25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

Necessity is the Mother of Invention


T
his weekend I had a craving to drink something we used to drink plenty in San Pedro twenty five years ago, that is red Fanta or the Strawberry pop mixed with pet milk and sugar corn with lots of ice. Boy is that delicious!

Anyway, I opened the tin can with an electric opener and the cut was so neat that the can served me as a perfect steel cup. And do you know that twenty five years ago, these tin cans were neatly cut and cleaned and served as drinking cups? The can or sugar corn only cost about three dollars, and this metal, a perfect cup, would sell for about the same price of three dollars if you were purchasing these metal cups. I tell you they are better than plastic cups, perhaps even more healthy.

And here are other products we used to fabricate in San Pedro twenty five years ago. For a yard broom we used to tie two or three of the stems from which the coconuts hang on the tree. These stems have stiff bristles that make a sturdy yard rake.

Now for an inside or home broom we used to make a nice soft broom using a few of the palmetto leaves, you know the leaves of the local palm which we call thatch or “taciste” in Spanish. These were fixed to the end of a broom stick and there you had a long lasting, light, soft and very effective tool to do the house sweeping. And what did it cost? Nothing.

Another gadget we used to fabricate was a container to keep the tortillas nice and tender and warm. This was made by digging out the inside of a pumpkin, leaving you with the hard shell with a round hole on the top. A piece of cloth inside the “leck”, and your tortillas remained hot for the rest of the day. I guess “leck” was its Mayan name.

I know you might laugh but what about a paint brush? Though it was possible to buy a large brush to paint your house or your boat, they were not always easily available and to Sanpedranos they seemed expensive too. And if you were lazy to wash them with kerosene, you needed a sort of a disposable brush.

Well, small brushes were made with the stem of a tall grass called “pincha huevos” The end of the stem was smashed up and it produced some hairy fibers, which made a perfect brush to paint the names of boats. Once the job was completed you could throw away the brush because there were lots of this grass growing in all the dirty yards in San Pedro.

Dimas Guerrero, who is guilty of placing two tattoos on my arm, used to make his own ink for tattoos. He would simply use the black carbon residue from any cooking pan and mixed it with water. It made a perfect long lasting ink. I can attest to that for I still have that tattoo for over 40 years now. He also used to make his tattoo needles by tying three or four needles to a piece of stick and with that the “damage was done”.

Talk about necessity is the mother of inventions! We used to fabricate many of these things in San Pedro, and I am sure folks my age or older will call to remind me of some more of these gadgets. And I tell you, don’t only read to learn about the past. Try some of these and you will see how effective and economical these gadgets can be.


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