There is always a little spice of curiosity in knowing who the first one was as I am sure all of you remember who the first one was to give you your first kiss. So we wonder who was the first local airplane pilot, the first gift shop, first dive shop, first hotel etc. And today I would like to offer you something about our first Sanpedrana medical practitioner, Nurse Neria Arceo (deceased). Neria was born in San Pedro just around 1950 (- or +)She was raised in San Pedro by her dad, Mr. Francisco “Fash” Arceo and mom Vilma Arceo (+) along with at least ten brothers and sisters to include former Area Rep. Patty Arceo. Needless to say Neria went to school barefooted, paddled dories, went swimming daily and collected coconut husks for her mom to burn in the fire hearth. She was a typical San Pedro girl yearning to complete primary school studies at age 14, date at 15 and get married at 16. However, Neria was not the typical girl of her time. She yearned to become a nurse and her parents supported her into this dream by sending her to nursing school.
When Nurse Neria Arceo was qualified as a registered nurse, the government medical department was kind enough to post her at the San Pedro Health Center, which was the only one in San Pedro in the 1960’s. Miss Arceo was a dedicated nurse to her profession and placed herself at the service of her community any time of the day or night. There was only a small supply of medicinal drugs at her disposal, but she was only too willing to go into her personal kit to give freely of pills and injections. Nurse Neria officially took over from the very able “parteras” (midwives) and became San Pedro’s preferred midwife. Here enthusiasm was very visible whenever she received a healthy baby without any complications.
As teenager, Nurse Neria was looked at differently from the other girls. She was admired, but few boys dared asked her for a date out of respect of her profession. She was very popular, however. And she was very humorous. She would recount a story with such enthusiasm that you would think you were re-living that experience. I have two personal anecdotes about my friend Neria, which I always remember and perhaps her family does not know. She was afraid of airplanes. She admitted that to me once when we took the same flight. It was a pretty rough flight, by coincidence, and when we landed at the Belize City airstrip, my arm was actually bleeding with a few small scratches she had unknowingly placed on it. And then I remember when one guy in my group liked her and invited us to take a serenade to her one Saturday night. After our first romantic song, which I dedicated to her from “I can’t tell you who”, Nurse Neria opened the main door at the clinic and invited us to actually go in and have coffee with biscuits. “Oh, Teacher Angel,” she said, “how nice for you and your friends to bring me a serenade.” Of course the secret love did not know where to hide his face, but Nurse Neria, in her usual humor, made sure he felt comfortable.
And then later on in her life, Neria fell in love with a guy from Belize City and they moved to the United States. She was such a good nurse that she found employment in the same profession and practiced there for many years. The news of Neria’s illness took San Pedro with surprise and grief, and though we lost a great Sanpedrana, nurse and friend, her memory still lives on among us her peers and hopefully will live on in you after this story on Twenty Five Years Ago. We love Neria, and we express this through the respect and admiration of her family and relatives. Cheers to our first Sanpedrana nurse and friend, Neria Arceo.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist