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.
I mean San Pedro could have lived quite well without electricity and without gas stoves. We lived quite well without banks and offices and even without a beer depot or a hardware store.
I would say that San Pedro managed without telephones and without stereos, without television and even without a purified water plant. We had no need for fax machines nor iPods, so I quickly removed my brand-new iPod Shuffle and continued with my dreams.
I would say that something that San Pedro could not do without 25 years ago were the shallow wells. They were absolutely necessary.
A shallow well was no more than 10 to 12 feet deep. It was basically a hole in the ground with a few drums or barrels placed on top of each other to make a continuous tube up to the ground level or above the surface of the ground. Water was contained at the bottom of this tube and as soon as you removed a few buckets from the well, it would be replaced in a few minutes. But why exactly were these wells a blessing for San Pedro?
Shallow wells were the source of all the drinking water in the village of San Pedro. This fresh water was extracted from the well and kept in buckets around the home. Some people kept the drinking water in clay containers as it was believed that it remained cooler than in a regular bucket or pail. Well water was used to make coffee or tea and also used for cooking. All the Kool Aid, orange or lime aid was made with well water. It was never refrigerated because there were no refrigerators, but when everything was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, water in the well kept its coolness.
Well water was even used for the babies with no threat of catching any water-borne disease. A few persons did boil some water for the consumption of babies. But to buy purified water for drinking was something unheard of.
Shallow wells provided all the water for the general cleanliness of the house. It was used to do all the laundry, the messy soaping as well as the rinsing. Ladies did not measure how much water was consumed because it did not cost a penny, so they rinsed in lots of water and simply dashed the soapy water right in the middle of the yard. The soap remained on the surface and some of the water was sieved right back into the water table. With the well water moms did the laundry, the scrubbing of floors and tables, and even the dishes.
One thing was certain and it was that there was plenty water to take good showers. And even though there were no electric pumps or showers installed inside the bathroom, everyone took bucket baths with well water. However, at times children took showers right near the well by simply pouring bucket after bucket of water over their heads. This was a lot of fun especially after coming out of the sea. One would take a fresh well water shower right in the middle of the yard. Oh the fun we had 25 years ago, and no one ever shouted at us to stop the shower because it was expensive. No this water was absolutely free. In fact dad loved it when we took these long showers because the more a well was used, the fresher and cleaner the water was thought to be.
This short and very romantic story simply tells us that 25 years ago, the water bill was zero. The drinking water bill was zero. The ice bill was zero. Water was no problem 25 years ago because shallow wells were a blessing for the entire village of San Pedro.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist