The Chiclero that extracted the chewing gum that the world chewed with much gusto
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Tuesday April 10, 2018

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Hector Silva
I have served my country in all elected capacities. Mayor, Legislator, Minister of government and Senator. I was born a villager of Carmelita, todays Santa Familia. My hobby all my life has been to research and research in order to find the truth.
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The Chiclero that extracted the chewing gum that the world chewed with much gusto

This was a hard and dangerous manner how hundreds of men earned a living. This employment had to be when the rainfall began, as the resin flow better better. So, these men, as you see in this picture, had to withstand the dangers of falling from the tree, the mosquitos, and other insects and bugs (Many died from snake bite), to produce CHEWING GUM FOR THE CHEWERS.

We were next door neighbors to the A. Figueros, and everytime the chicle men would reach from the bush my sisters and I would run to the Figueroas under a shed where the men were boiling the chicle. They would cut piece off the big block and give us to chew. We had to chew,chew,chew, to spit out the milk.then we could enjoy our chicle (Then the chicle would have no flavor). That was about our only chewing gum growing up. But oh for those days!

Photo 1:
THESE ARE THE CHICLE BLOCKS READY FOR THE EXPORT MARKET.

This was the second largest Industry in the building of our Economy and the Industry that employed more Belizeans than any other.

This chicle was mostly sold to the Wrigley Company that owned the owners of the Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs Many are wondering, what became of this large Industry.

MY ONLY ANSWER IS, - Hurricane Hattie which destroyed most of the Sapodila Trees.-- and synthetic Gums that were introduced..

Photo 2:
The Chiclero that extracted the chewing gum that the world chewed with much gusto

This is one of the most extensive and SAD STORIES in the history of Belize. It took me many years to reach into the belly of this industry.

The story is long, but I will give a tip view of this important STORY, which I have recorded at length.

CHICLEROS were hired men, who had to work in the jungles of Belize for SIX MONTHS without coming home. - BY LAW .. CHICLEROS worked during rainy months, because this was the season when the SAP of the ( sapodilla ) Chicle trees run freely.

CHICLEROS were the victims of snakes, mosquitos, doctor flies,- wasps - biting ants, scorpions and even Wild Animals.

BUT CHICLEROS were in danger that up on the tree, if he made the slightest mistake with that RAZOR SHARP machete, and touch that suspention rope, he would be a dead man.

BUT the worse danger facing the CHICLEROS were those professional KILLERS who were allegedly hired to shoot them down while on the tree top.

IN THOSE DAYS COMPENSATION DID NOT EXISTED, so a Chiclero's body if it was found,it was transported like cargo to be burried by a poor family. - His chicle LOST I have a written a book,on one of Belize;s HERO of hundreds of Chicleros he saved.

Photo 3:
THIS SHOWS THE COMPLETE PROCESS OF CHICLE EXTRACTION from top to bottom

The Chiclero cuts NEAT channels on the bark of the Sapodila Tree. ( neat because if not clear cuts the resin remains under the bark pf the tree.

Then the Chicle Resin flows neatly down the tree, to full a rubber coated bag.

Then In the evening the resin is collected and taken to camp for the cooking process.

The chiclero had to be very careful that his machete does not slip and cut the tense rope - ( he would be a dead man )

Photo 4:
COOKING THE CHICLE RESIN IS THE FINAL PROCESS

Then it was moulded into blocks fort he export market. Here is a Maya man doing the cooking ( look like my friend Tanico)

This cooking was an art. Good fire and water, while stirring or it gets over cooked. and lost.

Photo 5:
HERE IS A CREOLE MAN ALSO COOKING HIS PRODUCT

This goes to show that this industry employed people of all Ethnic Groups. -Careful cooking ..

COMMENTS:

I was a chicerio from the age of 12 to the age of 28. I passed through rough expèriences in the jungle from july to February with out seeing my family for 7 months. My brother accidentally cut his rope and fell approximately 40ft from a tree and I had to walk 2 days and 2 nights to get help. My father was also a chiclero and died on the job from a bitten by a yellow jaw and died wen i was only 7 years old. And because jobs were scarce i had to follow his footsteps. Being a chiclero is rough! It takes a real man to be a chiclero.

One of the by-products of the Resin: Use up to now and will never fade off the shelves. My father was a damn good chiclero I witnessed him making a bag ( laundry style) out of the resin it was strong well made and prevented moisture from seeping in

When there is not sufficient water in the jungle to cook the Resin, the POOR COOK have to invite his friends to donate their URINE, so as not to loose the PRODUCT . ( But like how Seferino Coleman would say, " THIS DA BETWEEM YOU AND ME "

The mayas of southern Belize also were a part of the chiclero havesting. There were lots of stories from those that went to camp out for days.

Photographs courtesy Hector Silva

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