Belize is quickly becoming one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, with Ambergris Caye ranking among the top "dive spots.” The growth of the tourism industry has forced San Pedro Town to undergo many changes. To meet the needs of these visitors, plans were made to provide accommodations, activities and entertainment. The San Pedro Sun is proud to introduce you to one of the founding fathers who over the years have supplied many of these needs – Ovidio Guerrero of Martha's Hotel and Martha's Ice Factory.
Ovidio is a Christmas baby, born on December 25th, 1937 to Olivia and Dimas (deceased) Guerrero. He grew up with three sisters and four brothers, enjoying the clear waters surrounding San Pedro. Ovidio recalled the white sandy front streets and the middle streets, once filled with green grass.
Ovidio's education began at the age of four when he attended pre-school with teacher "Sosimo.” He recalled taking his folded chalkboard to school every morning where he learned his ABCs and 1,2,3,s. The following year, Ovidio attended San Pedro Roman Catholic School located where the San Pedro Police Station now stands. When Ovidio was 11, he was sent to Belize City to sit a required entrance exam to enter high school. Of a group of nine students, only three passed their examinations, Ovidio was proud to be one of the three. He was awarded a partial scholarship to attended Saint John's College High School.
Unfortunately, Ovidio's scholarship did not include boarding and since his family was experiencing financial restraints, he attended school for three months. He returned to the island and started fishing with his father. They would head out to sea early every morning and return with a boatload of fish.
Ovidio began earning money by selling his catch to merchants in Belize City. Over time, the merchants began to take advantage of Ovidio and the other fishermen. A group of fishermen united to establish a standard set of equal and fair rates for the merchants and Ovidio decided to join them. He soon became a committee member of the Caribeña Co-operative.
Over many years, Ovidio enjoyed fishing with his father and friends. However, with time came progress, along with new and interesting opportunities for the locals. Ovidio and two of his closest friends, Jose Gonzalez and Gaby Perez, learned about skin diving after two tourists came to San Pedro to dive. After long hours out at sea, Ovidio and his friends returned from their fishing trip and saw the large fish these visitors had hunted with their spears. Being a very observant young man, Ovidio carefully studied the tourist's apparatus and immediately went home to construct his own. The trio's initial fright slowly vanished as they started reaping the rewards the new device supplied them. He became one of the skin diving pioneers in San Pedro. Eventually other youngsters adapted to this new system. Ovidio decided to open a bar and aptly named it Skin Diver's Club.
On February 24th, 1965, Ovidio fell in love with and wed Elia Aguilar who worked at the Co-operative as a secretary. The two are the parents of Miguel, Luis, Ena, Martha, and Anel.
The following year after their marriage, the couple ventured out and opened their own business called Martha's Store. At Martha's, Elia sold cloth, thread, needles, clothes, groceries and beauty care items. On the other hand, Ovidio sold liquor and dry goods. With the store requiring much of his time, he decided to hire someone to handle the bar while he oversaw the day-to-day operation of the store. Elia and Ovidio treated each customer with special care and attention. This brought profits that eventually earned them enough to add a second story to their building, which they developed into Martha's Hotel. Martha's Hotel consisted of three rooms and two apartments.
In 1975, Ovidio joined the San Pedro Lions Club after Allan Forman Sr. had spoken to him about this worldwide organization and its objectives. Becoming a chartered member of the Club, Ovidio was a tail twister for his first year of service, sharing jokes and inspiring laughter from his fellow Lions during meetings, He became the treasurer the following year, and the third year, he was named third Vice President.
Unfortunately, more stores were added to the community and the Guerreros decided to close Martha's Store and expand Martha's Hotel. Ovidio and his family added a third floor and today Martha's Hotel consists of nine rooms.
Always an entrepreneur, Ovidio saw a need for an ice business on the island. With the advice and support of his family, he started Martha's Ice Factory. For the past nine years, Martha's Ice has offered purified water by the bottle or gallon and uses the same water system for their ice, available by the bag or cooler. He also sells juices, liquor, and sodas.
Ovidio also served as a Village Council Member and was instrumental in gaining San Pedro's town status. He was a councilor on the first ever San Pedro Town Board and a member of the advisory committee of San Pedro High School.
On August 29th, 2002, Ovidio was given special recognition and named Senior Justice of the Peace. Presently, there are only 10 Senior Justices of Peace on the island. "It is a recognition that I am proud of. I have always enjoyed serving my community to the best of my ability,” he said.
In his free time, Ovidio enjoys spending time playing the accordion with his band – Rompe Raja, otherwise known as the "Lions Band.” Virgilio Rivero, Ramon Guerrero, Aldo Marin, Ruben Gonzalez and Ovidio spend time practicing beats and music, which they play for any event that they are called upon. Just recently, they played for Noche Isleña and took part in welcoming the Miss World delegates to the island. "This is where I spend my time, I enjoy music and love sharing it with others,” he ended.
Ovidio, both directly and indirectly, has helped his community to the best of his abilities. He has brought change to the island not just with his business ventures but with the great parts he has played as leader of our town. Known as a true entrepreneur, Ovidio Guerrero is also a treasured and loyal friend of "Our Community.”