Based on lyrical scraps, Juan Ramón Jiménez managed to recreate the life of a donkey named Silversmith. With this, he reached one of the highest peaks of literature written in Spanish.
Platero and I it is a book to read aloud; the sound and rhythm of his words caress our ear from the first paragraph, when Juan Ramón introduces us to the small, hairy and soft Platero, “so soft on the outside, that one would say all made of cotton, that has no bones”. In one of the chapters entitled Donkey milk, Juan Ramón offers us the image of an old donkey that can no longer serve as a mobile pharmacy because its udders are dry.
“And there is the donkey, scratching its misery on the window irons, a miserable pharmacy, for all another winter, old smokers, consumptive and drunk …”, writes Juan Ramón. Because at that time, at the beginning of the last century, it was still usual to drink donkey’s milk to cure bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis.
Arrived here, it should be noted that one of the most accurate experiments with donkey’s milk was the one carried out by the pediatrician Joseph Marie Jules Parrot (1829-1883) when he decided to build a stable in the gardens of the Hospice des Enfants Assistés, in order to breastfeed babies born to syphilitic mothers and, therefore, victims of congenital syphilis.
Epidemics have always existed and the search for remedies in natural sources has been, and is, a scientific constant
At that time there were thousands of babies abandoned each year in the hospices of Paris. Most arrived sick, as they suffered from congenital syphilis; a sexually transmitted infection caused by Treponema Pallidum that spreads from mother to child. Nursing these creatures was not without contagion for the wet nurses.
It was then that Dr. Parrot decided to put his theory of healing into practice, applying the method of breastfeeding with donkey’s milk. The results were positive; These were introduced shortly before his death by Dr. Parrot at the Académie de Médécine in July 1882 and they represented a quantum leap in terms of improvements in formula-feeding recipes. The researcher Marga Arias tells it in her Stories of Medicine.
For reasons like this, donkey’s milk became a healing nectar widely used in rural areas of Europe. The vitamin richness of donkey milk (A, B1, B2, B6, D, C and E), not only makes it a nutritious food, but also an anti-aging tonic for the skin, due to its combination of minerals (calcium , magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc).
According to legend, the secret to Cleopatra’s beauty lay in the donkey’s milk baths. From the very early ages of civilization, donkey’s milk has been used as a cosmetic. Without going any further, the Roman poet Juvenal tells us that Poppea, Emperor Nero’s wife, was accompanied on her travels by a herd of donkeys. This way he was never short of milk for his rejuvenating baths. Like Cleopatra and Poppea, the French Josephine, Napoleon’s wife, also bathed in donkey’s milk, hence the smoothness of her skin.
But going back to Juan Ramón, and to the chapter dedicated to donkey’s milk, it is possible to imagine that time, just over a hundred years ago, when tuberculosis was beating in the air and the fear of contagion was the same as the one we now suffer from. the coronavirus.
Epidemics have always existed and the search for remedies in natural sources has been, and is, a scientific constant. For this reason, medical literature must be nourished, in its fair measure, by literature as a matter of verbal expression, whether in historical chronicles or in fictitious stories that reflect the healing customs of bygone times. What of Platero and I with his donkey’s milk is a lyrical example.
The stone ax is a section where Montero Glez, with a will to prose, he exercises his particular siege to scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.