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Romel Cuello reminisces about the man “Salitas,” his history and his “bad jukebox”

LettersRomel Cuello reminisces about the man “Salitas,” his history and his “bad jukebox”

Dear Editor,

A couple of weeks ago I got a visit from a dear friend from long ago, Eduardo Salas. “Salitas,” as he was affectionately known, was once an iconic figure in Orange Walk. In the seventies he had the coolest spot in town, situated corner Gravel Lane and Belize-Corozal Road, with the coldest beers and a “bad” jukebox with sounds like Santana’s “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen”, “Jingo”, “Evil Ways” and “Soul Sacrifice”, Ike & Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”, La Revolucion de Emiliano Zapata’s “Nasty Sex,” and Shirley Bassey’s “Love you Hate you”.

The place was small but popular, with its black lights, new stuff at the time. There was also a poster with a “Fact” stated on it, “The only unchangeable thing is change itself”.

Before this he was an employee at B.S.I. and was a distributor of the new radical newspaper Amandala with Fire. He provided us with the first copy I read when a teacher at Muffles, can’t remember which, told us to make a report on the newspaper.

“Salitas” was of a socialist persuasion at the time, being comrade of the young Assad Shoman and Said Musa, admirers of the “Comandante Fidel Castro”.

He was also buddy with Filigonio Perez, leader of the General Workers Union at B.S.I. where I was an employee in the electrical department along with my colleagues and friends: Roberto “Bobby” Rosado, R.I.P.;  Enrique “Rusty” Rosado, R.I.P.; Octavio “T-Bone” Leiva;  Michael “Box” Alpuche;  James “Bird” Bermudez; Fernando “Sancho” Sanchez; Lucio & Anthony “Bracket” Matute; Adrian “Peel” Mendoza, R.I.P.; Armando “Mandy” Madera, R.I.P.; “Meechy” Zetina, R.I.P.; Gonzalo “Chalet” Castillo, R.I.P.; Mario Ek,  R.I.P.;  Delmore “Buck” Jones;  Monrad Young, R.I.P.; Silvano “Brother Syl” Mendez, R.I.P.; and Alejandro “Chino” Guillen, R.I.P.;  Mr. Allan Sharp was in charge.

Housed in the same building was the Instruments Department with Dave & Emilio “Melin” Rosado, Policarpio “Poly” Castillo, and Delano “Poopsie” Alpuche, R.I.P. Mr. James Bradley was in charge.

The union was entering its heyday with Mr. Perez at its helm. We had meetings, and a couple of disputes and strikes against management. As a very young man I never paid too much attention to the issues. I only noticed that the union was very powerful. A couple guys were sent to Cuba and Russia to study.

At the time, the PUP had a rift between its capitalist and socialist factions. Salitas and Perez sided with the socialists and the powerful Briceno brothers were considered as capitalists. Since they ran things in Orange Walk’s PUP and a town board election was coming up, Salitas and Perez were not welcome on their slate.

Seven persons were to be elected, so Salitas’ campaign was “Salas + 6”. Salitas and Perez’ courage to challenge the status quo was admirable, but he lost the election.

In my opinion, this bucking against the PUP establishment was what turned the rulers against Mr. Perez and after a time, the union was undermined and buckled. Governments are very powerful.

I am not sure about this, like I said, just my opinion. Maybe Mr. Perez should give us his story.

By this time Salitas had moved his business place from the cozy little corner to Mr. Antonio “Galento” Herrera’s building, which is now Hong Kong Restaurant.

He then went on to run Jim’s Cool Pool and finally ended up at “Eddie’s Cabin” on San Antonio Road, where “Cuello’s Store” is now located.

He resides in Belize City now.

His legacy to Orange Walk is his fine son, who is now a senator and proprietor of “Nahil Mayab”, Osmany Salas.
“The only unchangeable thing is change itself.”

Romel Cuello

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