As I move along with my list of ‘Firsts in San Pedro’, I am discovering some new ones like the first wedding on the beach (actually on a pier in front of Ambergris Lodge by Mr. Bob and Mrs. Smith). Someone asked for the first families so I have decided to dedicate an entire volume for that one.
There is no written account to delineate the actual names of such families but through my readings and investigations I will be able to come close to those first families. My good friend Danny Vasquez (+) left Memoirs of Old San Pedro in a book written for him by the late Emory King. Danny was born in the village in 1902 about fifty years after San Pedro was founded in 1848. Danny autographed a copy of his book for me in 1989 when “The Little World of Danny Vasquez was published. Through his memoirs and names mentioned by my father and grandfather and acquaintances in our conversations, I am able to compile a fairly accurate list of those first families in San Pedro.
Let me begin by acknowledging The Vasquez and Manrique among the first families since Danny was born of Vasquez and Manrique in 1902. The Aguilars were among the first since Danny’s grandfather some 50 years earlier was mentioned as having married Trinidad Aguilar in San Pedro.
Mention is made that most families were of Mestizo Indian descent, but that some Maya families also formed part of the early community as were the following: Moh, Cobo, Dzul, Can, Kumul, Dzit. One family came directly from Spain- Tolosa. Julio Tolosa raised cattle in Basil Jones about the time Ambergris Caye was purchased by the Blake and after Tolosa died Papa Blake assumed ownership of the cattle on his land. Another family came directly from England- Parham. Parham married first to Andrade of Mexico and then to Alamilla so they too are part of our early families in San Pedro. Apolonio Alamilla and his brother Juan both refugees of the Caste War in Yucatan were the first Alamillas in Ambergris Caye. The Forman family, the first Creole family in San Pedro, was also among the firsts. Salustino Loria hosted dances in the Mestizo community. These families hosted the religious novenas on May 3 for feast of the Three Crosses: Guadalupe Trejo and Mercedes Marin. Serapio Lopez hosted the novena of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
James Howell Blake "Papa Blake" and Elena Alamilla married in San Pedro and became heirs to Ambergris Caye after it was purchased in 1869 for $625.00 in an auction sale. Maximiliano Rosado was a businessman and he married Justina Nuñez. Zosimo Rodriguez and Andres Gomez miraculously survived the epidemic that killed half of the population. The first to die was Manuela Villanueva followed by two Sansorez and then one Tolosa. Francisco Verde cultivated arrowroot which was grounded into flour and became a popular commodity during the epidemic and the scarcity of food in San Pedro. Juan Guerrero is mentioned as a musician and Carmelo Cardenez as a comedian during the festivals. Anselmo Marin was a leader in the chicle camps. Popular musicians mentioned are Juan and Victor Guerrero, Thomas Paz, Isabel Reyes, Secundino Gonzalez, Eriberto Gutierrez, Severo Guerrero, Jemi Aguilar, Gilberto and Priciliano Gomez, Manuel Azueta, Alan Jack Forman, Carlos Marin, Adriano Ramirez, and a few popular singers such as Olivia Blake, Emma Muñoz, Elvira Alamilla and Beatriz Paz.
The above are the main family names cited by Danny Vasquez who lived and knew these families on Ambergis Caye. Yet we all know that in the early part of the twentieth century there lived in San Pedro families like Ancona, Badillo, Castillo, Varela, Graniel, Rivero, Perez who were quite likely among some of the early families on the island.
In last week’s issue of Twenty Five Years Ago about the first families of Ambergris Caye, I tried to include as many names which I compiled from my readings of Danny Vasquez’s book and from narrations of my father and grandfather. Most of the names sound familiar to me and to most people over sixty years of age in San Pedro. I am happy to know that there have been readings from Corozal, Cayo USA and even from Guatemala. A teenage friend of mine now living in Los Angeles USA wrote to me saying that she read it intently hoping to find the family name of Sanchez in the article? I am delighted that friends from Corozal who are related to Danny have sent some photos to add to this story which is a collector’s item.
After Danny left San Pedro, he operated the Palace Hotel and Bar in Belize City with his son Dato Vasquez, and then retired at his property at Tropical Park with his daughter Elisa Vasquez King, just outside Belize City. He visited San Pedro often and during one of his visits with my father, Rafael Nuñez, he taught me to play the saxophone. He was an extremely cordial man and fun to talk to as he was a wealth of knowledge.
Here is a brief letter sent to 25 Years Ago:
Hello, Angel Nuñez's article on the first families of San Pedro is very interesting and familiar to us. We are the children of Néstor Vásquez, the brother of Danny Vásquez. We are proud to be descendants of original San Pedro families. We're attaching a few pictures that feature some of the people that contributed to the development of San Pedro.
Photo titled "San Pedro Men's Group" (Above) -Standing front left is Alfonso Lopez. On far right is Claudio Azueta. Left of Claudio Azueta is Miguel Alamilla. Kneeling in the center is Reynaldo Muñoz. Next to him is Macas Reyes. Can anyone recognize any other of the men, the workforce of early San Pedro?
Photo titled "San Pedro Carnaval"-From left to right is Don Us (Eusebio). Danny Vásquez is standing in the middle dressed like Uncle Sam and to the far right is Nestor Vásquez dressed like a baker.
Photo titled "San Pedro Band"- Standing in the back is Danny Vásquez with the saxophone and next to him is his brother Néstor Vásquez with the clarinet. Playing the trombone is Tomas Paz and the trumpet is Claudio Azueta. At the drums is the famous Mr. Alan ‘Jack’ Forman and at the horn is the legendary don Severo Guerrero who owned La Ensenada Cocal also known as San Telmo. Behind the banjo is Carlos ‘Calin’ Marin. According to Danny, he named this dance band Monte Carlo, not after the famous French resort but after a popular Mexican cigarette because a friend of his in Belize City had a band named after a cigarette, Lucky Strike Band.