Our Community - Leovijildo Vasquez - "Helping build a piece of San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 33            August 17, 2000

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Leo Vasquez

The times when San Pedro homes consisted of thatch roof casitas, dirt floors and open fire hearths are long gone. Those wonderful, yet humble, abodes were unique and perfect for the villagers' standards then. As our community developed though, so did the styles of homes and eventually lodging. Today, San Pedro boasts elegant private homes, condominiums and villas. What most of these places have in common is that they are accentuated by a touch of island charm. Some use native vegetation; others use local crafts and woods. In San Pedro, we have a number of artists and craftsmen whose work can be found in these dwellings. This week's personality is a talented gentleman whose work has enhanced many fine homes and resorts in San Pedro - Mr. Leovijildo "Leo" Vasquez.   

    Leo was born in San Pedro on November 10th, 1955 to Victoria Sansorez de Martinez of Mexico and Santiago Vasquez of San Pedro Village. When he was only a child, his parents separated and Leo's uncle and aunt took on the responsibility of raising him. He attended San Pedro Roman Catholic School until Standard IV and then left to help with the family's expenses. Like most San Pedranos of that time, he went to the sea to make a living. For fourteen years the sea provided him with a source of income as a lobster fisherman. But in time, this industry declined and he was forced to look for other avenues of work. He once worked as an artist painting signs, specializing in boat name painting; and also painted on canvas for people like Mrs. Vilma Arceo (deceased). He did tattooing for friends and tourists who knew him as a tattoo artist. Additionally, he was responsible for painting the very first San Pedro Roman Catholic School sign in 1973.

    On May 8th, 1982 he joined his life in marriage with Maria Nidia Bradley. Together they have raised three children; Leovijildo Jr., Adriana Tatiana and Wilhemina Vasquez. In order to sustain his family, Leo, who during his spare time had developed an interest in working with wood, decided to try his skills at cabinet making. He would frequent one of the cabinet maker's workshops to get a first-hand look at how to create different pieces of furniture. Equipped with a handsaw and a planer, which he borrowed from his father-in-law, Leo began his quest. After several attempts and numerous hours of labor he came up with his first piece - a chest of drawers - which he kept for his home. He was overcome by a great sense of pride at achieving this and knew that he could now move on to make other more diverse pieces. His first real job as a cabinet maker came when Mr. Luis Nuñez Sr. (deceased) asked him for a complete kitchen cabinet set. This was Leo's chance to prove himself and he certainly did. Word of mouth soon spread around town of his quality work and Leo's skills were sought after by many individuals and growing resorts. Leo worked strictly with mahogany and other Belizean hardwoods, eventually making tables, doors, beds and other types of furniture.

    His creations have decorated condominiums in fine establishments such as Belize Yacht Club and Royal Palm Villas. Leo has also adorned homes in Ladyville, Belize District and St. George's Caye. With business booming, Leo was able to expand his house to include a second floor as a home for his family, leaving the downstairs to be used as his extended workshop.

    Today, Leo is recognized as one of San Pedro's leading craftsmen. He offers clients a wide variety of options and styles when it comes to their furniture needs and creates them in a timely fashion. He has since trained his son, Leovijildo Jr., who now assists him unconditionally. Mr. Vasquez told the San Pedro Sun, "I plan to continue in this profession as long as I have my health. I am happy with my work and I thank God for watching over me. I have been very lucky in this field and I am thankful. I also would like to see more young people interested in this profession. I am always willing to share my knowledge of this trade to anyone interested and who thinks it will benefit them in the future."

    Señor Leovijildo Vasquez is known by his many friends in San Pedro as a man dedicated to his craft and the needs of his family. He is humble, honest and hardworking. Through his talents, he has added a touch of island charm to many resorts, private homes and offices and has most certainly "made" his own way in "Our Community."

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