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What are "Faginas"?

In the 1950 and 60’s we did not have a lot of committees in San Pedro, but things still got done in the small laid-back fishing village. We did not have the Lions Club nor the tourist guide association. Neither did we have a PTA, a Red Cross, youth groups, Chamber of Commerce, Costa Maya Committee, British Bulldogs, sports association, Saga Society, Cancer Society, etc. We did not even have a PUP nor NIP nor UDP committee. So how did things get done?

Things did get done. The village was clean, beautiful, and there were sports, and help for people whenever there was a need. The beach, cemetery, streets, park, and even schools were assisted by the villagers in a program similar to work-a-thons called “faginas”. For a “fagina”, the bell was rung and people congregated at the central park. There the village leader, usually the alcalde or the school principal or the policeman would explain what the need was. The Sanpedranos would then go ho0me, get the necessary equipment and proceed to the work site to get the job done.

Typical “faginas” were called to clean the cemetery. This was done two or three times for the year, but especially so in October since the following month was “El Mes de las Animas” or the month for the souls. Other “faginas” were called to cut the weeds at Central Park, the baseball field, or some overgrown yard that was in the center of town and was a sore eye in the village. I remember going out with my dad to weed around the Catholic Church and the primary school. Sometimes the men were even called to repair the public latrines that stood at the end of a pier over the lagoon on the West Side of the village.

The one big job that required a well-organized “fagina” was the cleaning of the baseball field, or “La Plaza” as it was popularly called. There was no equipment with the village council nor with the sports teams. However, there were two baseball teams, Los Halcones and Los Rebeldes and they led the way for the “fagina” The rest of the village men and boys joined in the cleaning of the field because baseball was the main entertainment for the village. Sometimes this “fagina” would last four or five days.

Generally speaking the cooperation was very good among the villagers. For example, when the “fagina” to clean the cemetery was called, even the wives urged the men to go for it was like a sacred duty. And if it meant cleaning the primary school yard, the moms would send the men if they had children in school. It was a duty and the men knew it. People got involved out of civic pride and that pride was passed down from generation to generation. Today the “fagina” is a dying tradition and our younger generation is not being taught the spirit of unselfish service, the spirit of civic pride, the spirit of giving without expecting something in return. They might turn out to be a generation of people with their hands stretched out asking for someone to spoon-feed them. O, let the “faginas” come back to life as they were twenty five years ago.

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

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