25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
At this time of the year all over Belize we are enjoying one of the most delectable of all tropical fruits- the mangoes. They come in all sizes, colors and tones of sweetness, but all of them with that unique mango flavor. The mango has always been a seasonal fruit and people await for its arrival to San Pedro with much enthusiasm. Most mangoes today sell for fifty cents, a dollar or even one dollar and fifty cents depending on the variety and size. This year mangoes will be relatively cheaper because there is an abundance all over the country.
Twenty five years ago, the common mango sold at three for five cents. There were the slipper mangoes (so called for its shape) and the blue mango (so called for its color) and these sold at two for five cents because they were considered special. They were special for they were a bit larger than the common mango and a bit sweeter. Usually, when one went to buy mangoes, one asked for either twenty five cents or fifty cents, which were thirty mangoes, and that was a large bagful.
Even at that cheap price, you would think that our parents would give us three or four mangoes all for ourselves. No, sir! Dad would usually share a large mango by slicing the two meaty sides and remaining with the seed part and some meat around it. This would be shared among three children. Children usually wanted to choose the seed part because they could eat whatever meat there was on it, and then spend a few minutes sucking and frolicking with the succulent seed.
This sharing of the mango among three persons was not because mangoes were scarce. No, it was because money was scarce. You need to be reminded that to earn five cents one had to sell a bundle of three or five fishes. With twenty five cents, mom could almost cook up a full dinner to include some five fried fishes, a pound of rice and some beans. Therefore when mom purchased twenty five cents of mangoes, she made sure they last a good while.
Mangoes were brought to San Pedro by a few local fruit and vegetable dealers. They took fish to sell in Corozal and upon their return brought some fruits for the local population. Kraboo sold at five cents for a whole quart, plums five cents for quart, oranges at four for five cents, guavas at a cent a piece, plantains at 4 for five cents. The expensive fruits were the custard apple at ten cents each, sour sap at ten cents for a large one, and mammey at ten cents each. Watermelons were never sold by weight. A large 20 pound one was estimated for 30 to 35 cents making it less than 2 cents per pound. A large head of cabbage was sold for about 15 cents and tomatoes were weighed at ten cents a pound.
And would you believe it? Even at that very low rate, the fruit vendors at times had piles of unsold fruits at their homes. When this happened they sent little children to sell them around the streets at a reduced rate. The common mangoes then went at one cent each. Those were special opportunities for then we got to eat a whole mango or even two.
This column gives thanks to those persons in the past who made sure we got our fruits and got them at a reasonable price. How come today our fruits are so expensive? How come mangoes can be bought in Corozal at 5 cents each and in San Pedro the same mangoes sell at three for a dollar? How come watermelons can be sold in Corozal at 20 cents per pound and in San Pedro at 80 cents per pound or four times more expensive? Before I close I want to encourage you to keep on eating mangoes and fruits in general for they are good for the health. Long live the mangoes.