25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
The Cleanest Days of San Pedro
San Pedro has always been a pretty clean place. Back in the 1950ís the middle street, now Barrier Reef Drive was sandy white and clean of plastic cups and plates and bottles. The back street, now Pescador Drive was partly sandy with patches of grass. This street was also very clean since each villager was responsible of cleaning the area directly in front of his property. The patches of grass were kept trimmed but not too low so that the women could put their laundry to bleach overnight. You did not find any debris on that street either. In case you were negligent with your responsibility of cleaning up, when you noticed the next door neighbors cleaning up the street, you took shame and cleaned your area too. And if this did not work, the village council chairman (alcalde) gave you a little reminder that it was time to cleanup.
When a naughty boy occasionally broke a bottle on the street, any adult would scold him and ask him to pick it up. If he did not, the adult would and then report it to the childís father, who would surely give him a good whipping. A few dogs also littered the street from time to time, and it was simply a custom for any adult to take some sand and place it over the dropping. People were very particular and careful about dog poop because everybody walked barefooted and did not appreciated this poop within the toes.
Why was there very little garbage on the streets? First of all there were no plastic and disposable cups, plates and bottles in San Pedro back then. Now one would throw a pop bottle on the street because when you went to the store to purchase a pint of pop, or lemonade as it was called, you had to take a pint or the storekeeper would not sell you the refreshment. Pints were precious and valuable. There was no need for plastic plates and cups as there were absolutely no food vendors on the streets nor anywhere in the village. Nobody purchased any kind of bottled water or water in plastic bags. We only drank well water or rain water. To tell the truth, even some tin cans like the condensed milk can was carefully opened with a sharp can opener and the edges hammered flat so that it could be used as a vessel for drinking water.
Now the beach was perhaps the dirtiest area in the village with all the seaweed and logs and sticks and some plastics that drifted on the shore from day to day. Those that lived on the beach did try to clean the beach but when seaweed was drifting it did so for many days and weeks and at times months. It was difficult to have absolutely clean beaches. However, during the month of December and January when the northerly winds were blowing, the people used to simply rake all the seaweed and debris into the sea and let the northerly currents take the garbage. Were did it go, we never knew, but we raked the beaches immaculately clean and we did so gleefully. So, when was San Pedro at its cleanest 25 years ago? It was around Christmas time and the month that followed. As long as there was northerly wind blowing, we kept cleaning for there was no need for a truck or boat to carry the debris anywhere. The north winds did the cleaning 25 years ago.