One of the most outstanding qualities of San Pedro has been its unity as a community. San Pedranos celebrated each other’s joys and felt each other’s pains. At one point in time, if there was a death in the village and there was a big dance party being planned on that same day, it was postponed or even cancelled. Call it love, call it caring or respect, it is certainly solidarity and unity.
I will introduce to you a young man who was much loved in San Pedro and when he passed away, it felt like the most tragic moment in San Pedro’s history. Adolfo Ayuso Jr. popularly called Adolfito was born in San Pedro of a Belizean father and a Mexican mother. He ran barefooted along the streets of San Pedro like all other children, went looking for firewood for his mom’s fogon (fire hearth), went to school with one exercise book and a pencil, and his favorite pass time was hand line fishing.
As a young man Adolfito became a lobster fisherman. He was a teenager that loved parties, dancing, carnival. He was always willing to do things for his friends, as well as for family. He was a homely young man and much attached to his siblings Felix, Mickey Nunez, and Manuelita Marin.
Because he did not adopt very well to the sea, his parents sent him to Chetumal, Mexico to learn a trade. After a few months he returned to San Pedro to tryout his new profession as a tailor. However just about this time tourism had its origins in San Pedro and Adolfito returned once again to the sea and started working as a tour guide at Ramon’s Village. His passion for the sea soon elevated him to become one of San Pedro’s first dive masters.
This new profession changed Adolfito’s life drastically. Scuba diving is very challenging and even dangerous profession. The more you do it, the more you challenge yourself to break barriers and seek new adventures. The dive master is eager to train others to enjoy the mysteries of the sea and eager to show his skills and the wonders of the Belizean mysterious and exotic waters.
It was this passion that took Adolfito at the age of 38 to a sink hole that is located just off the coast of Caye Caulker’s western side. Many divers had dived this sink hole or blue hole as some people call it. The cave is totally dark once you enter and your visibility is only enhanced with flashlights. Someone had anchored a rope for divers to find their way out. However fate would have it that this rope was old and probably broke loose.
Adolfito dived as far as half of his air tank could take him and when he tried to return he realized there was no rope and he became disoriented and indeed lost. Try as he may he finally ran out of air and drowned in the depths of the sink hole. Members of his team, including his younger brother Pete Ayuso made several desperate dives trying to locate him, but all efforts failed.
The Ayuso family had lost a son and a brother. Many guys, and I place myself in that list, had lost a great friend. He had left behind a wife and two girls and one boy. San Pedro had lost a son of the soil; everything was paralyzed in San Pedro.
Schools were closed and the high school dismissed immediately for one of his daughters was a junior at the time. The entire village congregated at several spots on the beach with watery eyes, lamenting, consoling each other, perhaps praying and asking God for a miracle. Every boat that returned from Caye Caulker brought us all a glimmer of hope but soon disappointing negative news.
Night came and hundreds congregated at his house for a wake with the body in absentia. After two or three days of constant, frantic and hopeful diving by all of San Pedro’s divers, all hopes were lost and the search concluded.
Then it was time for a memorial in his honor. Hundreds of family and friends gathered for a boat procession to lay wreaths at his burial site (the sink hole) where we shed tears, cast flowers, elevated our prayers and songs in his memory. The village of San Pedro was united in grief at the loss of a very loved one. This was perhaps the biggest human tragedy to have ever hit San Pedro.
Then about three months later, a team of divers from the USA dove the sink hole and found his body. It was put in a special bag and taken directly to the San Pedro Cemetery where Adolfito was laid to rest eternally. If you never knew him, now you do. Occasionally I go to the cemetery and talk to him because he was my best friend.