Ambergris Caye Directory
In my book “Twenty Five Years Ago” I spoke about chores that children had to do early morning before going to school and repeat it at the end of the day. Here is how it happened and why.
A few weeks ago, I started on a strange phenomenon, a floating conch, which is not a fable but a really strange happening. And there are more. How many of you have swum in the Caribbean Sea? It is really salty, right? Now tell me if you have ever been swimming and encounter a batch of fresh water 15 or 20 feet underwater. Have you? If you have, you might have considered this a very strange phenomenon. And if you haven’t, you are probable saying, “This guy is nuts or what?”
Most tourists enjoy different types of fishing. Some go drop line fishing which requires patience lots of time and good luck. Others like to go trolling; this is done by towing a line with hook and bait and also requires patience, good luck and many times power to pull in a large barracuda, kingfish, wahoo, or sailfish. A third type is fly fishing which requires the art of spinning the rod and catching that prized bone fish or tarpon. The early skin divers of San Pedro also enjoyed spear fishing and developed the art of using a spear gun or the Hawaiian sling.
In this issue I wish to reprint a page from my book Twenty Five Years Ago to re-live the memory of part of the life of Tio Pil, who has just been laid to eternal rest. Tio Pil was compadre of Alberto and Rosa because he had taken Baby Albertito for his Christening or the Sacrament of Baptism.
When Don Anselmo, our storyteller, saw the giant deer with the trees growing on its back, he immediately remembered that earlier that year he had shot a deer with palms seeds as pellets. Amazed at this strange occurrence, he thought of catching the animal alive so that his friends would believe his story. On second thought he had the idea of catching the beast with a lasso and raising it in his backyard so that he could later cut the palmetto sticks and leaves for house repairs.
The story last week of the giant lobster tail might have remained only a tale of San Pedro, but this next one told by the same don Anselmo Marin San Pedro’s best storyteller in the 1950’s might be too large a potato for the frying pan. Here it is from his own mouth as he recounted it over and over at the barber shop.
Some stories are too good to believe, and this is certainly one that someone had wished, and he used to swear that it was true. This senior citizen used to sit at the one and only barber shop in San Pedro and entertained friends and patrons with his tales. Don Chico’s barber shop was located exactly at Ambergris Seaside Real Estate.
I looked at Ambergris Today and noticed all the gifts and goodies for the first baby to be born in 2009, and I went, “Wow! All of that for one baby. How fortunate! If that was done twenty five years ago, it would have been considered like winning the Lotto. Indeed the coming of a newborn and raising the baby was very simple, especially in terms of gifts.
As strange as it might sound, as weird as you might think, as much as you might cringe your nose, these things happened twenty five years ago, and though you might not have a need to do that today, at least you will understand why it was so useful back in the 1940’s and 50’s.
Even before the break of dawn which never arrived on the morning of November 1, 1961, everyone knew that Hurricane Hattie had left severe repercussions. And the villagers were eager to know. It was still raining hard at about seven that morning when my dad and a whole lot of neighborhood villagers set forth to discover the unwanted. Back Street (Pescador Drive) was covered with rubbles, thatch leaves, some sheets of zinc, large branches and several small thatch houses leaning on the ground, half inside their yards and the other half on the street.
It is ironical that there being a strong wind outside, it would be so hot inside a building. But with all the windows and doors locked, the body heat of some fifty persons, the lit kerosene lanterns, and the barometric pressure falling, the temperature inside the shelter was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. At one corner of the building, the murmuring prayers of a group of women were drowned by the howling wind and the clash of thunder.
Forty seven years ago on October 31, 1961, British Honduras, now Belize, was struck by a powerful and monstrous hurricane that changed the face of the entire country. It ravaged havoc everywhere destroying the citrus and banana plantations of the south, the sugarcane fields of the north and the cattle all about. In San Pedro it wiped out the coconut industry and destroyed a blossoming fishing industry largely dependent on fish traps and lobster pats. I can close my eyes and re-live it when I was only eleven years old.
Last week I heard David Marin and Julio Sosa at the morning show at The Reef Radio happily discussing about tales and legends about the month of November, considered in Belize and in Mexico as well as most Latin America, as the month of the Dead. November first is dedicated to the souls of children and November second to the souls of adults.
I see some strange things done with animals today, some of which I agree with and some not. I see animals dressed in skirts and sunglasses. I think that is cute. I see animals painted with the flag and emblem of Belize. I think that is disrespectful to Belizeans. I see people sleep with their dogs or cats or allow them to sleep in bed with them and to lick their faces. I think this is gross. I am not saying it is wrong. It is just my opinion on such things.
I have never gone hunting for deer nor peccary (wild pig), but I have many friends who do, and from what they tell me, it is a fun-filled yet difficult trek. Jose Gonzalez and don Gaby Perez have been San Pedro’s most skilled hunters and have now been joined by Sammy Gonzalez.
The most popular hunting grounds are found in the area of Basil Jones up Northern Ambergris Caye. A hunter penetrates three or four miles from the beach into the bush. He either finds an existing path, or cuts a trail with a machete.
Several persons have asked me to write about wild animals, I mean large animals that roam the bushes of Ambergris Caye. I’ll be honest; I’m no expert on this but I will try. The bush experts that I know were don Juan Verde, “Charlie” Marcial Cardenez, and Guadalupe Cardenez, who were the hunters of their time. Then there is Mr. Jose Gonzalez and Gaby Perez who have been the number one hunters up until this day along with Sammy Gonzalez.
Okay, you have heard several stories about there being no meat on the Island of Ambergris Caye and in San Pedro. However, with a little bit more research, I have learned that there was a period of about 30 to 40 years when there was cattle on Ambergris Caye. These cattle were part of a herd started by Don Julio Tolosa just before 1900. He found a nice track of bountiful grass on northern Ambergris Caye and fenced it with barbed wire for a cattle ranch.
Please don’t get me wrong because I am not trying to encourage the hunting of manatees, a mammal in the wild and protected for good reasons. However, twenty five years ago they were hunted and quite understandably so. In the days of no refrigeration, there was no meat on the Island, and the villagers did have a craving and a need for meat. Well, you guessed it right. The closest thing to beef or pork was the manatee meat known locally as “carne de manatin”.
How unfortunate that today nobody has the privilege of enjoying a delicious fish soup called “Torta de Macabi”! It used to be awesome, an island favorite. I would venture to say that anybody who has not tasted and enjoyed this torta de macabi does not really know what good eating is all about. In short you smoke the macabi (pronounced macabee) in your barbecue grill for about forty minutes, twenty on each side. You peel the skin open and start to remove the flesh from the 1,001 bones that it has. Then you hash the flesh or break it into fine particles.
I was taking my early morning walk last week when I came up with my topic for this week. I had just left the beach and was on the road on my way home when this young man on a bicycle rode past me. He almost knocked me off my feet, not with his bike, but with his strong foul odor.
Twenty Five years ago there were not many ways of bleaching clothes, but one simple way. It was by placing the clothes on patches of grass in the yard or even on the street grass right in front of one’s yard. The clothes bleached in the hot sun as well as overnight in the moonlight and night’s dew. This generally gave the clothing a dazzling white bleach and a most pleasant green environmental aroma, quite unlike the smell you receive as you pass by La Margarita Apartments.
Last year while walking downtown Albert Street in Belize City, I saw a fruit vendor offering for sale seagrapes. She had a whole bucket and told me she got it from San Pedro. They were being sold at a dollar a bag. Last week a young man passed by my house offering sea grapes at five dollars for a small bag. These incidents reminded me of fruits of San Pedro because seagrapes grow wild in San Pedro and nobody thinks of buying them because it is a sport to go picking grapes.
In the late 19th century and the early 20th century from 1900 to about 1940, the San Pedro people celebrated a grand Mestizo Festival known as “La Gran Mestizada”. It was celebrated for the Dia de San Pedro on June 29, just prior to the departure of the men who went to work in the chicle or logwood camps.
No, there were no renowned celebrities, artists, actors etc. twenty five years ago like we have today for the Costa Maya Festival. The few that came around just walked around the village like Mexican Jorge Rivero, American Harrison Ford, and nobody even approached them for an autograph nor a photo, and we never got the opportunity to see them perform.
With the big festival of Costa Maya right around the corner, I have been narrating big events in old San Pedro like the Tenth of September celebrations and then the Annual Meeting celebration of the fishing cooperative. I would say that another event awaited with anticipation was the Baron Bliss Day Regatta.
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