"Yes, I'd like the Road Pizza, please, with extra shrimp..."
Friday morning about 8 AM, 5 December 2003 -- Santa Rosa Village
A fully-loaded 20-ton semi-rig is speeding through the village, loses
the curve, and overturns.
Friday morning about 9 AM, 5 December 2003 -- Maya Centre Village
Here in the South of Belize we have an increasing number of shrimp
farms. While the ecological effects of these operations are (or ought
to be) of grave concern, the economic benefits are undeniable as they
bring more jobs and higher wages to rural southern Belize.
To include the transport sector, as more trucks are needed to ply the
newly paved Southern Highway with huge loads of fresh, iced shrimp.
This morning, just an hour or so ago as I write, one such truck -- a
fully loaded 20 ton long-bed semi-rig -- chose to overturn right in the
middle of Santa Rosa Village; a Maya settlement about ten miles south of
where I live, in Maya Centre Village (a.k.a. Cockscomb).
The bad part is that the driver was dead at the scene -- no seatbelt, of
course (Belize does have a seatbelt law, but I've only ever seen
Belizeans wear seatbelts when I force them to in my own vehicle) -- and
recklessly speeding. In fact, the first news of the incident up here
was when local boys saw the body heading north in the back of a Police
But then, within minutes, the *real* news reached our village: tons
upon tons of fresh shrimp sitting right on the highway in the middle of
Santa Rosa Village. And you can bet the news was spreading southward at
the same pace.
We called the Santa Rosa Community phone to verify the tale. Everybody
dropped whatever they were doing and, grabbing buckets, headed south in
great haste with whatever vehicles were available.
Even my little red car was commandeered ;-), and I am, even now, minding
the house and awaiting the return of this strange harvest...
.. . .
About 10 AM
The first of the foragers has just now returned, and I am seriously
regretting having stayed behind, as it is evidently quite a scene in the
village of Santa Rosa this morning.
People are calling it "Shrimp Christmas."
Sadly, I have a hard time feeling sympathy for the driver who lost his
life, as he lost control of his rig in the curve right in the middle of
Santa Rosa Village, in a school zone, while children were on the road
walking to school. It's an easy curve: he must have been driving very
fast for his load. It is with great relief that I report that no
children were hurt.
OK, now to the fun part...
Picture the scene: approximately 20 tons (!) of iced shrimp, tipped over
the highway, right in the middle of a Maya Village.
[Now, the road ditches down here are quite literally large enough to
drive a pickup in, with the roof below pavement level -- they don't call
it rainforest for nothing!]
The ditch is completely filled, over the top and overflowing the roadbed
with iced shrimp. Word has by now reached for 30 miles in each
direction, and already at least six villages are represented by gangs of
bucket-, shovel- and bag-wielding natives, with more arriving by the
minute. Pickups which happen upon the scene pull over -- and shrimp are
shoveled, scooped, tossed by hand, by hat, whatever -- into the open
beds. Even the regular schedule transport busses stop in the middle of
their runs, and the drivers and passengers bail out and begin loading up
the busses, right on the floor, under the seats, wherever.
The poor, foolish driver is long forgotten. A sizeable crew from the
shrimp company involved arrives to recover what they can of the
equipment and packing crates. Then the crew pitches in with shovels and
helps everyone else load up before the bounty spoils.
That's right, the shrimp company is paying its workers to help all
comers to load up with free shrimp. When asked why, the super is quoted
as saying "Well, we can't sell it, and why let it go to waste?"
Our gang, headed up by my driver Daniel and Yoli, the mistress of the
house, took a relatively modest quota and left early: one 5 gallon
bucket and half-a-dozen plastic grocery bags full -- about 50 pounds;
market value: about $600 BzD -- well in excess of a month's wages for
the typical village family.
In Santa Rosa, perhaps the 5th of December will from now on be
celebrated as "Shrimp Christmas..."
.. . .
Epilogue: about 11 AM
Yoli's fingertips are already bleeding. She is cleaning the shrimp, and
their carapaces deliver little micro-cuts to the intruding finger. Yoli
is not yet even 1/4 the way through her modest haul. A neighbor is on
her way to help out, in exchange for a share of the spoils. The phone
rings; it's Yoli's mother, who just happens to live in Santa Rosa
Village, right next to the excitement. She has too many shrimp, her
freezer is jammed, she threatens her daughter with another 50 pounds.
Yoli says she might take them, but only if they're already cleaned!
And so supply has outstripped demand in the shrimp market in southern
Belize, as the value rapidly plummets from $12 to nil per pound. Pity
the poor fishmongers of Dangriga, Placencia and Punta Gorda who have
already paid (the former) market rate for their wares...
Author: Galena Canada (Miss Lena)