25 Years Ago

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Two weeks ago Alberto wrote a formal letter to visit Angelita at home. Last week he got a reply from the father-in-law that he was accepted. Boy oh boy, is Alberto excited? He is no longer the enamorado (boyfriend) but her “novio” (fiancé). It was like a dream. Now he will be two long hours with her every night. He will be able to hold her little hands. He might be able to caress her arms, and perhaps even still a kiss or two every night.

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After Antoño writes his letter requesting permission to visit his girlfriend at home, he awaits patiently for the father-in-law to reply. During this highly nervous period, Antoño is at his best behavior. He does not drink, does not curse, nor stays out late at night. He dresses properly in his black pants and white shirt properly tucked in and tries his best to keep out of trouble. Finally after about a two-week wait, which seems eternal to him, the father-in-law writes back.

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Today it seems like anybody can get any girl anytime. Sometimes boys date girls for a long time and the parents do not even know. They really find out when the wedding plans are on the way. Not so 25 years ago. Back then a young man who was desirous of making a formal relationship had to start with a letter that read something like this:  

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These are the words I can remember of my childhood days as we sang the most popular song of the times in connection with the celebration of the Battle of Saint George’s Caye: “It was the tenth day of September, the ninety eighth ano domimi, when our forefathers won that glorious fight, the Battle of St. George’s Caye. Hip, hip, hurrah! (repeated 4 times)  

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By Angel Nuñez

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Before I start on this topic, I want to mention that I had a lot of fine comments on last week’s article on “Kasham”. Apparently a lot of people identify with it, and I learned that it was also a favorite candy down south as Norman Eiley told me that Creoles say that when one chokes on Kasham, you have to eat horse shit. Now I don’t know the reason but it is true. Kasham is very powdery, so you have to watch that you do not choke on it when savoring it.  

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A new friend of mine living in the United States mentioned the other day on an email the treatment for a sea urchin sting and I recalled a few more home remedies that I had denied you. I will not charge any special royalties or late fees, but here they are just in case you are in a situation where you do not have the modern medication and you need the home remedies of twenty-five years ago.

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This is a popular saying, “Crayfish to stone dogs.” It is a saying meaning that there is an abundance of something. And there was a time when the spiny lobster or the crayfish existed in abundance around the waters of Ambergris Caye.  

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It is a thrill today going to the stores and buying sophisticated toys for the children. There are the educational games and toys, the electronic toys, the expensive and bulky toys like motorized vehicles and cycles, etc. It is indeed a thrill shopping for toys today, not to mention the expense. Shopping for toys today can range all the way to one thousand dollars if you can afford it.  

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There are many things that are considered as hardships or inconveniences today that were normal occurrences 25 years ago. They were part of our lives and occurred as normal, so nobody considered them as hardships. First of all if you were to wake up today and find out that you are out of butane gas for your stove, you would immediately complain because there is no energy to fix up the breakfast, fry an egg etc.  

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Some older folks might want to take me farther back in time perhaps in the 1930’s or 40’s, but unfortunately I do not go so far back. So for all practical purposes I shall write about the Commissary as the first or one of the first stores in the village of San Pedro.  

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A long with this article is an actual page of a shopping list used on October 14 probably in the year 1950. It was written by Don. Beto Gomez and his wife Lala Gomez, and it represents a shopping list that got them enough food materials to last them for a week or two.  

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If you walk around San Pedro today, you would be amazed on how much things have changed in the last 15 years and much more on the last 40. Some people would probably get lost in San Pedro.   But let us continue our walk around the village as we did last week, which was mostly at sea. We left when it was 7:30 and there was fried manatee with Johnny cakes and fried beans at the breakfast table. The children are getting ready to go to school, but before that there are some chores that must be done.

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When we think of a village we usually think of a very simple way of life where you are awakened by the singing of birds and not of tractors. When we think of town or city life, we usually imagine the hustle and bustle of a busy place. Well, how did San Pedro fit in with village life 25 years ago? For that I will take you back into the 1950’s when I was 5 to 10 years of age.  

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I am sure you have at some time said that those things that were made in the past are made of good stuff. Actually there are innumerable examples to illustrate this point and I will only use but a few local examples. You can think back on your past and come up with a longer list. Then at the end you wonder why?   We begin with those frying pans of the past, those thick iron frying pans. They last a lifetime and they never get scratched and things never stick in them because the “Teflon” wore off.

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Last week we learned about how to operate the rudder of a sailing boat as well as how to place the ballast in your boat. If you did not, well go back to issue number 16 and do so.   Today I want to touch on something which I enjoyed tremendously when I was a kid and my dad would take me sailing all the way to his fish traps and lobster pats. I am referring to the art of “guindolear” or using human ballast when it is very windy.

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Sailing boats are almost a thing of the past in San Pedro. To have a boat was the best thing in your life 25 years ago, and it was a lot of fun.  

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There are many things that were so different with the celebration of Easter in the past. Well, you know how it is today and perhaps this recollection will give you a good comparison perspective.   First of all the most vivid recollection is that the sleeping village became alive and jovial from Holy Thursday to Easter Monday with hundreds of Belize City folks coming to San Pedro to enjoy the beach, sun and sea. There were no hotels so they stayed at the homes of friends and acquaintances.

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I sit outside my home on the deck near the swimming pool as some good friends have a swim with their lovely little girl. I watch all the wonderful treatment they give the little girl, and I cannot help remark to myself in my mind: Babies did not get all that fine treatment 25 years ago.  

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Jose Pacífico is his name. Most people call him “Spanish” here in San Pedro, a nickname that stuck to him like crazy glue. There are many people who do not have an idea of this young man, but those who can recollect back to the 1970’s will remember Spanish as a great influence to the youths of San Pedro.  

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