In the first part of the 20th century, from 1900 to about 1960, we observed 12 hours of earth hour, not voluntarily, but by force. Nobody flicked off the switch because there were no switches, no power generators, and no electricity. Of course, life was so different in those days. While today it might seem as a great inconvenience, in those days it was beautiful and romantic because nobody missed what had never been there.
In those days cooking was done by the use of firewood and coconut husks on a fire hearth (fogon). Anything that would burn without emitting too much smoke was used. The kitchen walls and the pots and pans were all black and covered with soot (tisne), but the food was delicious, especially if it blended the delicate scent of coconut husk and flavor of coconut oil or coconut milk. Sweet bread, buns and salt bread baked in a home-made oven over a fire hearth was super delicious. Don’t even talk about a smoked bonefish, tarpon, or black snapper! Ummm ummm good! Today you may sample some of that kind of cooking at El Fogon (not the bonefish, of course).
By six in he evening the sun was already setting, so if you had not done your homework, had your tea or supper, or finished doing the dishes, you had to do it under candlelight or the light of a kerosene lamp, called a “quinque” or a hurricane lamp. This was strenuous to the eyes, but nobody missed the brightness of a fluorescent light because they simply never existed. Nights were really dark, and the arrival of the full moon was a special time of the month at night. People walked around the village using a small two-battery operated flashlight, but during the full moon nights, even the children stayed out a bit later (until 8 at night) at the beach or the park to play games and tell stories. Our popular folk tales included El Tata Balan, El Duende, El Sisimito, La Llorona, and our favorite, of course, Las Animas. The fun and excitement of these story telling nights ended abruptly when someone in the crowd hollered, “ Alli Viene La Llorona” (There comes the Weeping woman) and everyone scampered in different directions to their homes.
A favorite punishment used by parents in those days was locking a child outside the house for an hour in the intense darkness of the night and occasionally shouting: “Shut up or La Llorona will hear you and come for you.” Also if a young man arrived home at three in the morning with lipstick all over, he always had the excuse of telling his wife that La Llorona enchanted him, took him in the bush and that he does not know what else happened because after that he fainted. That is how interesting, exciting life was twenty five years ago when there was no electricity in San Pedro.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist