Don Lucio Guerrero relives the past
by Dorian Nuñez
He was seated in his favorite chair in the living room of his house watching the afternoon news on Univision. His neatly, combed wet hair, talcum covered neck and relaxed mood told me that he had just taken his afternoon shower. He seemed tired. His skin was a dark tan and his lips red; signs of hard work in the scorching sun. He had just come home from a day's work at sea catching lobsters. That was his job. I do not fish any more," he said. "My fishing days are over. I now make a living with the money I get from the lobsters I catch and the apartments that I have downstairs." Time has not slowed down Don Lucio; he is still looking strong.
Lucio Guerrero was born in San Pedro on April 22nd, 1930. Sixty eight years ago Severo and Romana Guerrero gave birth to a baby boy who would become a very important and integral part of San Pedro Town. He would become a religious and admirable icon to San Pedro. Shortly after he was born his parents moved to their new home that was about two miles from San Pedro Village. His father owned a "cocal" (ranch) south of the village, the area which is now known as San Telmo near Banyan Bay Villas.
"I felt quite isolated living so far from town," said Don Lucio. He and his family seldom commuted to the village. Only on special occasions would he come to town to spend the day and sometimes only a few hours with his family. He had very few friends growing up so far from the village and it was only around the age of seven, when he started school, that he started making a few more friends. His father brought him down to school in the morning and expected Don Lucio to be ready when he came to pick him up in the afternoon.
I was a little rascal when I was a kid, I mean which kid isn't?" he hesitated and gave a small grin. "I got my beating or two for being late. I wanted to stay in the village after school to play with my friends, but my father was very strict. I had to go home." Don Lucio commented that he was good at English and that he was the best reader in his class. He was not a good mathematician but his reading skills were excellent.
Without electricity or any other form of entertainment Don Lucio found ways to entertain himself through the long hours of the day that he spent in the cocal. One of his favorite past times was collecting hermit crabs on the beach. He mentioned about "las playadas" which are objects that are beached along the shore. Some of the things that ended up on the beach were rubber blocks, lumber, gasoline, margarine, lard and even powdered milk. These were cargo shipment that were lost at sea during rough weather or when ships sunk.
"Can you believe that even torpedoes and grenades used to wash ashore?" exclaimed Don Lucio. He stretched out his hand and showed me a scar on his arm and a finger that was swollen at the joint. When he was about twelve, he was out playing on the beach and he picked up a grenade that exploded on his hand. He was taken to Belize City, a trip that took more than 6 hours, where he stayed in the hospital for about a month. "I was so scared," he said. " I did not know what had happened. All I knew was that I was bleeding and was slipping in and out of consciousness after being on the boat for so long." He had injured his finger and lost his hearing temporarily.
Don Lucio's father, Don Severo, was a musician and Don Lucio remembers following his father to the village where Don Severo used to play for the fiestas. He clearly re- members "La Fiesta de San Pedro" which was one of his favorite events. The announcing of the festival took place on the 211 of June at about three in the morning. An orchestra would play "aires", "corridas" and the "danzon", which were traditional Mexican/Mestizo music. Dia de San Pedro was a big celebration with dance and food, much like what it is today but with certain differences. Don Lucio explained that the houses were decorated and homemade flags were strung across the streets. The richer people of the village would raise the British flag, or the "Union Jack" like everybody called it, to show their patronage. Novenas were also a very important part of the celebrations. About 80 to 90 percent of the village attended these novenas. "The people of San Pedro were a lot more devoted to the church back then," said Don Lucio. "It is a beautiful thing that I have seen deteriorating throughout the years."
The Fiesta was normally held in the center of the village where central park is situated. "There were booths called "Tamazulas" where food was sold," he said. "Back then the traditional Belizean food was not rice and beans, or at least it wasn't on the island. The booths sold traditional Mexican foods like, Escaveche, Mondongo and Relleno. Those were the foods that everybody liked."
When he got out of school he started to work with his father on their coconut farm. Coconut farming was a very hard job. He had to work in very harsh terrain, early in the morning until late in the afternoon, no matter what the weather conditions were.
"I had to cross waist-deep swamps with a bag of coconuts on my back trying to not get them wet," he said. "I had to get the coconuts from inland to the beach and then take them to the village by canoe. In addition to the swamps, he had to deal with mosquitoes, the blistering sun and the many storms that he had to brave underneath a palm tree. And then there was always the danger of coconuts falling on his head; a potential danger for head injuries.
Two years later he started fishing with his cousin. "Oh, fishing was a lot different from what it is now," he said with a sigh. "Fish was so much more abundant in those days. You did not have to go hunting for fish like you do now, the fish practically came to you. And it was not any particular fish, but all kinds of fish." He became very excited and started using hand gestures while he showed how he used to throw the cast net and fishing line into the sea. Don Lucio traveled to Corozal and Chetumal to sell his catch of the day and returned home with a good day's nay. He had to sell 100 fish to make 15 cents.
"It only took fifteen dollars to sustain a family for a week back then," he said with a sharp look on his face. "When I was coconut farming I had to sell 500 coconuts to make two dollars and fifty cents."
Don Lucio lived at his father's cocal for about 23 years and finally moved to the village after his eldest son Ramon was born. He and his wife, Angelita, am the proud parents o five, Ramon, Severo, Lourdes, Angelita and Mires. He is a man of a thousand words and he is always ready to help with whatever he can. Don Lucio is always helping the Roman Catholic Church and attends most of the town's events. Each year he participates in the Carnival Celebrations by helping the primary school children write songs for the "comparsas" or dances. He has warmed the hearts of many in San Pedro and San Pedro definitely has special place in his heart.