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Talk About Hardships Part 2

Whenever I think about hardships of the past I think about those Sanpedrano students who used to attend high school in Belize City, mostly at Saint John’s College. There are several things in their lives that were quite challenging and in a way a hard experience. Today the San Pedro youths have the pleasure of attending high school right here at home and those few who travel do not have any hardships to talk about.

To begin with in the 1950’s and 60’s, the students used to take the cargo boat, The Elsa P. to make their trip to Belize City. This was a 5 to 6 hour sailing trip sitting on top of bags filled with coconuts or lying on top of boxes filled with bottles. The trip to Belize City was at two in the morning and it arrived in Belize City about 8 a.m.

Now this trip took place in September for the commencement of classes and you did not get to return home until middle of December for the Christmas vacation, also by the same mode of transportation, except that on the return trip with the cargo boat, it was a ten to twelve hour ride. During this three-month stay in the city, the students were out of touch with their families. I am talking about guys like Beto Marin, Artemio Cardenez, Pete Salazar, Chico Gomez, Gonzalo Heredia, Wil Nuñez, Manuel Heredia (UDP Standard Bearer), Felipe Ancona, Fidel Ancona, and myself. Some of the ladies included Celi Nuñez McCorkle, Martha Nuñez Guerrero, Gloria Staines Guerrero, Iraida Staines Gonzalez, Isela Gonzalez, and Cruzita Salazar. We were able to write to our families once in a while and sent the letters by cargo boat because there was no post office in San Pedro, no airplanes, no telephones. So practically we were out of touch with our families. Occasionally mom or dad would visit and that was a delight. We were also out of touch with our girlfriends and boyfriends in San Pedro, and that was a real hardship in itself. Of course, most of the students had their boyfriends and girlfriends in Belize City, but that was not the same.

Another hardship experienced by the Sanpedrano students in the city was discrimination. We were discriminated because we were of our Mestizo descent. We were discriminated because we were from the caye. We were discriminated because our fathers were fishermen and of humble origin. We were discriminated because of the color of our skins. I remember some of my friends teasing us and calling us “red lobster” or “yellow belly paña”. (Paña meant Spanish) We were even discriminated because we could not talk Creole and because of our improper English accent. We used to say “peench” for pinch or “tak” for talk.

One of the biggest hardships I can recall is missing the sea. We Sanpedranos love the sea so much, and when we became nostalgic in the city, we would go swim at the Barracks area in the murky waters of Belize City. I recall Manuel Heredia and myself swimming in the little canal behind St. John’s College and later on we learned that there were crocodiles in that place. Then we missed the coconut water, walking barefoot, and sailing in our dories every Sunday.

We had our bikes in the city to go to school, and when they got punctured, we had to walk to school for we could not afford a taxi. Our weekly allowance was about five dollars or about fifty dollars for the entire term. With that we had to purchase school supplies, and treat ourselves to an ice cream or go to the movies and an occasional party. We all had to do some penny pinching. When it was the end of the term, I could not wait for my last exam on Thursday afternoon and jumped in the boat that same afternoon and sailed home to San Pedro. Here at home we felt like kings. Isn’t that right guys? For us education was a real sacrifice, and for the same reason we all valued education highly.

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