Sunday, 8 September 2013

When Chicle making in Belize

It all started when a man named Thomas Adams Sr. received some chicle from General Santa Anna (yes, the Santa Anna). He tried making toys, rubber toys, rain boots ect. One day in 1869, he popped a piece of surplus stock into his mouth and liked the taste. Chewing away, he had the idea to add flavor to the chicle. In February 1871, he opened the world's first chewing gum factory. He then went to sale in drug stores for a penny a piece.

In the early 20th century, the forest industry revived for a short time. Mahogany and a new product, chicle, became the main export items. In 1890 the US market was introduced to chewing gum or chicle at a World Trade Fair in New Orleans. This led to a boom for the Chicle industry in Belize in the early 1900's. The United States began to import chicle, a gum taken from the sapodilla tree, to make chewing gum. Chicle was used in making chewing gum and other products. It is collected from several species of Mesoamerican trees in the Manilkara genus, including M. zapota, M. chicle, M. staminodella, and M. bidentata.Chicle was well known to the Nahuatl-Aztecs and to the Maya, and early European settlers prized it for its subtle flavor and high sugar content. Sapodilla Tree is used to make Chicle.

The Chicle is collected from the tree by cutting into the bark, much like rubber, which causes the tree to excrete it and it runs down the trunk. It is then extracted from the leaves and creates a lateax from protecting itself from damaging. Then A Cauldron was the used to boil the Sapodilla tree. By moving the Chicle it is moved with a thick wood until it is thicken. The liquid is then placed in an area until it is harden and cool. A mature sapodilla tree must go untapped for three to eight years, depending on the size of the tree, until it can be used again. Using only rope and metal spurs to climb the ten to fifteen meter high sapodilla tree, a chiclero’s work was dangerous.

In the early 1700's men in Cooked Treee village Chicleros occupied the asourrounding area. Often, a chiclero would accidentally cut the rope that as tying him to the tree, when he was climbing. special tools were used to climbing spurs and back harnesses to facilitate climb, camping equipments and bedding, food and water gourds (tuck- tuck) that kept the water fresh and cool, a sixteen gauge shotgun and cartridges and last, but not least, the ever present green canvas shot bag, oil-painted, which makes it waterproof and is kept stacked with dried tobacco leaves, and white paper for them to roll their own (cigarettes) coloduro. The shot-gun was used for self-defense from the various wildlife they encounter, and for hunting wild animals and birds for food.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, the story of the checilero starts to disappear.The former chicleros feel that the younger generation needs to know about their chiclero heritage. I hope that the new genration learns from their parents, grandparents, great grand-parents, and their background heritage.