By Angel Nuñez
The Mestizo settlers in Corozal District from 1846 to 1858 grew from 4500 inhabitants to 8000. On the other hand the Mestizo settlers to Ambergris Caye were some 30 houses with about 50 inhabitants. They probably consisted of relatives of fishermen who moved to the island when the Santa Cruz Maya revolted and became belligerent. The refugees who came to live here had also been farmers in Yucatan so these activities continued.
At first they obtained leasehold land fairly cheaply. They paid a rent of two dollars per year for a sizeable parcel of land to three brothers popularly known as Los Hermanos Bibbins (probably a Spanish corruption of the English name ‘Bevans’). The Mestizo settlers thought they were the owners of Ambergris Caye, when in fact they were agents of Welsh and Gough, who were two Belize City merchants who were the actual owners at the time. When the tenants could not find money to satisfy this rental, the Bevans were kind enough to accept payment in kind of chickens or eggs.
The main fishing device used at the time was the seine or large net which was used extensively in the lagoons behind the caye. With this and the hook and line, they were able to catch enough fish for a comfortable living. Eventually in 1869 the entire island was owned by Mr. James Hume Blake and the Mestizo found themselves working for them and their families. Around 1890 they were employed and taken to the mainland to do logwood and chicle. Logwood was cut for lumber and also bled for its dye. The sapodilla tree was bled for its resin which was made into gum and exported.
Around 1920 the Mestizos on the Island still working for the owners of the caye found themselves employed by them to work on the island in the coconut industry which flourished until 1931 when the coconut plantations were partially destroyed by a hurricane and then up until 1942 when the plantations were completely demolished by another hurricane. It is then that the Mestizos resorted mostly to fishing, taking their produce to Belize City, Corozal Town and the villages along the rivers in the north.
It was not until 1964 when the Sanpedranos, all Mestizos for the most part, formed their fishing cooperative that life took a drastic change in their lives. Incidentally it was this cooperative that eventually attracted the third set of immigrants to Ambergis Caye and this sets the scenario for our next issue of History of immigration Part Four.
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
Contact the Author at: [email protected]