On my walk down the beach I witnessed an incident that reminded me so much on the early days of tourism, and I’ll tell you why.
“Señorita, señorita, se le olvido su sun tan,” said one of the waiters of Rico’s Restaurant at Banyan Bay to a young U.S. tourist. I stopped to see what would happen. The young man smiled as the young lady turned around and walked to receive her bottle of sun tan lotion.
“Señorita,” I teased, “It is nice that you understand Spanish in San Pedro. And then I told the young man, “It’s nice that you speak Spanish to the visitors, but learning some English would be fine too. Both the waiter and the visitor took it in good spirit and smiled contentedly. Then she said, “Gracias, amigo.” Oh, she spoke pretty good Spanish too.
I remembered twenty five years ago in the 1960’s when tourism was just commencing in San Pedro. The average fisherman who was then turning to tourist guiding had limited knowledge of the English language. They understood simple straightforward English with a small vocabulary, and they could bite their way through and communicate with the tourists with as simple words as possible.
Actually it was impressively good considering the limited English the Sanpedranos had been exposed to. It was only the little bit spoken by the primary school teachers who came from Belize City or Stan Creek because the local teachers opted to communicate in Spanish too.
Then there were the reading books which were in English that gave us some exposure. No television, no novels, limited radio, no one to practice with.
So the early tourist guides – Abel, Gaby, Jose, Pete Graniel, Pete Ayuso, Adolfito Ayuso, Don Luz, Ramon, Toto, Secun, Gil, Juancito, Pancho, and few others did extremely well communicating with tourists in “perfectly broken English”. I guess the tourists enjoyed our broken English and our accent too.
I must congratulate all Sanpedrano tourist guides for raising their level of English on their own initiative and effort.
The next thing that came to mind is the fact that many tourists do speak Spanish, so it is nice to talk to them in Spanish occasionally. And most important, it is wise not to speak bad about them or make negative remarks because they might very well know Spanish which is a universal language too.
And finally, I do want to comment on the fact that tourists appreciate this honesty expressed by the young waiter at Rico’s Grill at Banyan Bay. In the past I have known of cases where tourists leave their purse, wallet, sun shades, cameras, etc. and they are impressed with this honesty. Twenty Five Years Ago invites everyone to continue with this hospitable and honest tradition set by our ancestors 25 years ago.
– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist