No Electricity in San Pedro

magine a San Pedro without electricity. What would life be like without? No power for the refrigerators, no power for the electric fans or air conditioners. There would be no power to charge the golf cars or power to use the blenders at the bar. There would be no ice to refresh us or power to use the electric irons to keep us looking sparkling clean and bright. Of course there would be no electric washing machines. And talk about the television, how many people would die without them? What would be the thing that you miss out the most when there is a power outage?

Child bathing in batella.
Do you know that in the 1950's, (that is not too long ago) there was no 24-hour electricity in San Pedro? Even in the early 1960's we had only limited hours of electricity. Can you imagine life back then? I can tell you because I was a small boy back then and I did not miss electricity one bit. Of course I must admit that I do miss it today.

What electric fan? We slept with our doors and windows open all night long, but of course, there were no thieves back then. If the night was too hot, some guys took out the hammock on the verandah or under the house and slept there. Our school was right by the sea so we had fresh sea breeze all day long. Hand fans were popular back then, but that was only occasionally. I still have a hand fan that I carry to church at times.

Which golf carts? The only way of transportation twenty five years ago was by foot. You can call it 93footmobile94. If you needed to transport something heavy, we had our own fabricated wheelbarrows. To go along the coast like to Victoria House area, we used our little canoes with a rigged-up sail. No power needed - only a nice wind to carry you.

What refrigerator? They were not needed nor missed. Nothing was kept chilled. Fish and meats were salted to be preserved. Ice was brought occasionally from the city but used to sell fresco or shaved ice with syrup, not to chill things. Food was kept warm over the fire hearth, not chilled in a refrigerator. And when the fridges did come into being, there were powered by kerosene, not electric power.

You are kidding if you think of blenders, food processors, or mixers. By hand you could mash up the beans and potatoes and come up with a product just as fine and delicious as you would with a blender. There were no mixed drinks. The bar man sold you a shot of white rum and you drank it anyway you wanted - straight, with some red Fanta or pop. Rum and coke did not come until the 1970's. Cold beer was available only at special occasions like weddings.

What electric water pump? No man, the water was pulled up out of a well by a pail or bucket. A lot of kids took their shower right by the well or in the 93batellas94 where mom did the laundry. There was no shortage of water because of lack of electricity. And the water from the wells was good for everything- washing, bathing, cooking and yes for drinking. I was raised with water from our shallow wells and never suffered from any kind of diarrhea. We found it delicious and preferred it over rain water, which we believed was contaminated from bird droppings or fecal decay if you wish.

Which electric irons? We used to have a set of some six steel irons that were heated over a hot plate over the fire. When one got cold, you placed it back on the hot plate and used another one. They kept us looking as sharp as a banker or executive. And to tell you the truth, the fishermen back then loved white clothing and their clothing was processed with starch. Clothing was stiff and needed a lot or ironing.

Electric washing machines! You must be kidding. It was all by hand, my friend. There was the scrubbing board, but the Mestizos of San Pedro believed that was the black man's way of washing. The Sanpedranos, who were mostly Mestizos, used the 93batella94. That was a flat container with an edge looking more or less like a sink in today's kitchen and the cleaning of clothes was done by rubbing by plain hands. A few used a brush to help in the scrubbing.

How would you like to do your homework with the aid of a kerosene lantern? Is it possible to do some sewing or embroidery or even knitting under the light of one of these lanterns or candlelight? As for the men, would it be comfortable to weave a fish net at night using the light of a dim gas lantern? These are relevant questions we can ask today but in the 1950’s this kind of lighting was the order of the day. Here’s how it went.

The first mode of lighting was the candle but eventually we got the “kinque” or kerosene lantern to brighten up the homes. Whenever night fell and there were some chores to do, we would light up the “kinque” and get down to business. To read or write your homework, you had to be at least three feet away from the light source. Mom could prepare the evening tea or supper with a lantern in the general area of the kitchen.

At times dad would have a fish net, whether it was a cast net or seine, to complete and he would work several hours during the afternoon, but still had the need to work at night. Again, with the aid of the brilliant light of the gas lantern, he would progress in this chore quite comfortably. It was quite romantic passing by the small thatch huts along the street and watching the glow of light coming through the curtains of the windows of the homes. You knew that there was activity going on in the home because by eight or nine o’clock there would be total darkness.

By the end of the 1950 and beginning of the 60’s there was a revolution in San Pedro as far as lighting goes. It was the introduction of the air pressure kerosene lantern. This was stupendously bright. One of them made a little house look like daylight. Whenever there was a dance, three or four of these would be lit and hung around the dance hall. Please note that people welcomed bright lights inside a dance hall quite unlike today. These lanterns operated with a small air pump built into them and every half hour or so one would have to pump them to pressurize them. I would say that half of the village owned one of these and by then the streets of the village of San Pedro looked spectacular.

After that we got the coming of the commercial gasoline generators that generated power to the village in different stages. At first it was power until 9 every night. Then it went to twenty four hour electricity with the noisy power plants. Then it went into submerged cables under the sea and then the block outs commenced. People get upset even annoyed whenever the power goes off in San Pedro. The complain of the inability to do laundry, cook, iron, watch television, operate a computer, or suffer the heat due to the non-functional air conditioners. Not me. I simply light up my “kinque” (the very first ones in San Pedro) and simply chit chat of the good old days of San Pedro when everything was so simple, so quiet, so peaceful, so loving, and so very much like Paradise 25 years ago in San Pedro.

I know, most people would die today without a television. With no electricity there was no television. We never missed it. We had our little radios and listened to the news and a few radio telenovelas or soap operas. All those romance and X-rated movies were not seen on television, so young people had a longer period of innocence in their lives.

Back to 25 Years Ago Main Page

Commons Island Community History Visitor Center Goods & Services Search Messages

Copyright by Casado Internet Group, Belize