Electrical Power! Try to imagine a hot day with no fans and no air conditioners. How would you manage a day without computers, Internet service or charging your golf cart because there is no electricity? Imagine the dilemna with the bakery, tortilla factory, meat shops, hotels and with B.T.L. if there were no electricity. Electrical power is indeed a recent novelty at Ambergris Caye. In the 1950's there was no 24-hour power. The story of electricity is in four stages. Check it out.
The very first power plant was located in the yard of the famous casino. It was not a gambling casino, but rather a social and cultural center. The casino belonged to Ann Elizabeth Parham de Alamilla who was married to Anastacio Alamilla and it was he who was responsible for the plant to light up the casino and. a small neighborhood in the sleeping village of San Pedro in the 1930's. The diesel power plant was put into place in San Pedro on March 20, 1931 and was operated by a German, Mr. Linn. In order for Mr. Linn to crank up the power plant, the village people had to buy him a bottle of rum. No rum for Mr. Linn, no electricity for the village.
Electricity was an amenity for the wealthy. In the early 1950's, Jim Blake, who had inherited a lot of land from his dad James Blake, affectionately known as Papa Blake, set up a power plant exactly at the area of Sunbreeze. The place was known as "El Astillero", which was an open area where coconut was dried into "copra", bagged and stored in a large storeroom and was made ready for shipment and export. The power plant was cranked up at 6 p.m. and shut down at 9 p.m. It only provided electricity to the Blake's home And the 2 streets had light poles with lights at each corner, about 20 lights total. During these days people lit their homes with candles or kerosene lamps popularly known as "quinque".
A big boost and third stage came with the Caribena Fishing Cooperative in the Mid 1960's. They needed to run large ice making machines and needed reliable power to keep their freezers and chilling rooms charged up, so they had 2 large generators. It was them that first provided 24-hour electricity for the first time to parts of San Pedro.
By now it was evident that San Pedro was ready for 24-hour electricity. Caribena had brought much progress and wealth to the island and people were ready to have electric irons, radios, record players, fans, blenders, refrigerators, etc. It was then in the late 1960's that Louis Sylvestre, our PUP area representative, convinced the government of Belize to set up 2 big generators that would suffice this entire village with 24-hour electricity. And then San Pedro entered a new era of development. From then on, the rest is common knowledge. If power goes off today for 5 minutes, you know there is a lot of grumbling and "cussing", but even machines have to take a break sometimes. If power goes off in some part of Mexico, we go off as well, but indeed we have one of the best-power systems in the nation, knock on wood please.
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.