25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Who was King -
Man or Animal?
Indeed the world changes and so do customs and traditions, laws, events, even people. And all of this comes to mind with the recent article by Ambergris Today informing and perhaps cautioning us that there is at least one large shark and several vicious crocodiles roaming too close to town, too close to swimming areas.
What plan of action will be taken on this report is unknown to us at this time but it will be all up to our town council leaders, our area representative, the tourist guides, the few fishermen, the SAGA society or some other people who are loud exponents of their ideas and feelings.
Twenty five years ago when fishermen were processing fish for fillet near the village, the scent of blood and abundance of food attracted sharks to the vicinity of the village. Whenever fishermen heard of sharks roaming too close to the swimming grounds of children and the villagers, one or two concerned fishermen went out with a harpoon and killed these beasts. They were considered genuine heroes, and the villagers even thanked them for that.
Crocodiles (we called them alligators at that time) occasionally came in the lagoon too close to the village. Again, fishermen would not tolerate these animals to pose a risk at any children swimming in the sea or lagoon.
Immediately a few concerned fishermen took up their harpoons and hunted for these giant beasts. They were killed and the skin was sold to some city merchants engaged in this business. And once again these fishermen were considered heroes.
Pot lickers, or the common dogs, have always existed on the island. Some were kept in yards while others were tied, but all of them were kept clean. However, when these dogs became abundant on the island, were roaming the streets without a master, were causing annoyance, or became dangerous with their bites, the health department was notified by the village alcalde and a team was sent out to poison and exterminate them.
Some conscious dog owners, who did not want the dog population to grow out of proportion, did the job themselves by placing newborn puppies into sacks or crocus bags and dumping them into the lagoon. Never was there a cat extermination campaign, but owners eliminated them in the same manner.
Other animals that the villagers took into their own hands were raccoons. Raccoons were never taken as pets but rather as pests because they stole fish and chickens from the villagers. If caught, they were killed too. Boa constrictors, or for that matter any snake, were considered dangerous animals and villagers wasted no time in picking up a stick, heavy object, or machete to exterminate the winding and pervert beast that was considered unfriendly and dangerous to humans.
Strangely enough chickens were also killed but for delicious plates. Pigeons were raised but never killed because they were considered sacred and good pets. Pigs were raised and butchered for ‘chicharon’ and pork and all the good stuff.
Manatee was hunted and killed for its meat. Small sharks have always been a delicacy for “empanadas” or panades. Rats have always been considered pests and killed immediately. The only difference of today and 25 years ago was that back then you did not have to ask permission from anyone and no one felt guilty of doing what he had to do. In fact he considered it an obligation to the village and an honorable thing to do.