I ndeed thousands of Mayas passed or stopped at Ambergris Caye, but never was there a "San Pedro". It was the Mestizos that founded San Pedro in 1848. There were only 20 fami- lies. perhaps 30, that originally founded this community. (See previous issue.) Today there are some 200 or more families living here. There is a mass influx of good people who have decided to call San Pedro or Ambergris Caye "Home".
When and how did this influx occur? For over 100 years San Pedro was solely inhabited by the Mestizo founders and other relatives. An occasional teacher, or police officer of Creole or Garifuna descent stayed on the island for a year or two and then were replaced. Indeed, the first fairly large group to immigrate to San Pedro came from the west of Belize - Benque Viejo del Carmen.
In the first glorious years of Caribena Fishing Cooperative, there was a large lobster and fish and conch and shrimp processing plant. Thousands upon thousands of pounds of marine products were processed by the "San Pedrana" girls who earned good money at the plant. However, with the advent of tourism and the opening of hotels, there were many other job opportunities that paid better and were easier at the same time. So the San Pedranas found themselves in hotels, gift shops, kitchens, rooms, front desks, etc. No longer did they want to clean fish from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The fishing cooperative was in real problems with a shortage of "woman power" at the plant. Somehow the word got around and 3 or 4 Benque girls got employment. They passed the word around to their friends and relatives and pretty soon there were twenty and thirty. Then they brought their relatives and husbands and brothers and soon the "West" had made San Pedro their home in the 1980's.
As the tourism industry grew, there was a bigger demand in the hotel and restaurant business as well as in construction. And soon word got around that San Pedro had lots of jobs, which indeed it had. Thus the men and women, mostly the younger people from Corozal and Orange Walk started immigrating to San Pedro. Belize City and Dangriga as well as Punta Gorda soon followed the same steps. In a matter of a few years San Pedro's population jumped from one thousand to four. The Central Americans from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua also blended very easily in San Pedro. They could hide here easily and could pass like any Benqueno or Corozaleno with their Spanish language and Latino features.
Today the official government statistics have us at 3,325, but we all know this is far from the real fact. We know it is between 5 and 6 thousand. A good majority of this population are immigrants from the districts and Central America and a large number of U.S. citizens.
San Pedro is a melting pot of San Pedranos, Belizeans from all districts, Central American refugees and immigrants from the United States.