Our Community - Israel Duke Garcia - "Tempting tummies with tasty treats"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 38            October 3, 2002

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Israel Duke Garcia

The constant influx of people moving to San Pedro over the past few years has added even more cultural diversity to the island. This is evident in the extensive selection of ethnic foods found on Ambergris Caye. For locals and tourists this is good news as they are offered a wide variety of foods to choose from. Whether it is a slice of pizza, ducunu (corn tamales) or a succulent seafood platter, San Pedro's food menu is sure to satisfy even the most demanding palate. This week, The San Pedro Sun is happy to introduce a hardworking individual who has been able to tempt many tummies with his tasty treats - Mr. Israel Duke Garcia.

On August 6th, 1959, Clara Alicia Garcia and Manuel de Jesus Duke (deceased) celebrated the birth of their son Israel Duke Garcia. Israel grew up with five brothers and three sisters and attended elementary school in Banameras, Isabal in Guatemala. When he was only 12 years old he began working, cleaning pans in a bakery. Being a keen observer, Israel soon learned the trade and was promoted to the position of baker. For the next eighteen years, Israel produced fresh-baked goods for the residents of Banameras, Isabal and was considered one of the best bakers in the area.

When Israel turned thirty, his younger brother, who had visited Ambergris Caye before, convinced him to travel to San Pedro with him. Israel agreed because he hoped to find a better way of life. Coming from a hardworking family made things easier for Israel as he was ready to do whatever it took to sustain himself. He began clearing lots and then worked at Journey's End Resort as a maintenance worker for four years before joining the construction crew that was building the Royal Palm Villas. Having saved enough money for a short visit to Guatemala, Israel decided to go home but when he returned to Ambergris Caye he found himself without a job.

During his five years in San Pedro, Israel also met his soul mate, Elizabeth Mejia from Honduras. The couple was married on March 4th, 1994 and their union has produced two children: Israel Jr. (8) and Yesenia Elizabeth (2).

In order to support his family, Israel went to work selling tamales on the streets. His wife would prepare the tamales and "Duke" as he is known, would walk the streets of San Pedro selling them. The island residents welcomed these tasty treats with much "gusto" so Israel and his wife expanded the menu to include chicken tacos. Over time, more and more people were requesting his services, so he bought a tricycle, adapted a counter and canopy to it and began using this as his mobile kitchen. Since 1994, Israel has been providing the community of San Pedro with some of the best tamales and tacos on the island, six days a week. To quench his client's thirst he also offers cold "horchata" (rice drink), orange juice and "agua de tamarindo" (tamarind juice). The hardworking couple also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner from their home, to many contented clients.

Mr. Duke says he also does "a little plumbing and refrigeration" as a sideline occupation. When he is not working, Israel enjoys staying home with his wife and children, and is a devoted member of the Familia de Dios Church. "I am satisfied with my life in San Pedro. I have been blessed with a wonderful family and many friends," Mr. Duke told The San Pedro Sun. "The things I ask of life are good health and that my children grow up to be productive citizens of this community," ended Israel.

Residents of San Pedro have now become familiar with, and look forward to, the sound of the bell announcing the arrival of "El Duke's" mobile kitchen. Tempting the islanders with his mouthwatering delicacies, Mr. Israel Duke Garcia joins the long list of "culinary entrepreneurs" who continue to add to that unique flavor that is "Our Community."

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