By Angel Nuñez
Being first is quite a fete. It is nice to know that you were first in your class, first to set a record like the High School boys did this year by winning the National Secondary Softball Championship. It is not quite pleasant to be the first one to go to jail for whatever reason, or commit a serious crime or to be the first one to suffer a terrible accident.
The first issue of this series which I call “The Very First Ones” was well received and suggestions are forthcoming to me about topics the public wants to learn about. So here we go to Volume Number Two of "Firsts" in San Pedro and Ambergris Caye”. These events or persons have set the pace for a good start and have led to the development of San Pedro as we know it today. So WHO and WHAT and WHEN and WHY were the "Firsts"? Just in case you missed the first volume, kindly check into our archives.
First Power Plant (Pictured in Headline)
If you want to see San Pedro's first power plant all you need to do is ask Mr. George Parham's permission at Sand’s Hotel and he will be all too happy to show you the remains of a an old generator that still stands in his property. It is rusty but perhaps you might be able to even find the date on the generator or he will take you back in the early 20th century for a historical overview of this accomplishment.
It is said that it provided power for a privately owned business named “El Casino” and a few neighbors in the area. Later Mr. Jim Blake (deceased and son of the legendary Papa Blake) set up a fairly large generator for his own use and provided street lighting for the two main streets in the village. This plant was located at the area of Sun breeze Hotel at a coconut depot known as El Astillero. It was cranked up from sunset up until about 9 p.m. This must have been in the 1940's and 1950's. In the 1960's, Caribeña Fishing Cooperative installed a large generator plant for its refrigeration needs and it also provided electric power to a good part of the village. Finally the electric company of Belize set up the VERY FIRST 24-hour power service to San Pedro and it was perhaps one of the best investments ever made in and for San Pedro. I give credit for this accomplishment to our area representative Louis “Cuz” Sylvestre and the village leaders back then.
First Corn Tortilla Factory
Corn tortillas have always been the main food of the Mayas and Mestizos. Back in the 1950’s we all used to boil our corn, grind it with a hand mill and bake the tortillas over a hot plate called a “comal”. It was a tedious process until someone decided to set up the very first tortilla factory in San Pedro. It was done sometime in the 1960’s by Mr. Gildardo “Daddy” Paz father of the past Mayor Elsa Paz. He set up this very successful factory downstairs of his house where his family still lives. It was a revolutionary project for Sanpedranos.
Imagine all the tedious process and time consumed in producing home-made tortillas. Wow, what a relief for so many housewives and children to just grab on to your cloth and go to the tortilla factory for your hot tortillas at 50 cents a pound. I don’t think there was anyone in San Pedro who complained. We did complain, when once in a while, when the tortilla factory broke down for some mechanical reason, but soon it was back in full operation. Thank you Mr. Daddy Paz for setting the pace for such a vital commodity in San Pedro.
Our First Priest
Most people will immediately say it was Father Robert Raszkowski because he is the one most known and remembered for his long and dedicated service to San Pedro. But my parents always mentioned an early priest by the name of Father Franco. He seemed to have had Belizean and Mexican roots and his family lived in the X’calack area which is our closest Mexican neighboring village. The Franco family owned property in North Ambergris Caye and Father Franco visited San Pedro periodically but not constantly.
Then there was Father Fecundo Castillo of Belize City who used to visit us even before Father Raszkowski. Father Castillo later on was promoted as vicar general to the Catholic Church in Belize. But if you insist that our good Father Raszkowski was our VERY FIRST PRIEST, I say “Yes he was” because he served us for close to 50 years from the 1950’s up until the time of his recent passing away in Belize City. He was responsible for the construction of the Catholic Church as we know it today. We miss you Father Raz.
Author’s Note: A request has been made by one of our readers on the First Families to Ambergris Caye, so I have decided to devote one entire article to that next week. Happy reading.