The story behind the stories of people, events and turning points – by Maestro Angel Nunez
The Blake Family is synonymous with the owners of the entire island of Ambergris Caye and therefore San Pedro. So here goes this chronicle to honor this great family thanks to whom we all here today. The Blakes left their marks in San Pedro and footprints in the lives of San Pedranos.
The first in the Blake dynasty was well known and esteemed in San Pedro was James Humes Blake. He was a wealīthy British magistrate stationed in Corozal where he owned lots of property. It was he who learned that the entire island of Ambergris Caye was being sold in an auction. Being in the courts, he was privy to this information and he made his bid to purchase. Consequently on September 13, 1869, Mr. James Blake became the sole owner of the entire island of Ambergris Caye for $625.00 considered a pittance even by standards of those days.
Mama and Papa Blake
It is to be noted that the purchase of Ambergris Caye by James Hume Blake began to shape the lives of the people of San Pedro who had settled on the island as Mestizo refugees in 1848. After 1869 Mr. Blake began offering employment to the men in the logwood cutting, chicle industry, and coconut harvesting.
The second Blake to touch the lives of San Pedro was James Howell Blake, son of the first James Humes Blake. He was popularly known as Papa Blake for many years even after his passing away which I understand happened in Veracruz, Mexico. It is to be noted that his father, James Hume Blake, had married a wealthy widow of Valladolid, Mexico who had two daughters, Romana and Maria Exaltacion.
These were Blake’s step daughters and it’s in their names that he purchased the island in 1869. Therefore when Papa Blake came into the picture, he only inherited part of the island; the other parts belonging to his step sisters. Papa Blake married Anita Alamilla and lived a peaceful life in San Pedro in what was considered a mansion in those days and popularly remembered as Blake House.
Papa Blake became the Justice of the Peace for San Pedro, probably the first and only one at the time. He continued the legacy of his father and brought the coconut industry to greater heights. Note that there is verbal and written letter evidence that some of these land owners in Ambergris Caye were not very kind to the island inhabitants by applying high rents and evicting tenants on short notice. (Ref: Ambergris Caye, Paradise with a Past by Glenn Godfrey)
Papa Blake and Anita had two children that were well known to San Pedranos. One was probably James Blake III but known to all as Jim Blake. He became a businessman and lived in Belize City. He must have inherited some land from dad because way into the 1960’s ad 70’s he was selling lots to San Pedranos and even foreigners. The lot on which the San Pedro Polyclinic sits, for example, was purchased by the Lions Club from Jim Blake. The other child of Papa Blake and Anita was a young lady who joined the Sisters of Mercy and served all her adult life as a nun. She loved San Pedro and was loved in return and she made lots of friendships in the land that had belonged to her ancestors. I cannot tell you her real name because we only knew her with her religious name which was Sister Helen. (RIP)