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The Very First Foreigners

If you sit in your verandah at home and watch people pass by, you are bound to make this remark: “Gosh, there are a lot of strangers in San Pedro!” By strangers you would mean people you do not know, not born nor raised in San Pedro, Belizeans from other parts of the country, and foreigners from other parts of the world. Some people feel that the true Sanpedranos are now outnumbered in their own town. Some people feel that locals have lost control of the affairs of their home place. For one thing I sometimes feel embarrassed for they all know me by name and I don’t.

In the 1960’s there were some five hundred inhabitants, all natives of San Pedro. The policeman and the principal teacher of the one and only school on the island were probably Belizeans from the city or Stann Creek. All the rest were 100 percent Sanpedranos. Father Raszkowski was one of the very first American citizens who came once a month to celebrate two masses on Sundays and, of course, he spent all of the long Easter and Christmas vacations on the island. He was extremely loved by all the Sanpedranos.

There was this American Couple, Chris and Sandy who owned a bar right where Esmeralda Park is located. They brought the first juke box to San Pedro, which in those days was considered a big event. Furthermore, they held regular dances for school children and that is why they were loved so much by the children of the 1960’s. Then came Mr. John Greif Sr. or the First. He was a pilot and the first person to land a plane in San Pedro. Of course there was no airstrip, so it was a seaplane and everyone thought he was a Hollywood star. John made friendships with the entire village for he was very generous and flew in emergencies to Belize City. Thereafter, he made San Pedro his home and made his life here up until today.

At about the same time came Jim Currie, a retired Scottish sailor who owned a luxurious yacht named the Pamelyn. He sported all day long in his yacht and when it was anchored, he hosted friends aboard his home yacht. It was probably there that Sanpedranos had their first shots of whisky. Again “Mista Currie”, as he was called, was considered a Hollywood star and very well liked for he treated Sanpedranos like good friends. He was not better but adapted to our lifestyle, eating fish and boiled lobsters, and walking barefooted along our beaches. He had a very strange and unique laughter, almost a guffaw, which all the people tried to imitate. Currie died in Belize City many years later.

Who can forget beloved Vernon and Terry Hammon. They had purchased some land on Ambergris Caye and were constructing several projects including a small hotel. Vernon and Terry spent a good part of their lives visiting with friends or socializing at Daddy’s Club. A few Sanpedranos worked for them and were commissioned real estate dealers for Vernon, even though they never opened an office for that business.

It is safe to say that when foreigners come to live here and adapt to the life style and customs of the island, they make more friends and enjoy life more. If they come and want to change things to the way it is back home, life becomes stressful and unpleasant. Today we have people from all over the world either retired or striving for a living here on Ambergris Caye. The island has done an excellent job in assimilating all these people and making them welcome and comfortable. It is the hope of Twenty Five Years Ago that we can live in harmony and that when we refer to San Pedro or Ambergris Caye, that we consider it “Home”. There should be no such thing as “a stranger”.

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