Jan 242015
 
Dancing in the street during El Gran Carnaval de San Pedro. and painting up the town, have you ever wondered where that expression comes from?

Dancing in the street during El Gran Carnaval de San Pedro, and painting up the town, have you ever wondered where that expression comes from?

EL GRAN CARNAVAL de SAN PEDRO

“El Gran Carnaval de San Pedro” is a similar type celebration and event to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This years theme is “La vida es un carnaval” or “Life is a carnival”. It felt like we just got past Christmas and several days of New Year celebrations here in San Pedro, when the town was already preparing for this annual event. It was held over a 11 days and began on Feb.07, 2015 with five ladies competing in “La Reina del Carnaval Pageant” or the “Carnival Queen Pageant”.


El Gran Carnaval Block Party

The following Friday the 13th (what could go wrong), the San Pedro Town Council hosted their annual El Gran Carnaval Block Party at the Central Park. The adjoining streets that were closed down to facilitate the event and there were culturally relevant music and dances held, as well as,  prizes for the best carnival inspired food, drinks, and souvenir booths.

El Gran Carnaval Masquerade Ball

On the 14th or Valentines Day the Masquerade Ball was held with the theme “be masked, be loved, be mine”. The admission is free and again there was music, free shots, and of course plenty of food and drink.

Traditional Comparsa and Painting in the Streets

From the 15th to the 17th there was traditional “comparsas”  (dancing) and painting in the downtown streets which were closed during these events as well. At first I thought that the painting was to spruce up the downtown area. However, I learned later that if you go there, you will get painted. Both children and adults parade through the downtown streets throwing eggs and painting anything not covered including each other. Also on the last evening the men dress as women and dance through the street in a display of role reversal.

El Gran Carnaval Finale

The festivities wrapped up at Central Park on last evening Ash Wednesday the 18th with the traditional burning of “Don Juan Carnaval” and reading of the Don Juan Carnaval Will.

Historical Origin of El Gran Carnaval

As I mentioned earlier, El Gran Carnaval reminded me of Mardi Gras, and although the history seems to be lost on most of the locals I asked, it appears to have arrived here with the settlement of the Spanish and the re-enactment of their celebration of the caraval of CadizThere is not much specific information about the origin of the individual customs on the internet or in local memory. In past times it was generally an opportunity for people to speak out against political and social injustice in a comedic way. The masks hid the identity of those speaking out tongue in cheek. The masks were later replaced with painted masks in Caribbean countries due to the heat, and the painting in the streets grew from there. It became a representation of lawlessness and things being opposite to the norm. Things being opposite to normal times is also represented by the men dancing in the streets dressed up in women’s clothes.

For an opportunity to experience this event for yourself, I have included one of my YouTube videos

 

 

Jan 142015
 
The people of Belize celebrate Christmas similarly to the way holiday celebrations are held back in Canada. Christmas trees are decorated inside and lights adorn the outside of homes and businesses alike.

Homes and businesses alike are decked out in lights for Holiday Celebrations

Holiday celebrations for Christmas and New Years

Christmas was a quiet time for us this year with none of the typical holiday celebrations or commercialism that we felt obligated to engage in over the years back in Canada. The highlight for me was the call I received from my son and the longer than usual conversation that we had. I guess the old saying is true, “it’s not how much money you spend that determines the value of a gift”.

The people of Belize celebrate Christmas similarly to the way holiday celebrations are held back in Canada. Christmas trees are decorated inside and lights adorn the outside of homes and businesses alike. Like Canada it is a time for family to get together and eat, drink, and be merry. The children were out of school and could be seen playing on the streets and at the beach or tagging along with their parents to their jobs weather it be on construction sites, in the shops, or selling souvenirs on the beach.

Holiday Celebrations at New Years

Holiday celebrations at New Years lasted several days and it was a whole different affair. In Canada I recall typically we would go out after work on the evening of the 31st, count down to the new year at midnight and spend the 1st recovering and getting ready to go back to work on the 2nd. Well here in Belize the New Year holiday celebration began early on the morning of the 31st with the sounds of firecrackers going off all day and all over town. You know the ones that come in strings of 20-25 and fire off in rapid succession. It sounded like a revolution with automatic weapons had broken out and everyone was taking part in protecting their piece of paradise, this went on for several days at all hours of the days and nights.

New Year holiday celebrations at Central Park

On New Years Eve we went to the Central Park to see what was going on. As I mentioned in previous posts this is where people gather for holiday celebrations, important events, and most special occasions. There was a stage with different types of entertainment from traditional dance performances, a local DJ, and awards to people and organizations that had made a difference in the community over the past year. It appeared to me that while in Canada we would count down to the beginning of a new year that would hopefully bring the usual, you know, peace and prosperity. Here in Belize they count down to the end of the existing year giving thanks for the peace and prosperity enjoyed over the past year, and then cap it off with a fire works display second to none I have ever seen, even in Toronto or in New York on TV.

Holiday celebrations include this barge full of fireworks on News Years Eve.

Holiday celebrations include this barge full of fireworks on News Years Eve.

Fireworks end Holiday Celebrations

The people filled Central Park and the streets to take part in the holiday celebrations and wait for the barge loaded with the fireworks to cap of 2014 and usher 2015 in with a bang. I might add that at this time of year it is hard to say weather the island has more locals or more “visitors” as we are respectfully called. I think I would give the edge to the visitors. We left around 10:30 and did not stay for the fireworks, but we did not miss them either. We live about 1-1/2 miles south of the park and enjoyed them quite well from our back deck and avoided the chaos that we were sure would ensue when that many people left downtown all at one time. It was a good time and we enjoyed watching the entertainment, eating ice cream, watching the locals and visitors enjoying holiday celebrations together, and of course, the spectacular fire works display.

Updated to include New Year’s Eve 2015 Firework Video click here