DODO ALAMINA - HAIL TO THE CHIEF CHARACTER

Caye Caulker 2007. My cousin Ampi Alamina just emailed me this photo she took of one of my favorite characters on the island DODO.

" He posed for me and showed off his beautiful blue eyes" she says. 

Dodo (Deodorio Alamina) is a second cousin to both of us. He is the grandson of our first generation fore-father Louis Alamina, who was one of the top three pioneers of Caye Caulker along with the Reyes another family. 

Dodo's father Marshall Alamina and my grandfather Valentin Alamina (name chosen due to his birth day falling on Valentines Day) were Louis' sons. This family is still remembered in Caye Caulker history as being some of the best boat builders from Belize. Cay Corker got it's name from the boats that would come to be repaired or built here. Ampi's boss in California made a black and white print of this photo of Dod's and said, "he is the salt of the earth".

Dodo has lived his entire life on Caye Caulker as a part-time fisherman and a full-time drunk. He makes no apologies for his lifestyle. He told me that when his father died and left him all what is now valuable real estate, he promptly sold it, bought a sailboat so he can go fishing everyday, then drank the rest away. "Nobody else is gonna enjoy spending my inheritance" he says, "I made sure of that"

Dodo, shunned by most of his relatives his generation, discarded as a foolish drunk say with very little pity: "he had everything he wanted before and after his Papa died,  left him a small fortune in land, he chose to drink it all away..."

He had a little wooden house on a piece of land next to my Grandfather's Spinster sister, who never married or had children.  My Gran Aunt, daughter of Louis Alamina, Tia Cloti as she was affectionately known and loved by her extended family, says there were "too few choices on the island back in her youth to find a husband and she liked being alone anyway".  Dodo  lived in his beach house on the left, (shown in picture below) for many decades, tranquil as can be  and close to his beloved Sea full of fish and lobster and  his beloved Aunt Cloti who cared for him most of his adult life as if he was her own child.


He has found new alliance with the younger Alamina clan, my generation, Ampi & I being two of his fans for living life at his own pace, worry free, with his own style, sense of humor and happiness "regardless of what the neighbors might say...".

For over a decade now, Dodo and I have bonded. When I am on Caye Caulker, he visits me each morning that he may find me up early in my hammock garden in front of Tina's Hostel, sometimes I see him waiting. 
The first matter of the day is usually what assorted selection of fine alcohol was left behind from the party last night at the hostel. After clearing the shelves and him taking his bottle of choice, mostly rum but anything else that was available too, we sit side by side on the swing chair or hammocks and discuss any current events and past history that might arise. He also gives good advice. When I told him once that my then boyfriend T-Rex was bringing me trouble, he said "Get rid of him immediately, kick him out! you're an independent woman."

He has a wicked sense of humor and if you're too slow in deciphering his mumbled words, you might miss it. In exchange for a half-empty bottle of rum, he would bring, fish, sea-grapes, cocoplum, black berries, breadfruit or whatever he managed to gather from his family still vast real estate holdings on the island. We bartered.


A few years ago when T-Rex and I sailed on a weekly basis from Caye Caulker to Placencia stopping to overnight on nearly deserted mini islands jutting out from or along the reef with some of our hostel guests, I decided to give Dodo a fishing thrill in old age, he was now in his late 70's, so I extended an invitation to go sailing/fishing.   He was a pro who coached me on how to tie my lure or what kind to use to catch different fish so I knew he would be useful.

With other guests on board, I decided to take a chance with the "old timer" and invited Dodo along on this 2 night/3 days fishing and camping adventure. It comprised of going towards Placencia with 2 nights camping at different islands, an overnight in Placencia, and the return night somewhere anchored offshore behind a mangrove island, making it, for us "crew" a 4 nite/5 day trip. Now, I had no idea how Dodo would tolerate being around me constantly for near a week but any doubts were soon washed away in the surf when he gleefully accepted.


The following morning, he was ready first  to arrive to board the boat. He had brought with him a small plastic bag with assorted fishing lines, tackle; a single shirt and toothbrush. 

He triple-checked that I had brought a couple bottles of rum on board to get us through the first leg of this return journey.

We took of on first day's sail towards English Caye, the small caye near Belize City with the lighthouse to guide ships in the channel. We planned to spend the first night there. On the way there, it took us about six hours since we are traveling leisurely at the mercy of the wind combined with  stops every so often to take a swim. 

Dodo poured himself a few drinks and got comfortable as soon s the first gust of wind sent us on our merry way. He found his spot which was his spot the duration of the trip: at the back of the boat with the captain.  He kept one hand with a steady grip on his drink balancing it somehow as to not to have even the slightest spill; even as we swished and swayed on the waves under a cloudless sunshine day with perfect trade winds blowing. In the other hand, he loosely held his personal hand line, playing with it, checking it now and again to make sure he didn't get weeds tangled in it.  The special silver spoon lure he started with glistened like a diamond from afar, bobbing  and weaving just below the surface a short distance behind the  moving boat and getting several hits on the daily.

The fishing reel itself is a design of the simpliest form, eco friendly by today's standars (reuse/recycle) and costs nothing as it is often found washed ashore, used for decades:  A piece of hard styrafoam used for some buoys, easy to carve out the middle section with a knife, lightweight enough to float if it falls overboard.  While the line dangles loosely from his fingers, the base and foam he keeps firmly buried under the sole of his foot.


I just remembered the time back on the island when he yelled at a guy who almost ran over him with a golfcart "knock me down if you want eediot, but not my liquor" so I said nothing about drinking and fishing.


Fresh on the adventure and as soon as we passed Caye Chapel we got a hit on the line, Dodo hands it over to me to reel in because I've told him enough times that gives me the biggest thrill.
 As I'm pulling in the fish and before he could even see what it is but knows from the first thug, says to me, "that one's a mackerel" and sure enough it was. Whenever we got a hit, he would say  "barracuda" or "bonito" or "Jack" and he was dead on right every time.

That first night on English Caye, the guests loved him as he told fishey stories of the glory days when he use to frequent these same fishing grounds and islands we young ones were now exploring. We sat by a campfire on the beach, along with the lighthouse keeper Mr. Cabaral who has been on that post for over 30 years. We were also accompanied by his sons who were in training to take over once he dies. Since Mr. Cabral is over 85 years of age, I don't think he is waiting for a government retirement to leave.

That second night as we were sitting on the dock at Tobacco Caye eating fresh fish sauteed with onions & garlic in a lemon butter sauce, spanish rice and green veggies (yes we eat really good on these types of trips) with the rest of our guests, Dodo asks an elderly man from the island who had recognized him and hadn't seen him in about 40 years, if he remembers the massacre that occurred way back on South Water Caye, the little resort on the  island within swim reach from us but a half hour off the coast of Dangriga town
Of course, we all love a story especially when we are sitting under the moon and stars on a dock, so we all perked up to listen in to what was becoming now horrifically intriguing.

As the storey goes and "confirmed" by his friend on this night, one of the pioneers of that little island had several workers on the small island as well as his wife and children living there for years on end. Story goes that one day when he had come back from fishing and diving conch & lobsters, he found his wife and a worker in bed. He went berserk and hacked everyone on the island to death with a machete. Who knows if it is true or they were just trying to scare us...

All went smooth on the trip down South and we arrived late evening when the sun was setting behind the mountains in the distance. With charred bodies and dry cracked lips, we anxiously docked at the main pier by the gas station looking tanned and fatigued after days under the blazing sun. A lot of energy is drained out of you when you are lieing on the top of a moving sailboat listening to Caribbean music, eating fresh ceviche, drinking rum punch & swiming among some of the most pristine corals found anywhere.

Upon arrival, we all had a chance to go on land and party, and after all the guests had left the boat including Captain T-Rex, Dodo & I decided that it might be more fun to just stay on the back on the docked boat, buy a bottle of rum & cokes from the gas station since ours was now depleted, and to live vicariously by watching all the revellers spilled out from Janice's bar on the beach at the foot of the dock.
 Any dark area was used for illicit secret action and we had a birds eye view. 
We will save walking around for early in the morning when we have to go to the store and re-stock the booze and other supplies.

As we drank and toasted to "Cuba Libre" Dodo spilled some of his most intimate life egged on by me. I asked him if he ever wanted a wife and children and he said "a wife wouldn't understand the love I have for rum. The children 

" well, in my younger days two married women allegedly became pregnant with my child, but they got rid of it so the husband wouldn't find out about us, , I don't miss children, I've had a good life and they would have just got in the way of my drinking".

I leaned in and asked him to repeat what he just said, in case I didn't understand him. I was a bit stunned. Prying even further, I said, are the women still alive on Caye Caulker. Him already slurring, but still remaining descreet - "No, they  died a long time ago". My jaw had already dropped nevertheless,  I wouldn't have expected that from the church faithful of this Catholic island. 
That confirms my suspicions contrary to what my mother says, that the strict older generation did have their debauchery in full gear back in the good old days of candle light, starry skies and Full Moon...

At the store the following morning, I stocked a few bottles of  liquor for the return trip. As had now become routine, he would make his way down into the cabin, mix a drink and go back to sit behind the boat in the same position we had seen him in for days. He seemed to be in bliss as we sailed back towards Caye Caulker along the deep vain which sits a few yards inside the solid 50 miles or so of reef in what I dubbed the "Reef-formation Highway" , moving along at approximately 7.5 knots for the first day.

In the crystal clear waters you can see down to the bottom about 30 feet and even more due to the white sandy bottom which makes the visibility of the majestic formations below the water at the reefs edge, and a lot of other assorted marine life like spotted eagle rays, dolphins clearly visible.

Every so often along the vein you come across a coral patch that sits directly in your path. If you didn't know how to dodge the reef, you would be another ship-wreck along this stretch and join some of the other still visible wrecks that sit sorrowfully jutting out of the water as if trying to make one last attempt at crossing over.

We hit a Norther on the way back and when the winds and swells picked up , I went below deck to hide. I have a policy that when the boat tips to a 45 degrees angle, I'm off the top. The old man still has his seaman legs, although a bit wobbly, remained top-deck leaning into the side of the boat to balance no matter what degree, catching fish after fish after fish, still with drink in hand.

Dodo can still be found hanging out with Calvin selling jewelery by the Sand-Box corner. If you see him, give him a holler from me. I told him that when he makes it to 100 years old, I will throw the biggest party he's ever seen in his honor. All the top shelf liquors. He looked at me and winked as he turned to leave with his walking-stick in hand and said "I wouldn't miss it for the world".

Comments

Anonymous said…
You are an incredible writer and apparently live the most adventurous, liberated life. Most importantly you are unabashed at telling of your trials and not too many tribulations. Quite frankly at 44 and feeling like a butterfly who has lost its wings....I am both envious of, and jubilant for someone like yourself. Keep on living...truly living as you have!!
Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I do try to live my life to the fullest. I am aware that everyday is a precious gift.
Anonymous said…
Hi Tina,
Enjoyed going down memory lane reading your site. This is your long lost cousin, Mari Alamina. Thanks for writing about Dodo, I am glad you had the opportunity to know him for more than what everyone else know him for "a drunk". But that drunk will outlive all of us and he sure has enjoyed his life doing what he loves best. I always talk about him and his beautiful blue eyes that are seldom seen. Continue enjoying life to the fullest and travel the world enjoying freedom. Say hi to the family. Mom and Dad is now back home in the city though.
Elias Cantun said…
Hi, I really enjoy your story, I've been on many of those trips to the cayes all over the country and I have heard many different stories of the different island and I enjoy yours as well.