Today, May 20, 2020, is my maternal uncle Ismael “Miley” Gonzalez’s R.I.P. birthday. He and I started our conscious lives in Bound-to-Shine Farm, which was located in the Tower Hill area, Orange Walk District (before the coming of the B.S.I. Sugar Factory), where the large Gonzalez family resided.
My Grandpa was Juan de Dios Gonzalez “Don John,” R.I.P.; and my grandma was Natalia Gonzalez nee Romero, “Ms. Nat”, R.I.P. The family was composed of: Liborio “Libby”; Modesta “Mody” (my mom); Arcenia “Cacao”, R.I.P.; Angel “Nono”; Aurora “Chury”, R.I.P.; Edwardo “Dardo”; Arturo “Turin”; Israel “Lael”; Ismael “Miley” Gonzalez, also known as “Masto,” R.I.P.; Norvella “Muth”; and Sara “Laly”.
By the time the family settled in Bound-to-Shine, (the official name is Bounty Shine, but my Grandpa was right, it is shining) my grandpa, an agriculturalist at heart and farm demonstrator for GOB, had moved them around to Banana Bank, Hill Bank, and twice at Yo Creek Agriculture Station.
My mom still remembers these places. I remember the second stint at Yo Creek because that was the first time I saw an indoor bath with a toilet bowl. Most Orange Walk homes had outdoor latrines and bath houses.
Then they lived for a short time at the corner of Gravel Lane and the Northern Highway before moving to the farm.
The farm was situated approximately where the B.S.I. Housing Site is presently. There was a beautiful orange orchard which I remember clearly whenever I drive by on the old road and see one single solitary tree still semi-surviving.
My Grandpa also had some cattle and chickens.
Liborio, a self-made man and the eldest, had already moved to work and live in Central Farm, and, although he had only reached second form at Muffles, he had persevered and gotten GCE passes on his own, went to study at universities and became the Chief Agricultural Officer in Belize. I remember he went to a university in Mexico and didn’t stay because of the “baptismal welcome,” which was pretty rough. Don’t remember if he went back.
Angel had also followed him to Central Farm, and only occasionally would we see him at the farm.
Arcenia had married Sebastian “Tata” Garcia and they were the parents of Renzo, R.I.P. “Guench,” or “Diablito,” as he was popularly known.
My mom had married my dad, Pedro “Pete” Cuello, and lived in town, but we would be regular stay-overs at the farm. This included me, my younger brother, Rene, and my younger sister, Araceli, since my other younger brother, Petey, had passed away due to an unfortunate accident at home.
The entire crowd was large and finances scarce, so sometimes we ate only homemade corn tortillas with lard and salt, but still we were a happy family.
Lael was a bit older and would always take me with him on his outings. He took me to La Inmaculada School one day, and even though I wouldn’t be five years old until November and this was September, I was accepted. Advantageous quick start in life.
Mr. Chencho Rosado ran the school van, which we referred to as “La Mukura”, and would pick us up every morning and take us back every evening. You miss the ride, you walk.
Sometimes we would intentionally walk back by way of “Louisiana Farm” and take a dip at the “Atlantic Pond,” which was located at the corner of what is now Liberty Avenue and Boundary Road. We were risky kids, but Orange Walk was pretty safe in those days.
The “panadero” would pass by with his carrier bike and we would exchange eggs for sweet bread, which he would consume raw on the spot.
Up the road lived the Roberts family —Salvador and Emeterio would ride the school van with us. Also, Danny, R.I.P., and his elder brother, Alvin Trapp.
Then the Chiclillos lived a bit closer: Hector and Bayo also rode the van.
The Briceños had a farm also nearby where the Cabanas family were caretakers. Tonio and Docho were the kids. The elder sister lived with the famous Jackie Vasquez. I can remember one instance of Mr. Joe Briceno R.I.P., snapping his bullwhip at the cattle.
A little further down was my Aunt Chury’s friend, Daisy. The Frank Trapp family was also on that road.
The last scene I remember of the farm was when Taylor Woodrow cleared the area for B.S.I., and Rene, my brother, Norvella, my aunt, and I took the trek from the farm to the area where the factory is presently. We were five to seven-year-old kids, not realizing that our world was changing, grandiosely.
My paternal grandfather, Ignacio “Nas” Cuello, also had his distillery in the area at the river’s edge, which he had to abandon at the time, and moved to the Yo Creek Road, where the Caribbean Rum distillery is presently.
The family then relocated to Gravel Lane in town, where we continued to meet for many years. Masto and I went to Muffles and stayed best of friends.
Being very intelligent, Masto was an excellent ping pong and carom player, mastering the sides applied to the ball and the diamonds to hit on the carom table. He was the boss on the carom table at Hi-Lite Club, where elite players like Syl Trejo, Filo “Jeck” Audinett, “Peeler” from Dangriga, “Psycho” from Calvary Hill and others flaunted their prowess.
But none matched “Masto” until a professional Panamanian, without showing better skills, edged him out of the game and some money.
That day I understood that playing and gambling are entirely different —playing is for fun and thrills, while gambling or playing for money, is raw nerve, and not everyone is apt for that.
“Jeck” couldn’t beat Syl for fun, and Syl couldn’t beat “Jeck” when money was involved.
Our problem was that we started consuming alcohol at too young an age, about 14, and along the years it took a toll on his system, since hepatitis had also weakened his liver. He was just 40 years old when he left us; today, he would have been 64. R.I.P. “Masto”.