Life in San Pedro in Former Timesby Miriam Graniel
Miss Graniel is the winner of the Town Board sponsored writing competition based on an essay on life in San Pedro in former times. Miss Graniel is a student at San Pedro High School - Congratulations.
Whenever you talk to people old enough to remember or tell stories they were told, they would tell you about a poor small fishing and farming village. "What you mean by poor," one would ask them; and they would describe humble men with dirty khaki pants and long sleeved working jean shirts. They wore ragged straw hats, rolled their pants half way up their calves, and wore no shoes. To work in the bush, they wore locally made sandals made with thick rubber from tyres and rope. The women wore simple dresses down to their calves and wore no shoes either. The men smelled like fish or bush weeds and the women smelled like smoke due to the use of firewood and coconut husk in their little outdoor kitchens with the fire hearth.
According to my grandmother, people in San Pedro used to eat very simple food. They grated coconut and made coconut oil. With this they used to fry their fish which they caught with hand lines mostly. Special occasions were feasted with pork meat or poultry, both of which were grown in their yards. When a hog was killed, the meat was used for special dishes, the skin was fried for a crispy "chicharon", the guts and blood were used for "morcia" and the liver to make a dish called "higadia". As you can appreciate, pigs were very valuable and were raised in a very smelly pig pen and chickens were loose all over the yard.
Men worked either in the sea or in
the bush. The coconut farmer had to
collect up to 2000 coconuts from the
plantation and pile them up on the
beach where there was more breeze
and less mosquitoes. Then he had to
peel them all in one day. This would
earn him about 50 cents.
The fisherman would paddle or pole his dorey to some popular fishing spot and from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and he could fill up 2 or 3 buckets of fish. He could sell between 50 cents to one dollar a day or he could clean and salt the fish to preserve them. Then he would make a special trip to Belize City or Corozal town to sell his fish and this could earn him from 25 to 50 dollars during his 4 day trip. This was considered extremely lucky and good. San Pedro was a very quiet and passive little village in former days. With no telephone, no electricity no radios, there was very little to do after working hours. Well, some men would find a place to buy white rum and had their fun. Women would stay home and either sew or embroider as a hobby. Dances were very seldom, maybe Christmas and Easter. However, many people recall La Banda de San Pedro which was the pride and joy of San Pedro. "Las Mestizadas" was a famous festival celebrated by our Mestizo ancestors when the men returned from their chicle or logwood cutting trips to the mainland. Everyone looked forward to Las Mestizadas like we do for the Sea and Air Festival today.
San Pedro had its good times and
hard times. People tell us that once
there was an epidemic that killed
dozens of people. There were also
hurricanes like in 1931 and 1942 and in
the 50's. These hurricanes completely
leveled the village thatch houses, but
there again, with a little effort, the
thatch houses were rebuilt in a matter
of weeks, not with insurance money
but with a few trips to the bush. Some
people also recall me of the good
times. First was when the Mestizos
settled here in 1848. Another great
moment was when the Blakes bought
the island in 1873. Still another great
moment as in the 1930's when La
Banda won the national competition
and the 40's when the villagers left for
Panama and the U.S.A. during World
II. Other great moments were in the
1960's when the fishing cooperative
was founded, 1965 when tourism
started, 1971 when the government
acquired all the land for the villagers
and 1981, our independence. San
Pedro is very much still a Mestizo
community with Mestizo people,
Mestizo culture and a sense of pride
in its past, its roots, and its future.
Que viva San Pedro!