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The Coming of Electricity

So there was a time when there was no electricity and to beat up an egg you used the hand beater. And when you wanted to get to some spot down or up the coast, you walked the beach or hoisted the little sail in your dory. And when it was too hot to sleep inside, you took your hammock out on the verandah or downstairs. Yes, it is probably true that nobody missed electricity back then for when you do not have something, you do not miss it. Today electricity only has to go off for a few minutes and everyone would start grumbling. It would seem that we are useless without electric power. Yes, we have been spoiled by this amenity that was just not there not so long ago.

Exactly when did electricity come to San Pedro? There is evidence of the first power plant in the yard where Sands Hotel is located right across Central Park. I am told that that was the site of a famous place called “El Casino”. It was no gambling center but more a cultural and entertainment place for music and dancing. The owner apparently had the power plant to run that place and I am told perhaps he did give power to a few friends and neighbors. However, practically San Pedro still did not have electricity. That happened in the 1930’s.

Then there was another power plant where Sun Breeze Hotel is presently located. That place used to be called “El Astillero”, a place where coconut was harvested, dried and processed for export. The place belonged to the Blakes, who were quite wealthy and had means and comfort. Apparently they set up a small generator there to power their property, but at some point they ran some wires along the middle and back streets and provided street lighting for the village. Again some friends and relatives got power, but for all practical purposes, San Pedro was still without electricity as the lights were turned on at 6 p.m. and off at 9 p.m.

When Caribeña Fishing Cooperative was formed in the 1960’s, there was need for a good generator to power their freezers and chilling rooms. Caribeña was perhaps the country’s leading producer of marine products for the export market. Once again, Caribeña apparently did offer some power to a few more places around the village, but the entire village was not under 24 hour power.

We all know that 24 hour electricity came to San Pedro under the efforts of our PUP area representative, Louis Sylvestre, who was also very instrumental in the fishing cooperative. He finally convinced government that used to own the Belize Electricity Board, (B.E.B.) that San Pedro was ready for this investment. Power lines were set up all over the village from Paradise area to the Primary School area more or less, and the streets got lit up and all who wanted to wire up their housed did so. It was then that the Sanpedranos had enough money to buy refrigerators, stereos, washing machines, etc. and there was a complete turn about in village life. This is when we became spoiled and only got worse as time went on. Then came the television and the most affluent and sophisticated technologies that we enjoy today.

The demand for electricity is extremely large. At one time the town ran well with a few large generators. However, demand grew and today we are hooked up to a grid that has many problems. If it rains too hard, our power goes off. Is it because of the great demand? Can’t live without power today for one second as we did 25 years ago? No, it is not that we were more tolerant, but because we did not miss it as much.

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