Land Rover, only car on Ambergris Caye, along the beach, 1984
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Thursday March 14, 2019

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Drawing by Jayson Forman
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Lil Alphonse - The Best of Belize Snorkel and Fishing Guide in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize according to The Travel Channel's Samantha Brown. Lil’ Alphonse and his crew have been swimming, fishing and snorkeling the island waters since they were small children and have grown up with the importance of the taking care of the reef. Lil’ Alphonse Tours carry marine radio’s at all times for complete safety and valid tour guide’s license
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Land Rover, only car on Ambergris Caye, along the beach, 1984

The only car on the island for a long time, Mr Marciano Salazar's vehicle. Mr Nando Sr had a Land Rover also. The first land rover on the island was for the Cooperative. The second land rover on the island was the first private vehicle on the island belonged to Eustaquio (Don Taco) Aguilar.

Caribena Fishing Cooperative was registered and founded in the year 1963. When it commenced the exportation of rock frozen lobster to the United States, it needed a vehicle to haul the cargo from the processing plant to the main pier, to transport fish and lobster and ice to and fro. And with that Caribeña brought the very first vehicle to the Island. It was a green army type land rover jeep and it was the very first vehicle to start killing the grass on the sand/grass streets of San Pedro. Everyone was excited about the idea of San Pedro having a jeep. I mean everyone wanted to have a little ride. The children were so excited that they actually used to run behind the vehicle expressing delight, enthusiasm and happiness to see a vehicle. The children would run behind the jeep and jump in for a free ride as is done even today by children and tourists riding about in golf cars. Caribeña also used this vehicle to transport 300-pound blocks of ice from the ice plant to the pier where boats loaded with ice to go on lobster fishing trips.

It was a British make Land Rover, very sturdy with standard transmission. I think a few of the very first drivers on the island at the time working at the lobster processing plant were don Alberto Nuñez, Reynaldo Muñoz, and Oscar Aguilar. They were seen with admiration for they could do what most Sanpedranos could not-DRIVE. In those days, driving was like having super powers. Yes, I even remember the enthusiasm expressed by children and even adults as we neared Belize City by boat and saw the cars driving by Foreshore. It was like you were seeing Superman.

Click here for more on the first vehicle in San Pedro...

Drawing by Jayson Forman. (Painting is from an early photo that Kay Scott took)

Early “Traffic” issues (Early 1980’s)

by Jayson Forman

Mr. Marciano Salazar was the first person to mark our sandy streets with tire tracks from an early 1980’s Land Rover. That was my “alarm clock” as he started up the truck every morning at 5:00 right outside my bedroom window many times requiring a hand crank.

That being the case, he kept quite busy all day between transporting cargo to construction sites south of the village and being the only taxi for tourists going mostly to Paradise Hotel, Coral Beach, Victoria House or Holiday Hotel. Those were the most popular hotels at the time. Others were under construction. His grandson, Libby Azuela Jr and I would often help load tourists’ luggage on to the the truck in exchange for a ride in the back.

About a year later, he added a Ford Sedan to his fleet and “Manny” was assigned as its driver. In time, the effects of salt air would manifest through rust and corrosion. It would be quite common to find the sedan stranded in the middle of the road and Manny’s feet sticking out from under it clanking away at something or other. At times the car would be seen abandoned on various sides of the village for a day or 2 while he waited for parts to arrive from Belize City.

George Vietch was a well respected British veteran who managed the Barrier Reef Hotel. He had to maintain “damage control” for the endless supply of guests from the British Army who preferred that property. He drove around town in his signature “Datsun” pickup truck which prompted some smarty pants to coin the phrase “There goes Datsun of a Vietch!” whenever he’d speed past them leaving a trail of dust behind.

We were able to guess which vehicle left which tire marks on the sand because it was that rare to see them. That’s why Manny didn’t think twice about spending all day tinkering on the car or even leaving it in the middle of the street for a few days... it’s not like he’d be causing a traffic backup or anything.

Come to think of it, there wasn’t even one golf cart back then. The streets were so sandy that it would have gotten stuck. Bicycles weren’t really practical as well as sand would accumulate on the corners of the main streets creating fluffy mounds where your wheel would get stuck and the bearings would gather sand in the gears.

I’m lucky to be able to remember the island as not having any traffic issues. The latest joke was the “Stop” signs installed because they were really more of a “suggestion” than a rule.

As for today’s “alarm clock”. Decades later I found myself calling my ex fiancé in Brooklyn complaining about being woken up by the birds chirping up a racket by my bedroom window early in the morning.

He replied “You Californians sure do live a rough life. I can relate, I also get annoyed by the sounds of bullets bouncing off the apartment building’s wall between 2:00 & 4:00 on the weekends... so yeah... basically the same thing....”


Photograph by David Childs

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