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Deng's Dogs

My earliest memory of Peru is a newspaper photograph from 1980 of dead dogs hanging from lamp posts in downtown Lima. Their stiff bodies were wrapped in posters that said: DENG XIAOPING SON OF A BITCH. In the picture, bewildered policemen are cutting down the bodies in the early-morning light. Some of the dogs drip blood, others are painted black, but most are simply dead.

I was living in Mexico, where my family had been granted political asylum. My father was neither a terrorist nor a bomber. He was just a left-wing journalist. But back in those years, that was reason enough to be exiled. We would avidly read any news about Peru, and on this occasion the papers carried a photo of cops cutting down dogs. The street beyond the dogs looked filthy, dismal. To me, the black-and-white photo was the real colour of the city. I was five years old and that, insofar as I understood things, was my country.

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