I used to like politics when it was all about service. Sad to say, I feel that today for many people it is all about what one can get and how one can get more. This is not a criticism of anyone, but a comparison of today with the politics of yesterday when village councilors and even town board members collected not one cent.
There are many who remember when there was no politics in San Pedro- no campaigning, no free gifts, no signs, no rallies, no music nor free rum. You might say it was boring, but it was indeed interesting. When we were a small fishing village in the 1950’s and 60’s, there was not a two party system (PUP and NIP), but we did elect a village chairman and we did get good leaders like Danny Vasquez, Mr. Efrain Guerrero, Fido Nuñez, Abel Guerrero, Fedo Alamilla, Enrique Staines, and Chico Gomez.
There were two political parties in Belize- The People’s United Party (PUP) and the National Independent Part (NIP). None of them contested village council elections, only national elections. A meeting was called at some one’s home or the community center and there the councilors were volunteered or nominated and then chosen by a show of hands of all the men present. Women did not attend these meetings, much less volunteers as members of the village council.
The council was responsible to upkeep the wooden park, and wooden main pier with occasional repairs. It had to ensure that the beach in front of the village was occasionally cleaned, that villagers kept their streets clean, all yards were clean, and that the garbage dump sites were burnt and leveled when necessary. There was a dump site at every cross street leading to the lagoon (5 total) where villagers dumped their garbage manually. The village council called workatons called “fajinas” where all men were expected to show up. Women only came out to clean the cemetery. This was the beauty of the council back then when everyone worked together with never a thought of party politics. To raise the funds to run the affairs of the council, there were fund raising events like dances, sports, raffles and sales. The Area Rep was expected to provide the materials and the villagers the labour. That is how the community center and public water reservoir (now Town Hall) was built in the 1960’s.
National elections were different but no real grandeur either. Louis Sylvestre of the PUP came and informed house to house that there was going to be an election. It took him half a day to go around the village and he spent the other half a day drinking whiskey with his friends, all of whom were his cousins for he called everyone “Cuz” When the voting was over, a skiff took the boxes Belize City with two men sitting on top of the boxes and there was no hysteria awaiting for results. It was until next morning that we learned the results over the BHBC (British Honduras Broadcasting Corporation). And that was It! Which celebration? No money to waste!
In 1985 history was made in San Pedro with the first election campaign ever, and the first independent group ever to win an election in Belize. The seven members of the village council who automatically became the first town council, ran as SPUM (San Pedro United Movement). What followed there is another long story which I might tell you some other time, maybe in a book Twenty Five Years Today Part II.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist