25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

The Great Accordionists


I
f the accordion players of the 1960's had continued with their hobby, they probably would be with the famous Tex-Mex musical groups like Los Tigres del Norte, La Mafia or Limite. In the 1960's, when the accordion was popular in San Pedro, it was due to the number one radio station at the time called "Harlingen" from Harlingen, Texas. Everyone in San Pedro tuned in to Harlingen because the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC/Radio Belize) mostly transmitted in English and San Pedranos preferred Spanish or did not understand English.

Mr. Wil Alamilla Sr. playing the accordion
for his Lion member friends
Back to the accordions. These very handy musical instruments were popular in three major areas- dances, carnival and serenades (serenatas). At the dances, the accordion was complemented with acoustic guitars, maracas, tom toms, and the famous coconut grater or "rallador". The grater was used as a rhythms and percussion instrument. The accordion was said to be handy because it required no electrical power or DC power. It was easy to carry and it was cheap (only 45 dollars for an Honor) and it never needed tuning like the guitar. At times there were no guitar strings in the village and guitarists were in trouble. The accordion was always ready. The only long-term problem was that the metal reeds rusted in time and broke away causing it to lose its tuning.

Accordions were also very handy in Carnival times as the comparsas moved along the streets and there was no need to be connecting up for power as is done today. And finally, accordions were extremely handy for the "serenatas". Three or four guys with accordion and guitars would break the silence of the night to sing their hearts out to the seņoritas who were fast asleep in bed. This would be their way of saying "I love you" or "I'm sorry" or to "Give me a break" or to tell the "Suegra" (mother-in-law to be) "Please accept me as the boyfriend of your daughter." When the courage and the words were not there, the accordion did the job.

Now, who were the accordion players of the sixties? Indeed, there were several. I can recall Ovidio Guerrero, Aldo Marin, Wilber Marin, Wil Nuņez, Wilfredo Alamilla, Panny Arceo, and yours truly. These guys were very much in demand if not for dances from time to time, for the weekend serenades to the "chiquilinas" (girls).

Incidentally, the 45-dollar accordions now cost one thousand dollars, another reason why young men are not playing the accordion. It's a romantic instrument. Give it a try!


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