The most iconic photo of the United States-occupied island of Puerto Rico is a watchtower in Old San Juan overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This image now appears on the back of the U.S. Puerto Rico quarter and is part of a 3-mile long fort that used to surround the city, named El Morro.
Built in the 1500s and fully encompassing the city by the mid 1600s, all that is left today is a magnificent World Heritage Site, whose 6 stories of soldiers’ chambers and historical fortitude can be publicly toured, and an all-around beautiful park destination.
Should you choose to follow El Paseo Del Morro, the seaside walking path around the perimeter of the fort, you will notice a community of peculiar and particularly cute inhabitants. A large colony of cats can be spotted one after another along the trail sunbathing on the rocks or finding shelter from the heat under bushes. This population was doubled before Save A Gato was founded in 2004, a non-profit volunteer organization who provides food, water, and medical attention to the feral cats. Volunteers visit the site daily to replenish the food and fresh water as well as perform some trap-neuter-release operations to control the population and spread of disease. Outside of the United States, stray or homeless animals is quite commonplace. But it was neat and quite revolutionary to see proper care being provided to a group that could so easily be forgotten or neglected.
After encountering the sweet coexistence of these cats and their caregivers and the tourists and other people walking about San Juan, I am left pondering the parallels between our human compassion for homeless animals versus homeless people. Although Save a Gato does implement an adoption program of about 50 kittens at a time, their present goal is not to erase the entire population of cats on the Paseo. They simply provide relief and much needed love to reduce the suffering of the cat colony. Their website reports that the average life of a street cat is 3 years compared to the 15+ of a house cat. Whether born into the wild or abused or abandoned, what these cats have in common is that they’ve grown to live without the accompaniment of people. Similarly, homeless people have become outcast from society after escaping domestic violence, falling victim to poverty, or any number of circumstances. The least, or perhaps the most, we can hope to do for them is the same: offer food and water to help these people survive another day, or the couple dollars that will do so.
To end, I offer a timeless proverb. “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.”