The mosquitoes win – and they win by a wide margin, 257 votes ahead of Cayman’s second-place pre-1970s nuisance, the relentless summertime heat and humidity.
Of 446 votes in the latest Caymanian Compass poll, nearly three-quarters, 323, 72.42 percent, put mosquitoes at the top of the list as the worst feature of pre-70s Cayman, electing them ahead of three explicit possibilities and one wide-open “other” option.
There was general agreement that the 1965 advent of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit was among the greatest contributors to making the Cayman Islands a livable habitat.
As early as 1834, the governor of Jamaica noted on a visit to Cayman that “the mosquitoes there amount to quite a national misfortune,” but it was not until 131 years later that Dr. Marco Giglioli established the MCRU “to prevent vector borne disease” and reduce nuisance biting. Two years later, the unit started to cut canals and build dikes in the swamps, disrupting insect breeding, and in 1971 initiated an aerial insecticide campaign.
By now, the aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus mosquitoes, chief culprits in the spread of dengue fever, have been largely vanquished. But the fight continues, and Compass poll respondents recall the bad old days.
“They were often so thick and voracious that livestock or humans could be seriously injured or killed by a swarm of mosquitoes ‘back in the day’,” said one voter, recalling stories that many might tell – cattle choking, smoke pots burning, arms and legs bloodied by insect attacks, and a need for virtual self-flagellation with branches stripped from trees in an attempt keep the bugs at bay.
A second offered a similar recollection: “In times past these pests could be deadly,” was the thought, clearly mindful of the nuisance factor, but voting for mosquitoes because of the potential for real physical harm.
“Having just made it through (most of) the summer without A/C, I vote mosquitoes,” said another voter, with a nod toward the MCRU. “Just my windows worked OK (a pleasant surprise), but without screens and with more mosquitoes I fear it would have been a different story.”
Readers found “heat and humidity without air-conditioning” the second most-annoying feature of pre-70s Cayman, registering 66 votes, 14.8 percent of the total.
Of the 66 voters, however, only one left a comment, but, while lengthy, it was among the more thoughtful remarks, and deserves to be quoted in full: “Mosquitoes were thick mostly at nights. Heat and humidity without air-conditioning were the least bearable in the 1970s. Caymanians managed well without any air-conditioning as neither the heat nor humidity were bad in the ‘70s; the reasons being [that there were] not many asphalt roads; we still had shady trees; the population was much smaller; hardly any traffic on our roads; and no high-rise buildings with glass to make the place hot.
“We managed well without television and did not even think of missing out on it. We had a local radio station which served us well. While we did not have a huge variety of different foods from overseas, we had sufficient and good local foods to eat every day. No one really starved. We all shared with one another.
“[I] would love to be able to turn back the hands of time as Cayman has too many different people living and working here. Crime has increased drastically, [much] of which is unsolved. We miss the nice peaceful tranquility that we once enjoyed where everyone lived in peace and harmony, and foreigners treated Caymanians with love, kindness, and respect.”
The limited variety of food ranked third in the “nuisance” poll, drawing 23 votes, 5.16 percent of the total. Only a single comment, however, addressed the problem and it was a matter of cost rather than diversity: “Food too ‘spensive,” the voter said.
The dearth of television and radio ranked fourth for most people, drawing 21 votes and 4.7 percent of the total.
No one cared to comment, however, leaving the observations to the “other” category, which, while attracting only 13 votes, 2.91 percent of the total, drew several remarks critical of the poll itself, another freighted with sarcasm and, finally, one that indicated another hardship.
“Nothing” was wrong, said another voter. “Life was beautiful here in the 1970s,” followed by the observation that “no internet or cell phones” were available.
Next week’s poll question:
Should government be allowed to tap telephones and email?
Yes. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear
Sometimes, on a case-by-case basis (explain)
The courts must decide
To participate, visit www.cayCompass.com.