25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
A Few Big “NO’s” ... In Brief
Can you imagine living in San Pedro today without some basic services? I know, you would die or live complaining every day until you die. Well, it was not so bad, but folks in San Pedro in the past had to live without several things that today we take for granted. I know it is nice to have them, but folks lived without them as if they never missed them. Here are a few in brief and then, by popular request, we’ll detail them week by week.
No Post Office. I do not believe anyone communicated with anyone in the United States or any country abroad. Letters in San Pedro were hand delivered to the owner of the cargo boat who would deliver them to stores in Belize City. In the 1970’s we had once a week service at the police station. A bag was brought by boat to the police station where we had to go and check periodically. Now, I wonder when will we have door to door delivery by a mailman?
No 24hr Electricity. There was a power plant in San Pedro since the 1930’s but it served a family and a few selected friends or neighbors. In the 1950’s we had to study by candlelight. Then the Blake’s offered street lighting from 6 to 9 p.m., but houses were not connected to this system. It was area representative for Belize Rural South in the late 1960’s who was most instrumental in getting government to give us 24 hour electricity.
No Ice Factory. Imagine nothing cold in San Pedro, only hot “atole” or hot corn coffee. Occasionally for very special occasions, huge 300 pound blocks of ice were brought from Belize City and the people went CRAZY for their small chunks of ice.
No Tortilla Factory. Every household boiled its own corn, ground it by hand with a hand mill, prepared a dough and baked the tortillas over a hot plate. Then came ready made corn powder called “Minsa” which made the job easier. The first tortilla factory did not come until the late 1980’s when Mr. Daddy Paz (deceased) introduced the idea which caught like wild fire.
No Sausage Factory. There was no sausage factory or any type of meat processing place for a long time. The San Pedro menu was fish in the morning, fish at midday and fish in the evening. Our meat dishes included turtle meat, manatee meat, and occasionally pork was available when someone killed a hog that he had raised for about a year.
No Coffey Factory. This is how difficult it was to drink corn coffee. Wake up early, roast some corn, grind the corn, brew the corn in hot water over the fire hearth and then enjoy your corn coffee. People in the fifties were raised drinking tea sweetened with condensed milk.
No Specialized Stores. There were no drug stores, no hardware stores, no clothing stores, no meat shops, no computer stores, no shoe stores, no boutiques, no children’s stores, no gift shops, and no household appliance stores. There were only general stores where you could get your milk, flour and beans and, of course, your toothbrush and toothpaste.
No Medical Facilities. There were no doctors on the island but of course people never died of heart problems nor diabetes. People died of bad air, bad eye, pasmo, etc.
No Drug Stores. There were no drugstores on the island, but of course people drank sorrosi, and many other herbs like uña de gato, sacate de limon, and Dr. Castro. For pain in the belly we had brandy, but it was rubbed not drunk. For worms we used castor oil and for a fever, the cold baths did the job.