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No Electricity in San Pedro

Imagine a San Pedro without electricity. What would life be like without? No power for the refrigerators, no power for the electric fans or air conditioners. There would be no power to charge the golf cars or power to use the blenders at the bar. There would be no ice to refresh us or power to use the electric irons to keep us ooking sparkling clean and bright. Of course there would be no electric washing machines. And talk about the television, how many people would die without them? What would be the thing that you miss out the most when there is a power outage?

Do you know that in the 1950’s, (that is not too long ago) there was no 24-hour electricity in San Pedro? Even in the early 1960’s we had only limited hours of electricity. Can you imagine life back then? I can tell you because I was a small boy back then and I did not miss electricity one bit. Of course I must admit that I do miss it today.

What electric fan? We slept with our doors and windows open all night long, but of course, there were no thieves back then. If the night was too hot, some guys took out the hammock on the verandah or under the house and slept there. Our school was right by the sea so we had fresh sea breeze all day long. Hand fans were popular back then, but that was only occasionally. I still have a hand fan that I carry to church at times.

Which golf carts? The only way of transportation twenty five years ago was by foot. You can call it “footmobile”. If you needed to transport something heavy, we had our own fabricated wheelbarrows. To go along the coast like to Victoria House area, we used our little canoes with a rigged-up sail. No power needed – only a nice wind to carry you.

What refrigerator? They were not needed nor missed. Nothing was kept chilled. Fish and meats were salted to be preserved. Ice was brought occasionally from the city but used to sell fresco or shaved ice with syrup, not to chill things. Food was kept warm over the fire hearth, not chilled in a refrigerator. And when the fridges did come into being, there were powered by kerosene, not electric power.

You are kidding if you think of blenders, food processors, or mixers. By hand you could mash up the beans and potatoes and come up with a product just as fine and delicious as you would with a blender. There were no mixed drinks. The bar man sold you a shot of white rum and you drank it anyway you wanted – straight, with some red Fanta or pop. Rum and coke did not come until the 1970’s. Cold beer was available only at special occasions like weddings.

What electric water pump? No man, the water was pulled up out of a well by a pail or bucket. A lot of kids took their shower right by the well or in the “batellas” where mom did the laundry. There was no shortage of water because of lack of electricity. And the water from the wells was good for everything- washing, bathing, cooking and yes for drinking. I was raised with water from our shallow wells and never suffered from any kind of diarrhea. We found it delicious and preferred it over rain water, which we believed was contaminated from bird droppings or fecal decay if you wish.

Which electric irons? We used to have a set of some six steel irons that were heated over a hot plate over the fire. When one got cold, you placed it back on the hot plate and used another one. They kept us looking as sharp as a banker or executive. And to tell you the truth, the fishermen back then loved white clothing and their clothing was processed with starch. Clothing was stiff and needed a lot or ironing.

Electric washing machines! You must be kidding. It was all by hand, my friend. There was the scrubbing board, but the Mestizos of San Pedro believed that was the black man’s way of washing. The Sanpedranos, who were mostly Mestizos, used the “batella”. That was a flat container with an edge looking more or less like a sink in today’s kitchen and the cleaning of clothes was done by rubbing by plain hands. A few used a brush to help in the scrubbing.

I know, most people would die today without a television. With no electricity there was no television. We never missed it. We had our little radios and listened to the news and a few radio telenovelas or soap operas. All those romance and X-rated movies were not seen on television, so young people had a longer period of innocence in their lives.

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