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The Famous Embarcaderos

Tell anybody who is 50 years or more the word “embarcadero”, and he will immediately carry his mind to the public toilets sitting over the lagoon 25 years ago. Young people today do not know that type of “embarcadero”. There is a famous embarcadero in Mexico known as Xochimilco, which is a waterway and tourist attraction. There the embarcadero is a beautiful wharf with large canoes or rafts and you are taken for a ride with mariachis and music, photographers, flowers, food and souvenirs. The place is really romantic and picturesque-a true tourist attraction, sort of like floating gardens.

The embarcaderos we had 25 years ago were a pain in the neck. There was one at each street leading westward towards the lagoon. They were known as Embarcadero de Don Polo, de don Cleto, de Emilio, de don Match and El embarcadero de Pablito. The names given were of the persons living at the end of that street leading to the embarcadero.

The embarcaderos were, to begin with, dump sites. The villagers disposed of house garbage, building debris, and other waste at the embarcadero. They threw waste on both sides of the street all the way up to the lagoon and even partly into the water. It was not until the small pathway was closing up with garbage that the village council had it burnt, raked, and pushed and cleared. To give you an idea of the location of the embarcaderos the first one extended all the way from Juvini’s bar to Thunderbolt’s dock. On the other side of the soccer field was the second one extending all the way from the Azueta residence to the lagoon. And so it was at every street leading to the lagoon all the way to CaribeƱa and the butane gas company.

The embarcaderos were very practical for the small population of some 500. The men usually threw the garbage up on the pile, but children would drop it anywhere, even on the path. Children practised their shooting skills with sling shots by shooting and breaking bottles. Some men actually cleaned the area when they went to throw garbage, but when it was overfull and some six feet high, it was burnt. It was like a celebration when the embarcadero was burnt because people, by nature, seems to like to see fires. Children would go to the site of the fire to throw stones and enjoy the spectacle of the sparks flying in the air. Of course there were no houses in those areas at that time so there was no danger of any house catching fire.

You might ask, why an embarcadero or dump site so close to the village. Well, it was a population of some five hundred and the practice probably started with someone throwing garbage in his backyard. Then others joined in. Also there were no vehicles then so it was not possible to take it far away. You simply picked up your bucket or wheelbarrow and took it to the dumpsite. However, on a positive note, the garbage helped fill up the swampland along those areas. A large part of the soccer field was filled up like that, and then some fill was spread over it to make it a good playing field. By the way, an embarcadero is the Spanish word for wharf. It is a place for embarking or disembarking into a boat. Were there wharfs there? Yes, there were, but that is for another story of Twenty Five Years Ago. See you next week with that.

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