A panoramic view of old El Cayo from across the river, long ago
Hector Silva: This is a view taken from across Santa Elena in the 1950s. These are the twin towns, which generated hundreds of millions of dollars, to the British Honduras economy, during the mahogany and chicle industries.
Carol Dyer: I can remember looking straight across the river from my grandma's kitchen on the Santa Elena side and seeing homes on the Cayo side of the river. The trees grew and blocked the view through the years and the beautiful site faded from view.
Avery was an English photographer brought by the Colonial government in the 1920's and 30's to record the achievements of the new colony, Belize. Avery was a passionate photographer who liked his work and captured Belize and all its holdings in a detailed fashion. We only see pieces of his work today. To see all his work would be a treasure indeed.
THE BUILDING OF A TOWN, WHICH HAD PRACTICALLY NO UTILITIES AND SCARCE SERVICES
( A large abandoned village called a Town. )
The following is a description of what San Ignacio and by extension Santa Elena were, up to December of 1958.
It can be factually called an OUTPOST, for the continued extraction of Mahogany Logs and Chicle Gum for the export market.
These Twin residential areas had existed under similar conditions for over FIFTY FOUR years, ( October 19th,1904, to December 1958. )
Both areas were owned by - El Cayo, by Millionaire Henry Melhado and Santa Elena by a well to do farmer Don Agapito Requena. A Majority of the residents built their homes on Lease Property. ( Limited Expansion. )
Both Areas had, no Electricity, no Water Supply, a One Line Magneto HAND CRANKED Telephone System, which only worked in dry weather.
WHICH WERE THE LIMITED BOUNDARIES OF THESE TWO AREAS ?.
San Ignacio was limited to the South by the Old Government Rest House, - to the West by the Old Hospital, - To the North by the Santa Rita Cemmetery, and to the East by the Macal River. - - ( Half of this area was covered by the El Cayo Savanah. )
Santa Elena was limited by the Macal River to the West, Trapiche to the North, Loma Luz to the East and the Western Highway to the. South. ( Half of this area was a Lagoon. )
THEREFORE ON THE 27th December 1958, the ;people of these two AREAS elected a New Town Board, under the Chairman of a 24 years young man, by name Hector David Silva and three Councilors, Santiago Perdomo, Domingo T Espat, and Antonio T Espat,
In January of 1959, THE BALL BEGAN TO ROLL in the transformation of this abandoned area .
,The first act was , to begin the negotiation for the purchase of both areas, - By 1960 the purchases were finalized with Mr Melhado. The first step was the Subdivision of a portion of this area into 300 lots, ( San Ignacio ) and sold them to applicants for the sum of $150.00 per lot with TITLE. and 100 large lots for the sum of $300 per lot with TITLE.
In the case of Santa Elena, we had to drain out the huge Lagoon, which took us two Months in the dry months of 1961. Then lots were distributed to applicants at same prices.
NOW THE JOB BEGAN. In 1961, Hector David Silva and Santiago Perdomo, ( two members of the Twin Towns Council were elected to the House of Representatives. ( The LOBBY began. )
But first thing was to tackle streets which were made with white Marl.' We Tarred some of the Old ones, and extended new ones with Marl.
Santa Elena HAD NO STREETS. So the George Price Avenue, Liberty Street and Chaparo Double Street, ( Now Carillo Street ) were the first streets for Santa Elena.
Among the many services tackled were building of theNorman Broaster Stadium, The Columbus Park, The Victor Galvez Stadium, Falcon Field and assisted Father Martin Avila to build the STANTON FIELD in Santa Elena, when the lagoon was flushed.
We had a very fruitful discussions with First Minister George Price and he promised to lobby for us. - OUR LIST included Electricity and water. By 1961, Mr. Price negotiated a GIFT for a Water and Electricity supply, from, " THE GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM, to the people of San Ignacio and Santa Elena. - By 1963, we inaugurated these supplies. ( Electricity was supplied on a cheap FLAT RATE. )
Now we opened applications to whoever wanted to open a shop, as this privilege was denied to small shops.
Then we had to officially annex Santa Elena as a Twin Town, because it had only been recognized as an area for so many years.
THEN in 1964, Premier George Price elevated me as one of his FIRST MINISTERS in the new FULL INTERNAL SELF GOVERNMENT OF BELIZE. ( Sea Breeze blow Pelikin same place he wanted to be. ) My Ministry included ELECTRICITY, WATER, PUBLIC WORKS, TELEPHONE, LOCAL GOVERNMENT and SPORTS.
So we accelerated negotiations with Cable and Wireless to establish a modern Telephone System. - I personally went to London to borrow money from the Crown Agents to expand 24 hours Electricity supply and water to all Major Towns, including the Twin Towns.
THIS STORY IS LONG, BUT THE READER CAN FIGURE HOW TO START FROM LITTLE AND TREACH THE PINNACLE. ( where there is a will there is a way. ) - - At some later day, I will narrate the hurdles we had to surmount. - The task was not a bed of roses. - ( I was threatened many times with imprisonment for TRASSPASSING INTO CROWN LANDS. ) - A Pro British District Commissioner sent the police to stop me, when I attempted the first time, to build the Columbus Park. )
Ernesto Acosta Sr.:
Althought I was little kid 1939/1946 I know what El Cayo in those golden days... Every morning at 0500 my dad took us to shower at the end of the savanah... while he rinsed his cloths for his tailor shop... In spite of all for me it was like a paradise ... where we all knew and loved each other... Wahih Habet, Salvador Espat, Zayden, Waight, Bejos, Wainright, Sabido, Z(C)etina, Mariana Lisbey, (my school), Hopun, Orio, Silva, Rosie Lewis,.. Jose & Pedro Castillo Melhado...
Photograph by Avery
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