T he question of, "where did my beloved piece of property come from?" has always been an interesting question. In some other parts of the world and Belize also, some people simply "squat" or sit on a piece of land and in due time it becomes their property We do have such a law in Belize. After so many years of sitting on a piece of property and no one claims it, or no one charges you a base fee or rent for it, or no one attests in a documented letter that it is his, then that property belongs to you.
Funny laws of Belize, but they are there in the books. Back to the first question, in some places people have to shed their blood to own a piece of land. Some people are lucky to inherit their piece of property - yes, just given to them on a silver platter.
Where did the people of San Pedro get their respective pieces of land? Well, San Pedro, San Juan, San Pablo and even San Pedrito - all have their respective and interesting history which I propose to share with you.
First San Pedro. It is to be recalled that the entire island or Caye was bought by one James Hume Blake at an auction sale in 1869 for the ridiculous sum of $625.00 Belize. As the years went by either through friendships, or intermarriage relationships or through business transactions, several large portions of the island passed on into the hands of others, especially the Parhams and the Alamillas, as documented in the book Ambergris Caye, Paradise with a Past.
The section where San Pedro Town's core is located remained in the hands of the Blake family for many many decades. People recall the property under James Howell Blake and then under Jim Blake. San Pedranos then leased or paid a yearly fee to be able to use a piece of land or lot. Yes, they built their homes on Blake property with the risk of being evicted, or receiving a higher lease fee. Imagine one's disappointment when he had enjoyed his property for 10 years or 15 years and be told that he had to move.
When this came to the attention of Mr. George Price, who was the then Premier of Belize in the 1960's, he immediately made plans for his government to put this land into the hands of the San Pedranos. He decided to acquire the land from Milo's Store to the area near Tropic Air, more or less. The matter went to court. Mr. Blake asked for his sum. The government made its offer. Land evaluations were done and finally the court made its decision. Whatever the government paid is unknown to us but that doesn't matter either. What matters is that the government sold lots at affordable prices to anyone who was occupying the land then. My father, Rafael Nuñez, had just lost his house on the beach side, just at the foot of Tackle Box Bar, due to Hurricane Hattie. Otherwise, our family could have purchased that nice parcel for some $ 800.00 dollars. Instead, we had rebuilt on middle street. My uncle Guillermo Nuñez (deceased), had given us one half of his lot which was 100 x 100 feet. Lots on middle and back streets were sold for $500 and $400 dollars each. Villagers were given the opportunity to apply, pay in yearly installments, and then given titles to their land.
The people of San Pedro will forever be thankful to George Price for empowering us and making us owners of OUR properties in San Pedro. Other San Pedranos had owned small parcels along the coast up north where they had operated their "cocals" or coconut.plantations. However, this acquisition in the 1960's was the first major revolution in San Pedro's land reform program.
Today an eight hundred dollar beach property is probably worth two hundred thousand dollars and a middle street $400.00 lot is sure to cash in $150,000 dollars for a prospective seller. But, hey, don't sell it because land is running scarce for any future land reform program.
Next week, we'll look at the San Juan area and others areas so that you will know where your land came from - your piece of this jewel.