Features — 19 June 2019 — by Karen H. Judd, Ph. D. (1992)
Corozal’s 19th century elite

Cornelio Lizarraga, whose father came from Valladolid, in northern Yucatán, installed modern milling equipment at San Máximo, which he leased from Schofield. He married Petrona Staines (niece of Bernabé Carillo), and their daughter married Leopoldo Rosado, son of merchant José Remígio Rosado and sister of Catalina María Rosado de Schofield.

Juan de la Cruz Ramírez, whose parents both came from  Mérida, owned sugar mills at San Francisco and San Pedro Patchacan; from there his sons, Juan, Felipe, and Luís Felipe, expanded into stock raising and more shops, and in 1958 Luís Felipe bought the 377-acre San Pedro estate from William Schofield. Eulogio Perez, son of Francisco Perez and Fernaba Briseño, was another Corozal merchant; his daughter wed L. A. Alpuche, owner of Chan Chen sugar estate.

Yucatecan immigrants, though viewed by successive regional administrators with characteristic British contempt for the Spaniard – on either side of the ocean – had one thing going for them that was not true of the British fortune hunters: they intended to stay.  As Fowler notes, “The Europeans or whites (principally Scotch) are birds of passage, business or duty calling them here, and but very few entertain the thought of making permanent homes in the Colony” (1879:50) – a situation much regretted by Swayne some years later (1917:175).  By contrast, according to Fowler, the “Spanish element” appreciate the “freedoms and security of our institutions … [and] are gradually begetting a confidence which order and good government engender” (1879:52).  The marriages, partnerships, and contracting relationships they established with British merchants and representatives in the 1850s were to endure long after the senior partner had retired to Britain.

A good example was the experience of José María Rosado, whose colorful history as a captive of the Santa Cruz Maya as a boy of ten is the subject of a memoir. His father Tiburcio was the son of a Spaniard in the Spanish army, “sent by the King of Spain with the troops long before the Independence of Mexico,” who married in Bacalar and had several children, “who nearly all followed the military career” (Rosado 1915:6). Rosados were prominent in the Caste War: Colonel Octavio, comandante of the southeast frontier; Felipe, who as a partisan of a Yucatecan insurgent vacillated constantly between courting the rebellious Mayas and joining the official forces when it looked like they might be the winners; and perhaps most notoriously Colonel Eulogio, comandante of Valladolid, whose determination to show Indian rebels that they would be punished more harshly than blancos did as much as anything to turn a factional conflict into a race war (Bricker 1981:95-97; Reed 1964).

In 1858, while his father was defending the city, José and his mother, three brothers, and three sisters, along with a nurse and two servants, were captured by the victorious Santa Cruz. Following the futile efforts of a Belizean magistrate and British naval captain to gain their release, some of the women and children, including José and two sisters, were separated from the rest; the others, including his mother, were shot.

Tiburcio became a successful trader in Corozal, from which he endeavored to secure the release of his son.  The boy was taken by General Leonardo Santos, a mestizo leader of the Santa Cruz Mayas, to a ranch in the country, where he stayed for nine months, until Santos negotiated for his release with two friends of his father’s, also residing in Corozal. United with his father, he went to Belize City to complete his schooling, staying with a cousin, Tiburcio Rosado Martínez, a storeowner in Belize City. At age 19 he became a clerk in the firm of Johnston & Co., established in the 1830s (Honduras Almanack 1836, 1839), and rose to manager in 1871. In 1882, on the death of John Johnston, the firm became Stevens Brothers, and Rosado became a partner, with James Steven in London and Ewing Steven, Rosado, and a Scot, John Pourie Robertson, partners in Belize.  In 1896, Rosado was appointed to the Legislative Council, remaining until 1912, when he resigned to sit on the Executive Council.

At its founding in 1892 Stevens Bros. – which had a store in Corozal as well as Belize City – was one of the largest landowners in the northern district, holding some 48,000 acres of mahogany and logwood works. Johnston had been one of the first of the merchant houses to start a large-scale sugar plantation and Stevens Bros. continued the operations at Santa Rita, one of the two large estates monopolizing local sugar production during the 1880s and 1890s. Robertson duly retired to Scotland in 1904, after which Rosado and Stevens were the only partners.

However, Stevens later became insolvent, and pulled out in 1909, leaving Rosado with a large debt, and he soon thereafter turned over the business for liquidation to an attorney, W. J. Slack. In 1922 his property on Gabourel Lane in Belize City, along with his mahogany work on the Northern River, was offered for sale.

A cousin, Jesús José Remígio Rosado, prospered as a merchant in Corozal. His son Juan Jesús Remígio owned a successful sugar factory in Corozal, and married Juana Martínez; their daughter Catalina María married William Schofield, last owner of the Corozal and Goshen estates.

(To be continued.)

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Deshawn Swasey

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