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Toledo's history


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Toledo's history
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Belize National Library Service and Information System
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Belize National Library Service and Information System
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Toledo's History

Historical records show that it was not until October 11, 1492 that Columbus landed on
Bahamas. Then on October 15 he landed on the American mainland. This landing
initiated an era of cultural and economic domination of this region by Europeans. Upon
reaching the Americas Columbus in his wisdom called the indigenous people "Indians"
presumably because he believed that he was somewhere in India. This misnomer was
later modified and the region became known as the West Indies. Upon his arrival to the
Caribbean Columbus found vibrant populations of individuals whom he categorized
based on facial features, language, skin color, and even perceived aptitude for
aggression!! It is imprudent to believe that the people of the Caribbean region were
incapable of movement between the various islands and the American mainland. Thus it
is unquestionable that all people living in the Caribbean and the American mainland had
a common ancestry. However a conscious effort has been made to categorize American
mainland Indian tribes, Arawaks, Caribs, Aztecs, Incas, Mayas and many more. This
division diminished our initial capability of resistance to conquest and today has
prohibited a collective effort to alleviate our current burden of neocolonialism.

We continue to be defined by Europeans who conceded that this region consisting of the
greater and Lesser Antheles should be called the "Caribbean" in honor of a group of
people they called the "Caribs". It is my contention that the so called Caribs occupied
this geographic region, later called Belize, long before the arrival of the Europeans. This
is far from a gratuitous comment since it.would be extremely imprudent to think that a
people can be confined to a few tiny islands!! Their documented maritime exploits and
dependence on the sea for survival make it improbable that expeditions to the mainland
would have been forbidden.

It is here that the recorded history of Toledo in the country of Belize begins. The area
known as Punta Gorda Town was settled by Caribs who were indigenous to this region
and not immigrants from Spanish Honduras as is alleged. Records show that Caribs
occupied the Orinoco region of South America, and the Lesser Antelles. Intermingling of
Caribs and free Africans resulted in the so called "Black Caribs" or "Carif'. This term
latter evolved to the current name of"Garifuna" through Affixation andonomatopoeia
facilitated by the syntactical structure of the Carib and African Languages.
WHEN WAS THIS TERM ADOPTED? Historical records show that there was a mass
exodus of Caribs from Saint Vincent on March 11, 1797 caused by British military
domination of the indigenous people. The exiled Caribs first occupied Ruatan, on the
north coast of Honduras. On May 18, 1797 the Caribs were displaced from Ruatan by the
Spanish conquerors. This group of Carib exiles then migrated further south to Southern

The presence of Catholic missionaries in Southern Belize around 1745 is anecdotal
evidence that they were here ministering to "Carib Indians"!!! This is compelling
evidence that Caribs had already occupied Southern Belize long before the immigration
of a few exiles. The arrival of a few Caribs from Saint Vincent only supplemented the

existing population in Southern Belize. This group of Caribs could have been met and
welcomed not only by the missionaries but also by their Carib brothers.

The first reference of any other group in Southern Belize was almost sixty years after the
documented arrival of the Caribs when in 1857 there was an invasion of Belize at Blue
Creek on the Rio Hondo by Chinchanha Indians. They seized and occupied the
Mahogany Works of Mr. Young, "Toledo and Company". The firm reportedly paid a
large sum of money to the Indians as ransom for their works, people, and cattle. It is
unquestionable that "Indians" occupied the interior of Belize. However it is more likely
that they migrated gradually westward towards Belize in an attempt to escape persecution
from the Spanish conquerors in Guatemalah Subsequent to escaping direct persecution,
Indians continued to infiltrate Belize as land became a very scarce resource in Guatemala,
This assertion can be proven today by visiting rural Toledo and asked the inhabitants
whether they are Belizeans or Guatemalans. Invariably the Indians in rural Toledo either
do not know or do not care about their nationality. Like the Mennonite population the
Indians are generally modest and industrious subsistence farmers who choose to live
outside the fray of wanton capitalism and partisan politics. It is only recently that a few
vocal leaders are trying to change core philosophies of their people which have resulted
in great confusion among the masses. Enlightenment has introduced concepts such as
poverty, and land tenure into the daily discourse with a consequent disparaging view of
culture practices.

The modernization of the Toledo District and the introduction of East Indians began with
the establishment of the "Toledo Settlements". These settlements were first established
in 1868 when farmers from the U.S. came to Belize in search of affordable land. The
"Toledo Settlement" was described as Americans living between the Rio Grande and
Moho Rivers. They initially settled in Cattle Landing where their signature achievement
was the construction of a 60 feet wide road which extended 3 V2 miles inland.)The
American settlers concentrated their efforts in the production of sugar, banana, and
forestry. Although agriculture was largely neglected and most of the food consumed was
imported. Nine sugar mills were established of which two were steam driven, five were
motorized, and two were oxen driven. The mills were located in Westmorland, Forest
Home, Dixie, Eldorado, Fairview, Spice Hill, Fern Hill, Corejo's, and Coleman's. The
largest of these was Forest Home which was owned by Mr. M. Levi and Mr. J. Magruder
Pearce. These plantations consisted of several hundred predominantly East Indian
laborers and were referred to as "Ranchos". Poultry was raised and eggs were shipped
weekly to the rest of the country from the Toledo Settlements. Butter and cheese were
also made for local consumption of the settlers. A saw mill was established on the
Temash River by Mr. L.H. Pearce and J.M. Pearce. The Ranchos were connected by
telephone that the settlers maintain jointly. The road from Cattle Landing to the rest of
the settlement proper was described as the best in Belize. It led from Punta Gorda to the
settlement then to the Indian village of San Antonio. There was a Catholic school and a
Methodist school. Almost all Americans were Methodist. In 1921 the total population of
the Toledo settlement was 593. "Joe Taylor" bridge was a wooden bridge erected in
1889 which served as an important conduit between Punta Gorda town and the "Sugar
Plantation Settlements".

Subsequent to the establishment of the Missionaries in Punta Gorda a police was
stationed in Town. However, in these early years there was no resident magistrate and
only periodic visits by a magistrate from Stann Creek. In 1882 Punta Gorda was selected
as the administrative capital of the Toledo District and a resident "District
Commissioner" was appointed. WHO? On August 8, 1891 Monkey River was declared a
town and shortly after on January 21, 1895 Punta Gorda was declared a town. Therefore
January 21, 2005 will make the 110 th anniversary of the declaration of this area as a

Historical records show that in 1891 the population of Punta Gorda, which consisted
largely of Caribs with few elements of Creoles and Spanish, was 519. However by 1921
it increased by over 90% to 926. A steady flow of Indians from Guatemala into Toledo
occurred after 1911 which currently reflects the ethnic composition of Toledo. The
population census shows that in 1921 the entire Toledo District had a population of
5,242. Indians inhabited the interior and brought pork, beans, peas, and other agricultural
products to Punta Gorda which were then shipped to other areas of the country.

Toledo Boundary
The Toledo District had an area of 2,119 square miles of land with 6 cayes giving a total
area of 2,125 square miles. The Toledo District extended from the frontier line at the
falls of Gracias a Dios along the north bank of the Sarstoon to its mouth. Then northerly
along the coast to Placencia, then in a straight line to the three branches of the Swasey,
and Monkey River. It then extended west to the frontier line, then along the line to
Gracias Adios Falls, including all the cayes south of a line drawn east from the mouth of
Monkey River.

Historical data on Toledo
In 1902 telephone services was established to Corozal and by1906 Punta Gorda was
connected. The southern telephone line consisted of 105 miles of cable running from
Belize City through Sibun, Manatee, Mullins River, Stann Creek, Sittee, All Pines,
Riversdale, Monkey river, and then Punta Gorda. There were only 250 subscribers in the
country of Belize.

In 1923 the Punta Gorda Hospital could accommodate 8 patients and reportedly admitted
159 patients. Eight individuals reportedly died in that year.

Barranco was inhabited exclusively by approximately 270 Caribs. An Alcalde was in
charge of the village. The people were described as industrious. Pineapples were
produced in superior quantity and quality.

Licensed midwives in Punta Gorda in 1924 were Mrs. Leandra Alvarez, Mrs. Louisa
Gonzalez, and Christina Pandy.

In 1924 Mr. O.G. Gould established the "American Cohune Nut Cooperation" with a
capital investment of $50,000.

Table 17: Deputy Registrars in Toledo in 1923 were:
Residence Deputy Registrar
Barranco Santiao Benguche
San Pedro Columbia Luis, I. Castro
Do Alejandro Ogaldez
San Antonio Presentacion Cho
Monkey River Teodoro DeLeon
Aguacate/ Moho river Joseph, P. Palacio

Justices of the Peace in Punta Gorda were: John Alfred Carroll, Harry Brown
Hetherington, and John Taylor.

Table 18: Alcaldes for various villages 1924-1925.
Village First Alcalde Second Alcalde
San Antonio Mr. Lino Oh Mr. Felipe Chun
Columbia Mr. Domingo Che Mr. Jose Chub
Dolores Mr. Jose Choc Mr. Andres Balz
Barranco Mr. Eusebio Santino Mr. Rafael Zuniga
Aguacate, Mr. Mateo Bolon Mr. Manuel Cab
Crique Sarco Mr. Andres Cal Mr. Juan Choc

Table 19: Medicinal plants found in Belize
Plant or Herb Medicinal value
Physic Nut Purgative, Swelling
Pimento of All Spice Diarrhoea
Pine Gum Gonorrhoea, pain
Piss a Bed, Baraja Cold, diabetes
Polly-Red-Head Worms
Pomegranate Diarrhoea
Prickly Yellow Snake poison
Pussly (Wild) Bile, cold, laxative
Putaseeco Bath, cough, tea
Rat Root Antidote, snake poison
Rose Mary Leaf (Romero) Heat
Rhuda Fever
Sage, black Tea
Scorpion tail bush Eye
Single Bible (Alos) Headache, flatulence, pain
Sirosee Fever, purgative, tea, blood
Sour Sop Leaf Cough, tea
Spanish Shela Sprains and swellings
Susumba Sores
Sweet Liquorice Cough
Tamarind leaf Cooling, purgative
Ten Finger Sprains

Tobacco Antidote
Twelve O'clock Gonorrhoea
Velvet Leaf Tea, cough
Water Melon Seed Stoppage of water
Yama Bush Gonorrhoea

Table 20: The major roads in Toledo
Roads Miles Sections Miles
Punta Gorda to San Antonio 22 Slaughter House to Cattle Landing 1 /4
Cattle Landing to Gomez gate 3
Gomes gate to Bridge near 2
Westmorland house
Westmorland house to Condemn 4
Condemn Branch to Crique Piedra 4
Crique Piedra to Columbia road 1
Columbia road to Mufradi 3 V2
Mufradi to San Antonio 3 /4
Wilson Road 2 Fork of the main road to Fern Hill /2
Fern Hill to Big Hill Landing 1
Big Hill Landing to Seven Hill V
Wattrous Road 1 From main road to Eldorado 1
Columbia Road 7 From main road to Mufradi to San 7

Table 21: Schools in Toledo in 1923.
Village Denomination Student Population Expenditure
Aquacate Catholic 38 $277.70
Barranco Catholic 85 $638.73
Forest Home Catholic 57 $588.09
Forest Home Methodist $133.70
Punta Gorda Catholic 137 $1,615.26
Punta Gorda Methodist $192.86
San Antonio Catholic 75 $508.80
San Jose Catholic 19
Columbia Catholic 41 $387.45
Monkey river Catholic 54 $554.35

In 1924 the Fathers Allen Alloysius Stevenson, and Herman J. Tenk both Jesuits were the
priests in Punta Gorda.

The Mahogany contractors in Punta Gorda were: William N. Bourne, Serriano Lambey,
Thomas Moore, Sidney Norbert Perrett, and T.T. Watrous.

Agriculturalist in Punta Gorda:
Ramsay Coleman Mason P. Moore
Levi H. Pearce Jos Gomez
Eugene Lester Sydney Perret
Pedro (Comejo) Romero J.R. Mason
Chas O. Moore

Shopkeepers in Punta Gorda:
Mrs. Salome Bell Porfirio Bethancourt
John Alfred Carroll

Navigation by sea:
Mrs. Salome Bell

Saw Mills:
L.H. Pearce

Chicle contractors:
J.G. Johnston

Joseph Gomez
Magruder Pearce
Joseph Lester
T.T. Watrous

William Norman Bourne

W.N. Bourne

J.M. Pearce

Pioquito Vaca

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