The Dark Nights of San Pedro

revious memories of the days when there was no electricity reminded me of the dark nights in San Pedro Village and how we all adjusted and coped with it.

There were two weeks of very dark nights and two weeks when it was pretty clear. The full moon, of course, was when the nights in the fishing village were the brightest. Most children did their home work early before the sun set, for if we didn't we would have to use candles to do so. The "quinque" was another useful gadget. It was a kerosene bottle with a wick which was lit and a glass was set around the lit wick to intensify the brightness.

During the moonlit nights, we stayed out in the streets a little longer than usual. We played many games on the sand at the beach or some street corner. At times we drifted down the beach to collect hermit crabs for fishing bait or simply to kill the land crabs. We knew the creoles ate the land crabs, but we considered that nasty. We all thought that it was a nasty animal.

Also during the moonlit nights we used to assemble at the end of the pier (there was only one) to do some night fishing for we had figured out that the fish used to bite even better during those nights. On moonlit nights we would see more people on the streets (only 2 streets) and this gave us a sense of security, not from the thieves or criminals for there were none. It was a sense of security from the "Xtabai" and the "Tatabalan" or "La Llorona" or "El Sisimito" "El Burucaf' or "El Duende". They were all dangerous and fearful legendary characters we knew of. These creatures generally came out on the dark nights or about one week after the full moon.

People would walk out to the beach during the clear beautiful moonlit nights. The full moon sort of brought out the romanticism of people and they took the stroll to the beach sort of like city people would take a walk downtown or the mall or some amusement park. So the beach was sort of the village's downtown area and while the children rolled on the sand, the teenagers courted a bit, the adults simply chatted about the village's latest gossips.

Dark nights were different. You would not see anyone on the streets. The "Burucat" (Ghost) was out. Daddy said that if you lit a flashlight in the dark, it would attract snakes. During these nights people turned off the "quinque" at 7 p.m. There was silence; only the chirping of the crickets was heard and the glow of the fireflies crisscrossed the air especially in the open lots overgrown by weeds. On rainy nights the silence was taken over by the croaking of the frogs giving their mating calls. But the streets were empty by 8 p.m. During the mosquito season, people lit coconut husks to create smoke, which kept the mosquitoes away. This little fire glowed in each yard providing an extra lighting on these dark nights. The fires in buckets glowed a little later even after the family had gone to sleep.

Moonlight or pitch black, there never was a hot stuffy night in the village even in the absence of electrical power and electric fans. People constructed windows that could be swung full open, and every night folks slept with their windows wide open. Theives? Not twenty-five years ago? Did we miss refrigerators, irons, television, etc? Not at all! "Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente." (What the eyes do not see, the heart does not desire). If I were to go back 25 years ago, I would miss today's electric power. But today I miss those romantic nights of 25 years ago. Can't win, eh?

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