25 Years Ago

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I was driving around southern Mexico in Quintana Roo this past weekend and noticed a young man getting water out of a shallow well. He was pulling on a rope around a pulley which makes it easier to pull the pail up. No sooner had I seen this young man at the well than my imagination got to work and took me back 25 years ago when wells were a blessing for the entire village.  

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How could one police officer do it all by himself twenty five years ago, let’s say in the 1950’s and 60’s? Well, the answer is fairly simple. There was very little crime on the island so there was no real big need for many officers.   They would have gotten bored doing nothing just like the single police officer did. If he was sitting at the police station, he would be doing his duty, but still there was not much to do so he had to keep himself busy doing other things.

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I have recently downloaded some music from the internet and listened to it with interesting melancholy. This is music from the 1950’s and 60’s, and I could not help conclude that music of that epoch is indeed very romantic and that today’s composers or song writers are so far from this romantic feeling.  

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We have already read and enjoyed a trip on board the Elsa P but that was to tell you of its importance in the cargo transport industry. Now this time around we will live the actual trip on board this famous boat owned by Felipe Paz and which operated from the 1950’s and way into the 1990’s when it was replaced by the huge barges. Let’s enjoy an actual trip from start to finish.  

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Lobster traps formed the mainstay of the economy of San Pedro twenty five years ago. Every fisherman depended on lobster traps, and that was about 25 fishermen each owning an average of 300 lobster traps each. Lobster traps were constructed utilizing mahogany frames covered with pimento sticks. Bamboo strips were used only minimally because it was not abundantly available; only some bamboo drifted on the beaches of Ambergris Caye and were used for lobster pats.

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Back in the 1950’s and sixties, well 25 years ago, there were several types of sailing boats. There were “botes de carga” (cargo boats),” tanqueros” (boats with wells), “botes pesqueros” (fishing boats), and “lanchas” (boats for hauling sand). Today we will sail along on board a fishing boat on its way to Glover’s Reef or Turneffe Caye down south for a ten-day lobster fishing expedition.   The journey began early one morning with a crew of five persons at the most. There were five dories or canoes on the deck of the boat.

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Twenty five years ago, or rather in the 1950’s, every fisherman had a fish tanker, which was a boat equipped with a well or tank in which fish were kept alive.   I always wondered how come the fishermen bored holes in the bottom of the boat and water came rushing in and the boat would not sink. Well, later on I learned that the box built in the middle of the boat contained the water because the water would only rise up to the sea level outside and the box of the well was actually higher than the sea level.

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I am not talking about sailing from San Pedro to Caye Caulker on a pleasure trip. I am not talking about you on board a cruise ship sailing to Belize. I am not talking about you stranded at sea on board a wrecked ship or boat.

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I might not be around the downtown area during Christmas night to wish you a Merry Christmas as I have done for more than 25 five years, but that does not mean that I won’t have you in my mind and heart and hoping that your life is full and your dreams fulfilled.

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Yes, I miss the hams, apples, pears, grapes, live green Christmas tree, and the house parties on December 25. But there are a few other things that we miss about Christmas 25 years ago. The “Posadas” was a big thing in the 1950’s and 60’s. The posadas commemorated Mary and Joseph looking for a room at the inn on that cold winter night when Jesus was born. In the posadas there is a group of people in a procession who are singing for hospitality in the inn.

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The enthusiasm you get today of children as they enjoy the Christmas season is way above the enthusiasm of children 25 years ago. Today they talk about the huge Christmas tree, the millions of lights, the transformers and all the expensive electronic toys. But don’t you ever think that there was no enthusiasm back then. Oh yes, there was a lot to be enthused about in the 1950’s when Christmas came around.

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How do you know that Christmas is around the corner today? It is easy, right? You see all the goodies and lights in the shop windows around town. In fact nowadays you see all of this as of the middle of November, even before the big Thanksgiving Day. Well it was not so 25 years ago. But surely there were some signs that told us that Christmas was around the corner.

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If you were born during the month of November 25 years ago, you would not be too happy. It was because there were some restrictions related to many traditions that we had 25 years ago. Most of the traditions were religious or spiritual because November is associated with the dead, spirits, and memories of the beloved deceased.

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Indeed the month of November is a month to be respected spiritually because the “Animas” or souls of the dead do come out in procession and prayer hoping to meet a beloved family member. There are those who have a bone to grind with someone and they are not looking to greet peacefully but to carry out their revenge. So if you do not want to meet anyone of these, it is best if you get off the streets and get home before midnight during the entire month of November.

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It is common belief in the Hispanic and Creole culture that after the body dies, the soul continues to live and for a time it roams around the earth looking for a resting place. That is why a certain family member of mine heard someone knocking on the windshield of his car only two days after his grandfather passed away. That is also why there are rumors of a lady walking up the beaches late at night and disappearing when security guards point their flashlights at her.

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I know what the characteristics of a fisherman are because I am the son of a fisherman. My brother and uncles and other family members were all fishermen. I recall going to high school in Belize City in the 1960’s and my classmates used to tease that all fishermen stink. For a while they almost made me become ashamed of my origin. So I can tell you of the characteristics of fishermen.

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It is reported that Americans spend one sixth of their lives watching television. It is approximately 4 hours of television per day, so that if a person lives 60 years, he spent 10 of those years watching television. Indeed television is a great tool today, but something we did not miss in the 1950’s and 60’s.

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I was talking the other day with a good friend, Mr. Sanker, who is an avid reader of this column and he said, “You know what Mr. Nuñez, I really enjoy those articles because I can identify with them. I remember having to write those official letters to be able to formalize a relationship with a girl as was the custom in Guyana where I come from.” And we talked about how difficult times were but how good they were too in their own rights. Oh yes, things were pretty tough, not because there was poverty but because of circumstances.

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We have seen three romantic scenarios- one where the boyfriend requests permission to visit the girl at home, two where the father replies with an acceptance letter, and three where the fiancée actually starts visiting the girl at home. But what if the father-in-law did not accept to the relationship? Here is how it went.

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You might laugh at this or doubt me, but ask anybody who lived in the 1950’s and you will verify the truth. Bikinis, swimsuits, and even G-strings are common everywhere today. I suppose they were made for the swimming pool or the beach, but you see them everywhere. No so twenty five years ago. Young girls never conceived the idea of exposing their bodies in public, and when they finally did, they were very conservative.

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