25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

Large Flocks of Pigeons


D
o you think we should encourage raising large flocks of pigeons like they do in some of the Mexican cities around the cathedrals or in some European cities where they serve as tourist attractions? Or do you think their white droppings can be a slight nuisance? I do notice a few pigeons feeding on the streets, but nothing compared to the flocks we had 25 years ago, when we did not have them as tourist attractions because there were no tourists back then.

There were the white domesticated pigeons and the local wild gray pigeons. Practically in every backyard there was a collection of pigeons. They, along with the crowing of the roosters served to wake us up early in the morning. A typical pigeon house was a large box 3 feet by 6 feet long and three feet deep. It was divided with partitions that were about one foot square. Pigeons hatched or were put in one particular cubicle and somehow used the same space for a lifetime. The adult pigeons collected soft spongy materials like grass, seaweed, cloth, etc., to build their nests where they laid 2 to 10 eggs. In a few weeks the little nestling would be chirping and adding numbers to one’s valuable collection of birds.

Eduardo Brown feeds pigeons in his back yard.
The pigeons always took off in flight in flocks and flew across the village to spend a few hours in another hospitable area, obviously where there was food. People would say, “Alla van las palomas de doņa Paula”(meaning there go doņa Paula’s pigeons) or, “Esos son de doņa Leonor”(meaning those are for doņa Leonor). One flock of pigeons (some 200 of them) came all the way from La Ensenada now San Telmo. They belonged to don Severito. He had this huge flock of pigeons, which flew once or twice over the village looking like war planes on the attack. It was a beautiful sight to enjoy and one wondered how they flew one mile back to their home.

If you did not want your pigeons to fly around the village, you clipped their feathers at the wing. Trust me, these birds had the instinct to fly back home, except when naughty boys with slingshots shot them down. They were fed with corn, but ate cooked rice or dry bread or even flew into the bush in search of seeds. In San Pedro almost every family had a pair or two of these doves. The ardent collectors had a whole flock, a proud and valuable collection. Had tourists been here in San Pedro 25 years ago, they would have imagined that they were in some part of Venice or Rome. So what do you think? Go for the pigeon collection. They would look good around Central Park, Friendship Park or the Catholic Church, except for the white droppings.


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