San Pedro Town, as you know it today, was once a very small village. To get an idea of how small it was, you would have to leave out Boca Del Rio Area, San Juan, Airstrip Area, San Pedrito, San Pablo, San Marcos, DFC area, and even Escalante Subdivision and Mosquito Coast area. When you leave all of that out, there you have the core of what used to be the little fishing village of San Pedro all the way up to the early 1960’s.
In subsequent issues of Ambergris Today, I will give you a brief history of each subdivision. Collect each issue to learn the history of the area in which you live. I will give it to you live and direct, so you will get it from the horse’s mouth.
In this first in the series, let us look at the town core. The town core today was what constituted the entire village in the 1950’s. The beginning of the town was more or less where the primary school is today. Nobody liked living beyond that area for it was a very dense “cocal” or coconut plantation. It was covered with high bush and infested with mosquitoes. In the 1950’s, that primary school was not there. It was right in front of the police station, towards the beach. The end of the town was where the cemetery is today. Actually, back then the cemetery was considered to be right on the outskirts of the village. Don Ramon Badillo (deceased) lived on the property right before Milo’s Hotel and Ice place and nobody really liked living in that area as it was too close to the cemetery and too far. There was no Paradise hotel and beyond. Beyond the cemetery you found coconut trees along the beach all the way to the Boca Del Rio.
The core of the little village comprised mostly of small thatch houses with ground floors. There were a few wooden buildings, which were the pride of the town and the envy of all villagers. Of course the most outstanding building was Papa Blake’s mansion popularly called the Blake’s House. It was a three-story building with lovely attics built in the high-pitched roof. Every child dreamed of one day going up to the attic on the third floor to enjoy a view of the island and village. Papa Blake’s house was eventually sold to John Bremekamp to become Barrier Reef Hotel and Club and most recently to the Alliance Bank. This building was sold and demolished after some one hundred years of existence. The little Central Park was there in the 1950’s. It was a small slab of concrete surrounded by wooden benches where the children learned to walk, the old people sat and gossip and the teenagers stole a moment to romance. The police station has always stood there except it always looked smart with a fresh touch of paint and repaired by the village council and local free labor. Only the best friends of the single police officer visited that place for a casual moment. The officer’s small kerosene refrigerator was always packed with free Mexican beer.
The entire village, from the Primary School to the cemetery was land owned by the Blake Family, James Howell Blake and his son Jim Blake and other family members. The villagers used to lease a lot from the Blakes for about 15 dollars a year. Bad pays were given quick notice and ejected from the property. It is from there that BTL and BEL and BWS and CCV learned to disconnect bad pays. (Only a joke) The Blakes were considered the owners of the village, which in a way they were. A few people got some land by marrying into the family or purchased some very cheap land by working for them.
There were a few stores in the village in the 1950’s like Fido’s store, Daddy’s store, La Favorita belonging to Mr. Cruz Nuñez, Sr. (my grandfather), and one belonging to don Tony Villanueva, brother-in-law to Fido Nuñez (deceased). Along the beach you found innumerable small canoes, and some fishing boats anchored just three hundred feet off shore. The place smelled like fish and at times of smoke from the fire hearth where the women did the cooking. Lovely, romantic, picturesque, quixotic, enchanting, laid back, quaint, an island Paradise- these are some terms that can be used to refer to San Pedro the fishing village from the 1930’s all the way up into the 60’s, or as we say, 25 years ago.