When you think you’ve read it all, another wrinkle presents itself: an Italian cat political drama! This well written article in the L.A. Times is too funny and predictable in its political playground, yet profound in its cultural and feline connection. Since we are threading some cat-sewing into our quilting here, let's look at yet another reality that is cat.
Largo di Torre Argentina square currently houses the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary and has recently become the center of a heated debate between local politicians and Silvia Viviani, a 73 year old former opera performer. This cat-fight over her sanctuary and her charges may have broad ramifications both historically and culturally.
Politicians want her and her many feline friends evicted from this site where history says "Julius Caesar was stabbed in the back, on the Ides of March, in a sunken piazza here in the heart of Rome"...about 2000 years ago. These local politicians - newly self-appointed caretakers of history, want Viviani and her 'friends'...gone. But Viviani...is sticking by her Sanctuary and its protected charges.
What may appear as a reasonable request from a western scientific perspective, runs in different colors within Italian culture. "Cat colonies are a common sight on Rome's tourist trail, enough so that guidebooks mention them and shutterbugs go in search of them. Souvenir stands hawk calendars with photos of fluffy felines clambering over pillars and statues..."
Viviani stands firmly behind her right to be there and brings humorous and yet profound logic to bear, according to the article's writer. "Viviani suspects that her organization is caught in the middle of a cat fight between national and local officials, and pours scorn on the idea that her four-legged wards could cause any more damage to Italy's heritage than the two-legged invaders who toppled the Roman Empire."
The dialogue continues as the furry four-legged tenants remain oblivious to their possible eviction. A memoir to old Julius...or a continuing haven for a cultural part of Italian tourism...
"She and the co-founder of the refuge, Lia Dequel, have enlisted some high-profile allies in their fight to save it. One of them is the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno." says Henry Chu in his entertaining article.
Viviani has at least - a little political backing; "I'm on the cats' side," the mayor declared in a message on Twitter, then acknowledged the power behind the throne: "So is my own cat, Certosino." HMMM...
This cat sanctuary is no backyard endeavor, nor is it a recent Italian concern. "In the 1990s, the city government declared cats to be part of Rome's "bio-heritage," recognition that at some sites, the animals have been around for decades, if not centuries. In the Largo di Torre Argentina, cats have roamed the square and claimed it as their own for at least 80 years, their colony swelling in size from births and from the abandonment of pets. When Viviani and Dequel started their shelter, there were about 90 cats; now they care for double that figure."
It seems that not only is this cat colony almost indigenous, but also a cure for the city's feral cat condition. As the argument goes, "...is not just about keeping their charges happy with full stomachs and sleek coats; more important, the shelter has helped Rome control its population of feral cats by spaying and neutering about 27,000 of them over the years, and vaccinating others."
Only time will be the judge of this tug of war over a historic - yet modern facility. Viviani fights a strong fight, for the cause of not only her beautiful charges but also for the ultimate Roman/Italian archeological meaning of the ruins of the Largo di Torre Argentina square; "All around, there are people who look at the columns, capitals and so on. And they are there — cold, indifferent," she says. "As soon as a cat jumps on a stump of a column, on a capital, on a sarcophagus … the ruins are living.
They're no more dead things. They have a new life because of the cats." (my bold)
Maybe you can give new life to some of your new creations; add a cat motif of some sort to your potholder (as we've done with the giveaways for February 1st here on Potholdersplus), or to any of your quilted creations.
And don't forget to leave a comment or drop off your name to my e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org, to be automatically entered into our February 1 giveaway.
So continues the mystery that is..cat.