25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Life with a Small Population
How was life in the village of San Pedro with a small population, say of about five hundred persons? This is how it was in the 1950’s. There were some 75 students in the primary school, no high school, no discotheque, no traffic, not even bicycles. Was life pretty much the same as it is today? I am not talking about life in general because we know that technology has changed that, but simply life with a small population.
In a small village, first of all, everyone knew each other by name, profession, family and perhaps even by age and other ways. Passing someone without saying, “Hello” or “Good Morning” was a sign that one was in a bad mood or some problem was brewing up. Perhaps the person had heard a gossip and was angry at you. And because everyone knew one another, everyone was concerned when someone was born or even died. There were about five births each year and each one was an event in itself. People died about once every five years and when it happened, everyone grieved. If there was a party or dance scheduled for that day of the funeral, it would be cancelled with due respect to the bereaved family. You would never have a wake at one home and a party right next door as we do today. I really mean it when I say that everyone cared for each other; beautiful, right?
On the negative side, because everyone knew each other, everyone got into your business and there was a lot of gossip for the same reason. If a man was cheating on his girlfriend, everyone knew it by the next day. If a girl made the mistake and took a drink or beer, everyone talked about it the next day and her reputation would be tarnished very badly in the entire village. However on the positive side, because we knew each other, we cared more for one another. Anybody could leave his house unattended without the fear of someone breaking in. We could sleep with wide-open windows without the fear of being attacked or robbed. No one feared that his children were out a little late in the streets (eight or nine p.m.) because there were no evil people out there, only friends and relatives. One could leave her laundry on the clothesline overnight without the fear of losing her precious laundry pieces, especially those precious flour bag bleached underwear. All fishermen left their outboard motors right on the skiff’s sterns. Nobody bothered them.
It was quite a different lifestyle and mood in San Pedro Village when the population was only five hundred, right? Now the song taught to us by a primary school principal makes sense. The song said: “No man is an island. No man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me. Each man’s grief is my own.” We all sang this song at school and it made a lot of sense. How I wish I could sing this song today with the same meaning. We are ten thousand strong and all powerful and invincible and only sometimes a man’s grief is my own. We have become a bit cold and indifferent. There is funeral in town and a big celebration next door. It is not wrong. It is only a bit different from what is used to be twenty five years ago.