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Area No. 3 – San Juan

We have seen the first two areas of our town that were developed, the first one being the town core and the second one the Boca Del Rio Area. The next area in chronological order is the San Juan Area. This area comprises the entire area behind Boca Del Rio Area, or the area that is by the lagoon. Boca Del Rio goes from past Paradise to the river on the seaside, and San Juan is the entire stretch from behind Belize Electricity Limited all the way to the river on the lagoon side.

This area has an interesting history. Actually the land was mangrove and was acquired in 1971 the same time that the Boca Del Rio was acquired. It was acquired by the government of George Price, but Boca Del Rio was developed first because it was good land. The Lands Committee had the intention to fill the lots by means of dredge before giving it out. However, in 1984 something strange happened. Even though there was a PUP town board in San Pedro, there was a UDP government in Belmopan. It was just the opposite of politics today. Now in 1984 the UDP appointed a lands committee in San Pedro and that committee opted to issue the land as it was- without a survey, without a proper subdivision, without infrastructure of sewerage, water and electricity, and even without the proper applications for lease or purchase. The committee simply wanted to give out the land to gain political popularity and advantage.

As a result of the above, the area was developed very haphazardly, with small dilapidated shacks, no streets, no septic tanks, no water system, and electrical poles planted everywhere and people borrowing electricity from one another. The place really looked like a mess and smelled like a mess. There were streets filled up with house garbage, and yards that were underwater whenever it rained. There were reports of people running sewer pipes to the lagoon, and on one occasion a person built a small shack right on the street because there were no survey markers. While the committee kept issuing lots, some simple squatted on the land and claimed squatter’s rights. There were some people that simply got their lots, sort of filled it up with seaweed and sold the lots for real estate. San Juan grew as the people wanted or as they could afford, not according to the town board plans. I can tell you of this because I was in the town board and was against this development in that manner, but there was nothing I could do. I could have killed the lands committee chairman, whose name I choose not to mention publicly.

As a result of this mess, consequent mayors like Pete Salazar, Baldemar Graniel, and even Don Beto Nuñez, had to spend a lot of time, resources, and efforts to improve the area. The town was a tourist town and we could not afford such a ghetto in San Pedro. Today, with the efforts of past town councils and the people of San Juan, much improvement has been accomplished. You can drive in the San Juan area and appreciate a better standard of living. Yes, there are areas still in dire need of development, but if you see it today and did not know how it looked in the late 1980’s you would think I am telling you a lie. The people living in San Juan did not like admitting that they lived there. It was perceived that the people living in town core and Boca Del Rio were better than San Juan. There was discrimination and this inferiority complex. It was compared to the Yarborough (Yahbra) area of Belize City where only poor people lived and there was widespread sale of drugs.

However, both the PUP and the UDP needed votes and campaigned hard in that area and as a result made some promises and had to keep some of their promises. And so it was that San Juan received attention and improvements. There are fine streets now, with some really nice homes and businesses. Even the beachside street by the lagoon looks good and there are plans for a lagoon seawall like the one in town core. San Juan will soon be another proud area of our Isla Bonita with supermarkets, schools, a park, and even brick streets. San Juan is coming up and is another proud testimony of the resilience and optimism of our people in San Pedro. Thumbs up to San Juan.

Photo Caption: San Juan Area and the San Juan Statue at entrance of the general area.

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