It was 1848 during the Caste War that the Mestizo refugees escaped from Yucatan Mexico and settled on Ambergris Caye in this area now known as San Pedro. The site was probably chosen because it was high land and the narrowest stretch on the island.
Furthermore, it was near the Boca del Rio, a channel that allowed them easy access to both the front and leeward sides of the island. At the time Belize was under British control and had made their settlement in what is known as Belize City today. However, the British assumed ownership of the entire country from Rio Hondo in the north to Sarstoon River in the South.
The archives of Belize show that two British merchants of Belize City had title of ownership of Ambergris Caye. They were Welsh and Gough.
Now, when the Mestizos settled on Ambergris Caye they found what they believed was a deserted island. There was no population or any visible community. Consequently they immediately set forth in building their shelters which were thatch houses made with “taciste” using the stems on the walls, and leaves on the roof. The humble little house had a dirt floor, but for refugees in a new-found haven, this was a mansion. They dug shallow wells which provided abundance of fresh unpolluted water.
Now all that was needed was food. No problem. The founding Mestizos were good farmers so they tilled the “milpas” or small plots of land outside of the village in areas such as Habaneros and “Bercellon (Basil Jones). They grew the staple crops of corn and beans as well as sugar cane from which they made a crude form of sugar known as “panela”.
Farmers are also good hunters so our forefathers took advantage of the abundance of deer, pigs, and several large birds such as wild turkeys, and turned them into exotic dishes in their humble abodes.
And let us never forget that our Mestizo forefathers were also good fishermen. Well their new home of Ambergris Caye was the perfect place with abundance of fish, conch and lobster. To supplement the marine products our forefathers also took advantage of sea turtles and manatees which abounded all around the close proximity of the island.
Just when the founders of the village of San Pedro thought they were absolute owners of the land, three brothers appeared on the island. They were agents of Welsh and Gough, and came to cut a deal with the villagers.
For many years the villagers paid an annual rent of two dollars to “Los Hermanos Bibins”, probably a Spanish corruption of he name “Bevans Brothers” which the Spanish and Maya Mestizos could not pronounce.
Sounds like life in Paradise, right? A scenic village, the reef, Caribbean Sea, pristine beaches, farmland with bountiful food, the sea with bountiful marine produce-all of the above sounds like a “Wow! But there were the mosquitoes to contend with. There were the “Nortazos” (strong, cold, northerly winds). And there were the occasional hurricanes. Imagine spending a hurricane in those little thatch houses as your hurricane shelter!
For our founding fathers. This was Paradise, a life free of stress and no threat from the aggressive Maya’s or the Spanish “conquistadores”. British Honduras was under British rule and protection.