Our Community - Virginia Wallace - "Adding to the local flavor of San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 7            February 15, 2001

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Virginia Wallace

To aid in the promotion of La Isla Bonita or to assist in the growing economy of Belize, one does not have to be a marketing agent or have a high position at the Tourism Board. All residents of this island who have direct contact with tourists play a vital role in the well-being of this industry. What are visitors to our island looking for? A peaceful environment where people are friendly and they can learn about the lifestyle of the residents of Belize. So all of us can do our part to ensure this to our visitors. This week's personality has certainly done that, not only with her charismatic personality, but also by bringing to tourists, and locals, a taste of Belize through her homemade products Mrs. Virginia Alamilla Wallace.

    Just one day short of Valentine's Day, thirty-nine years ago, Virginia "China" Alamilla was born in San Pedro Village to well-known parents Lidubina and Miguel Alamilla. Virginia's father, better known as "Don Paña," was a hard working fisherman and was also famous for being one of the best "sobadores" (healers) of the island. Being raised among six brothers and four sisters in this paradise is one of Virginia's greatest memories and a time that she cherishes. She attended San Pedro Roman Catholic School, but decided not to further her education in order to help her parents with the everyday living expenses.

    When Virginia was only fourteen years old she secured a job as a cook at Fido's, which at the time housed a hotel and restaurant. She recalls that she had always enjoyed helping in the kitchen when she was a young girl and learned the preparation of a variety of dishes from her Aunt Rafaela Muñoz (deceased) who was a respected cook in those days. It was at Fido's that she met her future husband, Dale Wallace, a Canadian who had moved to San Pedro. Love at first sight?  Perhaps. Viriginia was fascinated by Dale, a musician who eventually joined up with Wil Nuñez's bands (Wil and the Caribbean Shells/Wil and the Tequila Trio). After a period of courtship, Virginia became Mrs. Wallace on December 24th, 1978.

    Soon after, Virginia and Dale relocated to Vancouver, Canada where they lived for the next ten years. Dale worked for a government-owned specialty liquor store and Virginia as a babysitter. Yet, although San Pedro had blessed Dale with a wonderful wife, it had also stolen a piece of his heart, thus they decided to return to "Paradise." Back in San Pedro, Virginia became a full-time mother to her four children: Dale Jr., now 19, Beverly 17, Michael 11 and Gina 10.

     You would think that four children would be enough to keep anyone from doing anything else, but not Virginia. She started a small catering business that soon expanded to over 60 plates of food per day. The reason: China's great cooking skills and pleasant personality. But it was in 1995 that she started her ceviche business, which today is a "must have" treat for the residents and visitors of San Pedro. The idea came to her after seeing that many tourists and locals out for an afternoon drink were looking for homemade local appetizers to compliment their relaxation. With seafood being an easy commodity in San Pedro, she decided to make her own recipe for conch ceviche, which she placed in plastic cups. She then placed these in a large green container and walked around to businesses of San Pedro offering her fresh and tasty snacks. Her idea proved to be very successful and soon after "China's ceviche" was a popular request. Today, she has more than doubled her business and clientele, adding other mouthwatering ceviches such as shrimp, horse conch, chicken and seafood combination, as well as lobster and chicken dips. Virginia takes to the streets of San Pedro four days-a-week delighting many with her local delicacies.

    Her workday begins around ten in the morning, after purchasing only the freshest ingredients. She is personally in charge of the mixing and preparation of all dishes, which are ready by three in the afternoon. If you don't have an opportunity to catch up with her, one can purchase her products at the Pier Lounge three days-a-week. She also accepts advance orders and caters to private parties. In speaking about her career, Virginia commented, "I enjoy this job a lot. It entertains me. Since I was a young girl, I used to sell various products for my family on the streets. It was a living then and still is today. Many ask me if I am ashamed of doing this. My reply to these people is that I am proud of my job. I have received the support of my fellow San Pedranos who compliment me for the hard work I do. Even the tourists sometimes say, "There goes Gina, the lady with the green container."

    Virginia Wallace is a true example of the hardworking and friendly people found in San Pedro. In essence, she is as much a tourism representative as any tour guide or hotel manager. Although there are others who have followed in her footsteps by starting similar businesses, she has remained San Pedro's original "Ceviche Lady."  Through her talents, Virginia Wallace has helped promote the "local taste" of "Our Community.

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