The first pic is taken around 1972 in front of one of the first hotels on Caye Caulker owned by my Dad (seen standing way in the back - his four girls in the 1st and 2nd row) The Hotel called Island Traders, burned down around 1978. This is the same site where Tina's Hostel, Diane's Beach House, Sailwinds Hotel and Auxillou Suites are today 2011 owned by Ray's four daughters and beach property still in the family.
In the boat photo 1970's -(Ray & Ilna Auxillou and kids, Tina, Diane & Sharon - Wendy missing)
Over dinner the other night with a few local friends: Some who never left much further than the bordering countries of Belize; some who had gone abroad the world over for many years and returned a while back; some just coming back to stay, childhood friends = lot of reminicing & laughter.
We had one thing in common, we all grew up as kids on Caye Caulker in the 1970's!
As we sat changing topics, one guy mentioned that when he got a tourist complaining about something, he would tell them"just go to the beach and walk into the water like a turtle".
That set us all off laughing and then came the next story.
Back in the 70's on Caye Caulker, still the days of the glorious outhouses perched at the end of a small dock (as can be seen in the palm tree photo), the village men, mostly fishermen or boat builder by trade, use to catch big Loggerhead turtles alive at the reef and bring them back to the sea grass filled shoreline.
Once on the beach, the big turtles would be placed on their backs, sometimes six at a time, where they would be left alive and starving on the beach for days, to keep them 'fresh'.
On average with a haul like this, one turtle would be killed per day and the meat shared with villagers until the next batch would be caught by another fisherman a few weeks later, and so the trend continued.
H and his brother sat there telling us about the time, as kids in the 70's, they got up early one morning & went out to the beach.
There they saw several turtles on their backs, sand in their eyes from frantically flopping trying to flip over to freedom. They could see the water, sometimes feel it as the tide rose, but they were still trapped.
H & Gypsy, feeling that the turtles had somehow stranded themselves on the beach this way, had flipped each turtle back on their feet where they quickly headed straight for the escape route in the ocean a few feet away.
We sat laughing about the commotion that was caused on the island when the fisherman went to the beach, buckets and hacks in hand ready to kill and consume his fresh sea food product only to find them missing.
As brutal as that seemed, at that time, villagers rarely went to the mainland to buy other food products and this was a big source of food for the village. Storing the animals caught in a day's fishing meant that he didn't have to find fuel to go out every single day since money was scare to inslanders and wasn't much necessary for survial. There was one small grocery store back then, and it was owned by my grandparents Marina and Valentin Alamina.
Today, the Oceana Organization would have our necks for such an act, and rightfully so, since there has been a big decline in the numbers of turtles left in our surrounding seas not to mention the brutality of leaving an animal to starve. It is acceptable for Oceana to want to ban this practice today, and it was acceptable then, for a small group of villagers to kill and eat turtles to sustain themselves.
If you think we lived like savages then, this story will horrify you even more.
Sometime around 1976, arrived a Circus on Caye Caulker called Circo Apollo. This was no Circque du Soleil, this was a Mexican Circus. They brought live animals which they held in tiny cages on the football field where they also set up their big tent and stayed and performed shows for at least a week. About 3 shows a day starting from mid-day, followed by an evening matinee and a night show.
Circo Apollo brought with them a big brown Grizzly Bear, several miniture horses and a half dozen Chimpanzees which the kids poked with sticks and threw objects at. I remember all the animals looking emaciated and hungry and the cages that held them had open bars which exposed them to a taunting public out on the football field. The circus performances consisted of plenty of clowns, some acrobatics, chimps juggling, horse shows and the Big Grizzly Bear, being whipped on a small stool as he stood upright and growled at the audience. As we watched this show fascinated by this creature we had never seen before, we now recall that there was only a flimsy make-shift barrier that had seperated that Grizzly from the screaming audience under the tent.
Greg remembers the Bear's name, "Bobby" he says, since they use to say during the show in Spanish "Es Bobby el Oso, el muy peligroso" which translates in English to "It's Bobby the Bear, & most dangerous".
One night Bobby had escaped, and we all remember being told not to leave the house since there was a Bear on the loose on the island. It finally got caught and put back in the cage. Greg offered an explanation as to why the Bear might have broken free. He recalled that the kids were so curious, so devious, that they would put a razor blade in a banana and feed it to the Bear and Chimps, just to watch them bite into it and bleed, the kids of Caye Caulker were torturing these poor caged animals and the handlers were too busy setting up tents to pay any attention. Savages yes, froth with curiousity.
The Circus never returned, one other circus might have returned from 1976 to 2011. There is no profit in dragging animals with thick furs on tugboats across the hot humid sea to Caye Caulker, we don't have enough of a population to make the whole ordeal worth anything to them or the poor trapped animals.
Warning: Please don't bring your Circus to Caye Caulker, you are going to need new animals by the time you leave!