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History of Immigration to Ambergris Caye (Part Five)

By Angel Nuñez

A review of the history of immigration to San Pedro shows the Mayas setting foot here around 1000 to 1200 followed by the small immigration of the Mestizos in 1848 when the village was first founded.  San Pedro remained predominantly a Mestizo community for just over 100 years until late 1970 when Benqueñas (girls from Benque) were encouraged to come in San Pedro to be a part of the workforce at the fishing cooperative where they processed conch, fish and lobster for export to the United States of America.  This was the apex of our fishing industry when our fishing cooperative was exporting about 180,000 pounds of fresh rock frozen lobster tails abroad.

After this first immigration of Belizeans from other districts, the word quickly went around that there were job opportunities in San Pedro.  I will categorically say, however, that very few if any came to San Pedro to engage in the fishing industry.  That job remained solely for Sanpedranos all the way into the 1980’s when the marine produce went into a gradual but fairly rapid decline.  However by this time tourism was also showing a rapid growth, so the Sanpedrano fishermen turned into tourist guiding.  This tourism industry also opened job opportunities for carpenters, masons, and other tradesmen, hotel and restaurant jobs, craftsmen, among others.  By the same token there were new and numerous white collar jobs openings in gift shops, stores, business offices, government departments, airlines, insurance, and banking among many others specialized services.

It was in this scenario that the population boom in San Pedro began almost simultaneously with immigrants first from Corozal Town and Orange Walk Town as well as from the district villages.  Then came people from Belize City, Cayo, Stann Creek, and from as far as Punta Gorda in Toledo District.  The population of San Pedro High School soared from 95 to 300 and 400 rapidly and with it the need for more classroom space.  The R.C. School enrollment also jumped from 200 to 700 with pressing demands for infrastructure.
However, this is not the only set of immigrants.  In this same scenario and with the same hope of locating a job opportunity, there was the big immigration of people from Central America, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Coupled with this growth in immigration, San Pedro attracted people from the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, and a few other foreign countries.  It could be fairly safe to say that in the entire county of Belize San Pedro, Ambergris Caye is the one single place that has attracted the most people from other districts as well as foreigners from abroad.  With a Sanpedrano birthrate of about 100 per year, the population of San Pedro nevertheless grew by some 1000 per year since 1995 and the trend continues. With this there is the good, the bad and the ugly, but that is a matter for discussion in a different forum, certainly not in Twenty Five Years Ago.

25 Years Ago Books Can Be Purchased At:
-Ambergris Today -Lala’s Store -Chico’s Meat Shop -Pampered Paws -Ambergris Jade -San Pedro BTB Office -Aquarious Salon (Kim) -S.P. Town Library -Di Bush -Richies Stationery -San Pedrano’s Stationery

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