Oh, the Beaches

erhaps two of San Pedro's greatest attractions are its beaches and the reef. Tourists are fascinated and with good reason. Twenty five years ago the local people were fascinated by the beaches and for other reasons too. San Pedranos have always loved their beaches, so much so that the beaches formed a way of life for them. Today we still love and enjoy them. You take away a San Pedrano from the beach and life loses its savor. You take away a beach from a San Pedrano and you are asking for trouble.

For a good siesta: Twenty five years ago, after lunch, people would go to the beach and lie under the shade of a coconut tree or some other shade to enjoy a good one hour siesta. While the children went to school, dad snored at the beach without a shirt, his bare sun-baked back on the cool white sand. Mom would be sitting nearby, perhaps knitting or embroidering or catching up on the latest gossip.

For a moonlight hour: After dark the entire family would go to the beach. This was a daily outing just to move away from the house and chores and the monotony of routine work. This allowed the family to enjoy a good hour of moonlight, fresh sea breeze, the sound of the waves and to keep in touch with mother nature. It was not until someone felt the chilliness of the night that they all broke good conversation and headed home to sleep at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.

To fish: Right after dark, you would often see boys going to the beach with a pail of sardines and a few fishing lines. Fishing was done right along the beach. All you had to do was to fling your line 50 to 75 feet out at sea and pretty soon you had fish for the next day. When snappers were "running", in two hours you had two or three dozen. Nobody would buy them because everyone had similar amounts. However, even if it did not sell or was too much for home consumption, the fun of night fishing was always there.

To play games: Twenty five years ago, the beach was the most popular venue to play games. Boys and girls, five to fourteen, would meet at the beach with friends to play hide and seek, hop-scotch, El lobo, alza y pica la zorra, campanita de oro, and a dozen other games. Yes, you did get covered with sand but never dirty. It was such delicious white sand that one felt like eating it. (And some kids did.)

To sit and wait: Wait for what? For the arrival of the fishermen. The wives and the children would simply sit at the beach waiting anxiously to see what dad's catch would be. They were particularly delighted if dad brought a lot of fish plus a turtle or a king fish or a barracuda with a pair of spawn or eggs.

Awaiting end of expedition: In the days when the husbands and the boyfriends went on ten to fifteen day expeditions to catch lobsters at Turneffe or Glover's Reef, the wives and girlfriends marked their calendars and as the arrival date approached, they would spend long hours at the beach waiting to see familiar sails of the sailing boats and later that smelly but handsome fisherman in his flour bag underwear which was used as diving trunks.

For a Sunday outing: One of the most popular spots for teenage boys to meet and have a few Sunday drinks was the beach just out of town. The end of town was by the elementary school, so from Ramon's onwards were popular spots. With only two bars in the village (and they had to close doors at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday) those that had not had enough, took to the beaches where coconut water was available for the drinks.

To keep company: A common practice twenty five years ago was for dad to pull up his boat right on the beach. This spot was a perfect shade for friends or wives and children to sit and keep company while dad scraped the old paint, applied a fresh coat of paint, or carried out minor overhauls on the boat for three to four weeks.

Ahhhh! The beaches, the beaches, the beaches! What would San Pedranos have done without them twenty five years ago. To all of us it was a way of life. Today only a few memories of such life remains. I certainly become nostalgic when I think of that way of life with the beaches that I enjoyed so much. I am sure that even those that live on the beach today do not enjoy it as much as we did twenty five years ago. Oh, the beaches. It hurts so much, I feel like crying.

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