25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
The Village's Biggest Event
What would you say is the town’s biggest event today in San Pedro? Could it be the graduation of a particular school or Independence Day Celebration? Could it be Mother’s Day or Dia de San Pedro? Which is the event that the entire town prepares for and awaits with eager anticipation? Could it be the Costa Maya Festival?
Without a doubt, the greatest event in the 60’s and 70’s was the Annual General Meeting of the fishing cooperative, the Caribeña Producers Cooperative Society Ltd. This single event was attended and enjoyed by hundreds only, but that was the entire population of San Pedro. After the lobster season was closed in March, the administration started balancing books and finding out the profits for the fiscal year. Once this was done, the members were given their rebate or second payment. This amounted to thousands of dollars per fisherman and since the society was a cooperative, there were also substantial profits for the organization. Part of this profit was used to celebrate the annual general meeting.
At this meeting the members, about 200 of them, would receive a report by the manager of the year’s accomplishments, and this had to be done before the opening of the new lobster season, so it was celebrated usually in June. The ladies would be the first to start fine-tuning for the event, sewing their nice dresses. The gentlemen too went to the city to purchase their fine shirts and local tailors sewed their pants.
The actual general meeting would take place at the primary school, which was the largest building at the time. It would last several hours and ended with the election of President and new board of directors. Many big raffles would take place including an outboard motor, which was every fisherman’s dream to win.
Then the celebration began at about seven p.m. at central park. A big time musical band would be hired, usually Benito from Chetumal or Los Beliceños from Belize City. First all the children would be dancing and received treats of soft drinks, apples, bags of goodies, rice and beans, and even ice cream. Then at nine o’clock the children would be taken home and the ladies and gents took the floor. Between dancing they enjoyed beers and drinks. It was estimated that some 200 hundred cases of beer was consumed that night, and for a population of a thousand people, that was a lot of beer. I guess some people took the beer home and buried it for the weeks to follow. At the dance there would be wine for the ladies, and “food to stone dogs” as we used to say. Because it was a free for all party, all the people used to come out to celebrate. Of course there was a lot of food and to encourage the ladies and mothers to stay - sandwiches and coffee or hot chocolate was served in the wee hours like three in the morning. If a rain would come, that would not stop the celebration. It was until all the ladies were really tired that the crowd started diminishing.
If a big fight broke out, and they usually did, hell would break loose and the women would be in a hurry to take their men home so that they would not get involved. It was at these parties that you would hear, after one too many drinks, of how deep a fisherman could skin dive (an exaggerated 75 feet), or who stole from whom, which were the best fishing grounds, or about a fisherman who boasted having one hundred dollar bills neatly ironed and stocked under his mattress. These, of course, could easily start a fight and end the great celebration of the annual general meeting of one of Belize’s most prosperous cooperative at the time. Twenty Five Years Ago salutes the fishermen of the 1960’s and 70’s and really misses the good celebrations of the annual general meetings.