by Jorge Aldana
It amazes me how we people are so political that we tend to forget that we have come along as a town. I am not originally from San Pedro Town but when I see progress, it makes me feel good. I came to live on the island almost 11 years ago and while it may seems like a short time, one decade is enough for me to observe how rapidly we have evolved and more importantly, to see that as a community are able to handle, while not perfectly, with a sense of stability.
In San Mateo– There were no streets, period! London bridges were the only way to access that area. In fact up until 6 years ago, there were no streets. In addition, electricity and water were something farfetched given the fact that there were no road system in place. It was not until under the leadership of Mayor Daniel Guerrero, that the London bridges were replaced by streets. Step by step, the one road at-a-time approach was used, and look at the subdivision now, most of the London bridges have been replaced.
As it related to electricity, all the web-looking connections have been replaced by the installation of electrical poles and direct connections into homes. It was under Mayor Daniel Guerrero that proper electrical system was expanded to include San Mateo. And the same can be said for the water system. In fact those who actually live in that area could attest to the strides of getting portable water into their homes. From having to go all the way to the bridge foot for portable water from one pipe ten years ago – to water into their homes in 2018.
Sure there is much, plenty more which could be done in San Mateo, but development does not come overnight. The argument that San Mateo has been abandoned does not stand here nor there in the eyes of the people of San Mateo or the residents of San Pedro who have actually walked on the London bridges in San Mateo over 10 years ago. I can tell you, I walked those London bridges, pounding the campaign trail with the PUP 10 years ago. In fact I walked with three of the actual candidates ten years ago. Today, the candidates of both political parties pound the STREETS in San Mateo not LONDON BRIDGES. And while ten years ago, you could only campaign during the day time because there were no road and no electricity, in 2018, candidates can campaign all day and all night because of the road and electricity that has been put in place.
Moving my attention now to San Pedrito. I can literally attest to experiences because I lived in the area for a very long time. I once live on the back Street in San Pedrito and looking back 11 years ago to what it is now, there has been major improvement. But I will tell you just a regular day’s experience ten years ago. I had to take off my shoes everyday (especially during high tide) and walk with them in my hands. When we got in the area from near Mr Ramon (where the Chinese store is) all the way to Coyote Ugly (yes that bar has been there for a very long time), we jumped from dry wood to dry wood or from a piece of brick to another brick that was poking out of the water. This was a regular day with high tide. I can recall once when I attempted to avoid the wave that came with the passing of a taxi – I tried jumping the wave to avoid getting wet, but my camera and I fell into the mud and water.
Fast-forwarding to 2018, those days have long gone. Some people are fast to judge and publish the potholes that comes with the seasonal rain for political mileage. Trust me, it is literally nothing compared to what it was 10 years ago. I have heard even worse stories when comparing how it was 20 years ago. Again those that lived there for 25 years will tell you, they are grateful for the strides that has been done under Mayor Guerrero.
If we are to speak about the northern road alone, it is safe to say that it is a significant investment. Driving up north 10 years ago was a challenge all by itself. I remember the countless times having to jump out of the cart, going into knee-height mud to push the cart with it got stuck. Today, not only is a significant portion of the northern road fixed with concrete, but a second leg of it has been elevated with hardcore material and has positively impact the tourism industry on the island.
In his first term alone Mayor Guerrero and the council has invested over $3 million dollars in road infrastructure alone. This is clearly evident when you go into the various subdivisions. I can go on and on, pointing out how various subdivision were 10 years ago and how they have come along in 2018. I visited every subdivision religiously every single week to deliver newspapers and I can tell you, the roads were in such bad state back then - it was very far worse that it is now.
Truth of the matter is that this island has seen a 17% growth every single year for the past 10 years. That is about 1200 new residents every year. San Pedro Town is the fastest growing community and the only self-sustained municipality in the entire country. It is not easy to manage a town with such growth rate. The regional growth rate is about between 0.7% and 1.2%. Belize’s growth rate is 3%. Compare that to 17% on Ambergris Caye. Not any leader is able to handle and run a town, while not 100% perfect, but with high sense of stability.