Writer’s Note: (Pay attention to all the names in this article.) When I was a young man, I had the privilege of knowing Mr. Danny Vasquez, born and raised in San Pedro and who was directly connected with the early founders of San Pedro. He had a wealth of knowledge on Ambergris Caye and I was always willing to listen, ask a lot of questions, and absorbed his wealth of knowledge.
Adrian “Danny” Vasquez was born in San Pedro on September 7, 1902, to his parents Roman Vasquez and Escolastica Manrique de Vasquez. Danny’s grandparents lived in Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico when the Mayas revolted against the Spaniards and Mestizos in what was known as the Caste War. Whenever a village or town fell it was sacked and burnt; those captured were tortured, stabbed, shot and burnt.
A few of the survivors would leave everything behind and became refugees. Thousands of refugees fled south to British Honduras, now Belize. This whole grim story was repeated and it went on for some 60 years. It was in this setting in the1950’s that Danny’s grandparents escaped due south and came to the island of Ambergris Caye and to the small village of San Pedro. They had two children and thereafter had two more born in San Pedro, one of them Roman Vasquez who was Danny’s father.
This was the village where Danny was born and grew until 1949. Life in San Pedro in those days was nothing like life in San Pedro today. It had neither the attractions nor distractions of today. It was a Mestizo village created by the refugees of the Caste War. There were only a few pure Maya families – Dzul, Moh, Cobo, Pat, Can, Kumul, Dzit. There was one from Spain, Tolosa; a Creole family, the Forman’s; and there was one from England, the Parham family.
Social life in the village was regulated by the Roman Catholic Church calendar, and in business by the world demand on coconuts. Personal life was regulated by Mexican and Spanish traditions and by animal lust, greed and envy. The village was small. There were no buildings beyond the cemetery on the north and no buildings beyond La Esmeralda Cocal where the primary school is today.
During the year there were a series of fiestas all connected with the church. They were celebrated with dances, processions and by great public reverence and private debauchery or drunkenness. It started with the dances for the New Year.
One was for the young people celebrated at Casino Concordia right across Central Park. The other dance for the old married couples was held at Salustiano Loria’s house, where Fedo Alamilla used to live, (now Reef T V). The next fiesta was on January 15 also at Salustiano Loria’s house celebrating the Black Cross of Esquipulas. Then came Carnival with dancing and general debauchery on the last three days before Ash Wednesday and the commencement of Lent. Easter was celebrated with a procession and a mass if a priest came from Belize City and three or four public dances.
On May 3, there were novenas to commemorate the feast of he Three Crosses. Guadalupe Trejo and Mercedes Marin were the patrons of these novenas. June 29 was the feast of Saint Peter, the patron Saint of San Pedro. In July Serapio Lopez was the patron of the novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Nothing happened in September because the people thought it was a holiday for the British and the black people celebrating a victory against the Mexicans. November 1, was All Saints Day or “Dia de Las Animas”. There were prayers but no partying and Halloween was unheard of. Christmas was celebrated in big style and then the whole cycle would begin again.
Danny recounted to me that despite the church bells and incense and prayers, people still found time to misbehave. Hardly any man in the village was faithful to his wife. Danny even admitted to me that even he as a single man had a son with the maid of his house. Many of the richer people used their power, influence, and money to seduce the wives or daughters of the laboring men.
There were two homosexuals from Corozal, recounted Danny, that used to bring young girls from Corozal for a week and the young boys had an orgy during that week. There were also two prostitutes in those days from Chetumal who used to charge 25 cents, a half day’s pay, for most men who worked in the coconut groves. Danny recalls that once half of the men in San Pedro had venereal disease and there was no doctor back then. Imagine the possibilities.
It was in this very human society that Danny was born in 1902. I was fortunate to have met him when I was 15 years in 1965 and he taught me the basics of playing the saxophone. I loved to ask questions and drew a lot of knowledge and information from him. He also honored me by autographing his book “The Little World Of Danny Vasquez”, memoirs of Old San Pedro. I was very sad when Danny passed away, but I read his book often and relive the great memoirs of old San Pedro.
NB Other names mentioned by Danny Vasquez in other stories in the early days of San Pedro engaged in business, work, or social life were: Trinidad Aguilar, Elena Alamilla, Rosalia Campos, Sabas Vasquez, Manuel Azueta, Francisco Verde, Ruperto Pinto, Anastacio Alamilla, Eusebio Alamilla, Neto Parham, Pablo Reyes, Carmelo Cardenez, Maximiliano Rosado, Zosimo Rodriguez, Manuela Villanueva, Andres Gomez, Mercedes Munoz, Ignacio Trejo, Victor Guerrero Ema Munoz Elvira Alamilla, Sansorez family, Julio Tolosa, Florentino Nunez, Fedo Alamilla, Feliciano Sandoval, Juan Guerrero, Severo Guerrero, Alan “Jack” Forman, Jose Ancona, Tomas Paz, Anselmo Marin, Priciliano Gomez.