25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Toughest Time in Fisherman’s Life
After the Christmas and New Year’s vacations, our tourists are returning home to their daily routines. The children are returning to school and so families must return home. Therefore, there is a slight lull in San Pedro after the vacations.
Twenty five years ago there was a similar lull in the village life, and one that really made things tough for our poor fishermen, especially our poor skin divers.
In the 1960’s and 70’s the fishermen used to arrive with their final load of crayfish for the year around the 19th or 20th of December. They delivered their produce, cleaned and parked the boat and took a quick trip to either Belize City or Chetumal in Mexico for the Christmas goodies.
The 24th and 25th were spent in Christmas jolly and a good spree or “paranda”, as they called it, could easily run all the way up to the 28th. Around this time the fishing cooperative used to make payments of what was called the “second payment”.
This was a rebate or back pay from the profits of the previous year. If the produce was high and the export market-buying price was good, a rebate could mean up to $10,000 to any given fisherman. I would say that would be equivalent to some $50,000. Therefore as you can expect, Christmas time with all its rebates was a real bonanza for the Sanpedrano fisherman.
On the 31st of December the fisherman was out celebrating once again and the New Year called for similar celebration. Some of the terrible “borracho fishermen” used to extend this party until the third or so.
And here is the tough part. The fisherman must now make preparations for departure for another fishing expedition. On the 4th they used to load up the ice in the iceboxes. On the 5th they made the food provisions.
Some members of the crew reported sick or still drunk, so it was not possible to set sail yet. The single men in the crew found it tough leaving the girlfriends, so they asked the boat captain for another day. By then it was perhaps Saturday, so they captain made the decision to set sail until Monday.
And so it was that the fishermen of the past finally left the island for another fishing expedition until the 8th or 9th of January. That means that the boat was parked for at least 20 days. Some of the men has lost their sun burnt dark skins and had clear skins. That would mean a painful trip because they would peel like lizards.
And after the departure of the 25 or so fishing boats and some 150 fishermen, the village of San Pedro went into a lull. Life was boring. The wives and girlfriends were like in mourning. The bars were empty and some of them did not even open for business for a few days. You did not see people on the streets except for the few children going to the primary school.
Village life returned to the normal slow pace and laid back atmosphere that characterized San Pedro 25 years ago. The big difference is that today the money is in the hands of the business places and the banks. There were no banks in the 1960’s, so where was all the money?