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Communicating The Island Way

What do these have in common- post cards, wedding invitations, newspapers, radio, television, computers, telephones, and chalkboards and smoke? They are all forms of communication, right? Well, you might not readily conceive how smoke is a form of communication, but do you remember the smoke signals sent by Indians? Okay, now you’ve got it.

This week Ambergris Today celebrates its 10th anniversary as a communication media in San Pedro, Belize and the world. It informs of the joys and sorrows affecting San Pedro and the world, from the celebration of a special occasion and special deals offered by local businesses to the intricacies of politics and policies affecting our lives..

And then I reminisce how it was that people communicated their messages twenty five years ago, well, in the 1950’s, let’s say. Here is an authentic replica of an invitation to Nurse Nathalie’s farewell party before she left to get married in England. This invitation was not handwritten in large numbers, but rather one copy was sent from house to house to all the guests that the Hancock family, Peter and Peggy Hancock (++), wanted to say farewell to Nathalie, which was all of San Pedro. A young man volunteered to take the note around to the 50 or so residencies in the village, giving you about a minute to read it and be informed of the great event. What a romantic, effective and superb of communicating twenty five years ago. As long as the young man did not skip or forget any household, it was 100% sure and effective communication. Radio, television and newspapers can’t do it as effectively today. No kidding, the other day I learned of a person’s passing away one day after the funeral.

Like this wedding invitation, there were others. For a funeral, a relative of the deceased toke a note from door to door of everyone in the village. And similarly, that was the same manner of invitation for the special dances of the village like Christmas and New Year’s Day dances to inform the public of the time and venue of the “pachanga” (revelry). I remember when we were teenagers going to Mr. Fido Nuñez (+) and begging him to show a movie on a regular day of the week. Mr. Fido told us that if we could garner 25 people to attend the show, he would do so. So we went around the village announcing: “There will be a movie tonight; come see a great Mexican Mariachi movie.” Of course we did get more than 25 people, because the young men were more interested in meeting the girls than the actual movie. And we would fill up the cinema with teenagers. Do you think the old ladies stayed behind? No señor! Anyway, that was another great way of communicating twenty five years ago.

Now to announce a prayer procession, a school fair, a Miss San Pedro Selection by popularity money vote, the invitation was written on a small chalkboard or blackboard as we called them, and two boys carried it all over the village stopping frequently for people to read. Another young man ringing a bell followed to call attention to the message board. And so it was that we communicated perfectly, well, almost perfectly, twenty five years ago.

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

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