History

EARLY SETTLERS

The first people to settle in the area that is now Rancho Dolores were Maria de Dolores and her husband, Pancho Pott in about 1835. They came from the village of San Jose Yalbach where Maria’s father was the Alcalde, the village leader.

The story is that Maria was 13 years old when she and Pancho fled after he stole money from the village that had been collected to send guns and ammunition to Mexico. This was during the Caste Wars in Mexico that began 1847-1882. Thousands of Maya and Mestizo fled to Belize. Pancho and Maria built a sugar cane ranch called Rancho de Dolores in the center of what is now the village. All the early settlers spoke either Maya or Spanish 

Maria and Pancho later had a rum distillery where cane was chopped, fermented and bottled. The distillery was located where the school presently . To make a single bottle of rum, a large bucket of cane juice was needed. The cane was cut, grown up and the juice was extracted boiled down and bottled.

Some of the earliest settlers were named Kemo, Cowo, Pott, Tut, Alpuche, Chan, Chi and Cal. Other early settlers were Smith, Old Sosa, Pook, Vasquez, Perez, Sutherland, Meno, Todd, Young, Cadle, Itza and Aguilar. Many of these people were mixture with different cultures including Maya, Mestizo, African, and Arawak Indian.

The first man who could read and write in Rancho Dolores was James Todd. He taught many others to read and write.

POPULATION

Rancho Dolores has been one of the largest villages in this area with a population of over 500 hundred people in the past. As the years past and the people became educated the young people left the community to take up employment. As of 2015, the population is approximately 200.

CLOTHING

The clothing in the village were very poor, but to them it was their best and felt very good about their clothes. Their clothes were sewed from brown cotton which was taken from flour bags. For the boys they wear long shirts only, due to the saying (boys didn’t have shame) but after getting older they sewed pants for them. Now for girls they were always properly dressed in their neat and tidy dresses and long slips under their dress. Because girls should be properly covered due to which, (girls has shame). But now and in the recent past that kind of clothes is no more worn in the village, villagers are dressed in the latest brand and designs.

FIESTA

Maya celebrations (fiesta) included the Hoghead Dance and Finados, November 1st, the Dia de los Muertes, day of the dead. On this day, people go from house to house and are given ripe mashed plantain, chicken cooked in coconut milk, and corn tortilla. Originally, these were Maya traditions that have been adopted by other cultures and are still done today.

When settlers first arrived, their main work was planting cane, corn and black peas, which were their primary foods. Early food included corn tortillas, eshpalon (a Maya wild pea dish), and boyos (tamales). People did not have sugar, but instead used wild honey for sweetening. They made their cooking oil from cohune palm nuts and burned wood in order to cook on a fire hearth.

The settlers ate many kind of wild meat, especially peccary, warrie, deer and other game meat as well as fish. People later began raising chicken and pigs. Today, many villagers continue to hunt, fish and raise chicken and cattle.

To make a fire, early settlers use the give and take tree. They pulled a few splinters out, then took two stones and a piece of iron and knock them together to make a spark. The splinters lighted easily and the fire could be made to last weeks and weeks.

They later learned about plantain, coco and sweet potatoes. Corn was still their main food. They also planted ebes (butter beans). Today, all these crops are grown in Rancho Dolores as well as cabbage, carrots, green peppers, avacado, grapefriut, limes, oranges and other fruits and vegetables.

Many excellent wild foods are still found and harvested in Rancho such as breadfruit, craboo, calaloo, mamee, berries, coconut and custard apples, pears.

HEALTH

In the early settlement there were no nurse or health post within the village. Villagers use to go to the village of Double Head Cabbage in seeking medical attention. Within the village their were only midwives that attend to the sick. The first certified midwife was Mrs.Sabina Pollard after Mrs.Pollard there were Mrs.Agnis Young followed by Mrs.Amy Young Pook and Mrs.Rosita Pook Sutherland and also there were herbs personnel in the village. There are still people in the village that makes herbs medicines naming Mrs.Odelia Pook and Mr.James Sutherland. The first nurse that was stationed in Double Head Cabbage was nurse Bell followed by nurse Bucka, nurse Gertude and many other nurses. The health post is still in that village and the nurse stationing there is nurse Bernadeth Smith Flowers with her assistant Ms.Allison Milliton

MEDICINE

Early settlers use to make their own medicines. There are many different medicines they use to make for different sicknesses and after drinking or bathing with these medicines the sickness would be cured.

For example:
1) When you have sore- boil fresh jackass bitters and bathe in it.

2) For fever- pick nine leaf from nine different trees. Boil it and bathe at 12 noon. Eg. (lime, orange, bamboo, annato, jackass bitters) just to name a few leaves that can be used or contribo. If this medicine doesn’t help use

3) Coweb over fire heart-boil with garlic and fowl gizzard peel off yellow thing from gizzard (local one). Scrape sole of foot 9 times add that dust and drink after boiled. Better for boys than girls.

HYGIENE

To clean their teeth, they wrapped a piece of cloth around their index finger, then dipped the cloth in clean ashes and then brushed. Sometimes they use sand and salt.

Some people say that a beautiful Jade comb was found in Rancho Dolores many years ago. This have been an ancient Maya comb and very valuable. No one knows what happen to it.

Until recent time, the people used stream or river water to drink. They would let any sediment settle out and many then boil their water. In the 1970’s the government began digging wells and encourage people to install rainwater tank the first vat is at the school.

TYPHOID

In 1918 a yellow fever epidemic killed hundreds in the village, including most of the original Maya settlers.

WORK

In addition to their primary work raising crops cutting logwoods and Mahogany was also done in Rancho Dolores. The logwood cutters were mostly freed slaves. The logwood was cut into 5-foot length, dragged to Spanish Creek, then float North to Black Creek to Maypen, then on to Belize, where they were finally sent to England to be used as one of the first non-fading dye. Chicle tree (sapadilla) were also abundant in the forest and both men and women from the village were chicle workers. Worker went to the back for work at time. They search for chicle trees then climed high on a tree and made deep diogonal cuts to allow the chicle to drip down and run in a drum. They placed the drums of the white, sticky liquid over a fire and boiled it down. It was then poured into a form and cut into blocks. The chicle blocks were transported by boat to Belize City and shipped to England to be made into chewing gum.

Up through the 1960’s, the villager’s main work was planting corn, beans, rice, vegetables and fruits to sell for a living. They sold them locally and also took them by dorey to Belize City to sell. Sometimes the trip to Belize City took a full week to go and return.Their work was known as Milpa.

Maria Smith, one of the early settlers, was a prayerful woman who was trained in Honduras and gave religious services. She taught the Maya people and others to pray and in 1884 they decided to build a church. It was called Our Lady Of Sorrows, from the village founders’ name, Dolores, which means sorrows in Spanish. The church was build by all the villagers of thatch leaves, tie-tie, and cabbage palm sticks. It was Catholic church and was at the location were the school is today. When the church was finished, a priest began to visit the village of Rancho Dolores to give religion services. He travelled from Cayo first to the village of San Jose and then walked about 10 miles to Rancho Dolores. His name was Father Santag.

The church got its first statue of the Virgin Mary in 1894. It was ordered from Projo Obispo, Mexico, known as Chetumal today. In n1931, a hurricane destroyed much of the Country including Rancho Dolores, the church and statue. The church was rebuilt with the same materials as the first church and the statue was sent to be repaired. A smaller statue came back. In 1961, Hurricane Hattie destroyed the second church and the second statue as well. In 2002 a new church was build.

In 1915, people of many different cultures began migrating to Rancho Dolores from San Jose, Yallbach, Polutunich, and Belize City among others. Also during 1915, the first school was build on the same location as the school is today. It was build of thatch, tie-tie, and cabbage palm sticks.

The current primary school, Our Lady Of Sorrows Roman Catholic School, was built of concrete in 1959. Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic School is a Government Aided School. The school got its name from the church that was established in the year 1894 by Maria Galendro.

Before the construction of this school building classes were held in an old club hall adjacent to the new building. A few years later the school was closed because of the remoteness of this community. The children had to travel to Lemonal, Double Head Cabbage, Bermudian Landing and Belize City to attend classes. Some years later the villagers built a thatched roof building which was used to have services and classes.

Our Lady of Sorrows opened in January 1960 with an enrollment of approximately 40 students. The first principal of the school was John Ramirez.

The School had a massive increase in enrollment during the 1960s/70s. Enrollment went up to over 100 students. The school had a feeding program that was managed by CARE who was involved in the REAP project. During 1975 – 1980 the enrollment decreased to 80 students. From 1985 – 1990 it went down to 60 students. Due to the lack of employment in the village, the enrollment continued to decrease and in 2005 only 26 students attended the school.

At present the school has a newly constructed computer lab and a library which was constructed by the government. The school’s enrollment is small but participates in more activities sch as sports, spelling bee, social studies quizzes, festival of arts, posters and poem competitions.

 

TRANSPORTATION

Early settlers use of transportation was dory. They traveled from Spanish Creek to Black Creek then on the Belize Old River into Belize City. The trip usually took 12 hours.

In 1964, the first road to the village and a wooden bridge over Spanish Creek were completed. After the road was developed trucks, then buses became the new means of transportation.

In 1984, the first bridge was replaced with a concrete and steel bridge donated by Canadians. In 2009 the bridge experienced an earthquake and collapsed.

COMMUNITY CENTER

The villagers worked closely together to build a community center within the village. The villagers gathered stones from within the village and carried them using crocus bags on their back to the construction site. They washed each tone and combined with cement donated by the Government of Belize.

HOUSING

Early settlers built and lived in thatched houses with dirt flooring. In 1962, Estalsacion Pook was the first man to build a wooden house in the village. The first concrete house was then built by Randolf Young, after which many other villagers then started to build concrete houses.