Our Community - Pablo "Rancho" Kumul - "Persevering and Prospering in Paradise"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 43            November 20, 2003

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Pablo Kumul

As San Pedro Town grows older day-by-day, the history it gains becomes more valuable to both the people and the island itself. Today, fewer individuals are able to recall how life was back in the old days of the island. Now a softer generation as well, quite a number of people would not be willing to relive a day of what life was like back then. This is why a number of parents and grandparents advise their children to treasure the life they have, to respect and love it. This week, The San Pedro Sun is pleased to feature a man who has followed this basic approach to life - Mr. Pablo "Rancho" Kumul.

    Pablo was born on September 15th, 1937, in San Pedro Town, to Pablo and Edubijes Kumul, and was raised with two brothers and five sisters. Like every other child, Pablo was fond of school and had many experiences during his years at San Pedro Roman Catholic School, which then was on the beach in front of where the police station is today. Pablo happily recalls the "good old days" when he would play football or softball on the beach during breaks from school.

    At the age of fourteen, Pablo began working alongside his father clearing coconut plantations at a place they called "Habaneros". He recalled that the plantation covered a large part of the island, and the work required a lot of employees to get the job done. Pablo worked with five other men, each assigned to an area known as "macate". The workers were made to clear the macate of weeds and bushes, an area that measured ten square yards surrounding the base of the coconut trees. Pablo had other strenuous tasks as well that involved picking up coconuts all over the plantation, and gathering them in a "shooshak" (basket) that was held by a sling strapped across the forehead and which hung down the back. As he picked coconuts with one hand, his other hand continuously swatted flies and mosquitoes. The coconuts were then pealed of their stringy coating and the larger shells sent to Belize City for shipment to the United States. The remaining smaller coconut shells were cracked and laid in the sun to dry, and then sold to Mexico.

    A hardworking young man, "Rancho" as his friends call him, was very dedicated to his work. This career was cut short though when, in 1955, Hurricane Janet destroyed much of the Habaneros area. Although replanting efforts began immediately, it would take another five years for the coconut trees to mature and bear fruit. Unfortunately, disaster struck again in 1961, when Hurricane Hattie leveled the trees completely in one fell swoop.

    Pablo distinctly remembers how the people of the island panicked when they were threatened by a hurricane. Despite the chaos and confusion during this situation, he and his friends would always get together to help people before and after the disasters. In this way, Pablo also gained, especially from one fateful incident caused by Janet. Just after the hurricane hit in 1955, a number of Mexican people fled the northern islands seeking safety and shelter on Ambergris Caye. Among those who stayed behind was a young woman named Carolina Graniel, who Pablo had the opportunity of meeting and who he eventually married in 1967.

    With the coconut industry virtually destroyed by hurricanes, workmen were forced to venture into other businesses and so many plantation workers became fishermen. A large number of these men began working in the fishing industry for CaribeŇa Co-operative, including Pablo whose main catch consisted of crayfish and conch, which were abundant in the waters around Ambergris Caye at the time and brought in a lot of money. Pablo provided CaribeŇa goods as well as his services for almost thirty years.

    Retiring from his fishing career, Pablo began working at Graniel's Construction for two years, learning an additional trade - building houses. Gaining from this experience, Pablo's skills were then welcomed at yet another well-known establishment, "House of the Rising Sun," (now Mata Rocks) where he worked as a handyman for the next four years.

    Since 1999, Pablo has been a faithful employee of Banyan Bay Villas and today offers his services to the company as a security guard. During his interview Pablo mentioned, "I enjoyed life when I was young and energetic, but I enjoy it even more now, having the opportunity to see how my family has grown and continues to grow. I am glad to see that the people of San Pedro have grown too, and how the island emerged from a coconut plantation and humble fishing village, to an internationally known tourist destination."

    The people of Ambergris Caye possess a lot of history, and the history of a community and its people are the things that make it unique. Pablo "Rancho" Kumul is a true example of the type of individuals who are responsible for building such a wonderful place to call home and who are considered the backbone of "Our Community".

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