Income and the Cost of Living

wenty five years ago there were no big fat incomes in San Pedro. Today perhaps, San Pedro Town has one of the highest standards of living in the country. Incomes are high, but so are expenses. This is a short story in numbers- a story of dollars and cents.

There is no need to give a full description of incomes today since you are well aware of them. A tourist guide gets $150 U.S. per day. That is 6,000 Belize if he works 20 days of the month. A girl at a gift shop gets $200 per week and might earn another $200 on commissions. A waiter/waitress earns $225 weekly and if he/her smile and services are top notch, there is another $200 on tips alone. A hotel operator gets $100 U.S. per day for his rooms only.

Now to balance these high incomes, here is the other side of the coin. It is $500 for an apartment, and $1,000 for a three-bedroom house. Average water is $100, electricity $150, chicken is $2.50 per pound and meat is as high as $7.00 per pound. Tomatoes are $3.50 per pound and one small sweet pepper is $1.50. 1 can go to the grocery store and walk out with a small bag of goods and $150.00 is gone - carry that in one hand.

Now, let us go 25 years ago and look at the incomes. A primary school teacher was earning $89.00 per month. A fisherman's average good sale for his product netted him $15 to $20 dollars. The one or two tourist guides were earning an outrageous $25.00 U.S. a day. The hotel operator charged $35.00 U.S. per day with three meals. The machete man did a day's task for $5.00. A store clerk got $25.00 dollars a month. Felipe Paz and the Elsa P. were charging 10 cents per box delivered to the main pier and 25 cents per sack or rice, sugar, etc.

What about expenses twenty five years ago. Coca Cola was only 15 cents . Budweiser and Heineken 60 cents. Tomatoes sold by the batch- a small batch of tomatoes for 10 cents, salt 4 cents and sugar 8 cents per pound. Corned beef 35 cents, potted meat 12 cents, milk 12 cents, and the expensive shoes at Bata were $9.99 and $4.99 for the tennis shoes, usually considered the poor man's wear. Apples 10 cents, pears 15 cents, bananas 3 for 5 cents, pack of chewing gum were 2 for 5 cents and spearmint 10 cents for a pack of five. Colonial cigarettes 20 cents and Winston 40 cents. just around the bend, perhaps 30 years ago, Maya Airlines did its first flights to San Pedro for a whopping $7.00 and the taxi was 75 cents. Gasoline was 35 cents and Kerosene was 10 cents.

This shows the income of the head of the family. Here is a breakdown of the page in history.

June 11, 1951
2 days Home $2.50
1 day Esmeralda $1.25
3 1/2 days Basil Jones $4.38

June 18
6 tasks on coconuts $9.00
1 day coconuts $1.25
1 day Basis Jones $2.82
1 day fire to dry coconuts $1.25
1 ˝ days Esmeralda $1.82

July 2
5 days Santa Rita Cocal $6.25

Next page

July 22
1 task coconuts $1.50
4 tasks Esmeralda $6.00
1 day Basil Jones $1.25
1 ˝ days coconuts Reid $2.25
1 day work commissary $1.25

Got the idea, right? One day’s labor averaged at $1.25 to $1.50. When the home is referred to, it was working at Mr. Blake’s home doing maintenance or cleaning. Tasks on coconuts meant either collecting coconuts, or peeling them. For one task one was required to gather and peel 1,000 coconuts. Basil Jones and Esmeralda were coconut plantations called “cocal”. The coconut farmer reached there by dory and some “cocals” were five to ten miles up north. Finally the commissary referred here was not a military store, but a store owned by Mr. Blake, the owner of Ambergris Caye.

Some coconut farmers were said to be able to do one or even two tasks per day. Now we understand that this was almost necessary if he was to earn enough for a living and a small saving. SAVING! Believe it or not, there was a branch of the Holy Redeemer Credit Union in San Pedro back then. This was the time when a weekly savings of a dollar or two was a common practice, but that is another story for “Twenty Five Years Ago” in San Pedro.

Yes, twenty five years ago, there were no fat incomes, but who needed them anyway? I got married in 1973 and the music band cost $50.00 while Belikin was at $7.00 a case. I wonder why things keep going up? And will they ever stop climbing? They say that everything that goes up must come down? Good luck.! Keep waiting.

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