|Often seen taking a siesta on his front porch, Flavio has become an island icon.|
Tourism is San Pedro’s bread and butter but looking back the island has had other forms of revenue before tourists began to flock our community. Many have been Belize’s industries and for long San Pedro survived with coconuts and fishing. These industries have made Ambergris Caye what it is today. One individual who took part in these industries is Flavio Vasquez.
Flavio was born in San Pedro Village on January 8th, 1930 to parents Erminia Toloza and Turiano Vasquez. He grew up enjoying the quiet, easy going island life along with his two sisters and four brothers, swimming in the beautiful waters or playing marbles with his friends.
Flavio, like all other children, attended elementary school and fondly recalls the building where they would visit daily. The two story wooden structure, located at the vacant Atlantic Bank lot, housed students who would move from one story to the next depending on their age. He did not finish his education and instead went to work with his father in the plantations.
Coconuts would be harvested and then Flavio would husk and prepare the coconuts for delivery. “Some of the coconuts would be delivered to Belize City while others were cut open. The meat would be dried and sold off,” he commented. “The husks, themselves, would then be dried and used around the home for cooking in the fire hearth.”
However, tragedy struck when the country as well as island residents were surprised when, on November 8th, 1942 a hurricane hit our shores. With no radios or televisions to warn anyone about the impending storm, all residents were caught by surprise. After the hurricane passed, all islanders formed a plan of action and banded together on their way to recovery.
With the passing of the hurricane, Flavio, his father and other workers were shocked to discover that the coconut plantation had been destroyed by the storm. Out of a job, they had to find other alternatives and Flavio chose to move to X’calak in the hopes of finding employment. There he landed a job and worked for the following 17 years on the Mexican side. However, Flavio was fortunate enough to not only find a job over in Mexico but also found love. Monica Bardalez became his wife and after 53 years of marriage the couple is still very much in love. Flavio and Monica are the proud parents of six children; Turiano, Blanca Montejo, Carmelita Heredia, Lydia Lopez, Brenda Henkis, and Damian.
Returning back to his home, Flavio began working in the fishing industry. He joined several men and became a member of Caribeña Co-operative. Through the co-op, Flavio sold his lobster, conch, and fish. Equipped only with hand nets (jamos), hook sticks and lobster traps (nasas), Flavio, along with other fishermen scouted the Belizean seas for this valuable product. As time went by he also practiced commercial fishing. Through the years, Flavio began selling his seafood from the comfort of his own home. Eventually, at the insistence of his family and because of health reasons, Flavio quit his employment and began staying at home.
Today, Flavio collects bottles to re-sell in order to make extra cash for his household. “My kids are all grown up and I live with my wife. We do not have many expenses,” he concluded. Flavio’s favorite past time is sitting out on his porch at the corner of Pescador Drive and Tarpon Street. He reminisces and enjoys people watching.
He has kept his family close and shares with them the stories of his life. Sharing is part of who he is and his children learned the tricks of the trade from him. A family man who continues enjoying his life, Flavio Vasquez is a staple of his family and “Our Belize Community.”