Outhouses on the Lagoon

wenty five years ago San Pedro had five "embarcaderos." Do children today know what is an embarcadero?

If you go to the lakes around Mexico City, in an area known as Xochimilco, there are beautiful embarcaderos. There, the embarcadero is a wharf or place where you get on board a large canoe of raft and you are towed along the lake. There are mar;achis and music, photographers, flowers, food, and souvenirs. The place is really romantic and picturesque - a true tourist attraction, sort of like the floating gardens of Florida. I low I wish our embareaderos were like that.

The embarcaderos we had 25 years ago were a pain in the neck. There was one at each street leading westward towards the lagoon. They were known as Embarcadero de don Polo, Embarcadero de don Cleto, Embarcadero de Emilio, Embarcadero de don Match, and Embarcadero de Pablito. The names given were of the persons living at the end of that street.

The embarcaderos were to begin with, a dump site. The villagers disposed of house garbage, building debris, and other waste at the embarcadero, throwing waste on both sides of the street all the way up to the lagoon. It was not until the small pathway was closing up, that the village council had it burnt, raked, pushed and cleared. Then the "barcadero" as we called it was ready to receive more garbage for a year or two.

At the end of the street right at the water edge, a small jetty or pier was built, and at the end of the pier there was a public toilet. It would seat two or three adults at any given time and the faeces "landed" right in the water.These public toilets or latrines were used by men only, the women using the outdoor latrines in the backyard. Boys also used the yard facilities until old enough for them to go to the public one at age 8 or 10.

Nobody talks about the embarcaderos without remembering the fish called X'pinta (pronounced eshpinta). These fish ate the faeces and were thus abundant at the sites of the latrines.

Innocent or ignorant - but some children did fish from some of these piers throwing their lines as far into the la- goon as possible and caught snappers, grunts and shad. Most parents would not eat fish from the embarcadero, and quite understandable for health reasons. But the fishermen who came with their large catch also docked at the pier and cleaned fish and processed it right there dipping the fish in the water to clean it off.

About the year 1978 to 1980, some 20 years ago when I was a member of the Village council, we closed down these public latrines with no opposition from the villagers. Most people had septic tanks, but the tradition persisted in a few. What was more difficult to close were the dumpsites because the people had no alternative. It was not until the village council initiated a garbage collection system that the embarcadero dumpsites were leveled. Fine homes now stand at those places.

Many other memories come to mind concerning the embarcadero. Perhaps you can ask around. A few fights, some love affairs (the clandestine ones) and other mischief occurred there. Hate messages were written on the walls and don't ask if a three-hour rain caught you there. Many times if you caught a friend in there and you remember something to revenge, you could take a coconut or a stick and splash some water from underneath. You can imagine the rest of the atrocious incidents. But we can safely say today, "Thank God the embarcaderos are history."

Back to 25 Years Ago Main Page

Commons Island Community History Visitor Center Goods & Services Search Messages AIM Info

Copyright by Casado Internet Group, Belize