I recently visited the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery to see Jennifer Angus’ bugs. Big bugs on walls. Little bugs on walls. Lots and lots of dead bugs on walls. Even crushed and ground bugs used to make pink paint that is on said walls. (See pic below.)
I found these bugs impressive and I was amazed by the artist’s ability to turn fear and discomfort into a thing of beauty. It was a happy marriage of entomology and aesthetic critique. But, as is often the case with art, its meaning can shift with time and with the knowledge of the beholder. For me, Jennifer Angus’ bug exhibit, particularly this image I captured of carefully preserved insect corpses arranged in the shape of a human skull, has gained new hemispheric meaning.
In the two hours that the GOP debate spent draining our time and energy, a great many women have contracted the Zika virus. Surely, some of those women are pregnant. Transmitted in the saliva of the mosquito genus aedes aegypti, Zika virus first surfaced in Brazil in May 2015. Since November there have been more than 4,000 Brazilian babies born with microcephaly that is related to the Zika virus they were exposed to in the womb. And, according to the World Health Organization, 3 to 4 million people will be infected with Zika in the next year. What percentage of those millions will be pregnant women?
Aedes aegypti is a very bad gyal (the female mosquito is the one who does the “biting”). Besides Zika virus, she also transmits yellow fever, malaria, Chikungunya, and the Dengue virus. According to the CDC, in 2013 a half million people, many of whom were African children, died from malaria. Overwhelmingly, the people of the tropics and subtropics are the people who are at risk of these diseases. (I will resist conspiracy theory.) Curiously, I must add, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are set to begin in 188 days and their official website has yet to make mention of Zika.
For those of us looking to stay in this hemisphere while hiding from Zika, the cold is our only possibility of salvation. So, not surprisingly, it will be chilly Canada for the win. Latin America and the Caribbean are in Zika’s sights. Aedes aegypti has already spread the infectious disease from Barbados to Ecuador and from Paraguay to Haiti. To date twenty four countries on this side of the globe are facing real viral threat. And while my in-depth feminist comments will be detailed in a forthcoming post, I would be remiss if I did not at least mention that in El Salvador women of childbearing age are boldly being asked by governments and health officials to postpone reproduction.
Yes, the meek mosquito has found another way of inheriting the New World. Who will suffer most this time? I think Dr. Eduardo Espinoza, El Salvador’s vice minister of health, is pointing to the answer.