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.
Fishermen did not wear shoes and always walked barefooted even when they went to the towns and city. It was not that they could not afford it. It was our culture to walk barefooted. Besides there was too much sand in the village even on the back street so that walking with shoes was an inconvenience. I recall going to Belize City to take high school entrance exam and I had to wear a shoes. Then I got my first blister from wearing shoes for one day.
Fishermen used to roll up their pants. In the day time it was up to the knee. In the evening time or when they were dressed up, it was half way up to the knees. The only time they would wear it all the way down was for Good Friday in the Easter season.
Fishermen used to wear their shirts unbuttoned or in other words wide open. Again this was cultural. A few fishermen would button up maybe one or two. They loved to show the hairy chest or the big belly. Young fishermen did not have a beer belly, but most older folks did.
Fishermen used to drink liquor from an early age and for that matter some of them used to drink plenty. Most boys left primary school at the age of 14 and became fishermen immediately. They had money and time. There was little entertainment, so it was the logical thing to do. These young fishermen had a lot of peer pressure, so drinking became a cultural thing to them. The police officer did not even check whether there was underage drinking.
The city girls would have never thought of marrying a fisherman. It would have been lowering their status. Only the local girls would marry a fisherman because they understood their culture. Fishermen could have been described as uncouth, rough, not illiterate but a bit crude and impolite, foul-mouthed and unrefined. He did not quite meet the status of a refined gentleman. To the local girls, he was the best, but to the city girls he was not quite up to status, like an office boy.
With these qualities fishermen could easily be identified a mile away. When someone was walking barefooted in the streets of Belize City, everybody knew he was a fisherman. “There goes a caye boy,” they would say. But the caye boys were happy anyway. They did not want anything to do with them anyway. They were aware that there was prejudice, but they did not care. That is why San Pedro used to be a tight and closely unified community because San Pedro was only for the Sanpedranos. You cannot blame them for thinking like that. Today, however there is a lot of intermarriage, and that is why it is no longer the same united community it used to be twenty five years ago.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist