CAYE CAULKER, A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE

(My aunt Feli in the store around 1970)

There was one main road that ran across the length of the island from where Tropical Paradise Hotel is now to where Rainbow Hotel currently sits.
My grandparent's had the first grocery store center of the island. After Rainbow hotel, the road narrowed into a picado trail towards the Split, there were no houses down that trail. It was long and narrow and the white sand glistened in the morning sun in between all the shadows cast from tropical trees that lined the path. You could see squirrels climbing up an almond trees, dates hung in big bunches from the date palm trees; Breadfruit dangled from tall trees like ornaments at Christmas time and purple and white grapes dripped from their branches as if you were walking through an island vineyard. Kids were seldom hungry at dinnertime from eating guava, papaya, Governor plums, grapes, coco plums & more in their adventures around the island. In the 70's Syd’s from Syd's restaurant had a deer in his yard you could stop by and pet. Birds were chirping everywhere, iguanas lazy in the shade. In hindsight, it seemed like the garden of Eden, that is until you are reminded that it is not when the mosquitos would make an appearance in the late evenings, daily during the rainy season.

There was wind and rain, thunder and lightening. And there was also terrible hurricanes one which split the island in two in 1961. Back in the early days of the Split which was caused by hurricane Hattie in 1961 was shallow, one could walk across to the other side and only be knee deep even when I was a child. This Split is now 50 yards wide and 30 feet deep and a popular swimming spot. The land has eroded terribly in the last 50 years.

( BACK ROW: photo of cousin Rose with blond Farrah Fawcett do, standing next to Aunt Lali now deceased, MIDDLE: myself in pig tails and a spanish style blouse; my sis Diane in a chamber pot haircut so called for the little plastic round training potties they would put on our heads like a hat and then cut around the bottom edge to give this style, BOTTOM cousin Damien and Ivan & neighbor Moses Guzman with doggie Rex. circa 1975)

Children usually stood on a dock waiting to see people in boats coming in with supplies from Belize city, or from fishing and pulling traps. We would see them coming from a distance and would run and help them carry whatever they had. It did not matter if you were related or not. The feeling of oneness is what distinguished Caye Caulker those days from now.

My childhood memory of my grandmother, my beloved ChiChi (photo of her on verandah in blue with a younger Dodo and some of the first gringo settlers to the island Greg & Amy around 1980) is when she would wake up in the early morning and go gather her coconuts from her property that extended all the way from the center of the island to the beach. She would spend half the morning shelling them on a sharp iron bar that jutted out from the ground. She often did this, and when she accumulated enough after a number of months, she would sell them to a buyer who would take them to the market.

I remember grandmother’s eyes full of life and warmth, you could see she was once beautiful, but time and conditions do not favor beauty. The sun burnt freely. She was old and tired in the photo taken on her verandah, but she looked very happy and in love with my grandfather to the very end. She lived into her late 80’s. So did my grandfather and a lot of the relatives from those days. They lived a healthy lifestyle. Together they had nine children several of whom still live on Caye Caulker along with their grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. The town center square around the Police Station and the Central Park basketball court is where you will find the decendants of my grandparents still to this day. I have this childhood memory of sitting on that very same verandah rail pictured above, the time was around 1977. My grandparents heard on the radio that Elvis Presley had died. They cried and we all cried and I have never forgotten that moment. They were obviously big fans of Elvis.

The island can thank my beloved Grand Aunt Clotilde Alamina (photo of young lady black/white 1920), my grandfather’s sister who never married or had children but raised us all, and who was the owner of the property where the Central Park & basketball court now sits. She was pressured to sell the government the land for the park for a measley sum to which she amazingly agreed. She also owned the property where Agave Restaurant now sits. The restaurant was her family home which was moved from the court across the street after the sale. She died in her late 80’s in that same house more than 20 years ago.

My grandfather (photo below Valentin Alamina) was hard-working and community oriented. Apart from owning the first grocery store on the island, he drove his diesel boat into Belize City once a week to pick up supplies, he would also build lobster traps and hauled lobster, fished the seas, farmed pigs and vegetables and built boats to name a few of his side jobs to maintain the family with 9 children.

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