Monday, January 25, 2010

Beetle brooches

On January 12th, border agents in Brownsville, Texas, confiscated the jewelry of a woman crossing from Mexico into the United States - because it was alive. She had declared the bejeweled insect, but did not have the right paperwork. Although wearing jewel-encrusted beetle jewelry has recently become a fad - and one designer sells the Roach Brooch with the slogan "It's not a pest if it's pinned to your chest" - it is not a new idea. In fact, it is a Mayan custom called the maquech (pictured), traditionally given as a gift to one's mother-in-law. It is said that Jackie Kennedy (1929-1994) received one, as did a Spokane woman named Carol Wright back in 1969 (see top left p. 14). The audacious Ms. Wright named her "pet" Chac-mool and wore him to her job as a clerk in a downtown department store. He had been purchased (along with some wood to feed him) for 3 pesos from a street vendor in Chichen Itza by a friend who apparently smuggled him into the country - as I doubt he submitted "PPQ Form 526 Declaration for Importation or Exportation." Of the recent border crosser's "beetle bling," PETA is quoted as saying, "Beetles may not be as cute and cuddly as puppies and kittens, but they have the same capacity to feel pain and suffer. It's ironic. We spend hours each week helping kind people find humane ways to relocate lost insects such as ants, bees and roaches that wander into their homes. People feel so good about not hurting them, while this woman paid someone to mutilate them." It certainly deprives the insect (Latin name Zopherus nodulosus) of its freedom during its probable 12- to 18-month lifespan, but to me it seems less egregious than pulling the wings off flies...

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