Charles II of Spain eventually learned to formulate meaningful sentences, a moment that coincided to the end of his power and the beginning of a war between rival and angry adults looking for the next child to put in charge.
Charleroi soon became one of the biggest industrial sites in Europe and many started to refer to it as the 'Black Country' for both the mysterious presence of a fine black dust floating freely in the air and for the darkening skin of its working population, which by then had to be imported from more southern countries to meet the increasing request of the well oiled industrial machine.
And this is when the history of Charleroi stops.
The results coming from the site are stunning. Experts are engaging in complicated interpretations of what has been referred to as the reborn Charleroi folklore. By avoiding a pointless comparison with the customs and traditions of the previous Charleroi, these scholars have been mapping a whole new ethnic system, largely using words such as art, street art, culture, street culture, food and street food.
Only recently anthropologists, ethnographers, historians, sociologists, philosophers, archeologists, psychologists, undefined social scientists, artists, poets seem to have reached a conclusion about the symbolic value of the trashing of the dead cat.
CHARLEROI is a city and municipality in the country of Belgium. Even though several archaeological findings have proved that the territory of the city was already occupied during much of prehistory, the modern Charleroi didn't see the light until the 17th century when the governor of the Netherlands, Francisco Castel Rodrigo, expropriated the land from very unhappy though obliging local communities of farmers to build his fortress.
In the turmoil of such royal discontent, Charleroi lost its initial peace and many conquered the city throughout the years: the Dutch, the Spanish (again), the French, the Dutch (again), the Austrians, the upraised United States (of Belgium), the French (again), the Dutch (third time) and eventually the Belgians (the nation state this time, not the United States of Belgium).
And yet, the prosperity of Charleroi had to come to an end. The collapse didn't come after the call of angry trade union managers, yelling like monarchs had done some centuries before. Nor was a matter of determined dissidents and rioters, asking their fellow workers to jump from the troubles they knew very well into those they had only seen in idealogical dreams coming from the East.
No record can be found of what happened in the city after the end of its industry. No citizen who lived in town during those years can be located. No one ever visited Charleroi in that period of time to come back with some news.
As this catchy title suggests, it quite simply consists of the trashing of a dead cat by the person who owned it (in case of a family pet) or who accidentally killed it (IE a driver running over it).
According to them all, the cat represents the past industrialisation of the city with its polluting sphincter (the cat's anus). Once dead by accident or of natural cause, the cat and its inactive “chimney”, just like dead factories, should be exposed to remind and warn the citizens that history and its end might one day make a come back.
Castel Rodrigo's boss was Charles II of Spain, a five-year old emperor after whom the city is named. Barely old enough to walk and speak, the emperor Charles II of Spain disappointed all his detractors and managed to keep the empire together from his playroom, giving orders in imperial brat language and using his colourful crayons to draw country borders.
The political stability the citizens of Charleroi and overwhelmed history students longed for had finally arrived. Decades of wars were quickly forgotten in the name of supposedly nicer polluting factories: the coal and heavy metal laden territory of Charleroi was rapidly exploited by several industries, which brought prosperity and artificial hills of unidentified waste that would emit weird lights in the dark hours.
The industrialisation was instead abruptly slapped in the face by an invisible hand, coincidentally having Adam Smith's fingerprints and which many had not seen coming - or perhaps regarded as the hand of a pampering god that would collect everyone on its palm and take them to a heaven of golden wealth.
And yet, despite everything, the city of Charleroi is now back. Just like a long forgotten civilisation being unearthed by the expert hands of an archaeologist, its buildings are now being studied, its population analysed and all the present events are again being accurately recorded.
Disregarding both compassion feelings for animal life and basic hygiene measures, the dead cat is merely trashed, left on the street, placed upside down for everybody to see the anus, either on top of some garbage bags or in an abandoned garbage can. Regardless of the many calls to stop such gruesome tradition, the city carries it on with rigour and precision.