Twenty-five years ago, and that would be in the 1940's and 50's, people in San Pedro absolutely wore no shoes. The sole of men's feet were so thick you would think that they could walk over burning coal. The feet were so thick and strong that the boys of San Pedro were teased that they could play football with coconuts. The feet of the men were generally wide, so wide that when they wanted to use shoes, their feet could not fit into the shoes.
You would think that with such thick and sturdy feet, not even the burrs would penetrate them. Yet, I want to assure you that these feet were vulnerable and from time needed protection. For example, if they walked bare-footed on the reef, and very often they did, their feet would be injured by the sea urchins or "herizos" as they were called. If they were walking in the shallow sea with their cast nets, their feet were vulnerable to the sting of the stingray. Also many Sanpedranos were coconut farmers, or cleaned the bushes in the properties of the big landowners. There their feet were at the mercy of the infamous "espinos" or burrs.
To protect their feet from the burrs the men used to make a type of shoes or sandals called "apargatas". Come to think of it, yes they were sandals. They were fabricated with the rubber tires. And you would ask where in the world they would get tires at a time when there were no vehicles in San Pedro. Well, they would be brought to San Pedro from Belize City. And believe it or not, from time to time a tire would drift to the beach of the island. Whenever that happened, the Sanpedranos were all too happy to take the tire home, and cut it into small sections about the size of a person's foot. To make the sandals you place your feet on the piece of rubber cut from the tire and you marked the shape of the foot. You then proceeded to cut the shape out and once you had that, you bore three holes using an ice pick, or nail or any sharp pointed object. One of the holes was at the spot between the big toe and the second one. The other two holes were about halfway on the sides. Once the holes were bored, you placed some string or strips of cloth through the holes and these strings were used to fasten the sandals unto the feet. And there you have it, a brand new pair of homemade sandals called "apargatas". These sandals lasted a lifetime because they were made of half-inch thick rubber and were only used in the bush to protect the feet from the burrs.
Another technique that our fathers used to teach us to protect our feet from the burrs was to bury the feet in the sand and as you walked among the burrs, you dragged your feet along still buried in the sand. That way the burrs could not enter the sole of the feet, as they were on the surface of the sand, and the feet were underground.
So there you had the manner of protecting the feet twenty-five years ago. The bushmen were not only skilled with their machetes but were able to fabricate some type of crude shoes or sandals to protect the feet. It can be ironically said that even though men did not wear shoes back then, there were shoemakers before they wore shoes.
YOU KNOW YOU ARE AN OLD TIMER SANPEDRANO IF
Whenever you used to think of shoes, you first thought that those painful blisters. Easter was coming and you thought of wearing your one and only pair of shoes and you fret over those “sure to come” blisters. Don’t laugh but most men were limping by the end of the Good Friday Holy procession. Christmas was approaching and again you were encouraged to wear your shoes to the dance but you worried of those blisters developing even before the end of the dance. And the worst scenario was when you had to make a trip to Belize City. You fret for one whole week thinking about those blisters that would kill you throughout the day. To tell the truth most boys and men preferred to go to the dance barefooted and regarding the city trip, some chose to walk the city streets, (only Albert and Queen Streets) without shoes. Why only those streets? Because that was all the San Pedranos knew and those were the only two streets where they did their shopping or visited a doctor. I remember the folks of the city laughing at the caye boys or the paña boys (Spanish boys) walking without shoes in the city.