A Short History of Ambergris Caye, Belize

A Short History of Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye is much like the rest of Belize-mostly influenced by the ancient Maya. During the peak of Maya influence, Ambergris Caye was a home and trading center for roughly 10,000 Mayas. During this time, you would see Mayan canoes coming from the Yucatan, bearing fish, clothing materials, slaves and all other sorts of trade goods, before heading back to Chetumal with cacao and seafood. According to archaeologists, it is estimated that over 4,000 canoes went across the water each day during the Maya Empire’s peak.

Ambergris Caye was regarded as a rest stop for travelers needing to observe the religious ceremony, recuperate from a long journey or even fix up their canoes. It somehow makes sense that the modern Ambergris Caye is one of relaxation and tranquility. The Europeans’ arrival in the 16th century came right as the Ancient Mayan Empire’s power began to wane. Several village ruins remain to this day, though they are less intricate than mainland ruins. Notably, the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve remains as a sign of the Maya’s control over the area. Intended as a shortcut some 1,500 years ago, this hand-dug canal is how Ambergris Caye is separate from Mexico and a “caye” instead of a peninsular fixture.

The Age of Piracy

The 17th Century saw Ambergris Caye become the ideal pirate cove for Dutch, French and British vessels, including those captained by Diego el Mulato and Abraham Bluefield. Pirates used the caye as a hideout and storage facility, even dredging up the Bacalar Chico to ease transportation of loot to mainland Belize.

While pirates have an unsavory reputation for being shameless good-for-nothings, these swashbucklers are also responsible for giving the caye its name. Ambergris is French for “gray amber” and is a flammable waxy substance produced within the stomachs of whales. While it is now illegal by proxy of the whaling industry’s illegality, ambergris was a common component of perfumes. If any profession were to regularly encounter whales, it would be a nautical one like pirates.

The Modern Era

1848 would be the year that the British government allowed Mestizo war refugees to settle within San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. This settlement truly flourished and the English enjoyed a position as the landlords of Ambergris Caye’s farms and fishers. The following decades saw several professions rise and fall, with fishing remaining among the leading trades to this day.

Today, Ambergris Caye is filled with opportunities for all who come to see her. If you are interested in living in this little slice of the world, Salt Life Belize is a great option. Not only does Salt Life Belize offer people a great place to call home, but it also offers plenty to retirees and those interested in investing in Belize real estate.


Leave a Comment